The French city of Arles (pronounced Arl) is perhaps most well-known for its incredible Roman monuments, which were recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. If you’ve seen the 1998 Robert De Niro film, Ronin, chances are you’ve seen the Roman Arena of Arles (les Arènes d’Arles), which is featured prominently in the latter half of the movie. Arles was also home to famous impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh from 1888 to 1889. During his stay in Arles, he managed to paint over three hundred works before his increasingly unstable mental health resulted in the infamous “ear incident” in December 1888.
Today, Arles is a popular port of call and turnaround port for river cruise ships thanks to its ease of access and its location along the scenic Rhone. It is home to roughly 54,000 residents.
Your River Cruise Ship Docks …
Like many river cruise ports, ships calling on Arles dock within walking distance of the town itself.
When in Arles …
Like many European cities, the city of Arles is remarkably pedestrian-friendly. Some key ways to spend your time here include:
- Les Arènes d’Arles– The city’s Coliseum-esque Roman amphitheatre is a must-see for visitors to Arles. It was built between the first and second century B.C and plays host to several courses camarguaises – bullfights in which the bull is not killed; a team of men attempts to remove a tassel from the bull without injury. On Easter and the first weekend in September, Spanish-style bullfights are held here, where the bull is killed at the end.
- Take a Stroll – Part of the beauty of this French city is simply basking in its narrow streets, unusual shops, and delectable cuisine. Walking is one of the best ways to enjoy your time here.
- Street Market – If you are lucky enough to visit Arles on a Saturday or Wednesday, be sure to check out the local street market. One of the largest in the surrounding area, you’re sure to be able to find an interesting souvenir of your trip.
- Barbegal Aqueduct – if you’re up for an excursion outside Arles, you might want to journey to the Barbegal Aqueduct and Mill located in nearby Fontvieille. Constructed by the Romans, the remains of mill streams and buildings still exist here. At one point, a system of overshot wheels fed water through the mills at a prodigious rate, producing roughly 4.5 tons of flour per day. Similar structures have been found in Italy, near Rome.
Also see our story, In Search Of Van Gogh: Ashore In Arles
River Cruisers Should Know!
- The adopted currency of France is the Euro (€).
- Although you’re likely to find English spoken by many in Arles, knowledge of basic French can go a long way. The locals will appreciate your efforts to learn their language!