A woman stands on the steps of the Arles Roman Amphitheatre, looking up in admiration at the ancient stone arches against a clear sky, an essential experience for any itinerary on the best things to do in Arles.

Explore the Best Things to Do in Arles France

Last Updated on May 20, 2024 by April Nicole

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Tucked away in the heart of Provence, Arles, France, is a treasure trove of historical and cultural wonders. I stumbled upon this charming town during a day trip from Montpellier, and it offered me far more enchantment and beauty than I anticipated.

Walking through its ancient streets, I was captivated by the remnants of Roman architecture and the vibrant art scene, famously inspired by Van Gogh himself.

I’m going to take you through the top experiences Arles has to offer, from its iconic amphitheater to its bustling market days. Expect personal insights, travel tips, and perhaps a few secrets that will make your visit as memorable as mine.

Join me as we explore the best of Arles together!

Essential Resources for Visiting Arles
ESSENTIAL RESOURCES FOR VISITING ARLES
Top rated tours & experiences in Arles:
Cultured Voyage’s accommodation picks in Arles:

If you are in a hurry, here’s a summary of things to do in Arles:

Is it Worth Going to Arles?

Absolutely, Arles is well worth a visit. This charming city in the heart of Provence offers a rich tapestry of history, art, and culture.

From the impressive Roman Amphitheatre to the haunting beauty of the Alyscamps and the vibrant legacy of Vincent van Gogh at the Fondation, Arles captivates history buffs, art lovers, and casual explorers alike.

Its lively market days and array of delightful restaurants add to its allure, making it a perfect destination for those seeking a blend of historical depth and contemporary charm.

1. Arles Amphitheatre

A woman stands on the steps of the Arles Roman Amphitheatre, looking up in admiration at the ancient stone arches against a clear sky, an essential experience for any itinerary on the best things to do in Arles.

The Arles Amphitheatre, a magnificent relic of Roman engineering, offers a profound glimpse into the past. Constructed in 90 AD, this grand arena once hosted thrilling gladiatorial combats and now serves as a spectacular venue for various cultural events. Visiting the amphitheatre was a highlight of my trip; I marveled at the well-preserved architecture and imagined the roar of ancient crowds.

Attending a traditional bullfight here, the energy and excitement were palpable, connecting me to centuries of history. This historical masterpiece, nestled in the heart of Arles, is not just a site to visit but an experience to be lived, truly embodying the spirit of the city.

2. Museum of Ancient Arles and Provence

The Museum of Ancient Arles and Provence is an essential destination for anyone interested in the rich history of this region. Housed in a modern building that overlooks the Rhone, the museum offers a comprehensive collection that spans from prehistoric times to the early Christian era. Its standout exhibit is a remarkably preserved Roman barge, which vividly highlights Arles’ historical importance as a river port.

My visit was especially memorable thanks to the detailed models of ancient Arles, which provided a fascinating insight into the city’s layout and architecture during Roman times. The museum’s interactive displays and well-curated artifacts make it not only an educational experience but also a deeply engaging one, offering insights that enrich your understanding of Arles’ historical landscape.

3. Saint-Trophime Primatial Catholic Church

Visitors ascending the steps to the imposing entrance of Saint-Trophime Church in Arles, showcasing intricate carvings and historical artistry, a must-see destination for those compiling the best things to do in Arles.

Saint-Trophime Primatial Catholic Church is a cornerstone of Arles’ architectural and spiritual heritage. This stunning church, famous for its exquisite Romanesque façade and detailed portal, is a masterpiece of medieval artistry. The interior, equally impressive, houses an array of revered relics and ornate altars that evoke a profound sense of reverence.

The highlight for many visitors, myself included, is the beautifully preserved cloister adjacent to the church. Walking through the cloister, with its intricately carved pillars depicting biblical scenes, is like stepping back into a quieter, more contemplative time. The peaceful ambiance and remarkable craftsmanship make Saint-Trophime not just a place of worship but a pivotal experience for anyone fascinated by history and art.

4. Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles

Entrance to the Fondation Vincent van Gogh in Arles, France, with 'Vincent' playfully graffiti-sprayed across concrete blocks, an inviting modern structure promising art enthusiasts one of the best things to do in Arles.

The Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles is a tribute to the artist’s transformative period spent in the city, where his artistic genius vividly came to life. This foundation not only celebrates Van Gogh’s legacy through a rotating collection of his works but also showcases contemporary artists inspired by his passion and color palette. During my visit, I was struck by the juxtaposition of Van Gogh’s iconic sunflowers against modern artworks, highlighting his enduring influence on generations of artists.

The foundation’s airy, light-filled rooms enhance the viewing experience, making each piece resonate with viewers on a personal level. The detailed explanations provided with each exhibit deepened my appreciation for Van Gogh’s emotional depth and technical skill. A visit to the Fondation Vincent van Gogh is a must for art lovers and those seeking to understand the profound impact Arles had on one of history’s most celebrated painters.

5. Cryptoportiques d’Arles

The bustling Place de la Republique in Arles with its iconic ancient obelisk, surrounded by historic architecture, including the city hall, under a clear blue sky—a quintessential stop for visitors seeking the best things to do in Arles.
Sculpture of a robed figure atop a grand staircase flanked by stone lion sculptures, within the atmospheric Cryptoportiques d'Arles, a must-visit for history enthusiasts exploring the best things to do in Arles.

Beneath the bustling city streets lie the Cryptoportiques, a network of subterranean galleries that date back to the Roman era. Originally serving as storage and support for the forum above, these hidden passages now offer a fascinating excursion into the engineering prowess of ancient Rome. Tours are occasionally available, providing a cool respite from the Provençal sun while exploring these mysterious underground corridors.

6. LUMA Arles

Modern art installation in front of the Luma Arles tower, showcasing a whimsical pink sculpture against the backdrop of the reflective architectural marvel, an engaging sight for visitors looking for the best things to do in Arles.
Contemporary art piece at Luma Arles depicting a classical statue in a state of dramatic decay, surrounded by debris, an intriguing exhibit for art lovers adding to the best things to do in Arles.

LUMA Arles is a contemporary arts center that has transformed the city’s landscape with its avant-garde architecture designed by Frank Gehry. The center is part of the Parc des Ateliers, a creative campus that hosts exhibitions, workshops, and performances. LUMA Arles is not just a museum but a dynamic cultural hub where art intersects with activism, education, and nature conservation.

7. Alyscamps

A serene walk through the ancient Les Alyscamps in Arles, lined with Roman sarcophagi and leading to a medieval church, a captivating journey through history and a top recommendation for things to do in Arles.

Alyscamps, one of the most famous necropolises of the ancient world, is a serene and evocative site in Arles. Lined with a long avenue of poplars, this Roman burial ground captivates with its row upon row of weathered sarcophagi. During my stroll through Alyscamps, the quiet and shaded path offered a contemplative retreat from the bustling city center.

The historical weight of the place is palpable; it once served as a final resting place for countless souls, and its importance is noted in literary works and paintings, particularly by Van Gogh and Gauguin who were inspired by its haunting beauty. Visiting Alyscamps is like walking through a live museum, each tombstone telling a story of a distant past, making it a profound experience for history enthusiasts and casual visitors alike.

9. The “Starry Night Over the Rhone” Lookout Point

Twilight descends over the Rhône River in Arles, with lights reflecting on the water's surface, a tranquil scene reminiscent of 'Starry Night Over the Rhône' and a peaceful experience for visitors exploring the best things to do in Arles.

The “Starry Night Over the Rhone” Lookout Point in Arles offers a mesmerizing experience, particularly for fans of Vincent van Gogh. It is at this very spot along the Rhone River where Van Gogh set up his easel and painted the famous night scene, capturing the vibrant reflections and celestial swirls in his unique style.

