Arles is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Arles sits on a low hill where the Rhône river branches in two parts to the sea. The commune is the largest in France, with an area of 75,893 ha (about 170,000 acres). The town dates back to the 7th century BC, and was a major Gallo-Roman city. The major Roman sites, such as the Arena and the Theater, are unique in that they are integrated into the houses and buildings of the town, rather than sitting apart as they do in places such as Orange.
Nearby: | Aigues-Mortes 44 km | Aix-en-Provence 76 km | Alpilles 20 km | Avignon 36 km | Baux-de-Provence 20 km | Camargue 5 km | Cavaillon 42 km | Glanum 23 km | Marseille 89 km | Nîmes 30 km | Saint Martin-de-Crau 15 km | Saint Remy-de-Provence 30 km | Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer 38 km | Tarascon 16 km |
The International Photography Encounter is an annual summer event in Arles. You can get more information from the Office de Tourisme, or directly from the Event organizers (Tel: (33) 490 96 76 06).
Laundromat: Laverie Automatique LIncoln rue de la Cavalerie, by the Portes de la Cavalerie in the north end.
Parks and Playgrounds
A lovely calm park, with benches and curved walkways is located along the Bvd. des Lices, by the end of the Roman "Theatre Antique" - very handy for resting your weary feet on a market day. Large trees, including a truly gigantic cedar, provide a welcome shade on the hottest days.
A playground with lots of colorful rides is also beside the Bvd des Lices, just above the park. [Photo, 33 k]
Van Gogh came here from Paris on 20 Feb 1888. He stayed 14 months, until 8 May 1889, having one of his most prolific times, producing 200 paintings. From 23 Oct to 26 Dec he was with Paul Gaugin.
Visiting Nearby Arles
We were asked about visiting villages while based in Arles, when there are members of the party who have some difficulty walking.
Southwest of Arles is Aigues-Mortes; a very historical, walled town, from where the Knights departed on their Crusades. Probably very crowded with tourists during the summer. Not described in Beyond because it's outside our area.
Northeast of Arles is Les Baux-de-Provence. Very touristy, but interesting (described in Beyond). It does require a lot of walking for a visit, and close parking is difficult during the season.
- St. Remy-de-Provence is a good town to visit; many things of interest; plenty of terrace cafés for the less energetic to rest while others tour.
East and northeast of Cavaillon is an area with lovely little villages fairly close together. Have a look at the appropriate Beyond maps and villages pages.
First record, 7th-c BC Theline; 4th-c BC: Arelate
Celto-Ligurian: Arles is the site of the Phoenician town of Theline from the 7th century BC. Large amounts of 6th-c-BC Greek pottery found here indicate that this was a staging post for river traffic between Marseille (Massalia) and northern Gaul. In the 4th-century BC, this was the Celtic-Ligurian town of Arelate, meaning 'the town by the marshes'.
Gallo-Roman: Arles was one of the richest urban centers in France during the Gallo-Roman period. In 102 BC, Marius started construction of the Fossae Marianae, a shipping canal paralleling the Grand Rhône from Arelate to the sea. In 46 BC, Roman legion veterans were settled here, in a large territory taken from the Salyen tribe and from Massalia. At this time, Arelate became Colonia sextanorum, and later Arles. Caesar used local shipyards for building warships to fight against Massalia in 49 BC. The port brought prosperity to Arles during the reign of Augustus, and by the time of Constantine (306-337) it was the second capital of the Empire. Ausonius called it "the little Rome of Gaul".
Medieval: Barbarian invasions from the 5th to 9th centuries were devastating, and Arles didn't recover until Charlemagne's empire, when it became the capital of an independent state, the Kingdom of Arles. In 1521, Arles was permanently attached to the Comté de Provence.
Office de Tourisme
Esplanade des Lices
Tel : 04 90 18 41 20; Fax: 04 90 93 17 17
Tel: 0490 49 36 36; Fax: 0490 49 36 79
Every Wed, Sat - Market day, Bvd des Lices
Every March - Carnaval - Bvd des Lices
Every Apr - La Feria Pascale: Corridas and events (Easter weekend)
Every May - Jazz in Arles, week of Jazz au Méjean; 21h
Every May - La Fête des Gardians; Election de la Reine d'Arles
Every June - Les Fetes d'Arles (June-July) - June 23, feux de la Saint Jean (fireworks)
1st half July - Les Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie - Evenings at the Theatre Antique (photos, dances, etc)
Every Sep - Bulls - Feria des Prémices du Riz (corridas, animations tauromachiques); Corso (parade); Fêtes des Prémices du Riz (Rice festival)
Every Winter - International Salon des Santonniers (Dec-Jan)
Olive Oil Mills (List of Mills - 13)
Bastidettes Domaine - Domaine Les Bastidettes
Location: Mas Thibert
Tel: 0490 987 135
Olive oil and olives available.
