When you find yourself in the south of France, there are plenty of things to do. If you like to be active and go hiking or cycling, there are numerous routes to follow. If you feel like exploring the lavish lavender fields or the sun bursting sunflower field, August is your best pick. But what to do if you’re a real cultural buff and like to stroll around a new town? I asked myself the same question during a vacation with my boyfriend in the Ardèche area of France. And I was super excited to find out about the Thriumphal Arch and Roman Theatre of Orange! Turns out I did get my cultural fix because of the 2 World Heritage Sites in Orange.
The City Orange in France
The City of Orange, is located in the South of France. The river Rhone flows to the right of the city. The bigger city of Avignon is located to the South of Orange. As a Dutchie, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the city of Orange used to be a principality. Between 1163 and 1713 CE, Orange was a feudal state in France under the reign of the Princes of Orange-Nassau. Basically relatives to our current King and Queen and their family. Neat little fact!
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The World Heritage Sites in Orange, France
Ok, so much for the royal history lessons. Off to Orange! But erhm.. what to see there? It turns out, there are 2 (yes two!) World Heritage Sites in Orange: the thriumphal arch of Orange and the Orange city theatre also known as the Roman theatre. Now I know, not all Unesco Heritage Sites are as spectacular as others, but Orange is really worth a visit. When we returned from our day in Orange, I was all excited and giddy. Both sites are in (near) perfect conditions. You can get all close and personal with both of them and guess what? They are not overcrowded, like for example the things to see in Pisa.
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Orange City Theatre – the Roman theatre of Orange
The Orange City Theatre is a real show stopper and the main attraction of the city. This is one of the World Heritage Sites in Orange and absolutely the must see Roman site in the area. Why? Because it is known as the best preserved theatres of the Roman Empire. And you can really tell.
The Roman theatre of Orange was built around 100 CE and used for plays and performances and served a public function in Roman Orange city. Around 391 CE the Roman theatre was closed down and in the centuries to come, the building was neglected. Mainly used as a stone quarry or refugee place, the Orange city theatre crumbled down. It was only in 1824 that reconstruction started and since 1869 the old Roman theatre of Orange is the backdrop for numerous plays and concerts. The theatre can now house 7.000 people.
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Are you just as curious about France’s Roman History as me? Check out Lyon’s Roman Past on passportcollective.
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Tour of the Roman Theatre of Orange
When you want to visit the city theatre of Orange, you can ask for an audio guide too. Normally, I do not like walking around with head phones and somebody talking in my ear all the time. But for this instance it was rather informative. Otherwise, you’re just looking at a bunch of old stones. Tickets can be bought at the entrance for € 9,50 per adult. For more info and discount tickets, check the website.
Once you’ve paid your tickets, you’ll be directed to the side of the Orange city theatre. You are now able to enter the theatre and you’ll land right smack bang in the middle of the Roman theatre. You’ll find yourself in the middle of the orchestra and facing the theatre wall. This has recently been covered with a modern roof. Take your time to listen to the audio guide and slowly make your way up the steps, to check out the higher seats of the theatre.
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As you proceed, you find better views of the whole theatre and the surroundings. You can see the rooftops of modern day Orange as the theatre is located in the heart of the city.
Once you’ll reach the top, you’ll find a hallway along the back of the highest seats. Here are numerous porticos with interesting exhibits. They use video and interactive media to bring the history of the theatre of Orange to live. You’ll see what kind of plays were performed in the Roman era. Or how people dressed when they visited the Orange city theatre early 1900’s.
As the audio guide proceeds, you’ll slowly make your way down again, to the backside of the theatre and the remains of the ancient gymnasium. At the hill is a posh looking restaurant with stunning views and skyrocketing prices.
I think we took about 1.5 hours maybe 2 hours to explore the biggest of the World Heritage Sites in Orange. I loved every second of it. The audio guide is a real contribution to your visit and the Roman theatre is in (near) perfect condition. As I’ve seen many Roman and Greek theatres around Europe, I can say for sure this one is worth your visit! Even walking through the gift shop before you can reach the exit is no tragedy. Want more lovely French towns? Explore the 10 most charming villages in France.
Triumphal Arch of Orange
After our visit to the Orange city theatre, we most definitely wanted to visit the other World Heritage Site of Orange. We took a break with a lovely crêpe in the centre of town. We slowly meandered through the city’s streets towards the other end of the city.
You might think that the most famous Triumphal Arch of France is situated in Paris. And you might be right. But the Triumphal Arch of Orange is much older and maybe just as spectacular. It is rightfully one of the World Heritage Sites of Orange.
The Triumphal Arch of Orange is the oldest of the World Heritage Sites in Orange. It was built between 27 BCE and 14 CE in honour of the soldiers of the Gallic Wars. Orange’s Triumphal Arch is the best preserved Roman Triumphal Arch outside of Rome.
The Arch measures 19,57 meters in length, 8,40 meters width and is 19,21 meter high. It consists of one main arch and 2 side arches. But so far for the boring details which you’ll probably forget.
Approaching the Triumphal Arch of Orange from the street, you’ll see it from far away. They say all roads lead to Rome. Well, all roads around Orange lead towards the Triumphal Arch. It is situated at a roundabout and traffic can be quiet heavy. We managed to cross the street safely and found ourselves in a tranquil section of the city. The Arch is surrounded by a lovely park and I can imagine sitting there and just be.
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We passed a few times underneath the different arches of the Triumphal Arch of Orange. Heads tilted all the way back, trying to take in all the details of the ceilings. The inscriptions, the ornaments and the columns. There is an abundance of details and I think the restoration was done very precise. To think that this structure is over 2.000 years old. It stood the test of times. Endured all the weather conditions. The fierce sun burning down, the harsh winds blowing from the north.
Triumphal Arch once was part of the medieval city walls of Orange. It was turned into a major traffic junction and yet, it still stands there.
World Heritage Sites in the city Orange
Both the Roman Theatre and the Triumphal Arch of Orange have become monuments of the ancient Roman Empire. A peek into Roman History and their long forgotten culture. Both sites became landmarks of the city of Orange and stand proudly on the list of World Heritage Sites in Orange.
If you find yourself in the south of France and have a day to spare, do yourself a favour and visit Orange and her sites. You won’t be disappointed by these two well preserved World Heritages Sites in Orange.
Do you like to visit World Heritages Sites in the world? Do you have special memories of one? Or have you been to Orange yourself and visited the Orange city theatre? Please share your experiences below. I’d love to hear them.