The Pont du Gard deserves mention among the very best attractions in France. Situated approximately 12 miles west of Avignon and just under 20 miles north of Arles, this ancient Roman aqueduct bridge across the Gardon River has confounded visitors for centuries on end. In 1738, one of the structure’s past visitors, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, was so impressed by the structure that he wrote, "Why was I not born a Roman!" Other literary visitors also recorded their astonishment after seeing the Pont du Gard, and you can be sure that plenty of other past visitors have sung its praises.
Common acceptance has it that the Pont du Gard was built between 40 and 60 B.C. It is also widely believed that the grand aqueduct bridge probably took about 15 years to build and required the services of somewhere between 800 and 1,000 workers. Its purpose was to form an integral part of the Nimes aqueduct, which carried water approximately 30 miles from a spring at Uzes to the Roman colony of Nemausus, which is now the modern day city of Nimes. Used until the sixth century, the aqueduct fell into disuse after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Between the 18th and 21st centuries, the structure underwent a series of renovations and had to be largely reconstructed. Because of its historical importance, the Pont du Gard was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1985. In 2000, it opened a new visitors center.
The famous Pont du Gard is approximately 900 feet long and 160 feet high. Its height makes it the highest of all the surviving Roman aqueduct bridges. It is also a well-preserved aqueduct bridge. Only the Aqueduct of Segovia Spain is a better-preserved example. As is true of the aqueduct in Segovia, the Pont du Gard features numerous arches. These arches are spread out over three different tiers, which certainly adds to the structure’s visual depth. An estimated 50,400 tons of limestone was used to construct the Pont du Gard. The limestone blocks were so precisely cut that they fit together perfectly. The use of mortar and clamps was employed to a very small extent. Pont du Gard visitors can learn more about the bridge and its construction process at the nearby museum. Other associated attractions near the bridge include a restaurant, a cafe and gift shops.