Arles, Historic Center - Visit time : 3 days.
Arles has the largest number of ancient Roman monuments, after the city of Rome itself!
A city of culture and history, Arles guides visitors on an extraordinary, timeless journey. Two thousand years of history, reflecting each of the city’s periods of prosperity, unfold in its streets, squares and monuments. In the footsteps of Van Gogh, who was inspired by its colors and light, Arles breathes with life.
The oldest Roman monuments in the city date from Antiquity: the Roman Amphitheatre (the Arena), the Roman Theater and the Cryptoportiques (covered passageway). During the 4th century, Arles became a major political and religious center; indeed, the Baths of Constantine and the sarcophagi of the necropolis of Alyscamps are testaments to that golden age. In the Middle Ages, Arles was one of the most beautiful cities in the Mediterranean world. Travelers from all over wrote enthusiastically about its monuments. The Alyscamps and the Eglise Saint Honorat illustrate the Christian influence in the city from the 4th to the 13th century.
The Roman and Romanesque Monuments of Arles were included on the World Heritage list in 1981. In 2006, the site was extended to include the ancient and medieval urban complex, that is to say, the entire city center.
Criteria for selection
Criterion (ii): the Place de la République and the Eglise Saint Trophime and its cloister are major monuments of Provençal Romanesque art. Their influence was considerable in the 12th and 13th century in the Mediterranean area.
Criterion (iv): Arles is a particularly significant example of the adaptation of an ancient city to medieval European civilization. In the 1st century BC, taking advantage of the decline of Marseille, the city enjoyed great prosperity under the Emperor Augustus.
Source : UNESCO / ICOMOS.
History of Arles
It was the strategic position of this location – linking Spain to Italy, and the presence of Rhône River – that prompted Julius Caesar to found a Roman colony in this area in 46 BC, sending the veterans of the 6th legion. It would become a great and prosperous city under Constantine thanks to the richness of its port and industrial center. The city was thereafter enriched by beautiful monuments : a forum, temples, theaters, an amphitheater, baths ... An aqueduct brought pure water from the Alpilles. Prosperity earned the city the title of "Little Rome of Gaul." In the 3rd century, the church of Arles was organized. The Christian necropolis of Alyscamps took on an exceptional scale. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Church of Arles extended its influence over its vast diocese. It reached its peak in the 12th century with the construction of the religious complex of Saint Trophimus and canonical buildings around a cloister. Arles also welcomed pilgrims traveling along the Pilgrimage Route of Saint Jacques de Compostela.
In the 16th century, the city experienced a new period of prosperity, and it was during this period that architecture of the Renaissance took off. Influenced by an antique style, it created a link with its glorious history. It was during the 17th and 18th centuries that the center of Arles acquired its current facades: the city hall was built, mansions blossomed, houses even emerged from within the zone today classified as a World Heritages Site. Restoration of the ancient monuments began in the 19th century under the leadership of the municipality. Today, Arles offers a unique architectural and artistic landscape, and history lives on through the alleyways of the city center. Arles is also a place of imagination. By the splendor of its natural elements - the Rhone River, the light, the wind - it has never ceased to attract artists.
Arles Tourist office
Arles Tourist Office
9 Boulevard des Lices , 13200 Arles
Website - tel : 04 90 18 41 20.
April through September: 9 a.m. to 6:45 p.m.
October through March, Monday to Saturday: 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. (5:45 p.m. on October); Sunday and holidays: 10 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
Accommodation available for visitors with disabilities.
In addition to general information, the Tourist Office offers a very interesting thematic path marked throughout the city. Possible visit of the city with an audio guide (rent: €5) or "Arles Tour" app available for free. Map with 4 pedestrian circuits also available for €1 (only in French).
In addition to general information, the Tourist Office offers a very interesting thematic path marked throughout the city.
The Tourist Office organizes many city tours :
- Possible visit of the city with an audio guide in French or ENglish (rent: €5) or to download
- Visit with "Arles Tour" app available for free on Google Play or App Store
- Map with 4 pedestrian circuits also available for €1 or to download for free.
Guided Tours in English :
- Guided tour of historic center, daily except on Wednesday and Sunday at 4 p.m.
Guided tour "On the steps of Van Gogh" on Wednesday and Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
Meeting point at the Tourist office.
- Visit with gyropod, from €23
- Tuk-tuk tour, from €42 for a couple (see "getting around" with Taco and Co).
Tips for visiting the monuments
"Pass Monuments" options, available for purchase at the Tourist Office, in each monument or on the Tourist office website:
- Passeport avantage: access to all the museums and monuments. Full price / reduced price: €16 / €13.
