Les Arènes

sights / Historic

Les Arènes information

Location
Arles , France
Address
Rond-Point des Arènes
Telephone
+33 8 91 70 03 70
More information
www.arenes-arles.com
Prices
adult/child €6/free, incl Théâtre Antique €9/free
Opening hours
9am-8pm Jul & Aug, to 7pm May-Jun & Sep, shorter hours rest of year
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During the heyday of Roman Gaul, every important town had an amphitheatre, where gladiators fought to the death and wild animals met their (usually grisly) end. Few have survived, but Arles (like nearby Nîmes) has preserved its colosseum largely intact. At 136m long, 107m wide and 21m tall, built around 90AD, the oval-shaped amphitheatre would have held 21,000 baying spectators, and though the structure has suffered down the centuries, it's still evocative of the might and ambition of the Roman empire.

Following the fall of the Roman Empire during the 5th century AD, the amphitheatre became a defensive fortress, with the addition of four watchtowers on each side. Over subsequent centuries, a 'town within a town' grew up within its walls, containing more than 200 houses and two chapels, all of which had to be razed when the amphitheatre was returned to its original use in the 1820s.

Much of the structure's original architecture remains, including terraces, galleries and even the original Roman drainage system. Its design was inspired by the Roman Colosseum, although on a much smaller scale.

Today it's used to host outdoor spectacles, including bullfights, courses Camarguaises and concerts. Tickets for most events are sold at the ticket office next to the entrance.

The entrance is on the north side.