Roman treasures, sultry stone squares and a festive atmosphere that reaches crescendo during bullfights makes Arles a seductive stepping stone into the Camargue. And if its colourful sun-baked houses evoke a sense of déjà vu, it’s because you’ve seen them already on a Van Gogh canvas.
Long before the Dutch artist captured starry nights over the Rhône, the Romans had been won over by the charms of the Greek colony Arelate. In 49 BC Arles' prosperity and political standing rose meteorically when it backed a winner in Julius Caesar. After Caesar plundered Marseille, which had supported his rival Pompey the Great, Arles eclipsed Marseille as the region's major port. Soon its citizens were living the high life with gladiator fights and chariot races in magnificent open-air theatres. Still impressively intact, the 12,000-seat theatre and 20,000-seat amphitheatre now stage events including Arles' famous férias, with their controversial lethal bullfights, less bloody courses Camarguaises and three-day street parties.
Arles destination guides
A dream trip for art lovers
So you want to do the Louvre, the Metropolitan, the Hermitage. Okay. You could trot the globe touring the world’s best museums, but for a real art attack head for the great outdoors.
Explore the enchanting villages of Provence at handlebar level
Orange, Les Baux de Provence and Arles Small Group Day Trip
Visit Orange and start with a panoramic tour to discover the Roman Triumphal Arch, a symbol of the Roman imperial glory, and then visit the Antic Theatre (entrance included) one of the best preserved theatres in the Roman Empire with its stage wall intact. Driving tour in the vineyards between Orange and Chateauneuf-du-Pape and stop for a wine tasting in a cellar.
Ultimate art lover's pilgrimages
Art doesn't just live in museums.