Arles is a town in the Provence region of southern France most famous for its rich Roman history and Vincent Van Gogh. The city boasts 300 days of sunlight, a magical, golden yellow sunlight radiates on the pastel colored buildings.
In the morning, we took the train from Marseilles to Arles, and stayed until sunset. It was the perfect amount of time to leisurely see everything by foot. I wore a white dress with lace (similar here and here), sunglasses (similar here), and brown sandals (sold out, similar here and here). It was the perfect choice of outfit, and I even received a compliment from a French woman on my dress!
While the town is small, there is plenty to do! You can find a variety of ideas below.
During Roman times, Arles was a thriving Roman city for almost 400 years. The amphitheater was built to hold 20,000 people and used for gladiators and chariot racing, much like the Colosseum, in Rome! Today, the theater is in disarray – only two columns are still standing, but it is still used for events like festivals and bull fights.
Saturday morning market
The market is held on Saturday mornings and stretches two kilometers of Boulevard des Lices. This is the perfect place to stock up on French goodies – from goat’s milk to sausage and fresh strawberries. You may even find some vintage furniture to take home!
If you happen to be in Arles on another day, or you arrive too late in the day, a leisurely stroll through the town is a perfect alternative. On our stroll, we stumbled across lavender stores, cute cafes, sun bathing cats, and a plant nursery. You may even find yourself picking up a few baguettes along the way!
Place du Forum
The Place du Forum is most famous from Van Gogh’s”Café Terrace at Night.” That being said, it’s worth visiting for many other reasons, too. During Roman times, the forum was the center of social, political, and religious life. Today, it is a lovely shaded square, perfect for sitting outside at a cafe and having a sip of coffee or wine at one of the many restaurants inside.
Van Gogh Walk
When you visit Arles, you will, no doubt, pass many historical sites like churches and ruins. But there’s one other element that will follow you everywhere on your visit: Vincent van Gogh.
I am a huge fan of this Dutch painter, so naturally, I had to participate in the Van Gogh Walk. This walking tour is mapped out on little easels throughout the town. Each point is one of the many sites where this troubled artist painted, had a drink, or people watched. It’s like a treasure hunt, really.
Espace Van Gogh
Along the walk, you will come across the Espace Van Gogh, the hospital where Van Gogh went after cutting off his ear. Here, he painted around 300 works of art. Entrance is free, and courtyard is definitely worth a visit.
Foundation Van Gogh
The Foundation Van Gogh is a recent addition to the city and is held in a restored 15th-century hotel near the Place du Forum. We found that many places close much earlier in the day than compared to Italy. Unfortunately, Foundation Van Gogh is one of them. I would have loved to go, so make sure to go early in the day!
Cafe Van Gogh
One of the many cafes in Place du Forum is famous because Van Gogh painted “Café Terrace at Night” here in September of 1888. Though it may seem like a surreal experience to have a meal here, today it is more of a tourist trap. I suggest going to any other place in the square, really.
Starry Night Viewpoint
Almost a direct walk from the train station, the Rhone river greeted us on our way into the town. It was here that Van Gogh painted the Starry Night on the Rhone in 1888. My boyfriend and I found it so peaceful and magical to simply sit on the bank of the river here and try to picture the red haired, sunflower loving man painting on a nearby bench.
Sunset on the Rhone
If you only see the Rhone during the day, you are missing out on its magic! Make sure to return in the evening for an oh-so-romantic scene, just as Van Gogh painted in Starry Night on the Rhone.
Most of all, if you go to Arles, make sure you give yourself enough time to take it slow. The sleepiness of the town practically requires it. Plus, there are so many tiny gems you are bound to miss if you rush.