Fly back hundreds of years, pass by kings and queens, revolutions and truces, and find yourself in the ancient city of Lutetia.
In 40 B.C. the Roman Empire spread through most of today's Western Europe and the Mediterranean. Where Julius Caesar conquered the Gallic Tribe of Pariisi, the ancient city of Lutetia was founded. Lutéce (eng. Lutetia) was based on the island today known as Ile de la Cité and on the south bank of Paris, today's Latin Quarter.
Most of the ancient city is now destroyed or buried underground. But there are some hidden remnants of the Roman world that you can uncover on this tour.
One of the best-preserved ancient sites of Paris is the old amphitheatre. This was a place where the ancient citizens came to watch gladiator matches or other shows. Lower seats belonged to the male citizens whereas women and slaves were allocated to the higher ones. This theatre could accommodate up to 15000 visitors!
Now, not more than a couple of dozens locals come here to enjoy their evening hangouts. Sit down on the antique stone steps with a drink and some snacks and watch the pieceful pétanque contests happening down in the arena. A little nicer than watching a bloody fight against a wild animal! If you are coming with a loved one, you will find enough privacy on the secret benches at the top terraces enclosed by a green shrubbery. ;)
From the amphitheatre walk towards Rue Saint-Jacques. This prominent city artery was as important for navigation in the ancient past, as it is today. In the ancient times this kind of street was called cardo maximus and it was the main north-south axis in every town. It lead the Lutetians from the main port on the river Sēquana (which we know today as the Seine) all the way to the main market square called forum.
Unfortunately, the forum has no preserved parts above the ground. But if you look closer on the asphalt in the midst of Rue Toullier, you can see an unnatural swell. This is the remnant of one of the forum's walls. Do not stick around there for too long, not to give away this little secret of ours. :)
The ancient baths Thermes de Cluny were built between the 1st and the 3rd century A.D. and one part – the frigadirium is surprisingly well-preserved with its Gallo-Roman vaults and mosaics. The baths were used by most of the citizens in the ancient Lutece. It was not common to have a bathroom at one's home, only the wealthiest could afford it. Bathing thus merged two of human necessities, that of hygiene and that of socializing.
Today it is a museum of the Middle Ages. It is worth dropping by as they showcase various ancient artefacts. And who would not like to take a walk inside the ancient Roman baths?
The museum is open every day from 9.15am to 5.45pm except on Tuesdays.
This bridge was built in 1853, and no, it is not an antique excavation.
Interestingly though, it was built on the exact same spot where the ancient wooden bridge once stood. The bridge that crossed the river Seine, named by the Gallo-Romans after the ancient goddess Sequana.
Now it is the favourite spot for staged selfies capturing Notre Dome in the background.
Are you looking for more original pictures of Notre Dome? Climb down the stairs leading to the water level, and find a perfect spot for your Instagram story.
If you are tired, find some comfort and a refreshing cup of coffee in Cafe Panis. When you climb up the stairs, you will find the entrance on the opposite side of the pedestrian crossing. This typically Parisian cafe will charm you with its professional waiters and a vitage bohemian atmosphere.
Beneath Notre Dame is hidden another of the ancient secrets – the ruins of the main port of the city of Lutece dating back to the 3rd century A.D.
The museum offers plenty of educational material about the ancient Paris including videos, maps and hundred-years old inscriptions.
Unfortunately the museum is closed now due to reconstruction. Check before your visit.
The ancient collection of The Louvre is vast. The artifacts originate from the former royal collections, the loot of the revolutions, and part of it has arrived with the later archeologic expeditions.
The ancient collection is in the section Denon. Rooms 400-423.
You can marvel at the Roman statues from 100 B.C. to 500 A.D. ranging from the Republican period through the Early Imperial period of the Roman Empire and beyond. Don't miss the honorary statue of Marcellus who had died at the age of 19 before he could become an emperor. On a stroll through room 405, you will remind yourself of all the ancient Roman deities floating in the hazy memories of your high school history classes.
Be ready for queuing for a couple of minutes in front of the main entrace (It shouldn't be more then 20 minutes.). On first Sundays, the entry is free for everyone, but expect longer waiting times. If you come from an EU member state and you are younger than 26 years old, you can visit the permanent exhibition for free anytime! Just show your ID directly at the room entry, no need to queue for the ticket.
To keep in line with the ancient experience, grab some home-made dish from a Greek deli Dionysos, named after the ancient Greek god of wine-making whose equivalent in Rome was Bacchus. (You might remember him from Louvre's collections.) It is only possible to take food away. On a nice day, have a picnic at the gardens of Louvre, only a five-minute walk from there.
The dish I recommened is Moussaka with Greek salad, a traditional Mediterranean plate made of minced meet, aubergine, and tomatoes. This wholesome and refreshing meal including a dessert (take baklava!) costs about 12 Euros, and it is worth it!
*** Disclaimer: All guides are provided as-is, with any person following them doing so at their own risk and responsibility. Wandering Tom is not liable for accident, injury or similar issues that may arise from the following of the steps in this guide.