Located in the south of France, Arles is one of the most interesting cities in Provence. It was made the second capital of Rome in 306 AD by Constantine the Great, and it has some of the best preserved Roman sites outside of Italy. Arles is also a must visit for fans of Vincent van Gogh, who did some of his most compelling work here.
Travelers appreciate the charming plaza, sidewalk cafes, good restaurants, and hotels. Plus, if you stay in the historic center of town, you can walk to almost everything.
Many of Arles attractions are included in a combination ticket that’s available at the tourist information office. If you plan to visit several museums and attractions, it will save you some money.
* The Museum of Ancient Arles is about a 20 minute walk along the Rhone River from the center of town. It has models that show how the Roman ruins looked in ancient times, some sarcophagi that date back to the Roman Christian era, and jewelry, tools, and other ancient artifacts.
* The Arena was built by the Romans in the 1st century AD. It’s still in use today, and during bull-fighting season, 20 spectators pack the stadium. Climb one of the towers for great views of Arles and the Rhone River.
* The Roman Theatre also dates from the 1st century. Today, it’s used as a concert venue during Festival d’Arles, which takes place each summer. When the weather’s fine, it’s also a nice spot for a picnic lunch.
* St-Trophime is a 12th-century Romanesque church that’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. The carved sculptures on the portal are amazing, and the adjoining cloisters are lovely.
* Modern art lovers should visit Musee Reattu which has 57 drawings by Picasso. The museum is located in the 15th-century priory of the Knights of Malta.
* Arles has a unique culture and you can learn more about it at the Museon Arlaten, which has furniture, dolls, costumes, and other everyday objects,
* Les Alyscamps is an old Roman cemetery that was painted by both van Gogh and Gaughin. It’s a pleasant walk from town, and another good place for a picnic.
* A subterranean gallery dating from 30 B.C., the Cryptoportiques has more artifacts from Roman times. And there are well-preserved 4th-century Roman baths that were part of Constantine’s palace.
* If you’re in Arles on Wednesday or Saturday morning, go to the market. On Saturdays, it’s on Boulevard de Lices. On Wednesdays, it’s on Boulevard Emily Combes.
Some of the best hotels in Arles are housed in historic buildings, so it’s not hard to find lodgings with character. If you prefer to walk to restaurants and attractions, stay near the Arena.
* The Grand Hotel Nord Pinus has hosted bullfighters and models, artists and rock stars. The location on Place du Forum is terrific, and the Brasserie is a popular spot for a meal. This is a very stylish place. Affordable rooms are small, and nice rooms are expensive.
* L’Hotel Particulier is an 18th-century mansion about a five-minute walk from town. The 13 rooms here are beautifully decorated and have polished wood floors and exposed beams. There’s a swimming pool and small spa.
* La Mas de la Chapelle occupies an old priory not far from town. It’s set in private park with tennis, a swimming pool, a 16th-century chapel.
* Hotel d’Arlatan has a pretty terrace courtyard, a swimming pool, and a glass lobby floor that looks down on part of Constantine’s 4th-century palace.
* Hotel du Forum offers good value for money in the historic part of town. Many of the rooms here overlook the Place du Forum or the swimming pool.
* With a garden restaurant, indoor swimming pool, and spa, Hotel Le Calendal has a lot to offer for the money. The location between the arena and the theater is convenient to everything.
* Hotel Jules Cesar has 56 rooms in a former Carmelite convent from the 17th century. There’s a great restaurant and a heated outdoor pool. Rooms are decorated with colorful Provencal fabrics. A very pleasant place to stay, it’s a member of the Small Luxury Hotels group.
* Although it only has two stars, Hotel de l’Amphiteatre makes up for it in charm and service. The building, which originally dates from the 17th century, has some nice architectural details, and the antique furnishings are a perfect fit. The Belevedere Suite offers 360-degree views of Arles.
Arles is surprisingly close to both Spain and Italy, so the cuisine here is as Mediterranean as it is French. In fact, you’re as likely to find gazpacho on the menu as bouillabaisse. Tapas are a great way to try lots of dishes, and of course, the wine is marvelous. Most Arles restaurants are small, so reservations at dinner are a must.
* Speaking of tapas, Pizzeria Ecrin has a good selection, along with pizzas, and salads. Good for lunch after visiting the Amphitheatre.
* L’Affenage has food from all over the Mediterranean. There’s a terrace out front, and an appetizer buffet inside.
* L’Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel makes the most of the organic veggies grown in the extensive gardens. The restaurant has a Michelin star and commensurate prices. If you’re on a budget, Rabanel’s Le Bistro a Cote nest door is less expensive.
* La Gueule de Loup is a favorite of locals who come for baked lamb, and other Provencal specialties. Several prix fixe menus make it a good value.
* Diners at Lou Marques in the Hotel Jules Cesar can choose between the pretty dining room and the lovely terrace. The wine list and food here are first rate.
* Brin de Thym is a nice, family-run place with good food, warm service, and reasonable prices.
Read more about Arles here.
1) Museum of Ancient Arles
2) Arles Arena
3) Roman Theater
5) Musee Reattu
6) Museon Arlatan
7) Les Alyscamps
9) Grand Hotel Nord Pinus
10) L’Hotel Particulier
11) Hotel d’Arlatan
12) Hotel du Forum
13) Hotel le Calendal
14) Hotel Jules Cesar
15) Hotel de l’Amphitheatre
16) Pizzeria l’Ecrin
18) L’Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel
19) La Gueule de Loup
20) Lou Marques
21) Brin de Thyme