Les Arènes de Lutèce is an ancient Roman arena hidden in the 5th Arrondissement of Paris. Once hosting epic gladiatorial combats before a 15,000 strong audience, There are very few traces of the Gallo-Roman era in Paris save what remains of the thermal baths at Musée de Cluny and this fascinating hidden amphitheatre in the Latin Quarter.
Constructed in the 1st century AD, it is considered the largest of its kind ever constructed by the Romans and used to be surrounded by the wall of a podium 2.5-m (8.2-feet) high. Nowadays, the arena is half-concealed by a few modern apartment buildings, meaning people can wander around for hours without even noticing the architectural wonder that lies behind.
Take line 10 to the Cardinal Lemoine metro stop, march uphill a little at Rue Monge, and look to the left for an entrance marked 47. There are several entrances, but this one is the most intriguing. It doesn’t seem like a typical entrance to a park and could easily be mistaken for just another courtyard to an apartment, but the gladiator helmet made from cement perched above the doorway heralds its ancient past. There are other relics of sculptures inside the arena itself too.
The higher tiers were saved for slaves, the poor, and women while the lower seats—offering a better view—were kept for Roman male citizens. In addition to combats, there were also circus acts that showcased ferocious beasts and heaps of entertainment. While the stepped terraces are not original, visitors can still perceive the eerie grilled cage in the wall from where the beasts would be released.