Sergii Figurnyi/Shutterstock

The Design Lover’s Guide to Arles, France

Come for the legendary photography festival, stay for the Provençal cuisine and unfortgettable boutique hotels.

June 7, 2024

Nestled on the banks of the Rhône river in southern France, the city of Arles has long been a haven for artists and creatives, among them Vincent Van Gogh (who painted many of his most notable works there) and the many photographers (and their fans) who congregate there each summer for the storied Rencontres d’Arles festival. It’s also one of our favorite off-the-beaten-path destinations for a culturally minded getaway: Just a short train ride from Marseille, Arles is a treasure trove of historic Roman ruins, one-of-a-kind boutiques, and outstanding culinary experiences. Start planning your summer itinerary in Arles with our insider’s guide to the best places to eat, stay, and see the sights.


  • The courtyard at L’Arlatan is perfect for an afternoon tipple or a hearty breakfast.

    Courtesy of L'Arlatan
  • Vibrant hues fill the tiled lobby.

    Courtesy of L'Arlatan

20 Rue du Sauvage

Reimagined in a kaleidoscope of color and pattern by Jorge Prado, Hotel L’Arlatan is a gem of a hotel hidden behind an unassuming façade in the town’s historic center. Whether you go for an overnight stay or stop for a lovely al fresco lunch between exhibitions, you’ll feel transported and refreshed. Word to the wise: They may have the best club sandwich in Europe (tied with Le Bristol in Paris, in this writer’s expert opinion).

For rates and availability, visit arlatan.com


  • Each room was meticulously designed by founder Philippe Schiepan.

    Courtesy of LE COLLATÉRAL
  • A large dining room features a curvy wood table and plush stools for communal dining.

    Courtesy of LE COLLATÉRAL

20 Place Joseph Patrat

This former medieval has been transformed by visionary designer Philippe Schiepan as a multi-use artist residence and hotel where every element speaks to the landscape, history, and culture of Arles and the Camargue region. If their four one-of-a-kind rooms are already booked, make sure to email the hotel to reserve on its rooftop terrace to enjoy a quiet breakfast of muesli, fresh fruit, and a cappuccino.

For rates and availability, visit designhotels.com


A painterly palette of materials, artful motifs, and shapely vintage furniture fill the India Mahdavi–designed rooms.

Courtesy of Le Cloître

18 Rue du Cloître

The sister property to L’Arlatan boasts similarly sterling design bona fides, with India Mahdavi–designed rooms and suites filled with an eclectic mix of midcentury furniture, rustic terra-cotta floor tiles and plaster walls, and a riot of color. Its restaurant, Épicerie Le Cloître, is a laid-back destination for aperitifs, lunch, or dinner, while the guests-only rooftop offers excellent views of the neighboring Cloister of St-Trophime.

For rates and availability, visit lecloitre.com


Dating to the 12th century, the Cloister of the old Cathedral of St Trophime became a stage for contemporary art installations during the 2023 edition.

Courtesy of Les Recontres de la Photographie, Arles

34 Rue du Docteur Fanton

The festival that takes over the city from July to September brings with it theatre productions, lectures, access to historic spaces, and the beautiful photography of established and emerging artists from around the world. This year, an exhibition titled “Encounters” will present the work of American Mary Ellen Mark (1940-2015), who will posthumously receive the Woman in Motion award, while the exhibition “Sport in Focus” will present images from the collection of the Olympic Museum in honor of the 2024 Paris Olympics. Read more about the history of the festival here.

Exhibitions take place July 1 – September 29, rencontres-arles.com


Frank Gehry’s singular style reflects the shifting, multi-faceted culture of Arles.

Bruno M Photographie/Shutterstock

35 Avenue Victor Hugo

Built on an old factory campus outside the old city, LUMA is the brainchild of art collector Maja Hoffmann and architect Frank Gehry. During the summer months, the reformed industrial space beckons visitors to explore the surrounding landscape dotted with contemporary sculptures and take a break at one of the open-air cafés serving pizza, local spirits, and fresh farm-to-table ingredients. There is even a slide in the main LUMA building to keep the child alive in all of us.

