Situated on the Grand Rhone River, the picturesque city of Arles first flourished in the 1st century, when Julius Caesar’s army pillaged Marseilles, leaving Arles as the major port in the region.
Today, Arles draws architecture buffs to see its many eras of buildings, including a 20,000-seat amphitheatre and a 12,000-seat theatre built by the Roman settlers. Both of these structure are still used today; the Roman amphitheatre stages numerous events each year, including Arles' infamous férias (bullfights). Many of the city’s Roman relics have also been identified as culturally significant, with several being classed as part of a World Heritage site.
Thanks to Arles’ location on the Rhone, the gateway to Spanish culture, there is also a touch of Spain in the city’s food, architecture and entertainment.
Vincent Van Gogh famously resided in Arles for a year in 1888, detailing the beauty of the city and surrounding countryside in many of his paintings, including ‘Starry Starry Night’. Visitors to the city will find several galleries, museums and walking tours dedicated to Van Gogh’s time in Arles.
A popular feature on many European cruise itineraries, Arles is often visited by cruise lines such as Avalon Waterways, APT and Viking River Cruises.
Cruise ships dock at Arles Port, Zone Portuaire on the Chemin Des Segonnaux.
Facilities near the port in Arles include:
- Tourist information centres
- Public toilets
- Restaurants and cafés
- Souvenir stores
- Bank and ATMs
- Medical centre and pharmacy
- Post office.
How To Get Around
Most of Arles is within an easy walk. Free minibuses (called Starlets) take a circular route around the Old Town every 25 minutes. Another option is the ‘Petit Train’, a train-like bus with open carriages that runs a circular route throughout the old city. The 40-minute ride takes in all the main sites with an audio commentary in several languages (including English).
Travel times from the port:
- It is a 30 minute journey to the Old Town.
- It is a 6 minute journey to Musee Reattu
- It is a 7 minute journey to Les Arenes
- It is an 8 minute journey to Foundation Vincent van Gogh
- It is a 20 minute journey to Nîmes-Alès-Camargue-Cévennes Airport.
- It is an 8 minute journey to Musee Reattu
- It is a 9 minute journey to Les Arenes
- It is a 10 minute journey to Foundation Vincent van Gogh.
- Currency – The currency in Arles is the Euro (€). Notes come in €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200, and €500 denominations. Coins come in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent and €1 and €2 denominations.
- Time Zone – Arles follows Central European Time (CET), which is 1 hour ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC); daylight savings changes Arles to 2 hours ahead of UTC between March and October.
- Weather – Arles enjoys a warm Mediterranean climate, with relatively dry summers and mild winters for Western Europe. July is the hottest month in Arles, with temperatures averaging at 25 degrees Celsius. January is the coolest month, with temperatures averaging at around 7 degrees Celsius.
- Foundation Vincent van Gogh – With a Van Gogh theme, this gallery is as beautiful outside as it is within. The contemporary architecture is stunning; don’t miss the rooftop terrace and the ceiling of the bookshop, which is a kaleidoscope of coloured glass. The gallery hosts several temporary exhibitions throughout the year promoting Van Gogh’s heritage. Each exhibition includes at least one Van Gogh masterpiece and work from contemporary artists created in homage to the great master painter.
- Les Arenes – Constructed in the 1st century, this stunning amphitheatre seats 20,000 people. Like similar structures in the Roman Empire, it hosted chariot races, sporting events and fights between gladiators or gladiators and wild animals. Today, the amphitheatre is home to outdoor events such as bullfights. In the early medieval period, to fend off invasions, Les Arenes was turned into a fortress with the addition of four defensive towers. For a spectacular view, tourists can climb the uneven, worn steps of the three towers that are still standing. The steps are not suited to people with limited mobility, however, as they are very uneven and worn.
- Musee Reattu – Built into the curve of the Rhone River, this modern art museum is housed in the stunningly renovated Grand Priory of the Knights of Malta from the 15th century. Famous for its Picasso collection, works by Jacques Reattu and modern photographic displays, this museum displays pieces from the 17th century to the present day.