- Location: Arles, South of France
- Significance: Roman Amphitheater
- Attraction Type: Architecture, Events, Towers, Arches, Heritage
- Timings: Between 9:00 to 19:00 hrs. on average, although timings can change depending on what time of the year it is. Please check the current listings of opening and closing times before starting off.
- How to Reach: Reach Arles Airport, which is well connected to all French cities and other major European destinations
- Nearest Airport: Arles Airport
Amphitheaters are found all over the Roman world. If you want to visit a Roman amphitheater, you will not be cramped for options. There are quite a few, many in excellent conditions of preservation. The same, however, cannot be said if you want to actually enjoy a show in a Roman amphitheater. The Amphitheater in Arenes in the historic city of Arles is probably your best option in that case. The Amphitheater of Arles is one of those few places where bullfights and musical concerts continue to be held for the common public. Do not expect the blood and the gore, though. Times have changed, and so have the tastes of the people. History of the Arles Amphitheater
The Arles amphitheater, much like the amphitheater in Nimes was built by the Roman architect T. Crispius Reburrus sometime around the first century AD. The entire structure was built on a bedrock with a wooden floor often provided on the rock. The joists supporting the wood can still be seen in many places.
Arles Amphitheater is quite an architectural wonder. The fact that it is one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheaters helps us to get a clearer insight into the architectural nuances that went behind its construction, as compared to other similar edifices from the Classical era. You will wonder at the skill and expertise of the ancient stone cutters and stone layers who built this structure, putting stone over stone with immaculate precision and without the use of mortars. The perfection was such that the amphitheater has endured the wind and the rain for about two thousand years now without any considerable damage. Whatever damage was inflicted, was inflicted by man rather than nature.
In the medieval times, at around 12th century AD, long before the early gladiatorial games came to cease, the amphitheater was turned into a fortress, with living quarters and towers constructed within its premises. The arcades were also walled up, and the third tier, in fact, does not exist anymore. The entire structure was cleared and restored about 150 years back by Prosper Merimee. Only three towers were left standing as memories of the medieval times. Now, you can climb the tower at the entrance for a spectacular view of the entire amphitheater.
The architecture of the Amphitheater at Arles
The seating space is divided into three tiers of seating steps. At its height, the amphitheater could accommodate anywhere between 21,000 to 25,000 spectators. The arena itself was one of the largest in the whole of Gaul, with a length of 136m and a width of 107m. The faí§ade itself is a work of wonder. There is a double row of arcades, each adorned with 60 archways with a width of 3.38 m. Four arches, each 4.8m wide lead to the arena. They lead to a platform, followed by steps to the seats around and another set of stairs leading to the higher seats, just like a modern-day stadium.
Arles Amphitheater Now
One of the most unique facts about the Arles Amphitheater is that it continues to be used as a playing arena. Bullfights, now bloodless, continue to be held in the arena. However, there are occasional musical shows as well. If you are lucky, you can witness one of these programs during your visit to Arles. It will be like having a tryst with history.
Accommodation in Arles
Arles is a historic city, and the amphitheater is only one of its many attractions. Due to its many great landmarks including the Forum and the Roman market place, the Baths of Constantine and the Montmajour cloister, a steady string of tourists visits the city all round the year. As a result, there are plenty of hotels and accommodation options in the city. You have the option of staying right in the middle of the crowded and vibrant city, or at the quieter outskirts, the choice remains purely yours. Grand Hotel Nord Pinus, Hotel le Regence, Hotel Constantin, and L’Hotel Particulier are some of the more popular hotels in the city.