Things to Do in Arles, France

posted by Sharon Odegaard 3 Comments
Arles View from Amphitheater

Arles lies in the heart of the picturesque Provence region of southern France. Steeped in history, Arles beckons you to visit and enjoy its rich tapestry of Roman ruins, Van Gogh’s inspirations, and vibrant Provençal culture. You’ll easily find a day’s worth of things to do in Arles. And the town’s cobblestone streets, historical architecture, riverside walks, gardens, and cafes all make for a memorable visit.

People often visit Arles because they are entranced with Vincent Van Gogh’s art. Van Gogh famously spent 16 months in Arles, producing about 300 paintings here. He was captivated by the light and rustic charm of Arles. He painted some of his most iconic works, including “Starry Night Over the Rhône” and “The Yellow House.” Today, visitors can follow in the footsteps of the legendary artist, tracing his legacy through the quaint cafes, bustling marketplaces, and sun-drenched landscapes that inspired him.

Read on for things to do in Arles as well as practical information. This enchanting town will live in your memory long after your visit.

Explore the Arles Amphitheater

In the heart of Arles, amidst the charming cobblestone streets and sun-drenched squares, you can’t miss a majestic relic of ancient Roman glory: The Arles Amphitheatre. This iconic structure, dating back to the 1st century AD, is an imposing monument to the past. And just the fact that it’s still standing is a living testament to Roman engineering.Arles Roman Amphitheater

If you arrive by train, a walk down the street into town takes you right into this huge structure. Built to accommodate more than 20,000 spectators, the amphitheater was once the center of entertainment in Arles. Here, people came to see gladiator battles, chariot races, and theatrical performances that captivated audiences.Arles Roman Amphitheater

Today, the Arles Amphitheater is remarkably well-preserved. You go up the stairs off the street and step through ancient portals. You’re immediately surrounded by large stone arches and empty corridors.Arles Roman Amphitheater columns

Arles Roman Amphitheater

Be sure to go to the highest tiers inside for a breathtaking view of Arles and the surrounding countryside.Arles View from Amphitheater

Find other Roman sites in Arles

 In addition to the amphitheater, Arles boasts several other Roman ruins worth exploring. These include the Roman Theater (Théâtre Antique), the Cryptoporticus, and the Alyscamps, an ancient Roman necropolis.

I spent a long time in the well-preserved ruins of the Roman Theater, which is something like a smaller Roman Forum.Arles Roman Forum

Arles Roman ForumWith seating for thousands of spectators, the theater was once the epicenter of cultural life in Arles. It hosted theatrical productions, musical performances, and philosophical debates.

Notice the intricately carved stone reliefs decorating the stage. And take in the sweeping views of the surrounding landscape from its highest tiers.

The theater today is a vibrant cultural venue. Throughout the year, it plays host to a diverse array of events and performances. Everything from classical concerts to Shakespearean plays to film screenings bring the theater to life in the modern world.

Search out Van Gogh sites

Arles is closely associated with the famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, who spent 16 months here and produced more than 300 paintings and drawings during that time. You can visit sites like the “Yellow House” where he lived and the “Café Terrace at Night” depicted in one of his paintings.

Some Van Gogh highlights in Arles include:

The Yellow House: Step into the world of Van Gogh as we visit the iconic “Yellow House,” the artist’s humble abode during his time in Arles. Discover the scenes that inspired some of his most famous works, including “The Bedroom” and “Starry Night Over the Rhône.”

Café Terrace at Night: Explore the charming Café Terrace depicted in Van Gogh’s eponymous painting, where the artist found solace and inspiration amidst the hustle and bustle of Arlesian nightlife.

The Langlois Bridge: Experience the beauty of the Langlois Bridge immortalized in Van Gogh’s paintings. In Arles, the artist found solace in the tranquil waters and peaceful surroundings.

The Visitors Center provides a map so you can find the Van Gogh sites on your own. You can choose just a few sites if your time is limited. Find more information on this pedestrian path on the website.

At many sites, a copy of a Van Gogh painting is propped on an easel. You can compare the scenery with the painting. My favorite was a local garden.Van Gogh painting of gardens in ArlesVan Gogh's site of panting gardensVan Gogh's site of painting gardens in Arles

While I used the pedestrian map, I left Arles a bit disappointed that I hadn’t located more of the Van Gogh sites. If I returned, I would book a tour in English so I wouldn’t get lost and miss some of the sites. I would choose a tour by Viator.

