The history of Uzès dates back to the times of Greek colonisation of the French Mediterranean coast. Under the Romans the town was known as Ucetia and saw the construction of the majestic aqueduct of Pont du Gard to transport water from the lush valleys around Uzès to the nearby city of Nimes – the birthplace of Empress Plotina and emperor Antoninus Pius. Today The Pont du Gard is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and France’s most visited ancient monument.
Despite its proud display of Roman and Greek roots, Uzès today is especially famous as the head of the Duchy of the same name. Le Duché, as it is called, is presently still the residence of the Duke of Uzès and one of France’s oldest noble families – No. 2 in the French nobility ranking, right after the Princes of the Blood – open to visitors on guided tours. This magnificent palace and its three imposing towers dominate the town as witnesses of the three powers that held authority during the Middle Ages: the king’s tower, the bishop’s tower and the ducal tower also called the Bermonde tower.
In the 16th and 17 century, before the Revolution, Uzès enjoyed great wealth, mainly thanks to a monopoly on the production and processing of silk fabrics, among other things. It was especially during this period that many of the city’s large nobility and gentry houses were built.
In your visit you can also discover the Cathedral and France’s own leaning tower – the Tour Fenestrelle – dating from the 11th Century as well as other magnificent chapels built according to the legendary rivalry between Catholics and Protestants during the religious wars of the 16th century.
A stay in Uzès is a journey to the heart of the history and culture of the South of France. The historic centre still has the feel of a small, feudal “provençale” town. The entire area is pedestrianised and you stroll along beautifully cobbled streets and alleys from classified monuments to tranquil squares with plane trees and fountains. The perfect setting for classic French café life.
On Wednesdays and Saturdays the central Place aux Herbes is home to one of the most famous and vibrant markets in the South of France. Buy pink aubergines, fresh oysters, creamy goat’s cheeses and golden honey. Street artists and musicians complete the show, with intense haggling going on under the shaded arcades where antiquarians and booksellers tend to make their business. Naturally, Uzès is also home to a number of galleries and artisans.
For eating out you’ll find restaurants to suit any occasion and sure to please any palette; from brasseries to Michelin entries and boulevard cafés to outdoor conceptualised eateries serving sea food and chilled white wine under the stars, to the sound of singing crickets. Uzès also has great pizzerias, Thai restaurants and Moroccan kitchens.
Uzès’ Tourist Office has got a web site in English where you can find out more about the city and its environs. Check it out HERE.