What to do in Arles?
Have you chosen to visit Arles during your holidays in the South of France?
In order to help you prepare for your stay, I have prepared this guide to the best things to do in Arles.
You will find all the information on the must-see places of interest and the monuments of this city listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
And at the end of this guide, I give you ideas for itineraries to visit Arles and its surroundings in 1, 2, 3 days or more and my selection of the best hotels to stay in according to your budget.
So, what to do in Arles?
Visit Arles: the must-sees
1. Republic Square
We start this guide to Arles with the main square of the city: the Place de la République.
Located in the heart of the city, the former Place Royale is home to several monuments and buildings of different styles and periods.
To see on the place of the Republic, in Arles:
- The town hall: of classical architecture, it was completed in 1676 and is classified as a Historic Monument.
- The obelisk dating from antiquity and which comes from the Roman circus
- The clock tower whose architecture is in the Renaissance style
- The Sainte-Anne church built in the 17th century
- The post office dating from the end of the 19th century
- The Saint-Trophime church which I mention in detail below.
Tips for your Arles itinerary:
To visit Arles, you can choose to take a 2-hour private tour with a guide.
You will have the opportunity to discover the historic center and the many monuments listed as World Heritage by UNESCO.
Book your guided tour of Arles directly by clicking here.
2. Saint-Trophime Church and Cloister
The Saint-Trophime church and its cloister are among the essential visits to do in Arles.
It is located on the Place de la République.
Built in the 12th century, its architecture is typical of Provençal Romanesque art. The most famous exterior element is its sumptuously decorated portal which evokes the Last Judgment. It is now considered one of the most beautiful of its kind in the South of France.
Inside the church, you can admire Aubusson tapestries from the 17th century, several paintings, early Christian sarcophagi and the tombs of the archbishops of Arles.
South-east of the cathedral, passing through the courtyard of the archdiocese, I advise you not to miss the cloister of Saint-Trophime. Built in the 12th century, it is made up of 4 galleries, 2 in Romanesque style and 2 in Gothic style.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the cloister is renowned for the exceptional quality of the sculptures adorning its pillars. We find there the themes of the resurrection of Christ but also many scenes dedicated to Saint-Trophime, patron saint of the city.
3. Roman Amphitheater
The Roman amphitheater is the main place of interest in Arles, it is the most visited monument in the city.
Built at the end of the 1st century, it could in its heyday accommodate up to 21,000 people. People came there to attend the games, fights and performances that were organized there, exactly in the same style as those of the Colosseum, in Rome.
It is ranked 20th among the largest amphitheaters in the Roman world.
Today, the place is used as an arena and is used to organize bullfights and Camargue races. In summer, you can also attend re- enactments of gladiator fights or shows.
The Roman amphitheater in Arles can be visited all year round.
Tips for your Arles itinerary:
To visit Arles, I recommend that you take one of the 2 Monument Passes sold at the Arles tourist office or at the entrance to the monuments:
- The Freedom Pass which allows you to discover 5 sites: 1 museum + 4 monuments. It is valid for one month.
- The Advantage Pass valid for all museums and monuments to visit in Arles. It is valid for one year.
4. Ancient Theater of Arles
The ancient theater is the second tourist site to see in Arles.
Like the amphitheater, it is one of the Roman monuments of the city of Arles to be classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Built at the end of the 1st century BC, it consisted of 33 tiers that could accommodate up to 10,000 spectators. Unfortunately, over the centuries, it was gradually dismembered to build other buildings with its materials.
It was not until the end of the 17th century that its initial function was discovered through archaeological excavations.
Most of the unearthed statues are now kept at the Arles Antique Departmental Museum and the best known, the “Venus of Arles” is in the Louvre Museum.
Today, to revive the ancient theater, shows and festivals are held there in summer.
The visit to the ancient theater of Arles is included in the Pass.
5. Forum Cryptoporticoes
Another tourist attraction of the Roman world to visit in Arles: the cryptoporticoes.
With such an enigmatic name that reminded me a bit of an Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider style quest, we don’t really know what to expect!
The cryptoporticoes are in fact a set of U-shaped galleries located below the Forum of Arles.
Consisting of pillars and vaults built 6 meters deep, they form the base of the forum, which in Roman times was the main public square of the city.
The forum being built on a sloping ground, the cryptoporticos served to stabilize the whole.
It is now possible to browse 3 of these galleries. They are among the best preserved in the world, hence their classification by UNESCO.
6. Baths of Constantine
During your stay in Arles, you can also visit the thermal baths of Constantine.
Built in the 4th century AD, the thermal baths certainly had a hygienic function but it was above all a place where people came to meet and talk.
Both men and women observed the same ritual:
- Dry sweating
- Hot bath
- Warm room
- cold pool
The visit of the thermal baths will allow you to discover the principle of the hypocausts, which were used to heat the rooms thanks to an ingenious system of air circulation and ventilation.
