There’s a reason why Provence has inspired so many of France’s most famous painters and writers over the years–this region boasts soft, breathtaking natural beauty and an easygoing atmosphere that will make you sit back, sigh and think, “This is the life.” Arles, one of the most popular destinations in Provence, blends the charm of the French countryside with the rich history of the Roman Empire. As a former Roman city, Arles is home to many Roman ruins, which means you can walk past buildings and relics that are thousands of years old. Whether you come to Arles for the food, for the art, or for the history, you’re sure to fall in love with this beautiful Provencal town–I certainly did.
After spending a week in the French Riviera, I decided to leave the coast for a moment and explore a bit of Provence. To make my impromptu Provence getaway possible, I relied on HotelTonight to book a great last-minute hotel in Arles. For someone like me who loves to keep their travel plans flexible, HotelTonight is a lifesaver. Within minutes on HotelTonight’s app, I had booked a fantastic hotel in central Arles, and I was ready to explore this incredible town.
Whether you seek them out or not, you will certainly stumble upon many Roman ruins during your stay in Arles. I saw so many ruins during my stay, in fact, that by the end of my trip, I actually started to forget just how incredible it was to walk past relics that were thousands of years old. Some of the Roman ruins you should visit during your stay in Arles include the Alyscamps necropolis, the Barbegal aqueduct, and the Arles Arena. This arena is a replica of the Coliseum, and it’s regarded as one of the best Roman arenas still standing. Here, spectators watched gladiator fights and chariot races during Roman times, and it’s such an impressive structure that you shouldn’t visit Arles without checking it out.
If you want to live like the French while in France, you must shop at a market. The Arles Market (Le Marche d’Arles) is a bustling, vibrant marketplace where you can find fresh food from all over France, and specifically from all over Provence. If you like fresh French cheeses, colorful and flavorful fruits, and Provence’s famous herbs and spices, you won’t want to miss the chance to stroll through the Arles Market. Often considered the best market in Provence, the Arles Market is certainly a treat for the senses. Be prepared to walk away with your arms full of fresh French goodies.
As I mentioned before, Arles has been a source of inspiration for some of the world’s most famous artists, most notably Vincent Van Gogh. This renowned painter created over 300 works during his time in Arles, despite the fact that his mental health was suffering during the time (Van Gogh’s infamous ear mutilation occurred in Arles). I wanted to explore the artistic side of this Provencal town, so I visited a handful of museums during my stay, including the Foundation Vincent Van Gogh and the Musee Reattu. If you’re an art lover, you’ll certainly fall head over heels for Arles.
If you want to get out of the city and explore some of the beautiful French countryside, you should visit the Camargue Nature Park. This enormous nature sanctuary spans over 100,000 hectares, and it’s full of wildlife, beautiful scenery and great hiking trails and cycle paths. The Camargue Nature Park extends from the Mediterranean up to Arles, and it’s home to very unique wildlife, such as white horses and even flamingos. Make sure to bring your camera with you to Camargue, because you’ll definitely want to snap some photos of the majestic white horses.
Forum Square was the city center during Roman times, and now this pretty square is a hub of activity and entertainment for modern-day Arles. You may recognize the square from a famous Van Gogh painting, and to this day it’s not hard to see why Van Gogh found this picturesque square a worthy subject. Place du Forum oozes charm, and it’s an idyllic place to grab a bite to eat or sip on a glass of refreshing rosé in the afternoon.
Provence is a place that allows you to forget about your worries and stress, because the arid climate, the dramatic scenery and the oceans of lavender and grapes make you feel as if you’ve found heaven on earth. I wasn’t able to stay in Arles as long as I would have liked, but I did get a great sense of the culture and the energy of this Provencal town. I know for certain I will be back to Provence one day, and when that time comes you can bet that I’ll rely on HotelTonight to help me find a great last-minute hotel in Arles.