Visiting this lookout point, I felt a deep connection to the artist’s vision, especially during the evening when the stars and city lights begin to mirror the painting’s luminous quality. This spot not only provides a beautiful view of the river but also a profound insight into the environment that inspired one of art’s most iconic works.

10. Day Trip to Avignon

The majestic Palais des Papes in Avignon, with its fortified stone walls and Gothic architecture, under a clear blue sky framed by greenery, a historical landmark that's a staple on the list of the best things to do near Arles.

Spending one day in Avignon, just a short train ride from Arles, offers a delightful escape filled with rich history and stunning architecture. Avignon enchants visitors with its well-preserved medieval ramparts and the iconic Palais des Papes, a testament to the city’s past as the seat of popes.

Strolling through the cobbled streets, I was captivated by the blend of historical grandeur and vibrant street life. The Pont d’Avignon, immortalized in the famous song, provides picturesque views over the Rhone. Avignon’s bustling markets and quaint cafes add to the charm, making a day trip here a perfect complement to your Arles itinerary, rich in cultural and culinary discoveries.

Where to Eat in Arles

The iconic Café Van Gogh in Arles, vibrant with yellow walls and adorned with bright flowers, as patrons enjoy outdoor seating, capturing the essence of the scene immortalized by Van Gogh, a picturesque spot among the best things to do in Arles.

Arles offers a variety of dining options, from traditional French cuisine to innovative dishes. Here are three restaurants that stand out for their unique offerings and charming atmospheres:

  • La Caravelle: Situated by the Rhone riverbank, La Caravelle delights diners with its fresh seafood and Provençal dishes in a cozy, inviting setting.
  • Cocoricco: Known for its creative twist on traditional French cuisine, Cocoricco serves up delectable, artistically presented dishes in a modern, stylish environment.
  • Creperie Chez Mam Goz: This quaint crêperie offers a taste of Brittany with its authentic, delicious crêpes and galettes, made with locally sourced ingredients.

Best Hotels in Arles, France

Choosing the right hotel in Arles can significantly enhance your visit, whether you’re looking for affordability, comfort, or luxury. Here are three recommended hotels catering to different budgets:

  • Hôtel Le Calendal (Mid-Range): Positioned between the Roman Theatre and the Amphitheatre, Hôtel Le Calendal combines comfort with convenience, featuring modern amenities, a garden café, and a spa.

  • L’Hôtel Particulier (Luxury): Set in a 17th-century mansion, L’Hôtel Particulier offers a luxurious retreat with elegantly decorated rooms, an outdoor pool, and a gourmet restaurant.

Final Thoughts on Best Things to Do in Arles

The best things to do in Arles France, include exploring Roman ruins, visiting the Van Gogh Museum, and enjoying the vibrant local markets. This diverse array of activities offers visitors a unique blend of historical and cultural experiences.

France Travel Planning 🇫🇷

Accommodation 🛌

  • Booking.com – Find diverse accommodations, enjoy easy booking with great deals, and rely on real reviews and 24/7 support.
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Transportation 🚘

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  • Trainline.com stands as a quintessential tool for savvy travelers seeking to navigate France’s extensive rail network with ease and confidence.
  • Skyscanner.com – Simplifies your travel planning with its user-friendly interface, offering a comprehensive comparison of flights.

Attractions, Activities and Tours 🇫🇷

  • Viator.com – Stands out as a trusted resource for travelers seeking unparalleled experiences across the globe.
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  • ParisCityVision.com – This tour company specializes in crafting exceptional experiences across Paris and France.

Communication 📱

  • Orange Sim Card – Discover seamless connectivity on your French travels with an Orange Holiday Europe Sim Card, a top choice for tourists.
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Travel Insurance ✈️

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  • Travel Insurance Master – Visit their website to discover the ideal insurance plan that aligns with your travel dreams.

These are only a few of my favorites; for more, see my comprehensive guide to the top travel booking websites for France.

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