If you're looking for a holiday that combines a wealth of history, extraordinary rugged landscapes, culture and seaside sunshine, then head for Arles!
Did you know, Arles has more Roman monuments than any other city apart from Rome? Ideally situated between Spain and Italy, Arles was a strategic location and flourished from when it was colonised in 49 BC until the Middle Ages. After a period of recession, the city prospered from the late 15th century to the mid-16th century and was transformed: so come and discover this rich heritage by exploring Arles and the surrounding area!
Arles has numerous UNESCO world heritage sites, starting with the Roman amphitheatre, the Roman theatre, the Cryptoporticus (tunnels under the former forum), the Thermae of Constantine and Alyscamps necropolis (roads lined with tombs, which inspired Van Gogh and Gauguin). Middle Ages buffs won't want to miss the Cité épiscopale, founded in the 4th century, including St. Stephen's Cathedral and the Church of St. Trophime. Finally, lovers of classical and Renaissance architecture will enjoy place de la République, with its belfry dating from 1558, and the city centre with its many town houses.
And after looking at old buildings, there's the great outdoors! Head for the Camargue, a superb rugged area comprising marshes, plains, rice fields and the sea, where you will see flamingoes, horses and Camargue bulls. You can explore the Marais du Vigueirat, a 1200-hectare protected nature reserve, and the Domaine de La Palissade, situated outside the sea walls and home to unique wild animal and plant life. You can explore the site on foot or on horseback!
Finally, culture vultures will want to visit the Van Gogh foundation, which pays tribute to the genius, who spent 15 months of his life in Arles creating his most beautiful masterpieces, while exploring his effect on contemporary art. If you like contemporary art, then the Réattu museum is for you, with 57 drawings and two paintings by Picasso just some of the gems in its collection. Fans of history and heritage can head for the Musée Départemental Arles Antique (3 stars in the Michelin Green Guide) and the Musée de la Camargue, situated in the heart of the Regional Nature Park. Don't forget to visit the website of the Arles tourist information office before you come, to find the festival programme (with the Les Rencontres de la Photographie photography festival and Les Suds à Arles music festival just two of the attractions on offer).
To get to Arles, you can fly into the airports of Marseille Provence, Montpellier Méditerranée, Avignon or Nîmes Garons. From there, you can take the train, with Arles also offering rail links to Paris and lots of other destinations in just a few hours.
What are you waiting for? Come enjoy your holidays in Arles!