River Gardon at Alès, GardRiver Gardon at Alès, Gard
©River Gardon at Alès, Gard
A modern city where life is good

Alès, capital of the Cevennes

With simplicity and authenticity, between tradition and modernity

At the crossroads of the major axes linking the Mediterranean and the Massif Central, Alès is a major city in the Cévennes, only an hour from Montpellier and about 30 minutes from Nîmes and Uzès.

The gateway to the Cévennes National Park biosphere and starry sky reserve, the former mining city that has become the 2nd-largest agglomeration in the department of the Gard has managed to reinvent itself without denying its origins. Economic and cultural capital in its own right, honored with the title of 4-flower City and Golden Flower for the quality of its living environment, Alès has much to offer.

The history of Alès

A communication node

Alès has this peculiarity of having always been the meeting point in an area of passage between the Rhone, the Mediterranean coastline and the Cevennes. Its name would derive from two Celtic words: AL (height) and ES (region, territory). It would mean high territory, a relative notion, which must be understood in relation to the plain of Nîmes.

A place of transition in relation to steep places rich in natural cavities, its site was very earlyoccupied, as early as Prehistoric times.

From time immemorial to the industrial era, come discover the history of Alès.

not to be missed in Alès

The main monuments

Alès, a festive city

In Alès, many events bring people together and give rhythm to the life of the inhabitants and tourists: Estiv’Alès and its festive meetings in the heat of the summer, the Itinérance film festival, the féria, Cratère surface, the Cévenole Week, the Fous Chantants, the popular theater festival Les Atypiques, the international week of hip-hop, Temps de cirque…

Alès, city of culture and leisure

Alès is a culturally dynamic city, a meeting place for a whole area. You can find many opportunities to entertain yourself.

A weekend in Alès

Find all our tips and good plans to discover Alès, a city full of history that never ceases to be animated by its many events!

You can visit the main monuments or go on tours in search of culture.

Alès, a city with 4 flowers

Between parks and gardens

Did you know?

The city’s beautification earned it the 4th “cities and villages in bloom” flower in 2008 – an honor renewed in 2011, 2014, 2017 and 2020, when Alès also became one of the 4 French communes awarded the “Fleur d’Or” trophy (the highest possible distinction, awarded each year to a limited number of “4-Flower” communes).

The history of Alès in detail

In the Neolithic

Archeological excavations have revealed traces of human occupation on Hermitage Hill.

In ancient times

In the 4th century BC, the Arécomiques Volques – peoples of Narbonne Gaul – settled in our region and marked the summit of the Hermitage with a fortification of large juxtaposed blocks.

In the Middle Ages

The economic importance of the town, strategically located on the Régordane road, is attested. The lordship of Alès then belonged to the Pelet family.

In the 13th century, when the lordship was shared between Raymond Pelet and Bernard d’Anduze, the foundations of Alesian municipal life were put in place – this was a remarkable step forward for the inhabitants of the town. From the same period date the first written traces of the exploitation of earth coal, near Alès.

In the Modern period

The Edict of Nantes of 1598, which put an end to the Wars of Religion, retained Alès as one of the authorized Protestant places of safety. But religious struggles resumed until the Grace of Ales or Treaty of the Peace of Alais signed on June 27, 1629 in the presence of King Louis XIII and Cardinal de Richelieu. This edict respects freedom of conscience and worship but takes away from the cities their strongholds and orders the demolition of the ramparts.

During half a century, the repression against the Protestants intensifies to lead to the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. In order to reduce the revolt, the construction of Fort Vauban on the site of two castles of the lords was decided. Alès also became the seat of a bishopric.

The Industrial Era

It was with coal that the industrial adventure in Alès began in the 18th century, when Pierre-François de Tubeuf obtained, by several royal rulings between 1771 and 1774, the privilege of exploiting the mines he discovered near Alès.

At this same time, the silk market was also flourishing. The St. Bartholomew’s Day fair, held every summer on August 24 in Alès, was then renowned as the largest silk market in the region. 3 million pieces were sold in 1769! Silk production was then at its peak, until 1855 when the outbreak of the silkworm disease – pebrine – necessitated the arrival of Pasteur in Alès.

In the 19th century, Alès really entered the era of industrialization. The first railroads were set up. The Compagnie des Mines, Fonderies et Forges d’Alès was created in 1830. And in 1843, the first school to train master workers was born, the Ecole des maître-mineurs which would become the prestigious Ecoles des Mines d’Alès.

In 1912, coal production reached 2 million tons. And in 1947, there were 20,000 miners. But from 1958, the cost prices become uncompetitive compared to other sources of energy and production gradually declines.

Alès must then reinvent itself and experienced several periods of industrial conversion before becoming today one of the best agglomerations in France for entrepreneurship, ranked 2nd industrial pole of Occitania thanks to its fields of excellence around motorsports and eco-technologies.

On site