What To See In and Around Arles France
Arles is one of the most popular destinations in Provence, famous for its significant Roman heritage.
Views of Arles
We’ve put together a little travel guide covering the main sights of Arles, where to find maps, and other ideas for great things to see in the area.
Arles France – Practical Info
Most of the roman and medieval monuments are within walking distance in the old town and can be covered easily on foot in a day.
If you’re driving,and wanting to know where to park, we’d suggest trying to find somewhere outside of the old town and then walking in.
The Place du Forum is a great spot to sit and have a coffee. Another good place to rest weary feet is the peaceful park along the Bvd des Lices, near the Théâtre Antique.
What to See in Arles France
Arles, known for its rich roman and medieval heritage, dates as far back as the 7th century BC. During the 4th and 5th centuries the town was used as the headquarters for Roman Emporors during military campaigns.
Roman and Medieval Monuments
Vacation ideas and places to visit in France for family holidays and romantic getaways.
- The Amphitheatre (Les Arènes) dates back to the 1st century BC. Originally built for sport contests, chariot races and even gladiators. Now it’s used during the bullfighting season (around Easter) and can hold up to 20,000 people. Walk up to the top for great views of the surrounding countryside.
- Théâtre Antique also dates from the 1st century BC. It comes to life in the summer when it’s used as a stage for dance, film and music festivals.
- The Alyscamps (a type of roman burial site) is located outside the walls of the old town of Arles.
- Cryptoporticus du Forum – an underground gallery built around the 1st century BC and used for storage or perhaps even as barracks for slaves.
- Thermes de Constantin – the Roman baths, built in the 4th century.
- Église St-Trophine – a romanesque church built in the 11th and 12th centuries; this is where Frederic Barbarossa was crowned emporer in 1178.
There are a number of museums in Arles, here are a couple of our favourites:
- The Musée de l’Arles Antique covers the history of the area – from neolithic to the end of the Roman and early Christian period.
- Musée Réattu: Picasso drawings and paintings by other provençal artists, as well as photography (Henri-Cartier, Bresson)
Arles and the surrounding countryside were the inspiration for many of Van Gogh’s paintings. Unfortunately, Arles doesn’t actually have any original Van Goghs.
BUT…this is what you can see in Arles…
- You can pick up a brochure from the tourist office which provides information on the Van Gogh walking tour, a marked trail which takes you through all the places that he painted.
- The Fondation Vincent van Gogh inside the Palais de Luppé – modern artists (eg Francis Bacon, David Hockney) pay tribute to Van Gogh.
- The Gallery La Rose des Vents has reproductions and copies of letters that Van Gogh had written to his brother.
- The Espace van Gogh, which used to be a hospital (and where Van Gogh had spent some time after the famous ear incident), has art exhibitions throughout the year.
- The famous Van Gogh Night Cafe is still there, in Place du Forum (you won’t miss it..it’s bright yellow).
We found some great, downloadable maps (pdf) on the Arles France tourism website. It has maps of the city, suburbs and the Camargue (marshland south of Arles, famous for white horses, black bulls and birdlife), with all the landmarks shown.
The Arles tourist office is on boulevard des Lices (marked on the map). For more maps and information on Arles, visit the Arles Tourism Website.
Places to see around Arles France
Here are some suggestions for what you can see in the surrounding area. We have also put together a map of Provence with all the destinations marked to help plan your holiday.
This is one of our all time favourites. About half an hour’s drive from Arles, St-Rémy is small enough to have a villagy, relaxing feel, but has enough atmosphere, shopping, cafes and restaurants to keep you busy.
We stay in a nearby bed and breakfast out in the countryside and drive in to St-Rémy for dinner. The choice of restaurants is good too – you’ll find not just local provençal but other kinds, such as morroccan. It’s also fun to sit on one of the outside cafe tables with a glass of rosé and people watch. A very special place.
The fortified village of Les Baux is very popular so this isn’t exactly a secret…but we still recommend it. If you can go at the end of the day, maybe when the sun is setting, the view is magnificent – you can see olive groves and vineyards for miles around.
We have visited twice, in summer (around June). It didn’t feel crowded though, given that the area at the top is quite big and so there is plenty of room to have spots to yourself.
Countryside Around Arles
Two villages that are worth exploring are Eygalières and Orgon, both very pretty, historic villages that are within an hour’s drive of Arles. They are not nearly as touristy as Les Baux; they are much more peaceful and feel a little more authentic.
These are just a couple of suggestions…there are many more awaiting your discovery!