Located on the River Rhône in the south of France, Arles was once home to Vincent van Gogh, who valued the quality of the light and became fascinated with the Provençal landscapes. The town retains an artistic culture, hosting an annual photography festival and housing the national school of photography. Arles has a rich history and Roman architecture, such as the amphitheatre, is popular with tourists. The scenic riverside was once a busy port, but now visitors can stroll the riverbanks or take a leisurely boat excursion. The pleasant mild climate, plentiful attractions, and beautiful landscape combine to make Arles an ideal destination at any time of year.
Location: Travelling to Arles
Situated in the south of France, the nearest international airports are the Marseille Provence Airport and the Méditerranée Airport in Montpellier. These are both around 80 kilometres from Arles, and each has regular train services to the town. It is easy to traverse Arles on foot, but for longer excursions, there are buses, taxis, and bicycle hire.
Business: Former River Port
Arles was a major port town on the River Rhône until the expansion of the railway networks during the nineteenth century. Following this, the town’s economic prominence diminished. Agriculture and tourism are now the main industries. The town is home to the headquarters of French publishing house Actes Sud. The twice-weekly open-air street market is one of the largest in the region.
Culture: Inspirational to Artists
Arles has an artistic heritage, and is home to the country’s National School of Photography. The town is also host to the annual Rencontres d'Arles photography festival. For a short period during the late nineteenth century, Vincent van Gogh inhabited Arles. His residence was extremely productive, and he created over 300 paintings and drawings during his stay. These works include some of his most famous, such as ‘The Night Café and ‘Starry Night over the Rhône’. Sadly, his mental health deteriorated and during a visit from his friend, fellow artist Paul Gauguin, the famous ear-severing incident took place. Although his house has been destroyed, visitors can see some of the places van Gogh painted at, including Place du Forum and Les Alyscamps.
Activities: Historic Architecture
There are numerous Roman attractions to explore, including the amphitheatre, where Provençal-style and Spanish-style bullfights are held intermittently. The former cathedral, the Church of St. Trophime, was constructed between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries, and is also popular with visitors. Local history can be further explored in the town’s museums. The open-air street market is held on Saturdays and Wednesday mornings, and it is a great place to find souvenirs and local produce.