department: bouches-du-rhÔne (13)
region: provence-alpes cÔte d'azur

ARLES: city of romans and van gogh

The ancient town of Arles stands at the northern edge of the Camargue wetlands and the Rhone delta, and is one of the most important and influential centres of Provençal culture and idealism. The town is surrounded by an environment of outstanding beauty: the banks of the Rhone river, the plains of Crau, the Alpilles and the wild land of the Camargue to which it is commonly regarded as the gateway.

The city remained economically important for many years as a major port on the Rhône. But the arrival of the railway in the 19th century killed off much of the river trade, leading to the town becoming something of a backwater. This made it an attractive destination for the painter Vincent van Gogh, who arrived there in February 1888, and stayed with his friend Gaugain. He was fascinated by the Provençal landscapes, producing over 300 paintings and drawings during his time here.

Picasso, a lover of bull fights, was inspired by them to do two paintings and 57 drawings. Arles is also a centre of photography. Each summer the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie brings many visitors who will be just as charmed by the light as those great artists of yesteryear.


The city has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981, and it is easy to see why. The Roman amphitheatre was built in the first or second century BCE; it houses Corridas at Easter and the Rice Festa in September. Throughout the summer there are various courses camarguaises.

The houses and private mansions of the 16th and 17th centuries, the cloister of St. Trophime, the Hôtel de Ville, and the shaded terraces of the Place des Lices are all well worth a tour.

Café van Gogh, Place du Forum

sights to see

The Theatre Antique is the most important of the surviving Roman theatres.

The town's art collection is displayed in the Musée d'Arles et de la Provence antique.

The Café van Gogh on the Place du Forum is not the real thing, of course, but go there in the evening, and you'll find it very atmospheric.

Alyscamps burial grounds.

4th-century Roman baths of Constantin.

Musée Arlaten (furniture and traditional folk art).

Musée du Riz (rice museum).



Esplanade Charles de Gaulle, Boulevard des Lices, 13200 Arles
Tel: 04 90 18 41 20

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