Arles, centrally located to visit the Camargue region and southern Luberon.
Fabulous markets, beautiful architecture, and ancient Roman Ruins. #secret
A couple of months ago I began to plan my upcoming visit to France. Arles made it to the top of the list.
As is often the case, I asked my Facebook community to recommend some beautiful places for me to visit on my way to Provence and the Luberon. Quite a few people said Arles and, since I’d never been there and fancied the idea of some Roman architecture, I planned a 4-night stay.
Having just flown in to Nice from Australia, and within minutes of getting off the train, I knew that I was going to love this place! I’m mad about beautiful doorways, crusty shutters, and quiet, paved streets. What surprised me about Arles was the lack of crowds in the old town, despite its loveliness. I arrived in very early May, which doesn’t seem particularly out-of-season to me, but I guess it could be on the very edge of the main tourist season. Yay! Happy-as …
Arles, a beautiful town with picturesque features
Old, cobbled streets, crumbling plaster and stonework, and shutters in the most marvellous array of colours (more varied than I’ve seen anywhere in France). Rusty hinges and fittings, green vines growing like lacework across the facades, and marvellous old doorways leading to secret lives beyond. I'm in heaven. #bliss
If you want a more in-depth look into the colour of Arles, check out my extensive gallery here.
What make Arles particularly unique is the obvious and unusual references to Roman architecture which are evident throughout the town. Magnificent porticos lead to impressive buildings and detailed friezes frame otherwise typical facades. Remnant decorative features are all around you, reminiscent of times gone by. The juxtaposition is everywhere, and it’s just beautiful.
Unesco-listed Heritage sites in Arles
Added to this, Arles has several Unesco-listed Heritage sites which are incredibly impressive and well worth visiting.
The Roman Amphitheatre and Théâtre Antique still function today as public spaces. Bull-fighting in the Ampitheatre and live events in the Théâtre mean that residents and tourists alike can continue to enjoy the incredibly masterful architecture laid down by the Romans two thousand years ago. Extensive restoration over recent years forms a lovely juxtaposition between old and new.
As well, Arles has a marvellous array of restaurants, shops, galleries, and – of course – references to Vincent Van Gogh, who spent more than a year in the town, where he developed an expressive, individual painting style characterised by bold colours and dynamic brushstrokes. A visit to the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh was, however, frustrating. If you go there expecting to see some kind of tribute to the artist, or at least a collection of his works, prepare to be disappointed. The venue is, indeed, a gallery, but for travelling exhibitions – not for the artist after whom it is named. I counted 3 of Van Gogh’s works in-house.
There is also *some graffiti in some areas of the old town which I always find a bit disheartening. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and have never really understood the desire some people have to deface beauty. Still, I got over it and managed to focus on the abundant beauty all around me.
Don't Miss the Saturday and Wednesday Market!
Arles is the gateway to the Camargue region.
The Camargue is an area which is rich in diverse species of birds, insects, and animals, including the famous white horses, black bulls, and divine pink flamingoes.
Rent a car and visit the region as it is renowned for its beauty and wilderness, and is a protected park. However, bear in mind that parking in the old town is not easy, so choose a small car and consider this when booking an apartment or holiday accommodation, or just rent one for the day. Arles is certainly within driving distance of my favourite village of Uzès, and even Lourmarin, Gordes and Menerbes and many more Provincial villages.
I love to stay in Airbnb when I travel, so you can check out the apartment I stayed at here.
But, I don't know why I'm telling you all this. #secret.
I absolutely recommend Arles as a beautiful destination to visit
It's in a *great location for any Camargue, Provence, or Luberon itinerary, it's a gorgeous town to photograph, there's plenty to see and do, and roaming can reward you with quiet moments, utterly alone.
I love travelling in April, May, or early June as the crowds have not yet descended, or September/October, but DO bring comfy lightweight thermals, a woollen cardigan or two and some warm weather gear as it can definitely get chilly! If you are interested, check out my post about Travelling Around the World with an Onboard Bag.
I experienced the infamous #mistral winds for a few days. One day it was, literally, breathtaking. We went out for mere basics, milk, and then never left the apartment for the rest of the day. Thank god for apps, Netflix, and WiFi.
There. I said it out aloud. I love Google.
If you’ve been to Arles and have some tips to share, restaurants to recommend, or places to visit, let us all know in the comments.
10-day Tours to the French Riviera
Small-group Tours for Women staying at Villefranche sûr Mer on the Côte d'Azur
Stay in the *heart* of Villefranche sûr Mer. Discover the Côte d'Azur: the hilltop village of Èze, over-the-top Monaco, gentle Antibes, vieux Nice, artsy St Paul de Vence, and more. Lunch at Beaulieu sur Mer, visit Villa et Jardins de Rothschild and the divine Villa Kerylos, explore medieval Italy, and dine in any of the fabulous restaurants in Villefranche.
Go touring and experience those fabulous Mediterranean views, and have lunch in Italy. Breakfast at the celebrated Welcome Hotel, dine by the harbour, and relax in a beautiful apartment in the old town.