Arles Van Gogh Self-guided Walking Tour (with Maps!)

Starry Night Over The Rhone
Public Domain / Vincent van Gogh

This website uses affiliate links which earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

You’re about to embark on a self-led tour through the heart of Arles, where history is palpable in every quaint street and enduring building. Whether they hail from the Roman era, the Middle Ages, or more modern times, these structures lend the city a timeless charm. This charm has not only captivated artists throughout history but also continues to draw visitors from around the globe in the 21st century. Recognizing the significance of Van Gogh and other artists to the city’s cultural heritage, local authorities have installed numerous informational panels across Arles. These panels showcase various works by the renowned artist at the very locations where they were created.

About Van Gogh

Born in Holland in 1853 and passing away in France in 1890, Van Gogh’s life was brief, ending at the age of 37, with an artistic career that spanned only a decade. However, it was in Arles that he truly found his voice as an artist, developing a unique, emotionally rich, and intensely personal style. This was a time of remarkable creative output, with Van Gogh completing around 200 paintings and 200 drawings. Despite this productivity, it was also a time marked by personal struggle, with periods of tension and anxiety. His working relationship with Paul Gauguin, another artist, soured, concluding abruptly after just 9 weeks. Van Gogh’s time in Arles is infamously remembered for its tumultuous end, with the artist severing his own ear.

Getting to Arles

By Car: Reasonably priced parking can be found at Point de vue and a little further on, by the train station is a large free car park.

Powered by GetYourGuide

Place du Forum

CC BY-SA 1.0 / Kröller-Müller Museum

The journey begins at the Place du Forum, the vibrant heart of Arles’ old town, enveloped by a delightful array of cafés, restaurants, hotels, and shops. Year-round, the square thrives with the energy of visitors gathered at the myriad of tables scattered across it. At the onset of our tour, we encounter the first informational panel dedicated to one of Vincent van Gogh’s most celebrated works: the “Café Terrace at Night,” located at the Place du Forum in Arles, 1888, currently housed in the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, Netherlands. You’ll find the panel positioned at the intersection of Rue Favorin and the Place du Forum.

This nocturnal masterpiece, with its revolutionary interplay of blues against yellows, captures the eye with the warm glow of restaurant lights and the twinkle of stars in the clear night sky. Even under the sun’s glare, the scene is unmistakable. Today, La Café la Nuit still sports its iconic yellow facade, round tables, and the same lantern hanging from its wrought iron bracket, though some creative restoration may have been applied to replicate the original ambiance. While the left’s roofline shows minor alterations and Van Gogh exercised creative freedom to include the church bell tower in the background, the essence of the place remains unchanged. The cobblestones may have disappeared, and Van Gogh deliberately altered the buildings on the right, omitting the Roman architectural fragments from the ancient forum. This choice underscores his focus not on a precise architectural recounting but on capturing the vibrant atmosphere and the moment’s spirit.

Today, the square remains a bustling and friendly spot, inviting visitors to while away the hours in leisure and enjoyment, much like the vivid tableau Van Gogh immortalized over a century ago.

Location: Place du Forum, Arles, France | Hours: 24 Hours | Price: Free
Read more about Place du Forum, Arles

Fondation Vincent Van Gogh

Arles Fond Van Gogh
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Rolf Süssbrich

Start at the corner of the square and proceed along Rue de la Liberté. Then, make a right turn onto Rue des Pénitents Bleus. Look for a sign pointing towards the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh. Once you turn onto Rue Docteur Fanton, you’ll quickly find the entrance to the foundation on your left.

The Van Gogh Foundation was established with the aim of bringing Vincent van Gogh’s vision to life: a collective of artists coming together to share ideas and collaborate, forging what he saw as the ‘art of the future.’ This aspiration dissipated following Gauguin’s departure from Arles, until the foundation’s inception. Launched in 2014, the foundation’s mission is to honour Van Gogh’s legacy by highlighting how his work continues to resonate with artists today. It hosts temporary exhibitions that delve into various facets of his oeuvre, successfully securing loans of Van Gogh’s paintings to be exhibited alongside pieces by contemporary artists. This creates a dynamic conversation that engages with both introspection and critique—a dialogue Van Gogh would surely have appreciated.