The thermal baths, which are among the best preserved in France, are included in the Pass. It is also possible to choose a guided tour for more explanations.
In the list of Roman monuments to see during your trip to Arles, you can include a passage through the Alyscamps.
The allée des Alyscamps, which can be translated as “the alley of the Champs Elysées”, is in fact an old necropolis dating from the beginning of the Roman Empire. There were thousands of tombs and mausoleums there .
Over the centuries, especially during the early Christian period and the Middle Ages, the site has expanded and many vaults and chapels have been built there. This is where the first bishops of Arles, the martyr Saint-Genest and several Arles nobles are buried.
The Alyscamps ended up becoming an essential stop on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
Tips for your Arles itinerary:
The Alyscamps have been a source of inspiration for famous painters like Van Gogh and Gauguin.
The place is also mentioned in Dante’s “Hell”.
8. Arles Antique Departmental Museum
Visiting Arles also means taking the time to discover the departmental Arles Antique museum.
It houses an important archaeological collection including statues from the ancient theatre, sarcophagi from the Alyscamps and a model of the Roman baths.
You will also discover various objects of daily life from the Roman era as well as the centerpiece of the museum: the bust of Caesar. Found in the Rhône, it is the oldest bust of Julius Caesar, and the only one made during his lifetime.
Finally, the museum of Arles exhibits a flat-bottomed Roman boat 30 meters long, also discovered in the Rhône and which would be the best preserved in the world.
Practical information for organizing your visit can be found on the official website.
9. Vincent Van Gogh Foundation
The Van Gogh Foundation was created to pay tribute to the famous painter who lived in the city between 1888 and 1889.
During his stay in Arles, he painted hundreds of canvases and drawings, some of which are now exhibited at the foundation.
The exhibitions, which relate to the life and work of Van Gogh, but are also interested in contemporary artists, are spread over more than 1000 m².
Timetables and prices on the official website.
Tips for your Arles itinerary:
If you are interested in Van Gogh, I advise you to follow the marked route set up by the city of Arles and which passes through the places represented in his paintings.
Entitled “the Van Gogh circuit”, it allows you to discover:
- The Place du Forum in the painting “Café terrace in the evening”
- The bridge of Trinquetaille in “The staircase of the bridge of Trinquetaille”
- The Quai du Rhône for “The Starry Night”
- Place Lamartine in “The yellow house”
- Rue Mireille for “Le Vieux Moulin”.
- The Van Gogh Bridge
You can download the map of the Van Gogh circuit in Arles by clicking here.
Organized excursions are also possible to follow in the footsteps of Van Gogh. They allow you to discover the different sites painted by the Dutch master around Arles.
On the program: crossing the Langlois bridge and the Abbey of Montmajour, and a visit to the Saint-Paul de Mausole psychiatric hospital where he spent the last part of his life. Transportation, guide, driver and entrance fees are included in the price.
Book your Van Gogh excursion in Provence.
10. Réattu Museum
After the departmental museum and the Van Gogh foundation, if you want to continue doing some cultural tourism in Arles, I suggest you visit the Réattu museum or the Fine Arts museum.
It is in the building of the Grand Priory of the Order of Malta.
It is dedicated to the neoclassical painter from Arles, Jacques Réattu, who lived and painted many works here.
In addition to his personal collection, the Réattu museum houses some fifty drawings by Picasso (gift from the artist himself who was particularly attached to the city).
You will also find thousands of photographs there , making it the first photographic collection in France in a Fine Arts museum.
Information and timetables on the official website.
Throughout the year, Arles organizes several renowned festivals:
- The Photography Festival, also known as “Les Rencontres d’Arles” takes place every summer and hosts dozens of exhibitions spread across the tourist sites and emblematic monuments of Arles.
- Indian summer: a weekend where several events are organized such as auctions, openings, parties.
- Funny Christmases: a festival dedicated to street arts with performances and puppet shows, magic or storytelling. Everything is free.
- The European Nude Photography Festival, the only major cultural event of its kind in Europe
- Jazz in Arles with concerts organized in the chapel of Méjan
- Les Suds festival in Arles devoted to music
- The Arelate festival with re-enactment of gladiator fights in the Roman amphitheater.
What to do around Arles?
Now that you know what to do in Arles and that you have been able to discover all the city’s must-sees, it’s time to go and visit the surroundings.
In order not to miss anything, I have prepared a list of the most beautiful places to see around Arles.
Arles is only a few minutes drive from the Camargue Regional Nature Park .
This region is the ideal place to enjoy nature, visit a herd or observe many birds and flamingos.
Tips for your Arles itinerary:
From Arles, if you don’t have a car, you can still visit the Camargue thanks to an organized excursion.
