Arles: The Complete Guide

The-amphitheatre-of-arles

Positioned along the River Rhône in the heart of Provence, Southern France, Arles captivates with its blend of elegant 18th and 19th-century mansions and ancient Roman architecture. Its fame was significantly heightened by Vincent van Gogh, whose time in Arles left behind an array of scenes that continue to draw visitors. The city, divided by the expansive River Rhone and connected by the Pont de Triquetaille, comes alive in the summer months, bustling with tourists who fill its outdoor cafes and restaurants, contributing to a vibrant atmosphere.

Arles boasts a rich history that dates back to Roman times, including Hannibal’s famed crossing of the Rhône. The city’s contribution to the arts is notable, with celebrated personalities like Frédéric Mistral and Christian Lacroix calling it home, alongside its connection to the Gypsy Kings, whose ancestors sought refuge here from Spain’s Civil War.

Today, with its 50,000 residents, Arles serves as an entry point to the Camargue region, known for its distinct wildlife such as pink flamingos, white horses, and black bulls. Beyond its historical and artistic legacy, Arles remains a dynamic city that melds historical depth with cultural richness and scenic beauty, offering a compelling reason for it to be on every traveller’s itinerary.

Visiting the Sites of Arles

A day is sufficient to wander around Arles, but if you’re planning to explore some of the museums and ancient Roman sites, you’ll want to allocate at least a couple of days. Arles serves as an excellent hub for venturing into the nearby areas. For those preferring a structured exploration, we have written a Historic Self Guided Walking Tour of Arles, and a Arles Van Gogh Self Guided Walking Tour. If you would like a guided walking tour option then I recommend this 2-Hour Private Walking Tour.

Traveling Further Afield

For those willing to extend their walk, the Nécropole des Alyscamps and Musée Départemental Arles Antique and are notable sights a bit further from the city centre. Additionally, the Montmajour Abbey, just a 10-minute bus ride from Arles, offers a rich experience with plenty to see and do. For a more adventurous outing, the Camargue Museum is a 25-minute bus journey from Arles, or you can embark on a Half-Day 4×4 Camargue Safari. This experience, departing from Arles, takes you in an open-air vehicle through the Camargue to observe flamingos, wild horses, bulls, and diverse birdlife!

History of Arles

The area of Arles has been inhabited since approximately 800 BCE, initially by the Ligurians and later influenced by Celtic cultures. It evolved into a significant Phoenician trade port, eventually falling under Roman control in 123 BCE. The Romans expanded Arles, connecting it to the Mediterranean Sea via a canal in 104 BCE, although it faced competition from Massalia (now Marseille). During Julius Caesar’s campaign, Arles aligned with him against Pompey, earning favor when Caesar defeated Pompey. Consequently, Massalia’s assets were transferred to Arles, which was established as a colony for veterans of the Roman legion Legio VI Ferrata.

As a crucial city in the province of Gallia Narbonensis, Arles boasted significant monuments like an amphitheatre and a Roman circus, among others. Over centuries, silt from the Rhône shifted the city further from the sea, diminishing its port’s prominence. Unique for its time, Arles had a pontoon-style Roman bridge to withstand the river’s floods.

Reaching its zenith in the 4th and 5th centuries, Arles was often the Roman Emperors’ headquarters and became the Praetorian Prefecture of the Gauls’ seat, covering a vast Western Empire region. It was favored by Emperor Constantine I, who commissioned baths there, and was the birthplace of his son, Constantine II.

Arles was a significant cultural and religious center in the late Roman Empire, hosting church councils and serving as a pivotal Christianization base in Gaul. Despite the decline following barbarian invasions, it remained an important religious site, hosting notable clerics and facing political tensions with the Visigothic kings.

The Barbegal aqueduct and mill, a remarkable Roman engineering feat near Arles, exemplified ancient mechanical power, providing flour for the city’s inhabitants. However, the Middle Ages saw Arles’ prominence wane, despite brief political importance, and it became part of the Kingdom of Burgundy-Arles.

In modern times, Arles lost its economic stature with the advent of railways but gained artistic significance through Vincent van Gogh, who produced over 300 works during his stay. Arles’ Jewish community, documented from the fifth century, played a crucial role in the city’s history until their expulsion in the 15th century.

Arles’ rich history, from its ancient roots and Roman prominence to its medieval significance and modern cultural contributions, highlights its enduring legacy as a key Provencal city.

Visiting Arles for the first time and wondering what are the top places to see in the city? In this complete guide, I share the best things to do in Arles on the first visit. To help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!