Location: Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles, Rue du Docteur Fanton, Arles, France | Hours: 10:00 - 18:00 | Price: €10 (€12 with Musée Réattu) | Website
Read more about Fondation Vincent Van Gogh

L’Escalier du Pont de Trinquetaille

Vincent Van Gogh L’Escalier Du Pont De Trinquetaille
Public Domain / Vincent van Gogh

Continue to the end of the street, then turn right to find yourself facing the river embankment. Cross the street and ascend the steps to the riverside walkway, turning left to observe the modern road bridge stretching over the Rhône. Walking under the bridge and a bit further, you’ll encounter another information panel, showcasing “L’Escalier du Pont de Trinquetaille, 1888” (held in a private collection).

Although the original iron bridge depicted in Van Gogh’s painting has been replaced by a modern counterpart lacking in aesthetic charm, the stone embankment steps and those leading up to the bridge remain unchanged. An interesting addition is a large plane tree beside the steps, which, curiously, might be the same tree that Van Gogh painted as a young sapling. The presence of parked vehicles and a street rubbish bin, however, somewhat mars the scene.

I have a View of the Rhône — the Trinquetaille iron bridge, where the sky and the river are the colour of absinthe — the quays a lilac tone, the people leaning on the parapet almost black, the iron bridge an intense blue — with a bright orange note in the blue background and an intense Veronese green note. One more effort that’s far from finished — but one at least where I’m attempting something more heartbroken and therefore more heartbreaking. Van Goch, in a Letter to his Brother

Restaurant Carrel

Vincent Van Gogh - View Of A Butchers Shop
Public Domain / Vincent van Gogh

In his initial two months in Arles, Vincent van Gogh stayed at the Carrel hotel-restaurant, a property run by Albert Carrel and his wife, Cathérine Carrel-Garcin. This two-story establishment featured a quaint roof terrace and a balcony on the first floor.

At times it seems to me that my blood is more or less ready to start circulating again, which wasn’t the case lately in Paris, I really couldn’t stand it any more. Van Goch, in a Letter to his Brother

Fueled by a revitalized zeal for his work, Vincent was remarkably productive right from the outset, creating three studies within his first three days: “An old woman of Arles,” “Landscape with Snow,” and “View of a Butcher’s Shop.” These works were a prelude to the intensely fruitful period that was to unfold.

However, Van Gogh’s relationship with his lodgings soon soured. He expressed dissatisfaction with the Carrel hotel, feeling exploited and discontent with the quality of food served. Albert Carrel, on his part, felt burdened by the extra space Van Gogh’s painting materials occupied. Following a dispute over an increase in rent, Vincent departed the hotel on May 7 to take up residence at the Café de la Gare. Despite Carrel’s initial refusal to return Van Gogh’s belongings, a court order eventually compelled him to do so. Concurrently, Vincent had begun renting space in the “Yellow House” on May 1 to serve as his studio. Reflecting on his stay at the Carrel hotel, Vincent recounted his misery, attributing a decline in his health to the substandard food and wine, which he described as “real poison.”

Starry Night Over the Rhone

Starry Night Over The Rhone
Public Domain / Vincent van Gogh

Looking ahead, the remnants of the old railway bridge, its buttresses crowned with majestic stone lions, come into view. Constructed in 1866, the bridge met its end under Allied bombing in World War II. As you pass remnants of the ancient city walls on your right, you’ll reach an expanse bordered by plane trees, known as Place Lamartine. Here stood Vincent’s “Little Yellow House.” However, before examining this site more closely, continue a short distance along the embankment. Here, embedded in the wall, you’ll find the next information panel.

this is the scene from “Starry Night Over the Rhône,” 1888, held by the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. This painting captures the night sky’s ethereal beauty, with stars and the river below mirroring the celestial display and the ambient glow of streetlights along the embankment. Faintly visible in the foreground are a couple of riverboats, possibly next to a pile of sand that catches the light, and two figures strolling by. Today, this spot is a popular mooring point for large river cruisers, bringing waves of tourists to the area.

The Yellow House

The Yellow House
Public Domain / Vincent van Gogh

Turn your back to the river and navigate towards Place Lamartine, now a bustling roundabout and junction filled with the flow of modern traffic. Here, amidst the hustle, you’ll encounter the next information panel.

This is his “The Yellow House” (La Maison Jaune), 1888, preserved in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Unfortunately, the quaint yellow house that once served as a residence for Van Gogh and Gauguin no longer stands, having been destroyed during the Second World War. Yet, many elements of the original scene remain recognizable. The prominent structure that stood behind the cottage still exists and currently operates as La Civette Arlésienne, a local bar and brasserie that echoes the social hubs of Van Gogh’s era. The railway bridge depicted to the right of the house remains in place, though now it is adorned with overhead cables to accommodate electric trains. Despite the transformation brought about by ceaseless traffic, altering the once tranquil ambiance captured in Van Gogh’s painting of vibrant blues and sun-baked yellows, the palpable sensation of warmth that permeates his work can still be felt on a sunny day.

