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Only Rome, ancient capital of the empire, can boast more Roman monuments than the city of Arles. Stretching beside the Grand Rhône river, it was in its time the region’s major Roman settlement, eclipsing Marseille as a port for the transit of goods to and from the Italian peninsula, across the Mediterranean. Must-sees are the largely intact theater, which could accommodate up to 12,000 spectators, and Les Arènes, the even grander amphitheater, capable of seating up to 20,000 spectators. They’re the venue for bullfights and mock gladiatorial combats, each mercifully blood-free in today’s less gory times. Arles’ other claim to historical fame ...

Only Rome, ancient capital of the empire, can boast more Roman monuments than the city of Arles. Stretching beside the Grand Rhône river, it was in its time the region’s major Roman settlement, eclipsing Marseille as a port for the transit of goods to and from the Italian peninsula, across the Mediterranean. Must-sees are the largely intact theater, which could accommodate up to 12,000 spectators, and Les Arènes, the even grander amphitheater, capable of seating up to 20,000 spectators. They’re the venue for bullfights and mock gladiatorial combats, each mercifully blood-free in today’s less gory times. Arles’ other claim to historical fame is much more recent: it was here that Vincent Van Gogh, entranced by the light and bright colors of Provence, painted some of his most famous canvases. It’s a seriously fun-loving town where festivals, such as the Feria Pascale around Easter time and July’s two-week long Fêtes d’Arles, figure large. At the northern tip of the Camargue, it’s also the perfect base for exploring this haunting wetland’s mix of rice paddy, salt pans and marsh.

Miles Roddis
About the Expert

Miles Roddis has written or contributed to more than 50 Lonely Planet titles including country and regional guides to Spain, France, their Mediterranean island offshoots — and little Andorra.

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Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Easter, June, July and September