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What to see in Arles? in 10 unforgettable places

Home » France » What to see in Arles? in 10 unforgettable places

Let’s go to visit the roman city of Arles in the South of France to visit 10 unforgettable places.

Come and discover Arles, a city in southern France, located at the top of the Rhone delta. It is part of Provence. Its apparently small historical center is loaded with historical monuments. In this article we will show you what to see in Arles, the city of Vincent.

Arles from above

A bit of history about Arles

Formerly known as Arelate, after the Greeks and Celts passed through it, it was finally with the Romans that this city took importance. It received the support of Julius Caesar and when he defeated Pompey, he transferred possessions and importance from Massalia (Marseille) to Arelate.

After several centuries under the Roman Empire, the medieval era arrived. During this period what is shown below happened: the inhabitants used the Roman amphitheater as walls and built their houses inside it. This is due to the attacks that the previously important Roman city would suffer and that, when the empire fell, had been left unprotected.

Arles in ancient times

Arles, Vincent’s city

Vincent Van Gogh lived in this city and it is here that he made several of his works. In fact, doing a tour dedicated to Van Gogh in Arles is a very good idea. But, no, I am not talking about the famous painter in the title of this section. This city is where Vincent, the member of this blog, was born.

Langlois Bridge, painted by Vincent Van Gogh

What to see in Arles?

As Vicente says, in Arles “wherever you turn” you will find something ancient. As expected in this list of things to see in the city, we have many monuments left by the Romans.

The «Roman and Romanesque monuments of Arles» are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Los monumentos romanos de Arlés forman parte del Patrimonio de la UNESCO
Roman monuments are part of the UNESCO Heritage

Amphitheater

Opening hours: Monday till sunday, from 9 AM to 7 PM (from May till September, reduced hours in winter)

Price: 9 euros (includes entrance to the Roman Theater)

In Roman times it was used for gladiatorial combat and things that we already know from the Romans. In time it became the wall that I already told you about earlier. It is currently used as a bullring and is one of the largest in France, with a capacity for 14,000 spectators.

Those who know me know that I am not a fan of bullfighting. So I admired this monument for its Roman history, rather than as a bullring. Before entering you must see its arches. Being inside it is impressive to see a purely Roman construction, totally inspired by the Colosseum. Not for nothing, this is one of the first monuments that visitors come to see when they visit Arles.

Roman theatre

Opening hours: Monday till Sunday, from 9 AM to 7 PM (from May till September, reduced hours in winter)

Price: 9 euros (includes entrance to the Amphitheater)

It was built at the end of the 1st century BC, it was one of the first stone theaters that existed. Once the Roman Empire ended, the inhabitants used the stones on the facade to build their homes. That is why today what remains, remains. Luckily it is still standing and can be visited.

This, along with the amphitheater, were one of the first monuments I visited in Arles. If you visit the city you will surely start with these two as well. But take your time to sit in the stands and admire the scenery, without rushing.

El teatro antiguo de Arles
The ancient theater of Arles

The City Council proposes a “Pass Liberte” that costs 12 euros and includes 1 museum (among the Camargue museum, the Arlaten museum or the museum of the ancient Arles) + 4 monuments (choice between the amphitheater, the ancient theater, the baths of Constantine, the cryptoporticus, the Alyscamps or the St. Trophime cloister) + Reattu Museum.

It can be used for 1 month. Ideal if you are going to stay several days in the region.

Criptoporticus of the forum

Opening hours: Monday till Sunday, from 9 AM to 7 PM (from May till September, reduced hours in winter)

Price: 4.50 euros

These are Roman underground galleries which are accessed through the Town Hall building. They were used as a cellar for the shops that were part of the Roman forum.

It is a very impressive place for being totally underground and isolated. Besides that in the hot summer it is perfect to cool off. The temperature in the cryptoportics is around 15 degrees and remains so throughout the year.

The Alyscamps

Opening hours: Monday till Sunday, from 9 AM to 7 PM (from May till September, reduced hours in winter)

Price: 4.50 euros

The Alyscamps (Elysian Fields) were the main place to bury the deceased of Arles for almost 1,500 years. It must be considered that this place was located on the outskirts of the city, this because the Romans forbade burying the dead within the city limits.

If you have time to see this place, it is worth it, just seeing the huge number of ancient tombs already makes it an unforgettable place in Arles. In addition, calm and peace are appreciated when visiting it.

