Douai – Hippodrome / Cirque Municipal

Besides being a circus building with an original shape, the The Hippodrome is also noted for its classic design, with its pediment and columns.
Many circus buildings, organised around a circus ring, have been built in the nineteenth century. Only nine originals still exist in France today, including the Hippodrome of Douai.

The inauguration of the building during the Gayant celebrations in 1904 shows the Hippodrome became a important part and symbolic site of Douai culture. Until 1914 The building is mainly devoted to circus performances but is also used for cockfighting, union meetings, discounts medals, lottery draws, congresses etc.

During WWII the circus building sufferened from significant damage; the post war reconstructions, however, allowed for an upgrade and improvement of comfort, lighting and especially the acoustics of the auditorium. The straight lined roof was very damaged and replaced by a dome shape roof. After the repairs and improvements the building was being used for a growing number of events: wrestling matches, dances, variety shows, folkloric ballets…

From 1970, the purely artistic vocation of the Hippodrome is strengthened with the creation of an association called “House of culture without walls”, renamed cultural Activity Center of Douai in 1974. The director Roland Poquet was determined that the circus building would be thoroughly renovated. Work finally began in 1984 and ended in 1986. The technical capabilities of the stage and auditorium were increased, offering more opportunities for different types of live performances. The Hippodrome could well pursue its objectives from the very beginning: to attract new audiences, shape them through artistic events, courses and introduction to theater and dance whilst in the meantime promoting regional creative activity. The success earned the building the status of a national stage in 1992.

From September 2004 to December 2005, The Hippodrome was experiencing a new phase of work and a 140-seat auditorium (the André Obey room) was created in an adjoining building. The building still host contemporary circus shows from time to time.


l’Hippodrome de Douai
Place du Barlet
59500 Douai

Historic postcard images courtesy of