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18 Best places to See in Arles

This complete guide to Arles not only tells you about the very best sights and tourist attractions for first-time visitors to the city but also provide insights into a few of our personal favorite things to do.

This is a practical guide to visiting the best places to see in Arles and is filled with tips and info that should answer all your questions!

Place de la République

Arles Place De La République
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Wolfgang Staudt
At the heart of Arles, the Place de la République centers around a Roman obelisk, an emblem of antiquity and an architectural marvel, capturing the essence of the city’s rich historical tapestry. Dating back to the 4th century, this ancient obelisk, once a prominent feature of the Roman circus, found its new home in this […]
Location: Place de la République, Arles, France | Hours: 24 hours | Price: Free | Distance: 0.00km
Visiting Place de la République

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Obélisque d'Arles

Obélisque D’Arles
The Arles Obelisk, a Roman monument from the 4th century, stands proudly in the Place de la République, directly in front of the Arles town hall, France. Crafted from granite sourced from Asia Minor, this obelisk is unique for its absence of any inscriptions. Including its pedestal, it reaches a height of around 20 meters. […]
Location: Obélisque d'Arles, Place de la République, Arles, France | Hours: 24 Hours | Price: Free | Distance: 0.00km
Visiting Obélisque d'Arles

Explore Arles yourself with our self-guided walking tour!

Église Sainte-Anne d'Arles

1024px-Église Sainte-Anne D’Arles
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Guiguilacagouille
The Sainte-Anne Church, originally known as Notre-Dame-la-Principale, stands as the inaugural parish of the Roman Catholic rite in the heart of Arles, France. Falling into disuse after the Revolution and once serving as the repository for the city’s lapidary museum, it has been recognized as a historic monument since 1875 and is currently utilized as […]
Location: Église Sainte-Anne d'Arles, Place de la République, Arles, France | Distance: 0.00km
Visiting Église Sainte-Anne d'Arles

We recommend to rent a car in Spain through Discover Cars, they compare prices and review multiple car rental agencies. Book your rental car here.

Église Saint Trophime d'Arles

1280px-Arles Eglise Saint Trophime
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Wolfgang Staudt
The St. Trophime Church, formerly a cathedral, is a notable Roman Catholic structure located in Arles, southern France. Constructed from the 12th to the 15th century, it epitomizes Romanesque architecture. Particularly, the sculptures above its portal, depicting the Last Judgement, and the cloister columns are among the most exemplary Romanesque sculptures. Built on a 5th-century […]
Location: Eglise Saint-Trophime, Place de la République, Arles, France | Distance: 0.00km
Visiting Église Saint Trophime d'Arles

Explore Arles yourself with our self-guided walking tour!

Town Hall and Cryptoportics of Arles

Arles-Cryptoportiques
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Bjs
The Arles Town Hall and the Cryptoportics represent two historically rich and interconnected sites within the city, each displaying the depth of Arles’s heritage. Constructed in 1676 and designated as a historical monument, the Arles Town Hall is an architectural marvel spanning three levels, showcasing exceptional craftsmanship and design. The entrance reveals a vestibule marked […]
Visiting Town Hall and Cryptoportics of Arles

Saint-Trophime Cloister

Cloister View, Saint-Trophime Cathedral,Arles
CC BY-SA 4.0 / John Samuel
The Saint-Trophime Cloister, adjacent to the former cathedral of Arles, represents a unique architectural marvel spanning from the 12th to the 14th centuries. Unlike typical cloisters, it does not adjoin the nave or the transept but connects to the choir via a staircase. This rectangular cloister measures 28 meters in length and 25 meters in […]
Location: Cloître Saint-Trophime, Rue du Cloître, Arles, France | Hours: From 01/03 to 30/04, daily between 9 am and 6 pm. From 01/05 to 30/09, daily between 9 am and 7 pm. From 01/10 to 31/10, daily between 9 am and 6 pm. From 02/11 to 01/03, daily between 10.30 am and 4.30 pm. Closed exceptionally on May 1st., January 1st and December 25th. Last entry 16h. | Price: Full price: 6 € Reduced price: 5 €. | Distance: 0.10km
Visiting Saint-Trophime Cloister

Place du Forum, Arles

Arles-PlaceDuForum
Public Domain / AlanFord
Forum Square is a site of great historical and artistic value, echoing the tradition of Roman cities as vibrant centers of communal life. Initially, the square covered a vast area in Arles, stretching from today’s Boulevard des Lices towards the river. Its fame is significantly enhanced by Vincent van Gogh’s iconic “Cafe Terrace at Night,” […]
Location: Place du Forum, Arles, France | Hours: 24 Hours | Price: Free | Distance: 0.10km
Visiting Place du Forum, Arles

