The South of France remains one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world. Seen as the home of the luxury European lifestyle, the region’s hotspots, such as Cannes and Monaco on the French Riviera, attract people from across the globe searching for that fresh blue Mediterranean water. However, what people sometimes don’t realise is that the South of France is home to some fantastic heritage and culture, and if you look west of the Côte d’Azur, you will find this beautiful city just waiting to be discovered.
Nestled between Marseille and Montpellier, along the river Rhône, the city of Arles is a homage to the cultural side of this beautiful region of France. Full of history, beautiful nature and traditional French lifestyle, this is a must for anybody staying in our luxury holiday villas South of France. Even if your stay is short, there is plenty to discover in Arles – just check out our weekend itinerary!
Saturday AM – Experience History at Les Arènes
While the Roman Empire is more synonymous with neighbouring Italy, their history can be spotted across the South of France. Arles was one of the Roman Empire’s most central cities in the region, and evidence of this history is scattered across the city to this day. The most immediate and unmissable example of this is the imposing Roman amphitheatre that sits in the heart of Arles.
Known as Les Arènes, Arles’ ancient theatre has been remarkably preserved since its construction in 90 AD. Over 20 metres tall, this two-tiered arena was built in the style of the famous Roman Colosseum and at its peak could hold around 20,000 spectators for all sorts of gladiatorial events. Seeing an ancient Roman structure in the centre of the French city is quite something. However, what’s even more spectacular is that the amphitheatre still holds events to this day! Tickets for events are on sale at the arena, so make sure to visit early and see if anything is on during your visit.
Saturday PM – Follow Van Goth’s Footsteps
Arles has a lot of history for you to discover. However, the city’s major cultural selling point is that it was home to one of the most recognisable names in classical art. Vincent Van Goth only stayed in Arles for a year in 1988-89, when the city was still economically crucial to the region, but it was one of the most impressive periods of his life. The artist created over 300 works during his time in Arles, including many of his most famous pieces, while his later period in the city also signalled the beginning of his notorious mental decline.
Many of the locations famously captured by Van Goth remain standing, allowing you to create your very own cultural tour through the city. Meanwhile, the ‘Fondation Vincent Van Gogh’ is a stunning gallery located along the Rhône that is open until the evening, making it the perfect activity before heading off for a nice meal by the water!
Sunday AM – Explore the Camargue
A unique fact about Arles is that it is technically one of the largest cities in the whole of France! This is because the grounds of Arles include much of the vast natural park known as Camargue. A recognised World Heritage Site, the region follows two arms of the Rhône down towards the Mediterranean Sea and is a place of incredible natural beauty.
The vast and hugely varied nature of the Camargue means that what you experience each time will likely be different. The region is home to a range of birds, including wild flamingos and herons, while the Camargue is also synonymous with horses and cowboys, which could be a great day out with the family!
Sunday PM – Explore the City
Hopefully, the streets of Arles will be slightly quieter during Sunday evening, giving you an opportunity to get closer to the stunning architecture of Arles. As mentioned previously, the city is the ideal place for a spot of casual sightseeing thanks to its Roman history and classical artistic influence. Therefore, if there are any hotspots that you haven’t had the chance to visit yet, now is the perfect time to get out there and explore!
Take your camera along with you and grab some memories of the famous spots around this city. There will likely still be some stalls open selling classic trinkets, too, so grab yourself plenty of authentic souvenirs to remember your trip!
Hopefully, this itinerary will inspire you to visit this thriving cultural city. With plenty of history and a wide variety of activities within its grounds, Arles is the perfect place for your next getaway! If you’re looking for more information, check out our South of France travel guide!
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