The town of Saintes is best known for its Roman Amphitheatre, which was built in the 1st century AD (roughly 40AD) during the reign of Emperor Claudius. At the time, Saintes was a thriving Roman settlement and the amphitheatre was built to hold several thousand spectators as a venue for ancient Roman games. The amphitheatre is built on a hill overlooking the town. Once the administrative capital of the region, Saintes was overtaken in importance and power by La Rochelle as it became a wealthy and strategic port.
Today, Saintes is a vital local trading and market town. One of the main attractions in Saintes is the Arch of Germanicus, which was built on a Roman road at the entrance to a bridge over the Charente River. The original bridge was demolished during the 19th century, but the Arch was saved.