La Maison de la Crau

Vincent Van Gogh - La Maison De La Crau
Public Domain / Vincent van Gogh

As we explore beyond the typical paths, heading across the railway tracks with the river behind us, depart from Place Lamartine. Keep the remnants of the city walls and the Porte de la Cavalerie to your right, venturing onto Boulevard Emile Combs. On certain days, this area comes alive with the buzz of a vibrant street market. With the railway line to your left, you’ll soon encounter a pedestrian tunnel. Pass through it, then make a right onto Rue Mireille, walking alongside the railway line now on your right. This area, rather unremarkable today, would have been on the outskirts of the town in Vincent’s time, bordering the open landscapes of the Crau. Before long, you’ll find a set of steps to your right leading up to a bridge crossing the railway lines.

From this vantage point, looking back across the road, you can see a structure that once was a mill with an incomplete extension. This building served as the muse for Van Gogh’s “La Maison de la Crau,” 1888, now part of the collection at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY. Currently, there’s no informational panel to mark this spot, reflecting significant changes over time. While the mill itself remains recognizable, its surroundings have dramatically transformed. The once-present stream and the pastoral backdrop with blue hills have been swallowed by urban expansion, leaving behind a somewhat dishevelled and overlooked scene. This absence of commemoration may be due to the area’s decline from its picturesque past. Interestingly, the present-day disarray and the touch of melancholy it conveys could have offered Van Gogh, were he painting in today’s era, a compelling subject, echoing his interest in capturing the essence of both beauty and desolation in his work.

L’Amphithéâtre Romain, Arles

Vincent Van Gogh Les Arènesjpg
Public Domain / Vincent van Gogh

After crossing the bridge, follow Rue Camille Pelletan as it curves to the right, leading you towards the main road. There, you’ll be greeted by a segment of the old city walls. Cross this road and proceed up Rue Portagnel, then make a left onto Rue du Refuge. Shortly, the impressive remnants of the Roman arena will come into view. Cross the road and ascend the elevated walkway encircling the monument, continuing to the right. Near the steps ascending from Rond Pont des Arènes, you’ll discover the next informational panel.

In 1888, Van Gogh captured this historical site in his work “Arena in Arles.” Interestingly, this painting places greater emphasis on the audience rather than the spectacle or surroundings. Characterized by rapid brushwork and indistinct forms in the backdrop, the artwork vibrantly reflects the frenetic ambiance of the bullfights, with a small bull depicted in the far off. The spectators, depicted in a state of animated conversation and cheering, add to the lively scene.

The energetic dynamism seen throughout this painting is a testament to Van Gogh’s mastery of a technique influenced by Gauguin. Similar to his depictions of dance halls, this approach suggests a space so charged with activity that it defies a static representation, capturing the essence of scenes where the sheer vitality cannot be fully conveyed through a single, frozen moment.

Have seen bullfights in the arenas. The crowd was magnificent, great multicoloured crowds. One on top of the other on 2, three tiers, with the effect of sun and shade and the shadow cast by the immense circle. Van Goch, in a Letter to his Brother

Just weeks after completing this canvas, Van Gogh famously severed part of his own ear, an act that has been the subject of much speculation and many theories over the years. One intriguing hypothesis suggests that the bullfights—or “bull games” as they are referred to in Arles—left a profound impact on Van Gogh. Specifically, the tradition of cutting off one ear of a defeated bull was thought to have resonated with him. In this ritual, the victorious matador parades around the arena with the ear as a trophy, eventually offering it to a woman of his choosing. However, there’s some uncertainty regarding whether this practice of bull execution was prevalent in Arles during Van Gogh’s era.

Location: Arles Amphitheatre 1 Rdpt des Arènes 13200 Arles France | Hours: From 02-11 to 28-02 : 10am - 5pm // From 01-03 to 30-04 : 9am - 6pm.// from 02-05 to 30-09 : 9am - 7pm // From 01-10 to 31-10 : 9am - 6pm. | Price: Adult: €9/€11
Read more about L'Amphithéâtre Romain, Arles

Jardin d'Ete, Arles

Van Gogh Entrance To The Public Park In Arles
Public Domain / Vincent van Gogh

Look out for the plaque that shows where he painted the “Entrance to the Public Park in Arles”. The painting showcases Van Gogh’s fascination with the interplay of light and colour, using it to evoke a sense of warmth and vitality that was characteristic of the region’s climate and atmosphere. The composition is notable for its inviting path that leads the viewer’s eye into the lush garden beyond, a technique that Van Gogh used to draw the viewer into the scene. The painting is filled with a sense of peace and serenity, contrasting with the tumultuous nature of Van Gogh’s personal life.

