If you wander around the 5th arrondissement and Ile de la Cité within Paris, you can still see the Arènes de Lutèce and its nearby ancient city walls. An amazing reminder of Paris’s history, it is believed to have been constructed in the 1st century AD as a a Gallo-Roman amphitheater.
The Romans had come from across the Mediterranean, through Marseille making their way up through their new capital Lyon, and northward to Paris. While there were Gallic tribes called the Parisii who lived there, the Romans quickly established a stronghold. Once they settled, the Romans built roads and buildings, bringing all the comforts of home.
These are among the most important ancient Roman ruins from the era in Paris. Along with the Thermes de Cluny, the Arènes de Lutèce are among the scarce visible reminders of the Gallo-Roman period still visible in Paris.
The area around eventually became known as the Latin Quarter, before becoming part of the 5th arrondissement of Paris.
Similar arenas were built by the Romans in Arles and Nimes, although they are larger since those were larger settlements at the time.
The Arenes de Lutece in its prime, held around 15,000 spectators watching the entertainments of the day. From gladiator fights and jousts, as well as theatrical dramas and comedies for the Romans who were far from home in this new settlement they called Lutèce.
The sign along the Arenes de Lutece reads:
The arena fell into disuse in the 3rd century as the Romans left under attack from the tribe called Franks. The site was buried sometime during the middle ages, disappearing from records.
The northern part was rediscovered in 1869 and the southern part unearthed in 1883-1885. It was eventually restored in 1917-1918 towards the end of WWI.
These days, it is sometimes used for shows or competitions of sports like pétanque or basketball. But more often than not, it is used as a playground for local children playing.
Around the arena is a garden, with picnic and play areas. You can climb to the higher portions of the garden get views of the surrounding cityscapes, a quiet harbor in the middle of a bustling city.
How to get there?
The small arena can be accessed from 49 Rue Monge, 75005 Paris and also a side entrance next to the metro station Place Monge on rue de Navarre. Entry inside is free.
If you enjoyed that article, you may like to read more about free museums in Paris. A bientôt!