Interesting Roman Arena’s to explore

posted in: Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia | 33

The big daddy of all Roman Arenas is the Colosseum in Roma, Italy, which had all the events, the fights, the shows, the glamour when the Roman Empire was in it’s peak. For years I always wanted to visit the Colosseum after seeing it in history books or watching old films like Gladiator. My chance came when I first visited the Italian capital back in 2007 on a hot summer’s day, when I came out of the Colosseo metro station and saw this magnificent structure, I was in love in it. From the outside it looks grand, historic and huge and can be seen for quite a distance.

Colosseum in Roma, Italy

The reason I didn’t enjoy the Colosseum started with the huge queues outside. I arrived first thing in the morning and I know it was tourist season but the queues were moving ever so slowly. Then I walked inside, saw the main arena which was full of old brick stacks everywhere and a lot of areas closed off. I know the historic arena is really old but it really needed some tender loving care. I know other historical places I been to where it need some repair job then the tourist board or local government will put money into a project to keep the building standing, in this case I didn’t see that.

Colosseum in Roma, Italy

Whilst walking around trying to enjoy my visit, I was shoved by other tourists, I saw others climb the walls when they were not suppose to and graffiti on some bricks (which is a big no no for me). The highlight for me was actually seeing all the cats roaming around but then even they were leaving their waste on the ground. I left the arena with a sense of disappointment and couldn’t really put my finger on it, it just didn’t meet my expectations. At least I could say I have visited the grand daddy of them all.

Colosseum in Roma, Italy

This still didn’t put me off visiting Roman arenas and since then I have visited some amazing ones, some in very good condition and some with history. Here are my favourites which I think others should visit if into their Roman Empire history.

Pula Arena, Croatia

Pula, Croatia
The amphitheatre in Pula is the only remaining structure to have four side towers and all the structural pillars intact. This arena is in the top six largest surviving Roman arenas in the world and it was a delight to come across it. In fact, this was the first ever arena I visited back in April 2007. Not only I was standing in a fine arena, I was able to walk into the middle and get a sense of how huge this place was. With the summer sun beating down, I bet the gladiators were sweating in here as they prepared for battle. Also when standing at the top of the viewing platform, I managed to get a great view of the sea from here. This is one truly amazing arena worth checking out.

Pula Arena, Croatia
Pula Arena, Croatia

Verona, Italy

This is by the far the best arena I have come across at the home of the Roman Empire. Located in the northern Italy, not too far from Lake Garda (I am sure the Romans took holidays there) and nearby Venice (which I am pretty sure wasn’t touristy back then), this arena is still in use today. No, not for fights but for opera concerts in the summer season. When I was here, I loved just climbing up and down the seating area (or slabs of rock) and running around like a child. The view over the main square outside is quite a nice one as well. This arena is well preserved and another I recommend to check out.

Arena, Verona
Arena, Verona

El Djem, Tunisia

The Roman Empire did spread into North Africa and built this impressive amphitheatre in the city of El Djem, to which the arena is known as El Jem. Built in 238AD, this is one of the biggest arenas in the world which can hold around 35,000. What I love about this arena is, as well as walking around the seating area, getting a view of the centre of the arena, thinking about the fights and shows which were taken place here, visitors can actually walk around the basement of arena. Here is where the gladiators prepare for battle, tigers were held and a lot of wine stored from the African sunshine. What is more impressive is that I was walking around the set of Gladiator (the film which came out 2000AD with Russell Crowe in it).

Inside the arena at El Jem, Tunisia

Nimes, France

The Roman Empire did spread northwards and there are actually two amphitheatres very close to each other in the south of France. First one I came across was in Nimes which was built in 70AD but since has been remodeled as a bullring. Still in very good condition and a great place to walk around but apart from that, there is not much to see.

Nimes Arena
Nimes Arena
Nimes Arena

Arles, France

Not to far away from Nimes and built twenty years later, the two-tiered amphitheatre in the town of Arles was more impressive to me and again, in very condition. Again, it was eventually turned into a bullring arena to entertain the locals. Still, it was a great place to explore and a good one for young children to run around the place but as you can see after reading it to here, you get a sense that all the arenas are the same. They are until I found two more further north in Europe.

Arles Arena

Trier, Germany

The amphitheatre in Trier, near the Luxembourg border is probably the northernmost in the world. It as huge as the others I have come across but I love the grassy banks where once the seating areas were. There is also a small underground section where visitors can walk through to see small rooms where the gladiators (if any in this part of the world) would prepare themselves. A little bit of a walk from the centre of Trier but still worth a visit.

