Set in the Rhône delta not far from the Mediterranean Sea, Arles is one of the most storied cities of southern France. This is a place that seamlessly blends fabulous Roman ruins and rich art history. The city's warren of narrow streets and squares is easily explored on foot, with plenty of outdoor cafés for lounging and lingering.
What We Love
Al Fresco Entertainment: The bi-level amphitheater, built by the Romans under the rule of Augustus, hosts plays, concerts, and other entertainment during the "starry nights" of the summer months. In season, bullfights are on display during the day.
The Camargue: Home to white stallions and French cowboys, this vast wetland that spreads south from Arles can be accessed by rental car or on guided tours from the city. Horseback riding and bird-watching are among the popular activities in the protected natural area.
Best Known For
Roman Ruins: Arles' crown jewel is one of the best-preserved Roman arenas in the Mediterranean world. There's a bonanza of other ruins too, including baths, a theater, an aqueduct, and a necropolis.
Vincent van Gogh: Arles was the setting for some of this master's most celebrated paintings. A self-guided walking tour leads to 10 of the spots that inspired the impressionist genius to render more than 300 works set here.
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Who It's Best For
Artists: Soak up some of the ambience that inspired Van Gogh, Picasso, and others greats who once upon a time stayed and painted in Arles.
Students of Ancient Rome: From the 1st century B.C. when it gained favor with Julius Caesar until the 5th century A.D., Arles was one of the key cities of Roman Gaul. And it's all on display thanks to the city's endless array of Roman relics.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Blood Sport: The bullfights that take place in the Roman arena during La Feria d'Arles in the spring and fall are Spanish-style — the bull dies at the end.
RePro Nation: Other than the occasional one-off painting at the Fondation Vincent van Gogh (on loan from the his namesake museum in Amsterdam), it's nearly impossible to find a genuine Van Gogh painting in Arles.
Joe Yogerst is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure.