12 hours in Arles

Today, we’re taking you to Arles. Cobbled streets, a breeding ground for contemporary photography, the unmissable spectacle of Roman remains… it’s a journey between yesterday and today, plus our trendiest addresses!

9 am. Coffee please!

Before wandering around little streets in Arles, start with a good cup of coffee. Chez Mazette on Place Antonelle attracts those who want a speciality coffee roasted by Lomi, meilleur ouvrier de France like a magnet. Are you more latte or cortado? Let yourself be tempted by their latte, we just loved it. There are two cafes and two terraces. On one side, a peaceful cafe and on the other, tables for brunch and to enjoy the atmosphere of the quarter. And on the subject of the quarter, what about a bit of impromptu window shopping at their neighbour Céline’s Fromagerie Arlésienne? You won’t be able to resist the smells, good products and the cheese seller’s kindness! So before you buy up the whole shop, it’s off to discover the Quartier de la Roquette.

10.30 am. It’s time to visit!

On the corner of Place Antonelle, the sun burns down on the flower-filled facades of Rue Jean Granaud: it’s all you need as an excuse to lose yourself in the famous Quartier de la Roquette which was once the realm of the great families of artisans and merchants. And you’ll soon come face to face with the beautiful facade of l’Hôtel Particulier, a hidden away refuge for those who love peace and quiet and it’s the ideal place to be, around the pool on summer days, for one of the most private swims in Arles. Now head for Place Joseph Patrat which is like an open-air sharing area, and also Place Paul Doumer where the butchers, pharmacy and café with its regulars plunge you into a 100% Arles atmosphere. Not far from the wharves, you can hear the boats travelling on the River Rhône. Your curiosity is aroused: a stroll along the banks, a glimpse Quartier de Trinquetaille in the distance and the joggers taking an athletic break whatever the time of day, that’s all part of the lifestyle of Arles.

12.30. An arty lunchtime break

From the wharves of the Rhône, just a 15-minute walk from the historic centre, we leave the paved streets and Roman remains behind for a glut of contemporary art. Head for the Parc des Ateliers where the Café du Parc offers Mediterranean cuisine face-to-face with the steel tower which has made a name for itself in the sky of Arles. If the weather is good, settle on a terrace and enjoy this view in a peaceful, contemplative atmosphere. Home-made lemonade, the dish of the day and panna cotta with seasonal fruit are the perfect combination for a sunny lunch. And you can see the mosaic by the artist Kerstin Brätsch which was designed as an extension of the park inside the restaurant, a colourful canvas which sets the stage for the Fondation Luma.

2.30 pm. Art(lésien) au rapport.

Even if you’d love your lunch break to go on forever, a digestive walk in the parc paysager is a must. Bas Smets dreamed up the landscape which was to become the Parc des Ateliers. This public area is designed as if it was a hike around the region: the architect got his inspiration from the emblematic landscapes surrounding Arles – the Camargue, la Crau and the Alpilles. You’ll come across families settling beside the pond for a picnic, art students who have come to immortalise this magnificent tableau and a few tourists or locals, like us, wandering around the gardens. When you’ve stretched your legs, you can go into the foundation to see the current artists in the exhibition areas and get up high to see from above all that you can only imagine from down below.

4.30 pm. The arty break is over

It’s back to the town to discover the Arènes and explore the ancient art of the Roman remains still to be found in Arles. They are so majestic that we feel very small beside them: keep your eyes on its arches as its circular shape invites you unknowingly to go right around it; our advice to feria lovers, the Feria de Pâques is always a not-to-be-missed event in April. What about a little break for yet another coffee? Just as well, the Place du Forum isn’t far away and at this time of day, the terraces of the cafes are bathed in light. To get there, it’s easy, all you have to do is walk down Rue des Arènes which will take you directly to the square with its colourful facades. Get out your map – the old printed type – or your smartphone because, yes, the interwoven streets of the town give a certain feeling of déjà vu! On today’s “to do list “, we’ve ticked culture and gourmet food: want to do a bit of shopping? Wander down Rue de l’Hôtel de Ville and go into the yellow shop for a condensed version of Provence by Bouchra, a shopkeeper who will be delighted to talk about Provencal crafts and customs.

6h30pm. A well-deserved aperitif break

That was about 10 kilometres because urban walks are always a lot of kilometres before you’ve even realized it! A Provencal aperitif Place Voltaire? Just next to the  Arènes, the hotel with the same name which looks like a motel from the 70s has on in its bar restaurant a mezze menu to share with regional wine, of course! For a different atmosphere, head for Le Chardon, one of the most trendy restaurants in Arles. Chefs in residence give full rein to their creativity: regional, seasonal and above all passionate cuisine. They offer curious epicureans at their tables a delicious moment out of time! But if you really want to know, our favourite” is L’épicerie du Cloître for a warm, friendly sharing moment. It’s the ultimate haunt for people in Arles, ideal at any time of day as soon as it opens in the spring. A few tips for those who sleep at Le Cloître, the rooftop has a superb view over the bell tower of the Cloître Saint-Trophime !

So, do you approve these 12 hours of discovering Arles?