The two-tiered Roman Amphitheatre (Arènes d'Arles) sits in the town center of Arles. It was used 2000 years ago for chariot races and gladiator battles; today it's used for bullfighting, plays and summer concerts.
The site is most often called an Amphitheatre, but we're using the term Roman Arena, to reduce the confusion with the nearby Roman Theatre.
UNESCO. The Arles Roman Arena, along with other Roman and Romanesque sites in Arles, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visiting the site, you can explore the open ring within the outer walls and the inner covered passage that circles the arena. Several entry passages provide access to the stands that surround the central arena. Above the original stone seating, a higher, flimsier set of stands circles the arena for the present-day entertainment.
At the north end of the outer circle, near the entry booth, one set of steps continues up to the top of the Medieval tower, where you have a great view past the north end of town and across the countryside.
The arena was built at the end of the 1st century AD and seated up to 21,000 spectators for the combats and simulated hunting scenes for the next 400 years.
City within a City
After the fall of the Roman empire in the 5th century, the interior of the arena became essentially a town, housing a large population and over 200 houses, chapels and a town square.
This arena-town was protected by fortifying the walls and adding adding four towers. The medieval tower at the north side of the arena [photo, left] is the one you can climb for a great view.
In the 19th century the inner "town" was cleared out and the arena was restored to its original function of providing fighting spectacles, only with men and bulls now instead of gladiators.