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Arles

Tourism, holidays & weekends guide in the Bouches-du-Rhône

Arles - Tourism, holidays & weekends guide in the Bouches-du-Rhône
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City of Art and History, Arles is famous for its ancient and Romanesque remains. The city indeed boasts several monuments inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List: Its Roman amphitheatre (Les Arènes); its ancient theatre; the Alyscamps, an alley lined by sarcophaguses; the Cryptoportiques, a network of underground galleries supporting the ancient forum; The Constantin's Thermal baths, the portal and cloister of the Church of Saintt-Trophime. The Romanesque church of Saint-Trophime constitutes an important stopping point on the Way of St James (Santiago de Compostela pilgrim route).

Arles offers a wide choice of museums, such as the museum of Ancient Arles and Provence, the Museon Arlaten (traditional art and Provençal culture), the Réattu museum (contemporary art), and the Camargue museum.

Numerous places in the city, such as the garden of the hospital where Van Gogh stayed when he cut off his ear (now Espace Van Gogh, a cultural centre), the forum square, the quaysides of the Rhone river and Les Arènes, were immortalised in famous paintings by Van Gogh during his stay in Arles. A full Van Gogh circuit is offered in the city, with panels representing the works of the artist at the various places where he was inspired.

Situated near the Camargue, the city has preserved its traditions: the Gardians festival (herdsmen's festival), the Costume festival (traditional dress festival), and bullfighting events in Les Arènes: the Feria de Pâques and Feria du Riz. Capital of photography, Arles organises an international photography gathering, a famous event featuring exhibitions, parties and conferences dedicated to this art.

Additional information
Arles

The largest commune in France in terms of area, Arles takes place in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, in the heart of the Bouches-du-Rhône department. Important tourist town, it is about thirty kilometers from Nimes, in the historic Camargue.

The City of Art and History, Arles was named the City of Art and History in the Iron Age, one of the most important cities in the country before becoming an important site of the Roman Gaul under Julius Caesar. Annexed to France from the sixteenth century onwards, the commune has not ceased to evolve over the centuries. Cité viticole, Arles is today mainly oriented towards tourism revealing to its visitors an important historical and antique heritage of which part is classified as a world heritage of UNESCO.

Animated, the city of Camargue is also appreciated for its intense and highly developed cultural life which offers events throughout the year. Attached to its Provençal and Camargue traditions, the town of Arles continues to preserve some ancient productions like the santons for the Christmas cribs. Some AOC testify to the richness of its gastronomy, like the bull of Camargue appreciated in the gardians or even the olive oil of Baux de Provence and the rice of Camargue.

Things to see and do

Spearhead of the Arlesian tourism, the Roman and Romanesque heritage of the city is fully inscribed in the world heritage of UNESCO. Eight monuments are concerned, starting with the Roman amphitheater. Built around 80 BC, it is also classified as a Historic Monument. Entirely restored, it is the most visited monument of the municipality and still hosts many shows today. Dating from the same period, the Roman theater, classified as Historic Monuments, can still be visited. There are vestiges of the sealing of the altar to the swans in the heart of the orchestra or two columns recalling the hundred others who decorated the scene. Like the amphitheater, it is now used as a venue for shows.

Roman Baths of the 4th century BC, the Baths of Constantine take place on the banks of the Rhone. Classified with the Historic Monuments, they still present the caldarium and its swimming pools, as well as parts still not excavated today. Remains of the ancient Roman forum still exist in the city with the present of classified cryptoportiques.

Romanesque building, the church of Saint-Trophime is also an ancient vestige. Classified as Historic Monuments and World Heritage, it reveals an architecture mostly dating from the twelfth century, taking place on the remains of a fifth century basilica. Gothic elements were then added, especially at the bedside. Inside, you can appreciate Aubusson tapestries of the 17th century classified to the Historic Monuments and representing elements of the life of the Virgin. The ramparts of the Roman castrum and the Roman exedra are also part of this heritage.

Considered one of the oldest religious buildings of Arles, the abbey Saint-Césaire is a former monastery of women founded in the 6th century. The building which also unveils a Paleochristian basilica is classified as Historic Monuments.

Other important churches are discovered in Arles, such as that of the Major classified to Historical Monuments and UNESCO. Dedicated to an ancient Romanesque temple in the 5th century, it was modified in the 12th century before being erected as a collegiate church in the mid-16th century. It reveals beautiful elements of Romanesque style, as well as a Louis XIII style facade. Also listed, the Saint-Julien church was rebuilt in the 17th century and serves as a theater and exhibition hall. In the Gothic style, the school of the Dominicans dates from the end of the 15th century and is now disused. Classified, it can still be visited today.

Several museums of great interest take place in Arles, following the example of the Réattu museum. Set in the former 17th century hospitable priory, the site reveals collections by the Arlesian painter of the same name, as well as drawings by Pablo Picasso. The museum is also dedicated to photography, as well as architecture.

Archaeological Museum, the departmental museum Arles Antique unveils all the archaeological collections discovered in Arles.

Dedicated to the painter of the same name, the Van Gogh Foundation offers works by the Dutch painter, as well as contemporary paintings.

An ethnographic center, the Museon Arlaten was created in the 19th century by Frédéric Mistral. Under renovation until 2019, it unveils its collections in other sites of the city.

Classified or registered with the Historic Monuments, several private mansions of the Renaissance or of the classic period take place in the city. For example, the hotel Courtois de Langlade, now the headquarters of the sub-prefecture, the Rotonde which now serves as a protestant temple or the glassworks of Trinquetaille of the eighteenth century.

Five nature reserves also take place on the territory of Arles, those of Camargue, Coussouls de Crau, Marais du Vigueirat, L'Illon and Tour du Valat.

Leisure activities

Last nameActivity typeRateCity
In the Footsteps of Van Gogh: Saint Remy de Provence, Saint-Paul de Mausole, Les Baux and Arles
Culture and education100 € Aix-en-Provence
Discover a bull and horse ranch in the Camargue
Nature and the great outdoors7 € to 36 € Arles
Guided tour by electric bike
Entertainment28 € to 179 € Avignon
Day discovering the lavender fields and Gordes from Arles
Nature and the great outdoors100 € Arles
Provençal excursion from Arles: discover the lavender fields and the hilltop villages
Entertainment110 € Arles

Places of interest

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Events and festivities

The market is held on Wednesdays and Saturdays morning and is one of the largest in Provence. Funny Christmas in December unveils a craft market and entertainment.

On May 1st, the feast of the guardians is the scene of the election of the queen of Arles every three years.

In early May, the city hosts the international nude photo festival.

Jazz in Arles takes place in mid-May.

In early July, it is the Arles Celebrations and the photography Arles encounters that settle down.

At the end of August, discover the Péplum festival and the Roman days.

In September, place at the festival of the horse and the Camargue gourmande as well as the festival of the first fruits of rice.

The Harp Festival is held at the end of October.

From the end of November to the beginning of January, discover the salon des santonniers.

Detailed information

Arles Meetings
The international photography festivalFrom 3 july to 24 september 2017
Easter Feria
A popular bullfighting-oriented event that draws thousands of spectators each yearMarch 2018

Photos

Bullring Arles
Bullring Arles
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Visits, leisure and activities nearby

The ornithological park of Pont de Gau, near the Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, with nearly 1200 flamingos, an unforgettable hiking trail.

The psychiatric hospital of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole near Saint-Rémy, where Van Gogh was interned, and where he painted many paintings.

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