The visit is done in 4×4 and includes stops to observe Camargue horses, bulls, birds and also a stop in Saintes-Marie-de-la-mer, the capital of the region.
This activity in the Camargue can be booked directly by clicking here.
The village of Fontvieille is one of the best known to visit near Arles.
A very famous writer stayed there and wrote one of his major works there: “Les Lettres de mon Moulin”. You will therefore have guessed that it is Alphonse Daudet!
A walking tour of about 45 minutes allows you to discover the 4 windmills of the village including the famous Moulin Alphonse Daudet, which can be visited for 2€.
Still in Fontvieille, you can also visit the Château de Montauban where Daudet stayed during his vacation in Provence. Transformed into a museum, the castle traces the history of the village but a small part is also dedicated to the writer.
Tips for your Arles itinerary:
Between Arles and Fontvieille, I recommend that you go through the Abbaye de Montmajour, a monastic complex listed as a Historic Monument.
She inspired many artists including Van Gogh, who depicted her in his paintings and drawings.
14. Les Baux-de-Provence
Les Baux-de-Provence is clearly one of the most beautiful villages to visit around Arles.
Small cobbled streets, stone houses, typical shops and a perched castle overlooking all of Provence, that’s what makes it so charming!
Not to mention that a visit to the castle is also worth the detour for its panorama of the Alpilles and the Val d’Enfer.
Outings organized from Arles with transport and guide are offered for the Alpilles and passing through Les Baux-de-Provence. The price also includes an olive oil tasting and a visit to the mill.
This excursion is the best option if you don’t have a car. It can be reserved here.
15. The Quarries of Light
Les Carrières de Lumière is barely a 5-minute walk from the village of Les Baux-de-Provence.
By entering the old quarries, you can discover a super original digital exhibition, with the works of Van Gogh projected on all the walls almost 15 meters high and in a space of 7000 m².
The staging, visual and sound, is extremely well done and completely immersive, even if you are not an art lover. When I visited them, there was also a program dedicated to Japan, which I liked even more.
The exhibitions change every year, but no doubt the next one will be just as interesting.
Before visiting the Lumière quarries, check if it’s open because the place usually closes between January and March to prepare for the next multimedia show. But otherwise it’s really a great idea of things to do for a weekend in PACA for example.
Timetables and fares on the official website.
Tips for your Arles itinerary:
To visit Les Baux and the quarries, I recommend that you take the combined Pass Château des Baux + Carrières de Lumières + Brayer Museum. You can buy it at the entrance to the sites.
Another idea of a city to visit around Arles: Nîmes, 40 minutes by car.
Like its neighbour, Nîmes is known for its Roman monuments, including the famous arenas. If you wish to visit them, you can discover a space dedicated to gladiators and another dedicated to the bullfighting tradition.
Among the other things to see, I recommend:
- The Maison Carrée, a temple inside which a film about the history of the city is projected
- The Jardins de la Fontaine, well landscaped with fountains and statues
- The Magne tower, whose summit offers a breathtaking view of the city and the surrounding area
- The historic center and its maze of alleys with many shops and restaurants.
I give you all the details to visit Nîmes in this article: What to do in Nîmes?
Avignon is a 50-minute drive from Arles.
The main places of interest to discover in the City of the Popes:
- The Palace of the Popes in Avignon, residence of 9 successive popes during the 15th century. On the program: visit the ceremonial rooms, private apartments, chapels using an interactive tablet with 3D reconstruction.
- The Pont d’Avignon which offers a beautiful view of the Palace of the Popes
- The Notre-Dame des Doms cathedral where the tombs of certain popes are located
- The Doms garden to enjoy the panorama over the Rhône valley, the old town and the Avignon bridge
- The historic center
To organize your visit to Avignon, read my dedicated article: What to do in Avignon?
What to do in Montpellier?
- Discover the Écusson district, the historic center of Montpellier
- Admire the panorama of the city from Place Royale du Peyrou
- Visit St. Peter’s Cathedral
- Visit museums like the Fabre Museum and the Atger Museum
- Take a walk in the Jardin des Plantes
All the things to do and see in Montpellier can be found in my detailed article: The complete guide to visiting Montpellier.
From Arles, you can reach Marseille in 1 hour by car.
In Marseille, I recommend you not to miss:
- The Old Port, one of the liveliest places in the city
- The MUCEUM, emblematic museum of Marseille
- Notre-Dame de la Garde to contemplate the panorama
- The Panier district
- Frioul Islands
Here too, I have prepared a complete guide to the city for you in another article which you can read by clicking here: The top 30 things to do in Marseille .
20. Organized excursions from Arles
If you don’t have a car, I have selected 2 all-inclusive excursions to do from Arles:
- A guided tour entitled “The best of Provence” which will give you a summary of the most beautiful villages and monuments of the region over one day.