Théâtre Antique, Arles

Roman Theater In Arles
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Bokeby
The Roman Theatre in Arles, dating back to the 1st century during Caesar Augustus’s reign, stands as a monumental piece of ancient architecture. It is situated adjacent to the renowned Arles Amphitheatre in the historic city of Arles, located in the beautiful region of Provence, France. This ancient theatre, along with Arles’ other Roman and […]
Location: Roman Theatre of Arles, Rue du Cloître, 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: Full price: 9 € Reduced price: 7 €. | Distance: 0.20km
Visiting Théâtre Antique, Arles

Jardin d'Ete, Arles

Buste Van Gogh Arles
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Chabe01
Nestled near the Medieval fortifications of Arles, this park has welcomed visitors since 1840. Spanning 10,000 square meters, it features fountains, seating areas, and a playground designed for children. In one corner they adjoin the ruins of the Roman Theatre.
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. | Distance: 0.20km
Visiting Jardin d'Ete, Arles

Fondation Vincent Van Gogh

Arles Fond Van Gogh
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Rolf Süssbrich
The Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles is a nonprofit organization based in Arles, France, dedicated to celebrating the work and continuing the legacy of Vincent van Gogh. It aims to foster cultural and artistic endeavors that resonate with Van Gogh’s prolific period in Arles and his vision for Arles as a global hub for creative […]
Location: Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles, Rue du Docteur Fanton, Arles, France | Hours: 10:00 - 18:00 | Price: €10 (€12 with Musée Réattu) | Website | Distance: 0.20km
Visiting Fondation Vincent Van Gogh

L'Amphithéâtre Romain, Arles

Arles Amphitheatre
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Wolfgang Staudt
Roman Origins and Architectural Design Constructed between 80-90 AD under Emperor Domitian’s reign, the Arles Arena is a remarkable example of Roman architectural ingenuity and a significant piece of the city’s Flavian-era expansions. This amphitheater, designed primarily for grand spectacles, has stood the test of time, showcasing its architectural brilliance to this day. Its layout, […]
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 | Distance: 0.30km
Visiting L'Amphithéâtre Romain, Arles

Thermes de Constantin

Thermes De Constantin
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Sailko
The Thermes de Constantin, also known as the thermes du Nord, are ancient Roman baths dating back to the 4th century. These historical baths are situated in the picturesque city of Arles, nestled along the banks of the Rhône River. Historical Background The construction of these baths commenced at the onset of the 4th century, […]
Location: Thermes de Constantin, Rue du Grand Prieuré, 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. Closed exceptionally on May 1st, January 1st and December 25th.| Price: Adults €5 Children €2.5 | Distance: 0.30km
Visiting Thermes de Constantin

Musée Réattu (Musée des Beaux-Arts d'Arles)

Arles Musée Réattu
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Mbzt
The Réattu Museum, nestled along the scenic banks of the Rhône River at 10, rue du Grand-Prieuré in Arles, is a beacon of art and culture, renowned for its extensive collections of works by the Arlesian painter Jacques Réattu, a treasure trove of drawings by Picasso, and a dedication to the realms of photography and […]
Location: Musée Réattu, Rue du Grand Prieuré, Arles, France | Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 02 November - 28 Februar : 10am to 5pm 1st March - 31 October: 10am to 6pm Closed on Monday. Closed on 1st January, 1st May, 1st November and 25 December | Price: Full: 6€ - Reduced*: 4€ (Combined ticket Réattu museum + Vincent van Gogh Foundation: 12 €) | Distance: 0.30km
Visiting Musée Réattu (Musée des Beaux-Arts d'Arles)

Nécropole des Alyscamps

Nécropole Des Alyscamps
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Hawobo
The Alyscamps stands as a significant Roman necropolis, located just outside Arles, France’s ancient town walls. Celebrated as one of the renowned burial grounds in antiquity, its name, “Aliscamps,” derives from the Provençal Occitan term, rooted in the Latin “Elisii Campi” — translating to the Champs-Élysées in French, or Elysian Fields in English. This site […]
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 | Distance: 0.60km
Visiting Nécropole des Alyscamps

