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Planning to spend one day in Arles? From ancient Roman ruins to the sites that inspired many of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings, there are so many incredible things to do in Arles in one day.
Located in the heart of Provence, next to the Rhône River, Arles is one of the most unique cities in the region. This is one our favorite places to visit in Southern France for its mix of ancient Roman architecture and classic French culture. We’ve visited 3 separate times and just can’t seem to get enough!
In this article, we are sharing the best things to do in Arles, including a Van Gogh walking tour, visiting the historical Roman monuments, going to a museum or two, and more!
One Day in Arles Overview
Here is an overview of the most significant sites to see during your one day in Arles, including the Roman Ruins and the history of Van Gogh in the city.
Roman Ruins in Arles
Arles became an important Roman colony in the 1st century BC.
During this time period, many Roman structures were built and several of them are still standing today. You can visit 6 of these monuments, and they are all within walking distance around Arles.
These Roman monuments were recognized as UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1981.
Here is a list of all of the Roman monuments you can visit in Arles:
- Roman amphitheater
- Roman Theater
- Baths of Constantine
- Saint-Trophime Cloister
- The Alyscamps (Roman and medieval graveyard)
You should have plenty of time to see all of the Roman monuments in one day. If you need to pick and choose, then we recommend visiting the amphitheater, Roman Theater, Saint-Trophime Cloister, and the Alyscamps.
Van Gogh in Arles
Vincent Van Gogh spent 14 months in Arles between the years of 1888-1889. He created over 300 paintings during this time where he found inspiration from the Provencal landscapes and Arles itself.
One of my favorite things to do in Arles is the Van Gogh self-guided walking tour. This tour will take you to many of the places that he painted, including the cafe from his painting “Le Cafe La Nuit.”
You can download the walking tour guide here, or you can pick one up from the tourist office in Arles.
The Langlois Bridge
Van Gogh painted the Langlois Bridge many times during his stay in Arles. You can see it in the photo above. To visit the bridge, it’s either a 40-minute walk from the center of Arles or a 12-minute drive.
Best Arles Walking Tours
Want to learn about the Roman monuments and history of Van Gogh in Arles with an expert Guide? We recommend these private tours to make the most out of your one day in Arles.
Half-day Private walking tour – On this tour, you’ll spend 4 hours exploring the city’s most historical sites, including stops at almost all of the Roman monuments. Admission to the sites is included on this tour!
2-hour Private Walking Tour – This tour will take you around the city as you learn about its history and significance. You’ll stop at the Roman amphitheater and explore Van Gogh’s life in Arles. Admission to sites is not included in this tour.
14 Best Things to do in Arles
With one day in Arles, you will have plenty of time to see many of the Roman monuments and Van Gogh sites, as well as a museum or two. Here is a list of some of the best things to do in Arles.
1. Roman Amphitheater (Arena)
Whether you arrived by train or by car, head over to the Roman Amphitheater and start your day off here.
This arena was built in 90 AD and once held 20,000 spectators. That’s about 30,000 less than the colosseum in Rome to give you an idea of its size – it’s a bit smaller but still an incredible feat no less. Spectators once gathered here for gladiator battles and chariot races.
You’ll notice two towers on either side of the arena. The towers were added on in the 5th century when the arena was transformed into a medieval fortress.
Nowadays, the arena hosts bullfights and theatrical performances.
2. Roman Theater
The Roman Theater sits adjacent to the arena. This theater was built one century before the arena in 1st century BC when Augustus was Emperor.
The Roman theater once held 10,000 people and is used today to host many theatrical and musical events.
3. Saint – Trophime Cloister
The Saint-Trophime church was completed in the 15th century and is a Roman-Catholic church.
You can visit the cloister inside where it displays incredible sculptures on the columns depicting many biblical scenes.
4. Baths of Constantine
The Roman Baths of Constantine in Arles, France are a stunning example of ancient Roman architecture. Built around the 4th century AD during the reign of Emperor Constantine, these baths were designed to provide public bathing facilities for citizens and visitors alike.
The complex features several distinct areas such as hot and cold swimming pools, saunas and massage rooms. The walls are adorned with intricate mosaics depicting mythological scenes from Greek and Roman mythology.
These baths remain an impressive testament to the engineering prowess of the Romans who constructed them more than 1,600 years ago.
The Cryptoporticus is an underground passageway dating back to 1st century BC, during the Roman Empire. It is a subterranean structure located beneath the city of Arles, France.
The purpose of this ancient underground passageway was to provide an efficient and secure means of transporting goods from one part of the city to another. This remarkable engineering feat featured a series of arched vaults and is supported by pillars made from stone blocks.
6. Place de La Republique
The Place de la Republique is the main square in Arles. It features a 4th century obelisk that is another reminder of the Romans influence on the city.
Surrounding the square you’ll find many shops and cafes, as well as the Saint-Trophime church and the town hall.
7. L’Espace Van Gogh
L’Espace Van Gogh was once a hospital that was made famous by Van Gogh. Van Gogh stayed in this hospital twice after he cut off his ear during a manic episode.
During his stay at the hospital, he painted two artworks – “Garden of the Hospital in Arles” and “Ward of the Hospital in Arles.”
The exterior of the building still looks the same as it did in his painting back in the late 1800s.
The building is now a community center, and the courtyard is open for visitors to walk around and enjoy.
8. Le Cafe Van Gogh
Make your way to Le Cafe Van Gogh to see the cafe that is in Van Gogh’s “Le Cafe La Nuit.”
The cafe looks almost the same as it did in the painting, so it’s fun to stop by and see it in person.
