At the gates of the Camargue, Arles is a fascinating city that swings between classicism and modernity, between the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Roman ruins and the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie festival. With the Rhone River running through it, and almost 55,000 inhabitants, Arles is also the home to the Gardians, those cowboys of Provencal elegance, and the estate of the Queen of Arles, ambassador of the city throughout the world. Arles is the headquarters for Actes Sud, the eminent publishing house that published the Goncourt Prize winner for 2012,
To visit Arles is to participate in a journey through the history of architecture, from Roman constructions, the theatre or the Amphitheatre; medieval gems, the Saint-Trophime and Notre-Dame de la Major churches; Renaissance marvels represented by the 17th-century residences with their chic classicism, to the Arles Museum of Antiquity (Musée Départemental Arles Antique) known as the “Blue Museum” and built by Henri Ciriani in 1995. A highlight of the circuit, in the heart of the city, is the Amphitheatre, around which Arles was constructed throughout the centuries. Erected in the 1st century, it will celebrate its 2,000th anniversary in a few years and remains one of the most impressive Roman remains in the world, after the Coliseum in Rome, which was its direct inspiration.
Oval shaped with two levels of arcades taking its height to 21 meters, this amphitheatre dedicated to shows and games became, from the 19th century, a centre for bullfighting in France, able to host 25,000 people. A building that profited from the architectural innovations of the day, from galleries to staircases, and drainage systems still in use today. The Amphitheatre, an integral part of Arles life, hosts many events, moving moments that inspire a sense of community and which continue to pay tribute to the beauty of the city. Today the Amphitheatre welcomes bullfights, races, the famous Easter Feria and other events such as the highly anticipated equestrian event for summer 2013 “Les Légendes de l’Art Equestre,” with set design by Christian Lacroix.
In 1888 Van Gogh captured the Amphitheatre’s atmosphere, this painting held in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg is among the many works produced during the painter’s 14-month stay in Arles. Among these paintings, Café Terrace at Night (1888, Otterlo), Sunflowers (National Gallery, London), The Starry Night (MoMa, New York) or a painting of his bedroom in the yellow house, of which three versions exist in the world. It was also the setting for the cut ear, and the beginning of the end for the Dutch genius who would die in 1890 in Auvers-sur-Oise. Arles and Provence, between nature and sun, inspired Vincent for perhaps his most beautiful paintings. The city dedicates an itinerary to him, paying homage to one of its most illustrious visitors…
Arles Tourist Office
Restaurant L'Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel
Les Rencontres Arles Photographie