Musée Départemental Arles Antique

Musee Départemental Arles Antique
CC BY-SA 4.0 / L.Brighton
Nestled in Arles, France, since 1995, the Musée Départemental Arles Antique, affectionately known as “the Blue Museum,” stands on the historic site of the Roman circus. Designed by architect Henri Ciriani, this modern edifice is a testament to innovative museum design while hosting Arles’ rich archaeological collections under the stewardship of the Bouches-du-Rhône departmental council. […]
Location: Museum of ancient Arles and Provence Presqu'île du Cirque Romain 13200 Arles France | Hours: Daily from 10 :00 to 18 :00 except Tuesday Closed : 1 January, 1 May, 1 November and 25 December | Price: Regular : 8 € Reduced : 5 € | Distance: 1.00km
Visiting Musée Départemental Arles Antique

Montmajour Abbey

Abbaye De Montmajour, Arles
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Airair
Montmajour Abbey, formally known as the Abbey of St. Peter in Montmajour, stands as a monumental testament to the Benedictine monastic tradition, evolving architecturally from the 10th to the 18th centuries. Situated five kilometers north of Arles, in the picturesque Bouches-du-Rhône Department of Provence, France, this former island abbey embodies centuries of religious, cultural, and […]
Location: Abbaye de Montmajour, Route de Fontvieille, Arles, France | Hours: April 1 to May 31: 10h - 17h June 1 to September 30: 10h - 18h15 October 1 to March 31: 10am - 5pm Closed Mondays, January 1, May 1, November 11 and December 25.| Price: €7 | Website | Distance: 4.40km
Visiting Montmajour Abbey

Barbegal Aqueduct and Mills

Barbegal Aqueduct
CC BY-SA 2.0 / maarjaara
The Barbegal aqueduct and mills, located near the commune of Fontvieille, close to Arles in the southern France region of Bouches-du-Rhône, stand as a testament to Roman engineering prowess and ingenuity. This remarkable complex, often hailed as “the greatest known concentration of mechanical power in the ancient world,” features 16 overshot water wheels, representing the […]
Location: Barbegal aqueduct and mill, Fontvieille, France | Price: Free | Distance: 8.10km
Visiting Barbegal Aqueduct and Mills

Baux-de-Provence

Les Baux-de-Provence
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Kent Wang
Les Baux-de-Provence, nestled within the Regional Natural Park of the Alpilles and located 20 kilometers south of Avignon, is reputedly France’s most visited village, attracting approximately two million visitors each year. Celebrated as one of the ‘most beautiful villages of France,’ its charm is undeniable, especially if you’ve had the chance to stroll through its […]
Visiting Baux-de-Provence

Best Time to Visit Arles

The best time to visit Arles largely depends on your interests, particularly if you want to avoid the crowds or enjoy specific festivals.

  1. Spring (April to June): This is an ideal time to visit Arles. The weather is pleasant, with mild temperatures and less rainfall, making it perfect for exploring outdoor attractions like the Roman ruins and taking part in walking tours. The countryside around Arles is also beautiful in spring, especially when the wildflowers are in bloom.
  2. Summer (July and August): While this period offers the warmest weather, it’s also the busiest and hottest time of the year. If you don’t mind the crowds, summer in Arles is vibrant with events. Notably, the Rencontres d’Arles (a renowned photography festival) takes place from July to September, attracting artists and visitors from around the world. However, be prepared for high temperatures which can sometimes reach above 30°C (86°F).
  3. Autumn (September to November): Early autumn is another excellent time to visit. The weather remains warm in September but starts to cool down towards November. The city is less crowded after the summer tourists have left, and the autumn light is particularly appealing for photographers. The Feria du Riz, a significant bullfighting festival, occurs in September, offering a unique cultural experience.
  4. Winter (December to February): Winters are generally mild but can be chilly and rainy, which might not be ideal for those wanting to spend a lot of time outdoors. However, it’s a great time to enjoy Arles without the crowds, visit museums, and explore indoor attractions at a leisurely pace. Plus, hotel prices are usually lower during this season.

Each season in Arles has its charm and advantages, so the best time to visit would depend on what you’re looking to get out of your trip—whether it’s enjoying the lively festival atmosphere, exploring historical sites in comfortable weather, or avoiding the tourist crowds.

Average Temperatures in Arles

  • January 13°C 6
  • February 15°C 6
  • March 18°C 7
  • April 21°C 8
  • May 27°C 7
  • June 33°C 5
  • July 37°C 3
  • August 34°C 5
  • September 29°C 9
  • October 25°C 12
  • November 17°C 13
  • December 14°C 6