I personally have not eaten at the cafe and the Google reviews aren’t convincing either, so I can’t recommend eating there. But if you do try it, let us know how it is in the comments.
9. Fondation Vincent Van Gogh
The Fondation Vincent Van Gogh is a non-profit museum that pays homage to Van Gogh’s life and legacy.
The foundation features many artworks by contemporary artists that were inspired by Van Gogh’s time in Arles. It also features many of Van Gogh’s original paintings.
I really enjoyed my time here and would recommend visiting if you would like to learn more about Van Gogh’s life and see some of his artwork in person while you are in Arles.
10. Walk Along the Banks of the Rhone River
Arles is situated next to the Rhone River that runs all the way from Switzerland to the Mediterranean Sea.
Take a moment and walk along the banks of the river and enjoy the views.
11. Wander Through The Streets
The streets of Arles are incredibly charming. One of my favorite activities is to wander around the old streets, visit small shops, grab a pastry or gelato, and just slowly stroll around the town.
I once discovered an art shop tucked at the end of a windy street. I picked up a few art supplies to draw during my time in Provence after being inspired by Van Gogh.
You never know what you’ll discover . . .
12. The Alyscamps
The Alyscamps is a Roman and medieval graveyard located about a 10-minute walk from the arena.
This is also a stop on the Van Gogh walking tour since it was the setting for several of his paintings. It’s a beautiful area to walk around and explore history.
13. The Arles Market
Visiting a market in Provence is a must! The Arles market is open year-round every Wednesday and Saturday morning from 8am – 1pm.
The Wednesday market is much smaller and is located on Boulevard Émile-Combes. The Saturday market has a lot more vendors and is located on Boulevard des Lices.
The market is filled with fresh produce, cheeses, meats, olives, food vendors, clothes, and much more. If you have time, I would highly recommend stopping by to experience a market in the South of France!
14. The Yellow House
The “yellow house” was the studio and residence of Vincent Van Gogh during his time in Arles. The house is no longer there, but the building that was behind the yellow house in the painting is still there.
One Day in Arles… if you have more time
If you are left with more time on your day in Arles, then here are a couple of museums you can visit.
- Reattu museum – a fine art museum with contemporary artworks, photography, and drawings by Pablo Picasso
- Arles Antiques Museum -displays many antiques and artifacts from the Roman period in Arles.
Arles Discount Passes
We highly recommend purchasing a discount pass for your one day in Arles. You’ll be able to get access to most of the sites in a city for a very reasonable price!
There are two passes – Pass Avantage and Pass Liberte.
Pass Avantage – this pass gives you one entry into each of the monuments and 3 museums. Cost: €16
Pass Liberte – this pass gives you entry to 1 museum, 4 monuments, and the Reattu museum. Cost: €12
You can buy these passes directly from the tourist office in Arles when you arrive.
Note – these passes do not include entry into the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh.
Les Rencontres d’Arles
One of the best things to do in Arles is to attend Les Rencontres d’Arles, an annual photography festival held during the summer months of July – September.
If you are visiting during these months, then you can plan ahead and attend an exhibition, a workshop, or a performance that is held during the festival.
For more information, visit the official website of the event.
Tours to Arles from Provence
Arles is a fantastic day trip from nearby Provencal towns, such as Avignon and Marseille.
We love doing guided tours when we travel because it’s a great way to take a deep-dive into the history of a city and gain a new perspective on the place.
Here are a couple of tour options we recommend:
- Day tour from Marseille: Follow the Steps of Van Gogh – a 7.5 hour private tour from Marseille that takes you to the most significant places that Van Gogh painted and lived in Provence. You’ll visit Arles, Les Baux-de-Provence, and St-Remy-de-Provence on this tour.
- Day tour from Avignon: Art and History in Provence – an 8.5 hour group tour taking you to the most famous Roman monuments and Van Gogh sites in Provence. This includes a visit to Arles, Les Beaux-de-Provence, Nîmes, and the Pont du Gard.
Getting Around Arles
Arles is a very walkable city. Everything is within a 10-15 minute walk, and the city is so charming that you’ll want to explore the streets as much as you can.
For example, the Roman amphitheater to the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh is only a 7-minute walk.
One Day in Arles Map
To help you get around during your one day in Arles, here is a map of all of the sites highlighted in this itinerary.
Select the icon on the left with arrow to view a list of all of the sites. On your phone, select the box icon on the right and the map will open up on Google Maps.
How to Get to Arles
Getting to Arles By Car
Renting a car is a great idea for your trip to Southern France! We’ve rented a car almost every time we’ve visited Provence because it’s the most convenient way to get around the region. It usually ends up being cheaper than taking the train everywhere as well.
We recommend Discover Cars for car rentals in Europe. It’s convenient, reliable, and easy to use, plus it always has the most competitive pricing.
Arles is located only 1 hour and 15 minutes Northwest of Marseille and 45 minutes South of Avignon. It’s a perfect day trip from one of the larger cities in the area.
Getting to Arles by Train
Arles is pretty centrally located in Provence, which makes it easy to access by train.
The train from Marseille to Arles takes around 45 minutes to 1 hour and costs around €32 round trip. The train from Avignon takes 30 minutes and costs around €17 round trip.
To purchase your train tickets, use the SNCF Connect website.
Final Thoughts: Best Things to do in Arles
From its historical sites to its modern cafes and boutiques, Arles is a city full of culture and activity. Whether you’re looking for an unforgettable one-day experience or planning an extended stay in the south of France, there are so many things to do in Arles and Provence.
There’s a reason it’s one of our favorite towns in Southern France, and we hope you love it too!
Let us know about your experience in Arles or if you have any questions in the comments below!