Appreciate the architectural beauty of St. Trophime Church

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture. Notice the intricate carvings on its façade and the cloister with its finely sculpted columns.St. Trophime Church ArlesSt. Trophime Church Arles

Walk along the Rhône River

A leisurely stroll along the banks of the Rhône River will give you scenic views of the water, bridges, and surrounding landscape. And it’s so peaceful to spend time just wandering through the cobblestone lanes. Arles is small enough that you can’t get too lost as you wander.Rhone River Arles France

Get a cultural fix at the Musee Reattu

Housed in a former priory, the Musee Reattu showcases a diverse collection of artworks. These include paintings, sculptures, and photographs by artists like Picasso, Man Ray, and Réattu himself.

These are just a few highlights of things to do in Arles. The town’s charming streets, squares, and cafes also invite you to simply wander and soak up its Provencal atmosphere.

Getting to Arles by train

I traveled to Arles by train from Avignon, which I stayed in as my base for travel in this region.  The train is a convenient and efficient way to explore the towns around Avignon.

Note that Avignon has two main train stations: Avignon Centre (also known as Avignon Central) and Avignon TGV. Most trains between Avignon and Arles depart from Avignon Centre, which is located in the city center. Buy your tickets in advance either online or at the station. The journey from Avignon to Arles is 20 to 30 minutes by train.

Once you arrive, it’s a short walk, maybe about 10 minutes, from the station into the center of Arles.

I use Trainline for train travel in Europe.

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If you prefer to rent a car to tour around Provence, I can highly recommend Auto Europe.
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Where to stay in Arles

If you plan to stay in Arles, you have a variety of accommodation options to choose from, ranging from luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels. Here are a few recommendations for different types of travelers:

L’Hôtel Particulier: This upscale hotel is located in a beautifully restored 18th-century mansion, offering luxurious rooms, a serene garden, and personalized service.

 Le Cloître Arles: Set within a former 16th-century convent, the elegant Le Cloître Arles features stylish rooms, a courtyard with a swimming pool, and a gourmet restaurant.

 Hotel du Forum: This boutique hotel in the heart of Arles offers comfortable rooms with contemporary décor, a cozy courtyard, and a popular restaurant serving regional cuisine.

 Le Loft des Quais: Enjoy a unique stay in this stylish loft apartment overlooking the Rhône River. It features modern amenities, a fully equipped kitchen, and a terrace with panoramic views.

Hostellerie de la Source: This budget-friendly hotel offers simple yet comfortable rooms at affordable rates. It’s located just a short walk from the town center and provides basic amenities for a pleasant stay.

 Where to eat in Arles

 Arles offers a variety of restaurants, bistros, and cafes serving traditional Provencal cuisine as well as contemporary dishes inspired by local flavors. You can find a café as you stroll through the town. Or plan ahead for a fancy dinner. Here are some recommended places to eat in Arles:

Le Gibolin: Located in the heart of Arles, Le Gibolin is a Michelin-rated bistro known for its creative cuisine and warm hospitality. The menu changes regularly to showcase seasonal ingredients, and the wine list offers a selection of local and regional wines.

 Le 16 Café: Located near the Place du Forum, Le 16 Café is a popular spot for brunch, lunch, or a casual dinner. The menu features a range of options, from salads and sandwiches to burgers and pizza, as well as a selection of cocktails and craft beers.

 La Chassagnette: For a truly special dining experience, consider visiting La Chassagnette, a Michelin-starred restaurant located just outside Arles. Set in a beautiful garden, the restaurant offers a gourmet menu showcasing organic produce grown on-site.

 La Charcuterie Arlésienne: This traditional charcuterie shop is a must-visit for food lovers. Sample a variety of cured meats, cheeses, and other local specialties. Or pick up some picnic supplies for a day of exploring the countryside.

Red shutters on a cobblestone street in Arles, France

Wander the cobblestone streets of Arles, and you can’t help but feel transported back in time. The town’s ancient Roman heritage includes iconic landmarks like the Arles Amphitheatre and the Roman Theatre. You can easily imagine tales of gladiator battles, chariot races, and the illustrious figures who once walked this town. You will find cultural and historical things to do. And you can always sit in a café and soak in the atmosphere. You will likely decide you must someday return to this quaint town to explore more of this treasure of Provence.

Learn more about nearby Avignon and Lyon.


Arles France and Rhone River

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Sonia at

I always enjoying visiting Roman sights. Arles looks like a great opportunity to do that–thanks for the tips.

Under flowery sky at

Never heard of Arles and Van Gogh’s inspiration here, the town looks so picturesque.

Kelleyn Rothaermel at

Beautiful city! Looks like it is about my speed! Have a wonderful weekend wherever your adventures take you!


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