It is perhaps one of the only places where true “gladiators” still exist to this day.

Each year, the Roman Empire is reborn in the Arènes de Nîmes in the south of France. The Arènes de Nîmes is one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world and one of four still in use today. Although it is not as big as the Coliseum of Roman, it can still hold around 24,000 spectators.

The Great Roman Games have only been held for about ten years now, but they are already one of the biggest reenactments in Europe. There is incredible attention to detail as France celebrates its long Roman heritage. Just outside Nimes is the UNSECO listed Pont du Grad – one of the best and most famous Roman ruins in the world.

Nîmes and the arenas of Nîmes: a veritable Roman amphitheater

It is remarkable to think that the amphitheater is now 2,000 years old and still going strong. But if you come to Nîmes, there is a lot more to see. It is known as the most Roman city outside of Italy and has some of the best-preserved Roman ruins in France.

Nimes was part of one of the first provinces of Rome outside of Italy and was one of the last to fall during the collapse of Rome. It has notable attractions like the beautifully preserved Maison Carrée temple and the Nîmes aqueduct (which includes the famous Pont du Grad aqueduct bridge).

Arena of Nîmes:

Size of the Arena of Nîmes:

  • Length: 133 meters (145 yards)
  • Width: 101 meters (110 yards)
  • Height: 21 meters (69 feet)
  • Capacity: 24,000 spectators

The Arena of Nîmes contains much more than the famous reconstructions of the Great Roman Games. It also hosts two annual bullfights during the Feria de Nîmes and other public events such as concerts.

Related: Here’s How You Can See The Roman Catacombs While You Are In Rome

The Great Games Of Rome

For a weekend in April each year, Roman legionaries (now speaking French) invest the city of N̨mes in one of the largest reconstructions of the ancient world in Europe. In this massive re-enactment, we will see Roman legionaries, horsemen, battle chariots, and an imperial court from ancient Rome. Add to all that, the event takes place in a historic Roman city and in a true Roman amphitheater Рand the atmosphere is electric, authentic and surreal.

We will see 500 actors and various extras from all over France, Germany and Italy participate in this grandiose spectacle. The event lasts an hour and a half on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

  • Actors: Around 500 actors and reenactors

The first Grand Jeu Romain was held in Nîmes in 2010 with little fanfare. Each year, the Great Roman Games present a different theme illustrating different highlights of ancient Roman history.

Some of the performances one can expect to see include chariot races, gladiatorial battles (thumbs up or down?)

There are different themes every year. In 2018, it was on the theme of Spartacus. It was a spectacle full of gladiatorial fights. Most of the associations and actors come from France, Italy and Germany. But there were also participants from Great Britain and Croatia.

Past themes of the great Roman games:

  • 2015 : Annibal
  • 2016: Cleopatra
  • 2017: Boudicca
  • 2018: Spartacus
  • 2019: The king of barbarians
  • 2020-1: Caesar, conquest of Rome (delayed by the pandemic)
  • 2022: Upcoming theme

It is an event that reenactors take very seriously. Most reenactors get together weekly, dress up as Romans (or barbarians) and spend weekends in camps, train for battles, live as Romans, etc.

The next matches are currently scheduled for April 2022. The exact dates, theme, ticket prices, reservations at the time of writing do not appear to have been disclosed. Watch out for the Nîmes Amphitheater site – it still hasn’t been updated since the last Caesar-themed event.

If you want to attend, then plan ahead. Tickets are doomed to sell out quickly as the amphitheater only has limited seats.

Related: This is Rome’s Most Scenic Area (& What to Do While Visiting)

Visit the Arean of Nîmes

For those who would like to visit the great Roman amphitheater during their next Tour de France, it is open to the public and its hours are:

  • Opening days : Every day except Ferias and Shows
  • January to December: 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • March and October: 9 am-6pm
  • April to September: 9 am-6.30pm
  • June: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
  • July and August: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Tickets for the amphitheater and other Roman attractions can be booked online.

Nimes is a wonderful place to visit if you are interested in Roman architecture and ruins. The first Roman road they built in France crosses it. Most of the ruins date from the early days of the Roman Empire which succeeded the struggling Roman Republic.

Next: Visit this ghost town on “Bannack Day” when it comes to life

Boston at sunset, nantucket shops

Boston to Nantucket: The Ultimate Day Trip Itinerary

About the Author