Last Updated: May 16, 2022
Arles is a beautiful town in the Provencal region of France. Located next to the Rhone river, Arles is steeped in ancient and modern history and offers some incredible sites to see.
From ancient Roman ruins to the places that inspired many of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings, Arles is the perfect place to spend your day getting lost in art and history.
With one day in Arles, you will have plenty of time to visit a few of the Roman monuments, take a Van Gogh walking tour, visit a museum, and wander around the charming streets.
Roman Ruins in Arles
Arles became an important Roman colony in the 1st century BC.
During this time period, many Roman structures were built and several of them are still standing today. You can visit 6 of these monuments, and they are all within walking distance around Arles.
These Roman monuments were recognized as UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1981.
Here is a list of all of the Roman monuments you can visit in Arles:
- Roman amphitheater
- Roman Theater
- Baths of Constantine
- Saint-Trophime Cloister
- The Alyscamps (Roman and medieval graveyard)
If you are in Arles for one day, then you should have time for at least 4 monuments, unless you plan your whole day around seeing the Roman ruins.
Van Gogh in Arles
Vincent Van Gogh spent 14 months in Arles between the years of 1888-1889. He created over 300 paintings during this time where he found inspiration from the Provencal landscapes and Arles itself.
One of my favorite things to do in Arles is the Van Gogh self-guided walking tour. This tour will take you to many famous landmarks, including the cafe from his famous painting “Le Cafe La Nuit.”
You can download the walking tour guide here, or you can pick one up from the tourist office in Arles.
One Day in Arles Itinerary
With one day in Arles, you will have plenty of time to see many of the Roman monuments and Van Gogh sites, as well as a museum or two. Here is a list of some of the best things to do in Arles.
Roman Amphitheater (Arena)
Whether you arrived by train or by car, head over to the Roman Amphitheater and start your day off here.
This arena was built in 90 AD and once held 20,000 spectators. That’s about 30,000 less than the colosseum in Rome to give you an idea of its size – it’s a bit smaller but still an incredible feat no less. Spectators once gathered here for gladiator battles and chariot races.
You’ll notice two towers on either side of the arena. The towers were added on in the 5th century when the arena was transformed into a medieval fortress.
Nowadays, the arena hosts bullfights and theatrical performances.
The Roman Theater sits adjacent to the arena. This theater was built one century before the arena in 1st century BC when Augustus was Emperor.
The Roman theater once held 10,000 people and is used today to host many theatrical and musical events.
Saint – Trophime Cloister
The Saint-Trophime church was completed in the 15th century and is a Roman-Catholic church.
You can visit the cloister inside where it displays incredible sculptures on the columns depicting many biblical scenes.
L’Espace Van Gogh
L’Espace Van Gogh was once a hospital that was made famous by Van Gogh. Van Gogh stayed in this hospital twice after he cut off his ear during a manic episode.
During his stay at the hospital, he painted two artworks – “Garden of the Hospital in Arles” and “Ward of the Hospital in Arles.”
The exterior of the building still looks the same as it did in his painting back in the late 1800s.
The building is now a community center, and the courtyard is open for visitors to walk around and enjoy.
Le Cafe Van Gogh
Make your way to Le Cafe Van Gogh to see the cafe that is in Van Gogh’s “Le Cafe La Nuit.”
The cafe looks almost the same as it did in the painting, so it’s fun to stop by and see it in person.
I personally have not eaten at the cafe and the Google reviews aren’t convincing either, so I can’t recommend eating there. But if you do try it, let us know how it is in the comments.
Fondation Vincent Van Gogh
The Fondation Vincent Van Gogh is a non-profit museum that pays homage to Van Gogh’s life and legacy.
The foundation features many artworks by contemporary artists that were inspired by Van Gogh’s time in Arles. It also features many of Van Gogh’s original paintings.
I really enjoyed my time here and would recommend visiting if you would like to learn more about Van Gogh’s life and see some of his artwork in person while you are in Arles.
Walk Along the Banks of the Rhone River
Arles is situated next to the Rhone River that runs all the way from Switzerland to the Mediterranean Sea.
Take a moment and walk along the banks of the river and enjoy the views.
Wander Through The Streets
The streets of Arles are incredibly charming. One of my favorite activities is to wander around the old streets, visit small shops, grab a pastry or gelato, and just slowly stroll around the town.
I once discovered an art shop tucked at the end of a windy street. I picked up a few art supplies to draw during my time in Provence after being inspired by Van Gogh.
You never know what you’ll discover . . .
The Alyscamps is a Roman and medieval graveyard located about a 10-minute walk from the arena.
This is also a stop on the Van Gogh walking tour since it was the setting for several of his paintings. It’s a beautiful area to walk around and explore history.
The Yellow House
The “yellow house” was the studio and residence of Vincent Van Gogh during his time in Arles. The house is no longer there, but the building that was behind the yellow house in the painting is still there.
The Arles Market
Visiting a market in Provence is a must! The Arles market is open year-round every Wednesday and Saturday morning from 8am – 1pm. The Wednesday market is much smaller and is located on Boulevard Émile-Combes. The Saturday market has a lot more vendors and is located on Boulevard des Lices.
The market is filled with fresh produce, cheeses, meats, olives, food vendors, clothes, and much more. If you have time, I would highly recommend stopping by even just for a moment to experience a market in the South of France!
If you have more time . . .
If you are left with more time on your day in Arles, then here are a few more recommendations for museums and Roman ruins to visit.
- Cryptoporticus – underground passageways dating back to 1st century BC.
- Baths of Constantine – public bath ruins that were originally built in the early 4th century during Constantine’s reign.
- Reattu museum – a fine art museum with contemporary artworks, photography, and drawings by Pablo Picasso
- Arles Antiques Museum -displays many antiques and artifacts from the Roman period in Arles.
Arles Discount Passes
If you plan on visiting several of the Roman monuments and a museum or two, then I would recommend getting one of the Arles discount passes.
There are two passes – Pass Avantage and Pass Liberte.
Pass Avantage – this pass gives you one entry into each of the monuments and 3 museums. Cost: €16
Pass Liberte – this pass gives you entry to 1 museum, 4 monuments, and the Reattu museum. Cost: €12
Note – these passes do not include entry into the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh.
I would recommend the Pass Liberte for one day in Arles. You should have time for 4 monuments plus a museum or two if you go quickly. Each monument costs €4-€6, so you would save money just by visiting the Roman monuments with the pass.
Les Rencontres d’Arles
Les Rencontres d’Arles is an annual photography festival held during the summer months of July – September.
If you are visiting during these months, then you can plan ahead and attend an exhibition, a workshop, or a performance that is held during the festival.
For more information, visit the official website of the event.
How to Get to Arles
By car: Arles is located only 1 hour 15 minutes Northwest of Marseille and 45 minutes South of Avignon. It’s a perfect day trip from one of the larger cities in the area.
By train: Purchase your tickets from OUI SNCF in advance here.
Train from Marseille is 45 minutes to 1 hour and cost around 32 Euros round trip. Train from Avignon is 30 minutes and cost around 17 Euros round trip.
It’s about a 10-minute walk from the train station to the Roman amphitheater (center of town).
Getting Around Arles
Once you are in Arles, it’s easy to walk around. Everything is within a 10-15 minute walk of each other, and the city is so charming you will want to explore the streets as much as you can.
For example, the Roman amphitheater to the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh is only a 7-minute walk.
Arles is one of my favorite towns in Provence with so much history to learn about and art to see. Let us know if you have any questions about your day in Arles or any suggestions in the comments!