- Passeport liberté: access to a selection of monuments and museums. Full price / reduced price: €12 / €10.
Tips for visiting with children
Gladiators: Every Tuesday and Thursday in July and August.
The gladiators fight in the amphitheater. Information available at the Tourist Office.
The main museums of Arles
Musée d'Arles Antique
Avenue 1ere division France libre, 13200 Arles
Website - tel : 04 13 31 51 03.
Full price / reduced price: €8 / €5. Free for children under 18 years old and free general admission the first Sunday of each month.
Open daily: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed on Tuesdays.
Getting to the museum
By shuttle: shuttle Navia (see "getting around")
On foot: from the Amphitheater (arena): 20 minutes, from the Place du Forum: 15 minutes
By bicycle: Bicycle path from the quays to the museum. The museum is wheelchair accessible (wheelchairs available for use). Tactile tour for the visually impaired. Baby changing table.
The Museum of Ancient Arles, located since 1995 along the Rhone and built on the remains of the Roman circus, presents the archaeological collections of the city and its territory, from the Neolithic period to the end of antiquity. The collection includes beautiful sculptures, in particular the Venus of Arles (a copy, the original is in the Louvre) and the bust of Caesar, but also the most beautiful sarcophagi from the Alyscamps.
The museum organizes many activities for families as well as workshops for children.
Musée Réattu, fine arts museum of Arles
10 Rue du Grand Prieuré, 13200 Arles
Website - tel : 04 90 49 37 58.
Full price/ reduced price: €8/ €6.
In July and August, full price/ reduced price: €9/ €7.
Ticket coupled with Van Gogh Foundation: €12.
Free for children under 18 years old and free general admission the first Sunday of each month.
From February through October, open: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
From November through January: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed on Mondays.
This art museum features works by Jacques Réattu, painter during the 18th and 19th centuries, more modern and contemporary artists, as well as a remarkable collection of photographs.
29 Rue de la République, 13200 Arles
Website - tel : 04 13 31 51 99.
The Muséon Arlaten, museum of ethnography, is housed in the former Hôtel Laval-Castellane, dating from the 15th century. It was created in 1896 by a local writer, Frédéric Mistral. Its collection includes costumes, furniture, tools and objects from the 19th century. Closed for renovation, to reopen in 2019.
Main events in Arles
Ferias (from April through September)
Website - tel : 08 91 70 03 70.
The Easter Feria opens the French bullfighting season and attracts 500,000 visitors, and around 50,000 “aficionados” will watch the bullfights from the stands of the Roman arena. The Rice Feria takes place in early September.
La course camarguaise (from April through September)
Website - 08 91 70 03 70.
Races take place in the Arles arena.
The Camargue Races are open to the whole family, as there is no killing of bulls. The Cocarde d’Or takes place each year on the first Monday in July in the Arles arena. This race, held for the first time on July 2, 1928, is the flagship race of the bullfighting season.
Fête des Gardians (1st of May)
On this day, the horseback riders march through the city to the Church of the Major, the headquarters of their brotherhood dedicated to Saint-Georges. The guardians and their horses are blessed during a mass in Provençal. On that day, a new captain of the Brotherhood of Guardians is elected, and every three years the new Queen of Arles is elected.
Fêtes d'Arles (late June, early July)
The whole city vibrates to the sound of curves, traditional parades and arena shows. These festivals combine the dreamy Provence of Mistral and the Camargue imagined by the Marquis de Baroncelli. The gardians, figures of Camargue, challenge each other in a race of horses ridden raw: the race of Satin.
Les Rencontres d’Arles (from July through September)
Website - tel : 04 90 96 76 06.
This festival of photography, created in 1969, is known around the world. It is THE annual photographers conference, and has allowed Arles to become a world capital of photography. The event offers nightly outdoor screenings at the Roman Theater, sometimes accompanied by concerts and artistic performances. The "Nuit de l’année" showcases photographs on giant screens for a photographic stroll through the city center. About 60 exhibitions are present at different landmarks of the city.
Also: lectures, debates and a meeting space with fans, collectors and professionals.
Camargue in the Arena (early August)
Through a spectacle evoking the magic of the Camargue, the guardians present bulls and horses in freedom. Camargue races and ancestral games.
Arelate Festival - Roman Days of Arles (late August)
Website - tel : 04 90 49 47 11.
Information desks: The Esplanade of the amphitheater, Place Henri de Bornier or Ancienne poste, Place de la République.
During the "Arelate, Roman Days of Arles", as its name suggests, Arles goes back in time to honor the Roman heritage of the city.
