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In the late 1880s, Vincent van Gogh put Arles, a sleepy city in Provence, on the map as he spent just over a year there painting some of his most iconic works. Today, Arles is an important destination that attracts both foreign and local visitors with its cultural events and festivals, ancient ruins, history and architecture.
Arles dates to 123 BC, when the Romans took over and made it a significant city. In 108 BC. they built a canal that stretched to the Mediterranean. Arles reached the peak of its importance in the fourth and fifth centuries, when it became a cultural and religious center and was used by Roman generals as a military headquarters for Europe.
Built by the Romans in 90 AD. the magnificent Arles Amphitheater is the central attraction of Arles. At one point, it held over 20,000 spectators who eagerly came to watch the wagon races and hand-to-hand matches. Inspired by the Colosseum in Rome, the amphitheater measures 358 feet wide and 446 feet long. It has 120 archways plus pallets, galleries and terraces systematically laid out on two levels.
A spectacular new art center, Luma Arles, opens on June 26, 2021. Designed by world-renowned American architect Frank Gehry (the man behind the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain), the tower is made of metal stone. The museum is accompanied by five former industrial buildings. The complex will include exhibition spaces, research facilities, seminar rooms, an auditorium, studios and a café. There is also a 10 hectare park area.
Vincent van Gogh
The Vincent van Gogh Foundation is a foundation dedicated specifically to the art that Van Gogh created when he lived in Arles in 1888 and 1889. In addition to showing original pieces by Van Gogh, the foundation highlights contemporary artists inspired by him in temporary exhibitions that take place a once or twice a year. The new building was built in 2014 and has over 3,000 square meters on two spacious floors.
There are a number of Van Gogh tours you can take in Arles to learn more about the time the painter spent there. The tour takes you down the narrow cobbled streets where Van Gogh lived and painted. You also stop at the shops and cafes he visited regularly.
Les Rencontres d’Arles
The biggest event of the year in Arles is Les Rencontres d’Arles, a photography festival showcasing the work of the best international and French photographers. First held in 1970, the festival now attracts close to 150,000 visitors each year.
During the festival you will find 40 exhibitions located in 30 different rooms around the city. All forms of photography – including portraits, still life photography, abstract photography, urban landscape photography and photojournalism – look great.
Unlike most markets in France, at Arles Market you can bargain at the best price. This lively market is huge with up to 450 vendors on Saturdays. Shop for wonderful local foods like cheese, honey, sausage, jams and jellies and wine plus the most ripe fruits and vegetables from nearby farms and orchards. You will also find household items, baskets, soaps, bedding and clothes with a Provencal design. The market is open Wednesday and Saturday mornings.
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Map and distances
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When you are visiting the city, make use of the local tourist information where you can get free and professional assistance in planning what to see and do during your vacation. At the tourist information you can also get a wide range of brochures and maps of the city and the region for free.
In the following section you can find more local information about the city.
Arles Tourist Information
Office du Tourisme Arles
Boulevard de Lices
T: +33 04 90 18 41 2
Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Tourisme
Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Tourism Board
62-64 La Canebière
13231 Marseille Cedex 01
T: +33 (0)4 91 56 47 00
www: website link
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