When ancient Roman ruins are mentioned, you probably think of Rome, Italy, and the Colosseum. But did you know Paris is also home to a Roman arena?
Arènes de Lutèce dates backs to the 1st century AD. It can be found in Paris’ Latin Quarter in the fifth arrondissement. But chances are, unless you’re looking for it, you’ll probably pass right by it.
Sounds crazy right? How could you NOT notice a large, old arena? Well, the main entrance is off Rue Monge, and it looks just like many other apartment courtyard entrances throughout the city.
Once you enter, you’ll find yourself standing right in the middle of the ancient arena, right where theatrical performances and gladiator combats took place 2,000 years ago.
It is thought that the arena could once accomodate more than 15,000 spectators. For a few hundred years it was used as an amphitheater for theatrical performances, gladiator combats and circus shows. In the 3rd century, it was destroyed by the barbarian invasions, and some of the stone work was removed and used to help reinforce other areas of the city. Several hundred years later the arena was filled in.
Arènes de Lutèce was rediscovered in the 1860’s. The author Victor Hugo headed the efforts to save and restore the ancient arena. It was reopened in 1896 as a public square.
Today the arena is still a public park and garden. It’s usually quiet, and you can often find young kids playing soccer or a few locals relaxing on the arena steps.
When I discovered Arènes de Lutèce I had just come from Rue Cardinal Lemoine imagining what Paris was like for Ernest Hemingway in the 1920’s, then all of a sudden I was transported further back to ancient Roman times almost 2,000 years before. Paris is magical like that.
Below is a short video I took while visiting Arènes de Lutèce. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Arènes de Lutèce
47 Rue Monge
Free to enter