•Gard (30300) • Population: 15,894 • Altitude: 18 m
Beaucaire is an ancient town on the banks of the Rhône, with a canal boat basin in the center, many interesting sites, a Medieval old town with 17th-c hotels particuliers and a nearby troglodyte abbey carved into the rocks.
The Rhône-Sète Canal passes through the center of Beaucaire, where it serves as a boat harbor and adds to the atmosphere of the terrace cafés and shops along the shady Cours Gambetta and the Quai General de Gaulle.
The tourist office is in a handy location, on the Cours Gambetta, which is a long village square lined with platan trees and a couple of fountains.
Behind the "Cours" (to the north) are the Medieval old-town streets of Beaucaire, filled with nice squares, ancient churches, and several 17th- and 18th-century hotels particuliers, very grand townhouses of the successful merchants of the day.
The north side of Beaucaire's old town rises up to the Chateau de Beaucaire, an 11th-16th century castle now mostly in ruins. It's an interesting historical site to visit, with a great view and has a museum of archaeology and traditions.
Beaucaire's Place George Clemenceau is a large square that includes the old Hotel de Ville and the ancient Halles (covered food market). The square, located about three blocks north of the Cours Gambetta and the tourist office, is busiest on Sunday mornings when it hosts the weekly food market. This is rather ironical, seeing that the beautiful old covered food market located here is being converted into a modern dance conservatory.
The Place Lombard in Beaucaire is a very tiny square, but houses the 18th-century collegial church Notre-Dame-des-Pommiers with its very imposing facade.
The Place Lombard also has a small aquarium, open on Saturdays, 15h-17h30.
Beaucaire's Place de la République is a very pretty little square in the northeast part of the old town, just below the Chateau entrance. The square has vaulted arcades along one side, and hosts just a few very nice terrace cafés and restaurants.
The Château de Beaucaire, built in the 11th century, sits on a small hill on the north edge of the old town in the center of Beaucaire. It's now effectively a medieval park in the walled ruins of the old castle.
The Chateau de Beaucaire was rebuilt in the 12th and 16th centuries. Although the castle a ruin, many of the walls remain as well as the two towers (visible in our photo), a small, Romanesque chapel and the Jacquet Museum of Archaeology.
In the Albigensian Crusade (Cathar Crusade) at the beginning of the 13th century, Beaucaire town and the Castle were besieged, and the town fell to the Catholic Crusaders.
The Chateau Park is open 7 days, 1 April to 31 Oct, 10h00 - 18h00. Access is free. There's a serious set of steps at the entrance, so it's not geared for limited mobility.
Troglodyte Abbey St Roman
Just 6 km north of Beaucaire town center sits an Abbey carved out of the rock at the top of a hill. Begun in the 5th century as the home of Hermits, the Saint Roman Abbey was developed more in the 12th center. A very interesting site to visit. ( Read More )
Aqueduct Les Arcades
Six km north-northwest of Beaucaire is a section of an aqueduct crossing a valley on very tall arched pillars. Located in the commune of Comps, on the north side of the hills with the troglodyte St-Roman Abbey, this is part of an aqueduct built to carry water from the Rhône to the town of Nîmes, 22 km to the west.
Called locally Les Arcades, the aqueduct was built between 1892 and 1900.
The Drac (Dragon) of Beaucaire
The Drac is a mythological dragon, or a large, fearsome, winged sea-serpent the lived in the Rhone and had its den near Beaucaire. Le Drac was both a shape changer and invisible to humans, which should make us wonder about the accuracy of its descriptions.
The Drac is celebrated in Beaucare, with festivities and a log procession in the middle of every June. Although the Drac has been killing people around the area of Beaucaire since the beginning of the 13th century, it is not well known in the adjacent town of Tarascon, which has its own famous monster, the Tarasque.
Early reports of the Drac were recounted to Gervais de Tibury, of Arles, by the villigers of Beaucaire in 1214.
The most famous story line occured in 1250, when the Drac abducted a local lavender seller (lavendière), attracted to her because she was breast-feeding her son. The young woman was kept captive in the Drac's den for seven years, nursing the dragon's brood (draconnets).
