Arles is a historic city located in the southern region of Provence, France. It has a long and fascinating history that spans from ancient times to the present day.

The History Of Arles

Ancient Arles: The area around Arles was inhabited by Celtic tribes before the Roman conquest. In the 2nd century BC, the Romans established a colony called Arelate, which later became a major Roman city known as Arles. It played a significant role as a trading and administrative centre, especially due to its strategic location along the Rhône River.

Roman Period: During Roman rule, Arles flourished as an important port city and a centre for trade and commerce. The city was known for its impressive architecture, including the Amphitheatre of Arles (Arènes d’Arles), which is one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world. The Roman theatre, baths, and other structures also reflected the city’s prominence.

Christianity and Late Antiquity: Arles became an important Christian centre in the late Roman period. The city hosted several church councils, including the Council of Arles in the 4th century, which discussed theological and administrative matters within the Christian church.

Medieval Era: After the fall of the Roman Empire, Arles went through a period of instability and change. It became part of various kingdoms and empires, including the Visigothic Kingdom and the Carolingian Empire. In the medieval period, Arles remained a centre of culture, trade, and religious influence. The Church of St. Trophime, with its Romanesque architecture and intricate sculptures, is a notable example of medieval art and architecture in the city.

Camargue and Renaissance: Arles is located near the Camargue region, known for its unique landscapes and traditions. During the Renaissance, the city experienced economic growth through trade and agriculture. However, it also faced challenges such as political conflicts and outbreaks of plague.

Modern Era: In the 19th century, Arles gained prominence in the art world when it attracted many painters, including Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh’s time in Arles resulted in some of his most famous works, inspired by the local landscapes and vibrant colours of the region.

20th Century to Present: Arles continued to evolve as a cultural destination, known for its historical sites, art exhibitions, and festivals. The city’s rich history, architecture, and natural surroundings have made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site, designated for its Roman and Romanesque monuments, as well as its archaeological importance.

Today, Arles remains a picturesque city that beautifully blends its ancient Roman heritage with its medieval and modern influences. Its historic sites, art scene, and connection to Vincent van Gogh attract visitors from around the world, making it a captivating destination in the south of France.

Arles Things To See And Do

Arles is a charming city and offers a variety of attractions to explore. Here are some of the things to see and do in Arles:

Amphitheatre of Arles (Arènes d’Arles): Explore the well-preserved Roman amphitheatre, which once hosted gladiatorial contests and other events. It’s one of the most iconic historical sites in Arles.

Church of St. Trophime: Admire the Romanesque architecture and intricate sculptures of this medieval church. The cloister features beautifully carved columns and capitals.

Van Gogh Sites: Follow in the footsteps of Vincent van Gogh, who spent time in Arles and was inspired to create many famous paintings here. Visit places like the Café Terrace at Night and the Yellow House, which he depicted in his art.

Roman Theatre of Arles: Discover the remains of the Roman theatre, which could accommodate up to 10,000 spectators. Though much of it has been lost, the site still offers a glimpse into the city’s ancient past.

Cryptoporticus of Arles: Explore the underground galleries known as the Cryptoporticus, part of a Roman building complex. These galleries served as a foundation and storage area.

Les Alyscamps: Walk along this ancient Roman necropolis, which inspired many artists, including van Gogh. The long tree-lined avenue is dotted with tombs and sarcophagi.

Museum of Ancient Arles (Musée départemental Arles antique): Learn more about Arles’ history and its Roman heritage through a collection of artifacts, including sculptures, mosaics, and everyday objects.

Vincent van Gogh Foundation: Visit this museum dedicated to the life and work of Vincent van Gogh. It features exhibitions and interpretations of his art and time in Arles.

Espace Van Gogh: This former hospital is where van Gogh was treated after cutting off his ear. The building’s gardens and architecture are still evocative of the artist’s time.

The Camargue: Take a short trip outside of Arles to explore the Camargue region, known for its unique landscapes, wildlife, and traditions. Look for the famous Camargue horses and pink flamingos.

Walking Tours: Join guided walking tours to learn about the city’s history, architecture, and art. These tours often cover the major sites and provide interesting insights.

Festivals and Events: Check if any festivals or events are happening during your visit. Arles hosts various cultural events, including photography festivals and traditional celebrations.

Local Cuisine: Enjoy the Provencal cuisine of Arles. Try local dishes like bull stew, ratatouille, and a variety of cheeses. You can also explore local markets for fresh produce and specialties.

Rhône River: Take a leisurely stroll along the banks of the Rhône River, enjoying the views and the relaxing atmosphere.

Arles offers a blend of history, art, and cultural experiences that make it a captivating destination for river cruise guests interested in exploring the unique heritage of this Provençal city.

Sailings Featuring Arles

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