Amphitheatre in Trier
Amphitheatre in Trier

Paris, France

The last one I came across is located south of the centre of the French capital. Really? Paris? Oui, you heard me straight, there is an arena in Paris. Arènes de Lutèce is located in the Latin Quarter (nearest metro station: Place Monge), and once used to seat 15,000 people for the regular combats which took place here. Since the fall of the Roman Empire, the arena was partly demolished with the centre of it still there (which was used as a park or gardens) and homes were built around it, literally right up to the arena walls. Then somehow around the 19th century when Paris was getting rebuilt to accommodate new tram lines etc, the arena was discovered around 1860. The plan was for a tram depot to be built where the arena stood but eventually it was saved from demolition.

Arènes de Lutèce, Paris

Today the arena is surrounded by apartment blocks to one side and lots of trees on the other. Part of the seating area is still used by locals and some of the blocks in the seating area are used as tables to play chess on during the warmer months.

Arènes de Lutèce, Paris
Arènes de Lutèce, Paris

Afterthoughts….

After seeing all these other arenas which are less touristy than the grand daddy in Roma, I definitely enjoyed exploring these more. I always thought there was only one arena in the world when I was a child and then on my travels I kept coming across more and more arenas which are in better condition than the Colosseum. I love exploring historical places and when it comes to the Roman Empire in Europe and Northern Africa, there is lots to see. I seen Roman aqueducts, theatre’s, forums but it’s the arenas which are worth checking out. If anyone gets to go to these places I mentioned, I highly recommend them and you won’t be let down. Finding the one in Paris is tricky but it did feel mighty weird to be standing in an arena which has lots of history but surrounded by modern day buildings.

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33 Responses

  1. Cool article with some great arena’s here we recently went Italica just outside Seville which was said have had the 5th largest Roman arena. If your ever in Seville well worth seeking out

  2. Hahah I love that you’ve been to so many- who knew there were so many Roman arenas in countries other than Italy?! I think the one in Rome is my favourite 🙂
    Tamara Elliott recently posted…Unique and unexpected things to do in Phoenix, Arizona

  3. I think that I can honestly say that I had no idea that there were arenas other than the Colosseum in Rome! The other ones look like they would be wonderful to tour and far less crowded!
    Rachael recently posted…Best Bites of San Francisco: Cioppino’s

  4. This is a great collection of arenas. I wish I had been able to see the cats in Rome, but they must have been having their afternoon naps:)
    Jennifer recently posted…12 Indie Songs to Add to Your Travel Playlist

  5. That’s why I hate going to popular attractions. Too many people ruin the experience.I’m glad you were able to find some others, just as good if not better!

  6. I’d love to explore more Roman arenas! I enjoyed visiting the Colosseum, but it was very crowded. I need to check out these other ones; there’s so many to choose from!
    Kaylene recently posted…Solo travel in Norway: 10 tips to make your trip better

  7. This is really interesting. You hear so much about the Colosseum, but I’d never heard of any other ones. I’ve somehow never made it to Italy before, but I’m dying to go to Rome, so I’ll keep this in mind.
    Kris recently posted…An Ode to Wishes

  8. I have been to Trier and did not go to their’s, darn! I had a good experience in Rome (2013); no line at all, not crowded and I didn’t see any cats. Maybe you should give it another shot

  9. We didn’t end up going inside the Colluseum in Rome because of the massive queues but we would have liked to if it wasn’t such a long wait. It looks like there are plenty of other Roman Arenas to see if we travel around Europe more. Some of them look even better than the one in Rome

  10. I agree that a lot of the other roman arenas make for a more enjoyable visit simply because there are so few visitors in comparison with the Rome landmark! I love the long list and photos, really helps to get an idea of which ones to try and visit.
    Kavey at Kavey Eats recently posted…Exploring the South Coast of Cornwall from the Comfort of Trenython Manor

  11. I didn’t know there were so many other arenas in such good condition. A shame you didn’t enjoy the colosseum; I’ve never been but will probably still go one day, just with my expectations a little lower!
    Emily recently posted…A Pox Upon Your House, and Other Stories of Travel Mishaps

  12. Visiting arenas really is something special. I have been on a couple of concerts in arena in Verona and in Pula and that setting was the most beautiful thing.