On the program: the Pont du Gard, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Baux-de-Provence, Lubéron, Gordes and Roussillon. A visit to the lavender museum and a stop to photograph the lavender fields (in season) are also included!
The price includes transport and tickets for the museum and the Pont du Gard.
Book your day trip by clicking here.
- An excursion devoted to the villages of the Luberon and the lavender fields.
You will discover in particular the village of Gordes and that of Roussillon and your driver will also take you on the roads where the most beautiful lavender fields are found .
How many days to visit Arles?
The city is really not very large, 1 day is enough to visit Arles.
In 2, 3 days or more, you will have time to explore the surroundings.
Visit Arles in 1 day
Here is the route that I propose for 1 day in Arles:
- Place de la République with visit to the church and cloister of Saint-Trophime
- The cryptoporticoes
- The ancient theater
- The Roman amphitheater
- Optional visit to the Réattu museum (depending on your interests)
- The Baths of Constantine
- Optional visit to the Van Gogh Foundation (always depending on your interests)
- Arles Antique Departmental Museum
- The Alyscamps
Tips for your Arles itinerary:
What to do in Arles – Circuits in the city.
The Arles tourist office also offers 5 itineraries to visit Arles on foot:
- Circuit Arles Antique
- Circuit Arles Médievale
- Renaissance and classical Arles
- Arles and Vincent Van Gogh
- Arles: World Heritage Tour.
These circuits with the monuments to discover and the map can be found at the tourist office.
Visit Arles in 2 days
For 2 days in Arles, take the itinerary of Day 1 and on the second day, I advise you:
- Passage through the Abbey of Montmajour
- Walk in Fontvieille
- Discovery of the village and castle of Les Baux-de-Provence
- Visit of the Quarries of Light
Visit Arles and its surroundings in 3 days
In 3 days in Arles, in addition to the previous 2 days, you can add a day in the Camargue or in any surrounding town: Nîmes, Avignon, Montpellier or Marseille.
If you have decided to leave for 4 or 5 days, or even a week in Arles, you will have time to do everything.
Accommodation in Arles
Here is my selection of the best hotels to sleep in Arles:
- Ibis Budget Arles Palais Des Congres: located 1.6 km from the historic center. Double room from €52, breakfast at €6.60. Most: the outdoor swimming pool, free private parking, friendly staff.
- Hotel Acacias: located 300 meters from the amphitheater. Warm and comfortable double room from €80, breakfast at €11. Most: the good breakfast with local products, the very friendly staff. An excellent choice where to sleep in Arles!
- Le Rodin: located 1.5 km from the city center. Bright double room with view of the swimming pool and the garden from €97, breakfast €14.50. Most: the swimming pool, the calm, the secure parking, the very pleasant staff.
- Hotel Spa Le Calendal: located in the historic center of Arles. Double room with access to the Spa included from €150, breakfast at €12. Most: the welcome, the Spa, the geographical location.
- Grand Hotel Nord-Pinus: located in the heart of the old town. Double room with neat and elegant decoration from €220, breakfast at €16. Most: the comfort of the bedding, the ideal location, the charm of the hotel. This is our recommendation for an upscale stay in Arles.
- L’Hôtel Particulier: located in the center of the city. Double room with elegant and refined decoration from €400, breakfast at €26. Most: the swimming pool, the Spa, the garden, the absolute calm, the atmosphere and the charm. This is the ideal hotel for a luxury stay in Arles.
And if you prefer the camping option for your holidays, you will also find the list of all the campsites near Arles and can easily book online by clicking on the button below.
A tip: book quickly as long as there is space ;D
Where to eat in Arles
- La Comédie: located 10 boulevard Georges Clemenceau. This bistronomic restaurant offers creative and delicious cuisine, with fresh market products and for a very reasonable price. Note that the sommelier is excellent advice to accompany your dishes of the best vintages.
- Manon’s garden: located 14 Avenue Alyscamps. Excellent food, quality service, a warm welcome and dinner in a pretty flowered courtyard form the perfect combo to have a good time.
- Le cricket: located at 21 rue Porte de Laure. In a warm setting, you can enjoy excellent local cuisine and homemade dishes for a great price/quality ratio.
Arles Tourist Map
To help you visualize the city a little better, I made you a tourist map of Arles listing the places to visit that I talk about in this top 20 things to do in Arles. You can display the map legend by clicking on the top left button with a small arrow.
And you, what are you planning to do in Arles?
FAQ – Questions about Arles
Where to buy the Arles Liberty Pass?
You can buy your Pass Liberté to visit Arles directly from the Arles tourist office located at 9 Boulevard des Lices.
Is entry to the arenas of Arles included in the Pass to visit Arles?
Yes, you can visit the Roman amphitheater in Arles with your Liberty pass.
What are the best things to do near Arles?
I highly recommend a visit to the village of Les Baux-de-Provence and the Carrières de Lumière.
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