La Cravenco Mill - La Cravenco Cravenco
Location: Route d'Eyguières, D33
Tel: 0490 965 082
Olive oil and olives available.
The Arles-Camargue airport is only 20 km from the center, close to Nîmes.
For the Marseille airport: Arles-Marseille train (1 hr); Marseille railway station and airport shuttle bus (20 min).
Arles, Nîmes Bus
Frequent service is available for the links Arles - Camargue Airport, and Carmargue Airport - Nîmes.
Arles, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer Bus
There are several buses a day between Arles and Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. The trip takes one hour.
Bus line schedules for the Bouches-du-Rhone department are available from the www.lepilot.com website, section Les Réseau - CARTREIZE, subsection Infos/Téléchargement. Click on Fiches-horaires du réseau CARREIZE for a linked list of the bus lines (http://www.lepilote.com/presentation/?rub_code=1010&thm_id=11705&gpl_id=&part_id=10).
Arles, St-Remy-de-Provence Bus
Line 59 (of the Bouches-du-Rhône bus company LePilot) connects Arles with Les Baux-de-Provence and St-Rémy-de-Provence. There are about 6 buses a day between Arles and St-Rémy. The trip takes 50 minutes.
Bus line schedules for the Bouches-du-Rhone department are available from the www.lepilot.com website, section Les Réseau - CARTREIZE, subsection Infos/Téléchargement.
Click on Fiches-horaires du réseau CARREIZE for a linked list of the bus lines
- click on Line 59 for the schedule (PDF file). [http://www.lepilote.com/ftp/FR_documents/FH0059.pdf]
Arles, Tarascon, Avignon Bus
There are about 8 buses a day between Arles (gare SNCF), Tarascon (gare SNCF), Avignon (TGV station) and Avignon town (bus station - gare routière). The trip is 1 hour from Arles to Avignon.
Department 13, Bouches-du-Rhône Buses
See Beyond's Bouches-du-Rhone (13) Bus Schedules for downloading Bouches-du-Rhone bus-lines map and bus-line schedules [pdf for each line] (link for PDF files).
The TGV station at Nîmes (30 km) has direct trains to Paris.
There is train service between the Arles railway station and the Marseille St Charles railway station; journey time: under an hour.
Arles-Avignon train: travel time 1 hr.
Avignon-Arles river cruises.
Location: Avignon-Arles river cruises.;
Tel: 0490 856 225
4x4 (Jeep) tours of the Camargue, departing from Arles, Aigues-Mortes, Le Grau-du-Roi, Port Camargue or La Grande Motte. All year, by reservation.
Location: 24, rue Porte de Laure; 13200 Arles
Safari 4x4 Gallon
4x4 (Jeep) tours of the Camargue, departing from Arles or Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.
Also horseback tours, ferrades, and farmhouse dining.
Location: Mazet de la Montlong - Villeneuve; 13 200 Arles
Entry: Safari 4x4 per person: 1h30 €20, 2h30 €33, 3h30 €48 (2012)
Tel: 0490 936 031; Fax: 04 90 96 31 55
Maeva latitudes Camargue
Location: Quart Fourchon Mas de Véran
Tel: 0490 184 949
Arles is surrounded by river, marshlands and the Camargue, and offers none of the typical Beyond hiking trails. Visiting the sites in and around Arles, including the many fine Roman locations, will give you hours of exercise. The "Camargue" map includes the area around Arles.
The GR 653 (Grande Randonnée) trail runs west from St Gilles, 16 km west of Arles. The Alpilles mountains, with the GR 6 trail is only 20 km northeast, and the Luberon mountains are about 50 km east-northeast of Arles.
Three different self-guided walking tours are available for discovering Arles. Colored icons and arrows on the sidewalks direct you through the town: yellow for Van Gogh; green for Medieval; blue for Antique Arles.
We don't visit Arles every year, and don't get a chance to dine there often enough, so our tips for dining aren't kept up-to-date. This should, however, give you an idea of the choices available in this lovely old town.