A prosperous ancient city, Arles invites you on a journey through time!

Arles is famous for its ancient monuments. Its arenas and its theater, in particular, attract visitors from all over the world. But the city also hosts real architectural treasures built in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, or built even more recently.

The arenas of Arles

The emperor Tiberius ordered the construction of a monumental amphitheater in the 1st century AD. The Arles arena was largely inspired by the Colosseum in Rome, which had been completed a few years earlier, and for several centuries hosted very popular gladiatorial fights.

In the Middle Ages, the arena was transformed into a fortress. The arcades were walled up, and houses were built inside the building. The four towers were once part of the defense system.

The Arles arenas attract many visitors each year. They also host various sporting and cultural events throughout the year.

Read more : The arenas of Arles

The ancient theater

Built at the end of the first century BC, the ancient theater of Arles was one of the first stone theaters in the Roman world. The cavea, with a diameter of over 100 meters, could accommodate up to 10,000 spectators.

The stage and the walls behind it have now disappeared, but the remains of this monument still bear witness to its grandeur. Two columns, nicknamed the two widows, still stand in the blue sky of Provence, out of the hundred that once adorned the back wall.

The ancient theater of Arles can be visited, and continues to host regular shows and events.


One of the most unusual monuments in Arles is now located underground. The cryptoporticoes were built in Roman times, and were once intended to support the terrace of the forum. The galleries sheltered then stalls and stores.

The cryptoporticoes were transformed into cellars after the fall of the Roman Empire, and the Arlesians forgot their existence. The galleries were cleared during the second part of the 20th century. Today, they are open to the public and allow to discover a little known facet of the daily life in the Roman time.

The abbey of Montmajour

Located only a few kilometers from Arles, Montmajour Abbey offers a real journey through time, from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Built on the site of an ancient Christian necropolis, the abbey was fortified in the 14th century during the Hundred Years War. The Pons tower, which offers a breathtaking panoramic view, dates from this period.

In the 17th century, the monastery of Saint-Maur, a treasure of classical architecture, marked the renewal of the abbey. But monastic life ceased during the French Revolution, and some of the buildings were transformed into stone quarries. A classification as a historical monument in the 20th century allowed the buildings to be protected and restored.

Today, Montmajour Abbey welcomes tens of thousands of visitors each year.

Read more : The abbey of Montmajour

The Saint-Trophime cloister

Part of the ancient cathedral of Arles, the Saint-Trophime cloister was built in the 12th century and completed in the 19th century. We find various architectural influences: the north and east galleries are of Romanesque style, while the west and south galleries are of Gothic architecture. Numerous bas-reliefs decorate the columns. The former chapter house now houses tapestries of the seventeenth century presenting the conquest of Jerusalem by Godfrey of Bouillon during the first crusade.

The cloister of Saint-Trophime is open to the public, and can be visited all year round. You can also discover the Cathedral of Saint-Trophime, which is one of the most important Romanesque buildings in Provence.

The LUMA Tower

Arles is both an ancient city and a city turned towards the future. Designed by Frank Gehry, this monument offers a daring architecture and uses unusual materials. For example, some walls are made of salt crystals, and more than 30,000 seaweed tiles are used for the interior. The acoustic insulation is based on sunflower fiber panels.

The LUMA Tower houses exhibition spaces. You can also take a walk in the landscaped park, and admire the 19th century workshops once dedicated to the manufacture and repair of locomotives.

Découvrez aussi :