Exploring Roman Ruins in France

When in Rome it is often said do what the Romans do, but what if you found yourself standing in the center of a Roman Amphitheater in France?  Then what?  This is a question that is certainly worth answering and if you happen to find yourself in the South of France there are a few places that could put this theory to the test.

Arnès de Nimes

The Arènes de Nimes is an ancient Roman Arena where spectators since the year 1853 have been able to watch traditional bullfighting take place.  This is quite a spectacle for those who desire some added excitement when visiting historical sites.

The arena itself is said to be built around the end of the first century and has gone through a series of additions and demolitions since then.  It once held a chapel, houses and even a château.  This was all dismantled however in favor of its original intention as a magnificent arena with the ability to house over 90,000 spectators.

Arnès d’Arles

The Arles Theatre Antique was a Roman theater that like the Arènes de Nimes dates back to around the first century.  It only holds about 8,000 spectators and has not been as well-preserved as other theaters such as the one in Orange.

This does not however mean that it should go overlooked for its worn look only adds to its charm and antiquity.  It is still used today during the summer months to host concerts under the stars.

Theatre Antique d’Orange

The Theatre Antique d’Orange is another Roman theater.  Unlike the Theatre Antique de Arles however, it is not situated in the village itself, but sits back separated from the town.  Another construct of the first century, is holds over 7,000 people and has held up well considering its age.  The theater was the brainchild of Octavious, whose statue still graces the stone wall that serves as a backdrop for the stage.

Every August it plays host to the Chorégies d’Orange festival which has featured numerous famous artists.  This summer’s festival includes a performance of Puccini’s Tosca as well as a lyric concert, symphonic orchestra and Gounod’s Mirelle.


Arenas and theaters are not the only examples one can find of Roman ruins in France.  If walking is something that you prefer over sitting still, the province of Vaison-la-Romaine, with its vast collection of picturesque ancient ruins, might be just the thing for you.  Located in haute ville is a rather famous single-arched Roman bridge.

Known for its strength and resistance to German bombings during WWII, the structure is still intact.  It crosses the river Ouvèze and is one of the largest bridges of its kind.  Any structure that has endured so much certainly seems worth a visit, or at least a test from your walking shoes.

Pont du Gard

Finally it’s back to Nimes where we have the grandeur of the Pont du Gard.  This ancient Roman aqueduct stretches across the Gard River.  It stands over 160 feet off the ground and is constructed of three levels.  It holds the honor of being the highest aqueduct that the Romans have ever built and it took them over 15 years to complete.

It has stood the test of time and is a testament to Roman architecture and a prime example of the magnificence of French Roman ruins.

Tell us which of these Roman ruins make your must-see list?

Written by: Molly Photo Credits : Wolfgang Staudt / Allie Caulfield / Maarjaara / hsivonen

  • User Gravatar
    March 29th, 2010

    I really love the Pont-du-Gard. It’s incredible to walk across it a realise how many millions of people have gone before you over the many many years.

    It looks lovely. And that experience must be surreal.

    .-= Alison´s last blog ..Saving the Planet One Bottle at a Time =-.

  • User Gravatar
    March 29th, 2010

    Great article…Rome’s arms stretched so far! Just yesterday I was looking at the geographic maps along via dei fori imperiali in Rome, it never ceases to amaze me how great the Roman Empire was. Now we’re confined to this dump beneath the 7 hills :) HA you can’t win’em all, Rome!

    It is so interesting to see all the reaches of Roman Ruins!

    .-= regina´s last blog ..Extreme Makeover Termini Station =-.

  • User Gravatar
    August 17th, 2011

    Great review of the main roman monuments in south of France !
    Just little details would make it even better: the titles of the pictures for both arenas (Nîmes and Arles) have a typo… and when you talk about Arles you talk about the theater, but the amphitheater is pictured (lots of people get confused over theaters and amphitheaters which are different buildings, and Arles has both).
    Well, my choice goes for Vaison – the little, but very informative museum there inside the archeological site is really worth a visit, too. Besides that the town is charming and has a great market every tuesday ;-)

    Thanks for popping by to offer your local insights!

  • User Gravatar
    March 22nd, 2012

    What gorgeous photos, I would love to explore these ruins. I never really realized France had all these. I have only been to Marseilles.
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