One day, while rubbing the young dragons, she got some "dragon cream" into either one or both of her eyes, giving her the ability to see the dragons at all times. Using this dragon sight, the woman, no longer young or pretty, managed to escape and resume village life in Beaucaire.
During a typical village market day, the Drac took the form of a human and toured the marketplace. The old lavender seller recognized the dragon and gave the alarm. The Drac responded by ripping out her dragon-sighted eye (or eyes) before fleeing.
The Drac is famed for killing over 3000 knights and villages, making it one of the most dangerous and successful of French dragons. The high number of deaths is partly down to the many large campaigns sent to kill her.
In the many variations of the legend, the Drac was never reported killed and, if it never died from a dragon's old age, slumbers on somewhere today. In Beaucaire, there's a statue of the Drac at the Place de la République.
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History of Beaucaire
Prehistoric: A Paleolighic (Early Stone Age) site was located here. A Bronze Age site was located at the Andres Grotto, where tombes and other artifacts were discovered.
Celto-Ligurian: Traces of occupation from around the 6th-century BC.
Gallo-Roman: The Roman Domitienne Way (Voie Domitienne) crossed the Rhône, passing through Tarascon and Beaucaire. There was certainly Roman habitation in Beaucaire. Various Beaucaire histories state that the town was originally the Roman Ernaginum; however we understand that that very important Roman site was actually about 7 km southeast, by the current hamlet of Saint-Gabriel.
A set of four Roman milestones (millénaires) are located on the trace of the old Voie Domitienne, 5 km west of the town center. (There are four, although only three of them are tall; the fourth is just a stump.) Roman milestones marked every Roman mille (1620 yards) along the road. When succeeding emperors came along in Rome, they would often install their own millénaires alongside the old ones, marked with their name and title. This site beside Beaucaire is the only known group of four milestones still in position. Their decimal latitude, longitude is: 43.81608, 4.59922.
24, Cours Gambetta (back side of the square beside the Rhône-Sète Canal).
Tel : 04 66 59 26 57
Market day: Thur, Sun. The Beaucaire food market is at the Place Clemenceau in the heart of the old town, while the Provencal and clothing type market is at the Cours Gambetta along the north side of the canal.
• GPS: 43.811351, 4.635468
IGN (1/25,000) #2942 OT "Nîmes Beaucaire"
"Beaucaire", map+info (1:30'000)
The GR6 Hiking Trail and GR (Grande Randonnée) 42 cross the Rhône and pass through the center of Beaucaire. North-northwest both hiking trails go over the wooded hills with the Saint Roman troglodyte Abbey, pass under the "arcades" aqueduct and past the village of Comps. The GR6 continues north past Meynes, Ssernhac and St Bonnet-du-Gard on its way to cross the Pont du Gard.
The GR42, after Comps, goes north and northeast up the Rhône, past Rochefort-du-Gard and Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.
Bus E51: Nîmes, Beaucaire, Avignon
- Gard department bus line E51 connects Nîmes and Avignon.
The complete route is: Nîmes, Rodilhan, Manduel, Redessan, Jonquières-St-Vincent, Tarascon, Beaucaire, Vallabregues, Aramon, Theziers, St Pierre-de-Mezoargue, Boulbon, Vallabregues, Barbentane, Rognonas, Avignon.
Approximate trip time is: Nîmes - Avignon 1h30.
Bus route map, Nîmes area-3 (Beaucaire, Tarascon, Avignon) is available on www.edgard-transport.fr/plan/?rub_code=8&zone=3flash (flash)
Bus schedules are on www.edgard-transport.fr/horaires/?rub_code=23 — Select E51, Nîmes, Avignon
Department 30, Gard Buses
- See Beyond's Gard Department Bus Schedules for Gard bus-lines maps and bus-line schedules (Horaires).
Maps (Plans) for the Gard bus lines are on the www.edgard.fr website, with a flash webpage for each of five zones around Nîmes (www.edgard-transport.fr/plan/?rub_code=5).
Schedules for the Gard bus lines are available via the www.edgard.fr website horaires page (www.edgard-transport.fr/horaires/?rub_code=23).