Long after the Romans left their mark on the city’s well-preserved historic center, Van Gogh drew inspiration for his paintings from the pastoral terrain.
Imbued with history and Provençal traditions, Arles offers opportunities for glorious vacation days. Its historic center has Roman remains, while the bucolic, leafy outskirts were once a fountain of inspiration for artist Vincent van Gogh. Imagine how the Romans lived and see the world through the eyes of a Dutch master in this quaint and picturesque town.
To learn about the artist’s connection to the town, follow the Van Gogh Walking Tour. Pick up a map from the tourist office and head to the Espace Van Gogh, a majestic 16th-century hospital, where he was committed after cutting off his earlobe in 1888. Notice how the courtyard resembles his artwork, Le Jardin de l’Hôtel de Dieu. The site has a library, café and exhibition space.
Check out exhibits in the Fondation Van Gogh, which provides information about the Dutch master and showcases artists who have adopted his style. At the Place du Forum, see the café terrace that was the subject of his painting and sit beside the Langlois Bridge known as Pont Van Gogh, another frequent subject.
Head back farther in time in the historic center, whose crowning jewel is Les Arènes. The site is a partially restored Roman amphitheater that is still used today for bullfighting and bull racing events. Marvel at the vestiges of the adjacent Théâtre Antique and the Thermes de Constantin.
Relax at a quaint restaurant and enjoy local wines from Nimes with your food. You can also try the anise-flavored pastis spirit, popular in the south of France.
The town is located at the western end of the Bouches-du-Rhône region in southern France. Drive northwest from Marseille for about 60 miles (90 kilometers) to get here in 1 hour. You can also take a train to the Gare d’Arles. Explore the beautiful surroundings and visit nearby towns, such as Montpellier, Nimes and Avignon.
Millennia after the Roman settlement, Arles’ cultural side continues to flourish.