St Trophime’s Cloister and Church

Opening hours: Monday till Sunday from 9 AM to 5:30 PM

Price: 5.50 euros (for the cloister)

Here we already begin to navigate more “new” monuments, the cloister dates from the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. It is on the list of Roman and Romanesque monuments on the UNESCO Heritage list. The church was the Palace of the Archbishop of Arles, its facade is one of the richest of its time, with high-low reliefs.

The church inside is not to be visited, but it is still worth taking the time to admire the details on the outside. In the cloister, in addition to admiring the old construction and strolling calmly, you can admire the ancient tapestries representing Godofredo de Bouillón leading the first crusade.

City Hall building

Opening hours: variable hours, depending on office hours. But at least it is open from 9 AM to 7 PM

Price: free

This building was classified as a Historical Monument in 1920, completed in 1676. One of the architects who participated in it was Jules Hardouin-Mansart who would become the architect of King Louis XIV.

As a curious anecdote, I tell you that the lobby is huge and does not have columns, something that at the time the construction was carried out was unthinkable. People were afraid that it would collapse. To avoid fear, the architect had a pillar built in the middle, but it was a false pillar separated by a few centimeters from the ceiling.

The Venus that can be seen on the stairs that lead to the honor room, is a replica of the one that decorated the ancient theater and that today is in the Louvre museum. The honor room is where the weddings take place, it is very beautiful and not open to the public, but I was lucky to visit it once 🙂

Interior of the City Hall building

Republic Square and the Obelisk

The obelisk was in the Roman circus, when it was discovered it was brought to the square to accompany the newly built city hall building.

This square is a place that brings back very nice memories. If you visit it, take the time to sit in a strategic place to watch the pedestrians sway. This image is characteristic of Arles, something that should not be missed.

No dejes de ver la plaza de la república de Arlés
The Republic Square

Museum of the ancient Arles

Opening hours: Wednesday till Monday from 10 AM to 6 PM

Price: 8 euros

Opened in 1995, this museum known as “the blue museum” for its exterior facade, is devoted to the history of ancient Arles, from prehistory to the Romans.

In the museum you can see a bust, very well preserved of Julius Caesar, it is one of the star pieces of the museum. But you can also see figures like this:

Forum Square

In this square stands a statue of Frederic Mistral, a famous Nobel Prize-winning writer for literature. Mostly remembered as the person who made the Provencal language and its rules official, it was formerly a dialect with no written rules.

In this square there are several cafes and restaurants, but be careful, there are several “tourist-catcher” types, better to go to other areas of the city to eat or drink coffee. And in fact, the Van Gogh coffee that appears in the photo, from which Vincent was inspired to make his painting, look at the angle 😉 you do not need to go to the cafe to appreciate it 😉

Van Gogh Space

This garden was recreated in a Van Gogh painting, in this building there was previously a hospital. The famous painter was hospitalized there when “his ear was cut off.”

Currently there is the media library, the municipal archives and a university in this building.

If you like Van Gogh’s work, seize the opportunity of your stay in the region and take a Van Gogh tour in Provence.

Other visits

Other places that are also worth seeing are: the baths of Constantine, price 4 euros, the bridge of the lions, of which only the columns remain, the Van Gogh bridge, a bit distant, you have to go by car, the abbey of Montmajour somewhat distant too.

El puente de los leones de Arlés
The bridge of the lions of Arles

Events you cannot miss in Arles

Depending on the time you are going to visit Arles, you will have the opportunity to visit the following events:

  • Carnival: the parade takes place and burns a huge figure (who is surely like the king of the carnival in Nice). It takes place for the arrival of spring.
  • Street Market: It is held every Saturday, an excellent opportunity to see the locals buying their vegetables and to get some good souvenirs.
  • Les Rencontres d’Arles: an international photography festival that takes place every year in the city of Arles between the months of July and September.
  • The feria: three days of partying, partying, partying. It is held for Easter. There is also another fair in September that is dedicated to rice.
  • The costume celebrations: It takes place in the summer, a party where the inhabitants parade with colorful traditional dresses.

Souvenirs in Arles

In all the souvenir shops you will see more or less the same objects:

  • Cicada-shaped objects (characteristic of Provence due to the sound it makes during the summer).
  • The figure of the Arlésienne (female silhouette using traditional dress).
  • Objects that revolve around lavender.
  • Santons (Provencal figures).

Arles, a place where there is much to see

I hope this little list gives you an idea of what to see in Arles, if you go through this city spend more than one day because there is a lot of history, even if it is small 😉

Alcantarilla de Arlés
Alcantarilla de Arlés

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