Arles is a commune, sub-prefecture of the Bouches-du-Rhône department, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, France. The city, capital of the district of Arles, is the largest commune in metropolitan France – is has approximately 75,893 hectares (despite several successive deductions) and the most populous in the Camargue.

The city is crossed by the Rhône.

This city, whose inhabitants are called Arlésiens, is more than 2,500 years old. Remarkable monuments were built during Antiquity in the Roman era, such as the ancient theater, the arenas, the Alyscamps, the baths of Constantine and the Roman circus. In 2004, an ancient boat, dating from ancient Rome, was discovered in the Rhône, between the two bridges of the city. Today, it is exhibited at the departmental museum of ancient Arles, which was enlarged due to its discovery and its exhibition. In 2007, a marble bust resembling Julius Caesar was discovered in the Rhône and also exhibited in the same museum. Due to its important heritage, the city is classified as a City of Art and History, and, since 1981, UNESCO has included its Roman and Romanesque monuments on the World Heritage List.

Open to tourism – the city’s biggest draw – it hosts numerous festivities throughout the year: the Feria d’Arles in April and September, the International Photography Meetings, the Suds, Arelate, the Festival du drawing and, in the winter, the Calend’Arles.

The town has won two flowers in the competition for towns and villages in bloom, as well as three dragonflies in the nature towns label.

Arles played a major role in Marseille-Provence 2013, the year-long series of cultural events held in the region after it was designated the European Capital of Culture for 2013. The city hosted a segment of the opening ceremony, with a pyrotechnical performance on the banks of the Rhône, by Groupe F. It also unveiled the new wing of the Musée Départemental Arles Antique as part of Marseille-Provence 2013.

Tourism and main attractions

Arles is a city of art and history. A dozen monuments are included on the 1840 list drawn up by Prosper Mérimée. A large number of the monuments were protected from the first half of the 20th century. As of January 1, 2006, in the territory of Arles, there are 44 classified historic monuments and 48 monuments listed in the supplementary inventory. The vast majority of these buildings are located in the historic center.

The Roman and Romanesque monuments of Arles have been included on the UNESCO world heritage list since 1981, as well as 65 hectares of the city center.

Campaigns to clear the main Gallo-Roman sites in the 18th and 19th centuries and, more recently, underwater archaeological excavations carried out in the Rhône in 2007. These led to the discovery of remarkable Roman marble sculptures; notably, in the ruins of the theater, a bust of Augustus as Apollo and two Aphrodites, the head of Arles, the Venus of Arles, a realistic bust of Julius Caesar, a Neptune in the Rhône and unpublished testimonies of the rich ancient past of the city.

Among main Roman sights:

  • The Roman Theatre of Arles
  • The arena or amphitheatre
  • The Alyscamps (Roman necropolis)

  • The Thermae of Constantine
  • The cryptoporticus
  • Arles Obelisk
  • Barbegal aqueduct and mill.

Arles’ religious heritage includes numerous buildings and remains, from the Roman era until the 18th century, a large part of what is classified as historic monuments (CMH) or listed in the inventory of historic monuments (IIMH); some are also listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites (PMU).

Main religious buildings in Arles:

  • Saint-Césaire Abbey and paleo-Christian basilica, the oldest buildings and religious remains in the city
  • Church of the Major
  • Saint-Césaire Church
  • Saint-Julien Church
  • Saint-Trophime Cathedral and its cloister
  • Commanderie Sainte-Luce
  • Priory hospital, today become the Réattu museum
  • Dominican Church
  • Sainte-Anne Church

Arlesian private heritage essentially includes private mansions, most of which were built during the Renaissance or classical period. A large part of these buildings are classified as historic monuments (CMH) or listed in the inventory of historic monuments (IIMH).

Main buildings of Arlesian private heritage:

  • Hotel Laval Castellane, formerly a Jesuit college, today Museon Arlaten
  • Hôtel Courtois de Langlade, today the headquarters of the Arles sub-prefecture
  • Hôtel Quiqueran de Beaujeu, today the National School of Photography
  • Rotonde, initially a club of the Arlesian nobility, transformed into a Protestant temple
  • Hotel Barrême de Manville
  • Trinquetaille glassworks, a rare example of 18th century industrial architecture.


The town also has a museum of ancient history, the Musée de l’Arles et de la Provence Antiques, with one of the best collections of Roman sarcophagi to be found anywhere outside Rome itself. Other museums include the Musée Réattu and the Museon Arlaten.

The courtyard of the Old Arles Hospital, now named “Espace Van Gogh,” is a center for the works of Vincent van Gogh, several of which are masterpieces. The garden, framed on all four sides by buildings of the complex, is approached through arcades on the first floor. A circulation gallery is located on the first and second floors.

The LUMA Tower is a 56-meter-tall construction and the center of the LUMA Arles Arts Center.

Arles is the only French commune to have five natural reserves completely or partially on its territory:
• Camargue National Nature Reserve
• Coussouls de Crau National Nature Reserve
• Vigueirat Marshes National Nature Reserve
• Ilon regional nature reserve
• Tour du Valat regional nature reserve.


Arles’s open-air street market, which takes place on Saturday and Wednesday mornings, is one of the biggest and most popular in the region.


Arlesian and Camargue cuisines have always been influenced by their environment, the Rhône delta; in particular, Camargue cuisine has long evolved in isolation, based on local products. Nonetheless, it evolved over the centuries, with the arrival of edible products from the New World, the contribution of rice cultivation from the Camargue and bullfighting.

Among its main dishes are: Arles sausage, grilled bull meat, beef gardianne, eel catigot, tomme d’Arles (sheep’s cheese that, depending on its maturation, bears the names Arlésienne, Lou Gardian or Lou Pastre), fricot des barques and the broufade.


The Gare d’Arles Railway Station offers connections to Avignon, Nîmes, Marseille, Paris, Bordeaux and several regional destinations.

Arles does not have its own commercial airport, but is served by a number of airports in the region, most notably the major international airport of Marseille Provence, approximately an hour’s drive away.

The A54 autoroute toll motorway – which locally connects Salon-de-Provence with Nîmes and, in a wider sense, forms part of European route E80 – passes by Arles.

The Rhône, which, for navigation purposes, is classified as a Class V waterway as far upstream as Lyon, is a historically important transport route connecting the inland Rhône-Alpes region with the Mediterranean Sea.

How to get to and shortest distances?

From Paris: 7 hr 18 min (746 km) via A6 and A7

From Toulouse: 3 hr 11 min (317 km) via A61 and A9

From Marseille: 1 hr 19 min (92.8 km) via A7 and A54

From Monaco: 3 hr 10 min (273 km) via A8

From Andorra: 5 hr (406 km) via A9

From Madrid: 9 hr 54 min (1,021 km) via A-2

From Moscow: 34 hr (3,257 km) via E30/M1

From Belgrade: 15 hr 43 min (1,576 km) via E70

From Istanbul: 26 hr (2,525 km) via E70

From Bern: 5 hr 48 min (589 km) via A1

Main information

Area: 758,93 km2

Population: 50 415

Coordinates: 43°40′36″N 4°37′40″E

Language: French

Currency: Euro

Visa: Schengen

Time: Central European UTC +1

See here France travel guide

See here Spain travel guide

See here Pyrenees travel guide

See here Andorra travel guide

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