Workaday Arles is a city in search of an economy, and compared to nearby Avignon and Nîmes, it feels unpolished and even a little dirty. But to me, that's part of its charm. Locals display a genuine joie de vivre that’s hard to sense in Arles' larger, more cosmopolitan neighbors. Though largely destroyed by WWII bombs, today Arles thrives again, with its evocative Roman ruins, an eclectic assortment of museums, made-for-ice-cream pedestrian zones, and squares that play hide-and-seek with visitors.
At a Glance
▲▲ Roman Arena This big amphitheater, once used by gladiators, today hosts summer "bullgames" and occasional bullfights.
▲▲ Ancient History Museum Filled with models and sculptures, this museum takes you back to Arles' Roman days.
▲▲ St. Trophime Church Church with exquisite Romanesque entrance.
▲ Forum Square Lively, café-crammed square that was once the Roman forum.
▲ Réattu Museum Decent, mostly modern art collection in a fine 15th-century mansion.
▲ Arlaten Folk Museum Shares the treasures and pleasures of Provençal life from the 18th and 19th centuries. (Closed for renovation until at least 2018.)
▲ Fondation Van Gogh Small gallery with works by major contemporary artists paying homage to Van Gogh.
Cryptoporticos Underground support structure for Roman forum.
Classical Theater Ruined Roman theater, recently restored and still used for events.
Baths of Constantine Remains of Arles' Roman public baths.
La Roquette District Arles' little-visited western fringe, with cafés, bakeries, and bistros.