Visit Arles (Provence, France)
Arles is found in south-west Provence and to the north-east of the camargue region.
The sizeable town is most famous for two things - it's Roman ruins and its association with Van Gogh. Both play a large role in the attraction for tourists of the town, but even without either of these 'highlights' it would still be very worth visiting.
Although there are numerous places to visit in Arles, the main star is the town itself. Open squares with bustling cafes, linked by narrow streets lined with attractive houses and shops, many looking old and faded and all the more romantic as a result. The centre of Arles is quite compact and easy to explore.
Start your exploration of roman Arles at the amphitheatre (partly restored, partly not restored and partly in course of being renovated), a large and substantially intact round structure once used for gladiatorial competitions.
The other Roman ruins at Arles include the Roman theatre, the necropolis (Alyscamps) and the thermae of Constantine (Constantine baths) at the northern edge of the town. Further Roman sarcophagi can be found at the excellent Museum of Arles and Provence. Each is individually interesting but has much less to see than the amphitheatre, although the theatre has sufficient remains to give a good feel for the original building.
One personal favourite is in the Place du Forum. Once the heart of Roman Arles and surrounded by fine buildings, all that now remains of that period is a portion of an entrance set on two columns and now incorporated into the wall of the Hotel du Forum, Arles.
Just adjacent to this curious remain is a cafe renovated to look like a Van Gogh painting - when I visited many tourists were photographing the cafe and all seemed oblivious to the forum remains, which I found a bit curious (and disappointing).
The roman ruins are also a listed UNESCO world heritage site. See more information at roman ruins at Arles .
Moving forward to medieval times, head off to the Place de la Republique to see the church of St Trophime, above all for its ornately carved doorway which depicts the Final Judgement.
After looking in the church, go into the attractive 17th century town hall just across the coner for a look at the stairway and statue.
Adjacent to Saint Trophime is the entrance to the 12th-14th century cloisters of the church. You pay to enter these cloisters, and while they are interesting and attractive, with lots of pretty arches created from double columns, very little effort had been made with the garden in the centre - more or less just a square of mud with a couple of overgrown trees - so it is hard to get a feeling for the relaxing serenity that you hope for in a cloister.
Other sights in Arles
There are lots of other sights - churches, obelisks, fountains etc that you will come across as you explore - visit the tourist office on Boulevard des Lices just south of the church of Saint Trophime (next to the Parking du Centre) for a detailed map.
One little sight in Arles that was very interesting was the Espace Van Gogh - with a small courtyard recreated exactly as it was painted by Van Gogh in 'Le Jardin de la Maison de Santé a Arles'. An idea that works better than you would expect, and with a bit of tranquility away from the bustle of the city
Unfortunately there are none of Van Gogh's works to be found in the town, despite the two years he spent in Arles being his most productive period. The Foundation Vincent Van Gogh at the Palais de Luppé (between the Arènes and the Theatre) has a good collection of 'tribute to Van Gogh' works by other modern painters and artists including Francis Bacon, Lichtenstein and Rauschenburg.
The Museum Arlaten in Arles - a museum of the history of the region - has some very interesting displays and artefacts, especially in the 'Salle des Rites et Legendes' (hall of Rites and Legends)
General Visitor Information
The Saturday market is a good time to visit Arles, with the extra colour and activity it brings to the town. The garden d'été (summer garden) near Arles Tourist Office is a nice shady park with a children's play area.
A couple of kilometres outside Arles, 11th century Montmajour Abbey and the associated 12th century cloister is a listed historic monument and makes for an interesting side trip from the town. Nimes is also close by - see Nimes. Only have time for a brief stop in the area? See Nimes and Arles compared
Photos of Arles
Click any picture to start the gallery
Tourist classifications for Arles
Arles has received the following tourist classifications: historical protected town centre' (secteur sauvegardé); ; listed town of Art and History
Address: Arles, Bouches-du-Rhone, Provence, 13200 || GPS: latitude 43.676, longitude 4.6278
Map of Arles & places nearby
Highlights close by
Suggested tourist attractions to visit near Arles, France
- Eglise et cloitres de Saint Trophime, Eglise de Saint-Honorat des Alycamps (Arles) - religious monument
- Roman Arles - heritage site
- Arles église St Honorat (monuments on French pilgrim routes) - heritage site
- Abbaye Notre Dame de Montmajour (Arles) - religious monument (4km)
- Montmajour Abbey - national monument (4km)
- Beaucaire - recommended detour (15km)
- Alpilles - regional natural parc (15km)
- Baux-de-Provence - most beautiful village (15km)
- Saint-Gilles ancienne abbatialle (monuments on French pilgrim routes) - heritage site (16km)
- Saint-Gilles - secteur sauvegarde (16km)
Market days in Arles: Regular market(s) are held in Arles each Wednesday & Tuesday & Saturday & Friday. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)
The French version of this page is at Arles (Francais)