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Best things to do in Arles

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Where in the world: Europe  /  France  /  Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur  /  Bouches-du-Rhone  /  Arles

Top 15 things to do in Arles

1. Amphitheatre (les Arenes)

A two-tiered Roman amphitheater, Amphitheatre (les Arenes) could once hold over 20,000 spectators. It was built as a venue for chariot races and hand-to-hand battles. Today, it draws large crowds for bullfighting, as well as plays and concerts. The building measures 136 m (446 ft) long, 109 m (358 ft) wide, and features 120 arches.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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3. Carrieres des Lumieres, Les Baux de Provence

The theme of Carrieres des Lumieres changes each year. Shows are projected in the Dante room: Move around the space to discover new perspectives. Images light up the ceiling, crawl along the ground, and explode on the ridges. The Picasso entrance features a stage for performances and theater. Also explore the Cocteau room, the Van Gogh room, and the projection room.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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4. Chateau des Baux de Provence, Les Baux de Provence

Chateau des Baux de Provence was built in the tenth century and ruled by the lords of Baux for 500 years, during great political conflicts. This site became famous for its minstrels and troubadours, who performed every day in the honor of the king. The kings of France finally conquered the castle in the 16th century, and King Louis XIII ordered its demolition. Today, the chateau houses three life-size replicas of war machines. Tourists can watch live, daily demonstrations of enormous catapults, including the biggest trebuchet in Europe. This machine could toss a 100 kg (220 lb) rock a distance of 180 m (200 yds).
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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5. Parc Naturel Regional de Camargue

A protected area, Parc Naturel Regional de Camargue includes a wetland environment, an adjacent marine area, and a lagoon called Étang de Vaccarès. This site has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and a biosphere reserve, and is twinned with a Spanish wetland named Doñana National Park. The two parks share a few features, including significant bird life, semi-feral horses, and proximity to pilgrimage sites.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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6. Musee Departemental Arles Antique

Founded in 1995, Musee Departemental Arles Antique is a grand archaeological museum with a wide collection of antiques and other objects discovered in archaeological excavations. The museum displays some monumental Roman sculptures. You can take a themed tour of the exhibits, or attend seminars or workshops geared toward young visitors or students of archaeology. The museum hosts conferences on antiquity throughout the year.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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7. Jardins de la Fontaine, Nimes

One of the first public parks in Europe, Jardins de la Fontaine is filled with cedars, pines, chestnuts, and many species of Mediterranean plants--as well as remarkable sculpture and architecture. Look for the stone tower, a large fountain, and various carved staircases and walkways.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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8. La Maison Carree, Nimes

La Maison Carree blends past and present with one of the best-preserved ancient Roman temples in the world, as well as a 3-D film about the heroes of Nîmes. This temple once dominated the forum of Nîmes, thanks to a deep Hexastyle portico with six Corinthian columns at either end of the pediment. Admire the frieze's ornamental relief carvings of rosettes and acanthus leaves beneath rows of delicate dentils. The interior shrine is typically small and windowless.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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9. Theatre Antique

One of the first theaters in the Roman colony, Theatre Antique offered tragedy, comedy, mime, and pantomime in Roman or Greek. These plays, performed mostly at festivals honoring the gods, were free for all to attend, though some shows were dedicated solely to men.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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10. Pont du Gard, Vers-Pont-du-Gard

The highest and best-preserved Roman aqueduct bridge in the world, the nearly 2,000-year-old Pont du Gard is a monument to Roman engineering and a World Heritage site. In its heyday, the aqueduct carried an estimated 200,000 cubic m (nearly 53 million gal) of water each day to the local baths, homes, and fountains. Due to the varied terrain, the aqueduct was created with different construction methods, ranging from underground construction to this bridge with three grand tiers of arches.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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11. Tours et Remparts d'Aigues-Mortes, Aigues-Mortes

Well-preserved medieval city walls, including Tours et Remparts d'Aigues-Mortes, surround this small French town. The Tower of Constance is one of the most famous examples of 13th-century Western European military architecture in the marshlands. It was designed to provide warning signals in case of invading fleets and to offer a spiritual headquarters for clergy. Look for the ground-floor guardroom with protective portcullis, a cellar with a pantry and ammunition storage, and dungeons. The structure also includes the Knight's Hall. Take in the views of the region from the terrace. The ramparts stretch for a distance of 1,650 m (138 ft).
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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12. Notre Dame de la Mer - Église fortifiée, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Notre Dame de la Mer - Église fortifiée is a single, straight, unadorned nave 15 m (50 ft) high. The church once held an important strategic position--it towers over the village and is visible from as far as 10 km (6.2 mi). The roof of the church served as a watchtower, and is surrounded by a rampart walk with battlements and machicolations. The choir and the apse are topped by a semicircular keep housing the former guards’ room, known as the upper chapel. The church was a refuge for the inhabitants of the city, and there was even a fresh-water well inside. To the right of the altar, in the crypt, you can see a statue of St. Sara, a major figure of the Roma (or gypsy) cultural tradition. Don't miss a pagan altar dating from the fourth century BCE.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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13. Seaquarium, Le Grau-du-Roi

A large aquarium complex and education center, Seaquarium is home to more than 2,000 fish and dozens of species of sharks, sea lions, seals, and other large aquatic animals. Residents also include octopuses, eels, stingrays, jellyfish, nautilus, crabs, lobsters, and turtles. Immerse yourself in an undersea world with the museum and interactive learning displays. The Requinarium section features more than 30 species of live sharks, plus information on all 350 species of sharks around the world.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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14. Eglise St-Trophime

Eglise St-Trophime is a Romanesque church built in the late 11th and 12th centuries on the site of several earlier churches. On the western portal, the intricately sculpted tympanum depicts St. Trophime, a late second- or early third-century bishop of Arles, holding a spiral staff. Throughout the church, look on the walls and ceiling for the medieval carvings depicting many lesser-known events from the history of Europe, as well as scenes supporting some religious beliefs in the region. You can view bone fragments of Arles' bishops, too.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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