International Santon Exhibition (from late November to mid-January)
In the heart of the Saint Trophime cloister. This exhibition highlights the traditional craft of creating and hand-painting clay figurines, or santons.
Drôles de Noëls (Funny Christmas, week before Christmas)
A street arts festival that delves all the family into the magic of Christmas.
Typical Provençal market on Saturday morning: Boulevard des Lices, Boulevard Clémenceau. Available at the market : fruits, vegetables, cheeses, flowers, spices, meat, fish, honey, fresh and regional products, and also clothing and shoes.
There is also a farmers' market held on the Esplanade that features many organic producers of vegetables, fruits, rice, bread and honey ...
Market on Wednesday morning, Boulevard Emile Combes.
Getting to Arles
From Marseille: highway N113/E80, exit 5
From Avignon: highway N570
From Nîmes: highway N572/E80, exit 5
From Montpellier: highway D572, exit 5
Nearby classified sites :
Nîmes: 32 km (20 mi), time: 30 minutes
Avignon: 37 km (23 mi), time: 50 minutes
Orange: 87 km (54 mi), time: 1 hour
Pont du Gard: 39 km (24 mi), time: 52 minutes
Urban and intercity buses
Avenue Paulin Talabot (in front of the train station), 13200 Arles
Tel : 08 10 00 08 18
Information and ticket purchase also available at the information desk at 24, Boulevard Clemenceau.
Nîmes-Arles-Camargue Airport (25 kms)
Website - tel : 04 66 70 49 49. No shuttle.
Avignon-Caumont Airport (43 kms)
Website - tel : 04 90 81 51 51.
Marseille-Provence Airport (65 kms)
Website - tel : 08 20 811 414. Regular shuttles to the city center.
Avenue Paulin Talabot, 13200 Arles
Website - tel : 36 35.
Gare Avignon TGV (35 kms)
Quartier de la courtine, 84000 Avignon
Website - tel : 36 35
2 direct TGVs per day, Paris-Avignon-Arles. SNCF Shuttle from Avignon to Arles every 15 minutes. Allow 1 hour per trip.
Getting Around Arles
It is advised not to drive around the narrow streets of the city center, which is easily explored on foot.
NAVIA is a free shuttle that connects the main tourist sites of the city center. Central stop at 24, Boulevard Georges Clemenceau.
Taxi-bike with Taco and Co
Website - tel: 06 50 29 60 00 or 04 82 75 73 45.
Offers a bicycle taxi service and guided bicycle tours of the city.
Hôtels in Arles
The selection of accommodation proposed below consists of establishments that offer quality services at competitive rates, they are considered as references in their respective categories. The prices shown are for the off season, on the basis of 2 people.
Grand Hôtel Nord-Pinus
Place du Forum, 13200 Arles
Website - Tel: 04 90 93 44 44.
Room from €180.
"The Hotel Nord-Pinus plays a part in the memory of all Arlesians... For me, as a child, it was a temple of holiday making, society life and, above all else, bullfighting." Christian Lacroix.
L’Hôtel Particulier *****
4 Rue de la Monnaie, 13200 Arles
Website - Tel: 04 90 52 51 40.
Room from €315.
Restaurants in Arles
The selection of restaurants proposed below consists of restaurants that offer a good price/quality value. These addresses are inside the classified area. “Formule” corresponds to a lunch special with a starter and a main course, or a main course and a dessert. The “menus” usually consist of a starter, a main course and a dessert," for lunch or dinner.
La cuisine de comptoir - sandwiches and tartines
10 rue de la liberté, 13200 Arles
Website - tel : 04 90 96 86 28.
"Lunch formule" : €14.50
L’Epicerie du Cloître – bistrot
22 Rue du Cloître, 13200 Arles
Tel : 04 88 09 10 10.
Main course around €14.
Les Gibolin - Creative cuisine
13 Rue des Porcelets, 13200 Arles
Tel: 04 88 65 43 14.
"Menu" from €28.
L'Autruche - modern and creative cuisine
5 Rue Dulau, 13200 Arles
Tel : 04 90 49 73 63.
"Formule" from €22.
Lou Marques - creative and refined cuisine
9 Boulevard des Lices, 13200 Arles
Website - Tel : 04 90 52 52 52.
"Formule" €35. "Menu" from €59.
Bistrot À côté - fresh local products
21 rue des Carmes, 13200 Arles
Website - tel : 04 90 47 61 13.
L’Atelier - Gourmet cuisine
7 rue des Carmes, 13200 Arles
Website - tel : 04 90 91 07 69
"Lunch menu" during the week €55. "Dinner menu" from €95.