Aigues-Mortes is one of only two cities in the Camargue area, the other one being Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. It was founded in 1240 by the French king Louis XI (Saint Louis) to give the French access to the Mediterranean Sea. Louis XI led two crusades departing from Aigues-Mortes, in 1248 and 1270. On this last occasion, the crusaders ended up on Tunis, where Louis died, possibly from drinking contaminated water. He was declared a saint in 1297. Aigues-Mortes remained a strategic port for the French until the annexation of the Provence in 1481. From then on, Marseille became the major French port on the Mediterranean. Aigues-Mortes eventually lost its access to the sea because of the silting up of its harbour, and currently it is located some 5 km from the sea. Consequently, the medieval city centre was completely preserved. Currently, the town has approximately 7,000 inhabitants. The town is a very pretty site to visit with its iconic medieval stone walls and towers, and its picture-perfect historical centre. It is also a good base to explore the Camargue region. However, it can be very crowded in the holiday season.
The A9 toll road connecting Nîmes to Montpellier runs north of the Camargue. In order to reach Aigues-Mortes from Nîmes, take the exit at Gallargues-le-Montueux to the south (travel time approx. 45 min, distance 45 kms) and follow the D979. From Montpellier, follow the A709 and D66 (travel time 40 min, distance 35 kms).
Be aware that the Aigues-Mortes city centre has paid parking. However, a sign-posted free parking can be found within walking distance of the historical centre.
By public transport
The only direct public transport connections to Aigues-Mortes are from Nîmes. A local train departs only irregularly, and the bus service is hardly more convenient, so make sure to check the time tables in advance (train: SNCF, bus: Edgard). Travel time approx. 1 hr.
If you feel like biking, the trip from Nîmes will take approx. 2.5 hrs (38 kms).
The historical centre is all contained within a compact area of the city walls, easily explored on foot.
To be honest, the Aigues-Mortes city centre is too much of a tourist trap to recommend it for shopping. However, if you want to buy local products, the salt is the thing to go for.
If you want to stock up on supplies the actual town is outside the city walls and offers the normal services that you can expect in a small French town.
There are many pleasant cafes and restaurants within the city walls, particularly around the central square. They may however be very crowded, especially around lunch time in the holiday season.