This commemorative bust of Van Gogh by American artist William Earl Singer was commissioned by the city in 1969 to mark the artist’s residency in Arles from February 1888 to May 1890.

Location: Jardin d'été, Boulevard des Lices, Arles, France | Hours: April 1st to September 30th, 07:00 - 20:30 October 1st to March 31st, 07:00 - 18:30.
Read more about Jardin d'Ete, Arles

Les Alyscamps

Van Gogh Lallee Des Alyscamps
Public Domain / Vincent van Gogh

This picturesque avenue, adorned with a canopy of trees and lined by ancient tombs and sarcophagi from Roman and early Christian eras, served as a source of inspiration for both Van Gogh and Gauguin, who painted it multiple times. In at least two portrait-oriented versions, Van Gogh captured the view stretching down towards the church of Saint-Honorat. Over the years, the trees along the avenue have transformed, making it challenging to recreate the exact perspectives from the past. In “Les Alyscamps, 1888” (held by the Collection Basil P. and Elise Goulandris in Lausanne, Switzerland), industrial structures visible through the trees on the left side have since disappeared. Van Gogh also explored this scene in landscape format in several works, including “Falling Autumn Leaves, 1888” (housed in the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands), with an informational panel (7) along the avenue guiding visitors to this particular view. Van Gogh likely painted this scene from an elevated position, looking back towards the entrance, a perspective that is currently inaccessible but whose essential features remain identifiable.

The avenue also features in Gauguin’s work; “Allée des Alyscamps, 1888” (located at the Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Museum of Art in Tokyo) prominently includes the church of Saint-Honorat. However, Gauguin’s more famous depiction, “Les Alyscamps, 1888” (Musée d’Orsay, Paris), was painted from a vantage point outside the monument, likely from the right bank of the Canal de Craponnie. Although a footpath still runs atop the left bank, the opposite side has become overgrown, concealing the church tower behind foliage. The quaint scene of three nuns leisurely strolling by the water’s edge, once possible to observe, is now obscured, reflecting the changes that have enveloped this historic avenue over time.

Location: Alyscamps, Avenue des Alyscamps, Arles, France | Hours: 01/03 to 30/04: daily between 9 am and 6 pm. 01/05 to 30/09: daily between 9 am and 7 pm. 01/10 to 31/10: daily between 9 am and 6 pm. 02/11 to 01/03: daily between 10.30 am and 4.30 pm. Closed January 1st, May 1st & December 25th. | Price: €5
Read more about Nécropole des Alyscamps

The Garden of the Hospital in Arles

Van Gogh - Garten Des Hospitals In Arles
Public Domain / Vincent van Gogh

Espace Van Gogh, now occupying the former Hôtel Dieu, can be entered from Place du Docteur Félix Rey. Here, visitors find themselves in a garden that Vincent van Gogh famously captured in “The Garden of the Hospital in Arles” (Le Jardin de la Maison de Santé à Arles), 1889, part of the Oskar Reinhart Collection ‘Am Römerholz’ in Winterthur, Switzerland, and highlighted by another information panel. This location holds significant historical relevance as it was where Van Gogh was taken for medical care under Doctor Rey after his notorious altercation with Gauguin, which resulted in Vincent severing his own left ear. The architecture of the building and the garden’s layout remain much as Van Gogh depicted them. The artist’s forced admission here, following a petition by concerned townsfolk, effectively shattered his aspirations for establishing a ‘studio of the south’ and soured his relations with the Arles community. Van Gogh’s experience and the environment of the hospital are further documented in his painting “The Ward in the Hospital at Arles,” 1889, also in the Oskar Reinhart Collection.

Following his release, Van Gogh, unable to bear the thought of continuing his stay in Arles, chose to enter the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence voluntarily. This marks a poignant conclusion to our exploration of Arles, as Vincent ceased to produce any more works in the city. Today, the Espace Van Gogh stands in stark contrast to its historical past; the once-daunting hospital setting has been transformed into a lively area brimming with gift shops, galleries, and cafés, offering a contemporary homage to the artist’s legacy in Arles.

This website uses affiliate links which earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.