The Cirque d’hiver (“Winter Circus”) has been a prominent venue for circuses, exhibitions of dressage, musical concerts, and other events, including exhibitions of Turkish wrestling, and even fashion shows. It’s a handsome building and a popular tourist attraction.
The theatre was designed by architect Jacques Ignace Hittorff and was opened by Emperor Napoleon III on 11 December 1852 as the Cirque Napoléon. The orchestral concerts of Jules Etienne Pasdeloup were inaugurated at the Cirque Napoléon on 27 October 1861 and continued for more than twenty years. The theatre was renamed Cirque d’hiver in 1870.
The circus is an oval polygon of 20 sides, with Corinthian columns at the angles, giving the impression of an oval building enclosing the oval ring, surrounded by steeply banked seating for spectators, very much like a miniature indoor Colosseum. A low angled roof is self-supporting like a low dome, so that there is no central pole, as under a tent, to obstruct views or interfere with the action.