Gard (30700) Population: 8,626 Altitude: 167 m
Uzès is a small town in the Gard department, north of Nîmes, with a history dating from Roman times. The circular streets around the historical center were once walls that protected the Medieval castle in the 11th and 12th centuries.
The ancient center houses Le Duché, a medieval castle with four towers, the lovely Place aux Herbes with terrace cafés and surrounding arcades, and the tall Fenestrelle tower at the cathedral, fashioned after the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Market day Sat, Wed.
Uzès is located amidst the garrigue hills and valleys about 30 minutes north of Nîmes and 30 minutes west of Avignon. The Gorges de l'Ardeche are less than an hour to the north.
The commune of Uzès is quite large, and the town center has plenty of stores, shops and all the amenities you could want.
The shops are mainly along the circular streets around the west side of the old town, from Bvd Victor Hugo at the south to Bvd Gambetta and Place Albert 1er at the northwest. Many of the Uzès restaurants can also be found along these circular streets.
The center of Uzès old town is full of Medieval streets for wandering and exploring. If you prefer to have an idea of where you are and what you're looking at, the Tourist Office has a printed Tour of the Historic Town with a good map and describing the key points (English, French, German).
The Place aux Herbes, with its fountain, arcades and terrace cafés is crowded with people and activity during the famous Uzès Saturday marke, and is a great place for a relaxing café stop or terrace lunch.
Uzès Castles and Towers
In the 11th century there were two lords of Uzès and two castles: Bermond castle and Raynon castle. The four towers of Uzès are the Bermond tower (duchy), the King's tower, the Bishop's tower and the Fenestrelle Tower.
Duke's Castle - Bermond Tower
The Bermond castle became Le Duché, the defensive feudal castle standing in the center of Uzès old town. The castle was never attacked or damaged, and is in perfect condition. Uzès is the "First Ducy of France", France's oldest and most-important ducal peerage. Uzès was made a Duchy in 1565. The current owner of the castle is the 17th in the line, Jacques de Crussol d'Uzes.
The Bermond tower is the castle's keep, built in the 11th century by Bermond 1st. The corner watch towers were added during a restoration in the 15th century. You can visit the castle and the top of the Bermond Tower (135 steps) for a fine view of the village.
Raynon Castle, King's Tower, Bishop's Tower
The Raynon domain is immediately to the south of the Duché. The castle is gone, but the King's Tower and the Bishop's Tower are on the site. The Bishops bought their part of the domain in the 13th century and King Charles VIII bought his part in 1493.
The 12th-century Bishop's tower was the seat of the bishop's temporal powers, used as a tribunal and prison. This tall, square tower is topped by an octagonal clock tower and belfry, added in the 19th century.
The shorter, flat-topped King's tower was used as a royal residence, as well as for housing troups. Louis XIII stayed here in July 1629, at the time of the "Peace of Alès" (Edict of Alès), which confirmed the Edict of Nantes but additionally disenfranchised the Huguenots. King Charles hit his head on one of the low doorways in the tower and died from the blow.
At the east side of town is the Saint Théodorit Cathedral, with the very beautiful Fenestrelle Tower. The cathedral and tower were built from 1090 on the site of a Roman temple. Following partial destruction in the 12th century, the cathedral and tower were rebuilt in the 16th century. The cathedral was destroyed again in 1621 and rebuilt in 1642-1663.
The Fenestrelle Tower avoided destruction in 1621, but the top two layers were lopped off. This is built in the style of the Medieval Italian Lombard towers, and is the unique example in France of a round clock tower.
The ancient Bishopric, now housing the G. Borias Museum is located beside the Cathedral and Fenestrelle Tower.
The the Bishop's and King's estates became state property during the French Revolution. They were used as a district prison until the beginning of the 20th century. This is now the site of the lovely Uzès Medieval Garden, where you can climb to the top of the King's tower for a panoramic view.
Uzès seems to have only one remaining lavoir (wash house). It's a very grand one, although no longer in use. Its two-story high facade has round pillars at the upper level and three arches below. Two of the arched entries are now blocked off, and the central entry is barred by an iron gate, but you can see through into the interior, with its high, vaulted ceiling.
The Uzès lavoir is located on the tiny Chemin André Guide; it's actually tucked in beneath the panoramic lookout area at the south side of the Fenestrelle Tower.
The Georges Borias Museum is a museum of history, archeology and local traditions, located in the old Bishop's Palace, on the east side of town, beside the Tour Fenestrelle.
Market Days, Uzès
The Uzès market is held all year, on Saturday mornings and Wednesday mornings. The market is centered on the Place aux Herbes (inside the old town, southwest part), with some stands spilling out into nearby streets (especially in the summer) including the Esplanade Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny (at the southwest corner, outside the old town).
The Saturday-morning market is the biggest, including local Provencal products, clothing, and crafts. The Wednesday-morning market is mainly for food products, including locally-grown produce.