  13. All those Roman arenas look impressive. But! The Colosseum in Rome is one and only. Or maybe because is the only one from that list that I have seen with my eyes. However, this is a great list and I would love to see the other places as well.
    Bilyana | OwlOverTheWorld recently posted…Free Tours in Sofia

  14. Great list! We haven’t seen any of those, but we’d love to travel to them in the near future. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Such an interesting post on Roman arenas, I’ve seen few! By the way, I know what you mean when it comes to crowd and queues in front of tourist attractions, it’s always like that and really annoying. But than again, it’s a pity to skip it once you get there, right! 🙂 I’ve also enjoyed El Djem in Tunisia, such a memorable journey that was. Like your photos, thanks! 🙂

  16. I particularly love Verona, but I’ve only seen it when the opera has been going on. I’m now yearning to see Pula – I love Croatia!
    Fiona Maclean recently posted…A Day in the Country – Cowdray

  17. Hello from Croatia! I am glad to find out the arena in Pula on your list. Hope you enjoyed your time in Croatia.
    Milijana recently posted…The Experiential Travel Trend: Tips for a truly authentic Australia travel experience

  18. Is that a Ferrari on the street outside the Colosseum? That’s an awesome fluke! I’ve been around the Roman colosseum but never inside – we weren’t there for long and the huge queues scared me off. We went off in search of other things to see.
    I love that you’ve got a list of other Colosseum’s(?) that were great though!
    Katherine recently posted…National Park Week: Point Reyes Seashore

  19. well of course the Colosseum looks absolutely bad ass but I have never really considered all the other arenas in the area (silly for a historian as myself). something to think about!

  20. Good message that Roman ruins are so so not limited to Italy. I’ve seen them around pretty much every country neighboring Italy, and they can be extraordinary.

  21. Seeing them all together in one post is a really different feeling! Each one is a delight to explore. A wonderful addition to this would be the one at Lucca, Italy. In case you like to add that, its in a recent post of mine. https://100cobbledroads.com/2017/04/13/that-adorable-offbeat-tuscan-town-you-need-to-see/

  22. That’s a lot of interesting places in one post. Very informative and interesting description. Great pictures.

  23. The Colosseum is indeed the super Daddy of all arenas. We were really impressed by its scale and magnificence when we visited Rome. But it is really fascinating to read about similar structures around Europe. These are of course lesser know but no less fascinating.
    Sandy N Vyjay recently posted…An Affair to Remember with GRT- A Photo Blog

  24. Ouch, I feel you – I’ve found myself in the same situation, disappointed by an otherwise amazing historical site only because it was so swarmed by tourists that it completely lost it’s atmosphere. That being said, I’d still love to see the Colosseum… and all the other arenas, because so far we haven’t been to any of them. 🙂
    The Clueless Abroad recently posted…Miniatur Wunderland, Hamburg – world’s largest model railway

  25. Never visited Rome but always wanted to see the massive Colosseum! Thanks for compiling the great list of other Roman arenas whose architectures are quite intriguing too!
    Ana Ojha recently posted…Fashion With Pink Blush | A Fairy Tale Fantasy at Honeymoon Island, Florida

  26. I would love to go to every single arena you have listed here! I know the Colosseum has potential to be disappointing because of the reasons you’ve listed, but at the same time I still want to see it. I remember being fascinated by Ancient Roman history when I was studying Latin and Classics in school. Have had a fascination ever since then. These other arenas are great though and some look in far better condition, and still magnificent.
    Juliette | Snorkels to Snow recently posted…A Guide To Visiting the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park in Winter

  27. The Colosseum in Rome is indeed the Big Daddy of arenas. We were awed by its grandeur when we visited Rome a few years back. It is really great to see the compilations of similar arenas across Europe. These are overshadowed by the Colosseum, but each one of them is a marvel in its own right.

  28. Wow!
    I’ve been to most of them and I hadn’t realised it until now! But I had no idea about the ones in Trier and Paris! Well done for having been to so many of them!

  29. I like the one in Verona best! (Apart from the one in Rome, of course! – although I agree with you on the crowds front!) The one in Verona is so pretty and well preserved. But I’ll be honest I was a little underwhelmed with the one in Paris!

  30. Wauw this is an amazing article with all the arenas combined! Love it! The colosseum is stil on our bucket list, and now the other ones are too 😉 thanks for sharing
    woodyworldpacker recently posted…This is How to make money while travelling the world

  31. To be honest, I didn’t realize that there were so many Roman arenas in Europe! This is a great guide to visiting them. Thanks for sharing!
    Jen Joslin recently posted…Working in Asia: Beauty Specialist

  32. Fascinating article. I honestly didnt know that there so many arenas other than the Colosseum in Rome. The preservation efforts are quite impressive. So many Roman arenas to discover in Europe. Thanks for sharing!!
    Rosemary recently posted…10 Surprising Facts You Need to Know About Food in Cambodia

  33. Colosseum was the only thing that used to come to my mind when I thought of arenas, but your post changed that forever. True that there are so many wonderful ones in Europe. I loved the one in Tunisia and the views look great from Croatia’s arena. Loved your wonderful pictures. I could imagine how they must have looked back then!
    Reshma Narasing recently posted…A DIY Guide to the Valley of Flowers & Hemkund Sahib Treks

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