Open Wednesday – Sunday, luma.org


Entering Musée Réattu is like stepping back in time. Loiter in the courtyards and up in the cloisters long enough and you may see apparitions of the Knights of Malta or namesake Jacques Réattu.

Stefano Bianchetti/Getty Images

10 Rue du Grand Prieuré

Beyond being the first French art museum with a permanent photography collection (and place of origin for the Rencontres d’Arles), the Musée Réattu has a rich history spanning back to the 15th century. Initially serving as the Grand Priory for the Order of Malta for two centuries, it was purchased in 1796 by local artist Jacques Réattu, who made it his studio and home before deeding the building and its contents to form a museum in his name. Pablo Picasso, so enamored with the museum’s mission to support young, local artists, donated 57 works on paper to jumpstart its modern art collection.

Open Tuesday – Sunday, museereattu.arles.fr


The exterior of Foundation Vincent Van Gogh is deceptively slim: Once inside, the museum is a maze of modern and historic rooms showcasing the best of modern art.

Gordon Bell/Shutterstock

35 Rue du Docteur-Fanton

Far from what the name suggests, this is not a museum full of Vincent van Gogh’s art. Instead, it’s a space dedicated to cultivating a dialogue between the ethos of Van Gogh’s practice and contemporary artists. This summer, an exhibition in celebration of the artist’s seminal work Starry Night—returning to Arles for the first time since its creation—will look to the cosmos, including pieces by more than 70 artists who were equally inspired by the night sky.

Open daily, foundation-vincentvangogh-arles.org


The courtyard of the former hospital was made famous in Van Gogh’s “Le Jardin de l’Hôtel de Dieu.”

Keith Hider/Shutterstock

Place du Docteur Félix Rey

The courtyard of the former hospital, built in the 16th century, is now named in honor of the artist who drew so much inspiration from his surroundings when he famously stayed there in December 1888 and January 1889. Wandering around its gardens today, it’s easy to see how its palette and architecture influenced the emotion captured in Van Gogh’s paintings.

Open daily, arles-guide.com


Beautiful wares are displayed throughout the historic building.

Courtesy of Maison Madame Presse

6 Rue de la Roquette

Founded by Judith Lebouleux, art-gallery-slash-boutique Maison Madame Presse is the spot to find truly unique, locally made wares. Its selection of beautiful clothing, home goods, and beauty products ensure you won’t leave your Arles adventure empty-handed.

Open Tuesday – Saturday, @maison_madame_presse


  • The space has housed a cheese shop for generations.

    Emilie et Julien
  • Don’t miss the exceptional regional French cheeses.

    Emilie et Julien

6 Place Antonelle

You can’t go to France without popping into a cheese shop, and this one is a pure delight. The owner, Céline, also offers a selection of fine wines, sweet treats, baguette, of course, and delicious cured meats—we recommend the fresh goat’s and sheep’s milk cheeses with edible flowers and herbs.

Open Monday – Sunday, lafromageriearlesienne.com


Don’t miss the downstairs rooms filled with iconic titles and unique publications.

Courtesy of Librarie Acts Sud

Place Nina-Berberova

Filled to the brim with classic and modern literature, writing materials, and paper goods, this bookstore is the place to brush up on your French or snag an English translation to read on the banks of the Rhône.

Open Monday – Saturday, librairieactessud.com


Tucked in the narrow streets of the Old City, Chardon is a creative hub.

Adrian Bautista

37 Rue des Arènes

This small but mighty restaurant hosts a different chef each summer to transform its menu and delight the senses. It’s a staple during the photography festival, and one of the best spots in the city to soak up the city’s energy while enjoying a creative, delicious meal and a collection of natural wines you won’t find elsewhere.

Open daily, hellochardon.com


  • The natural and local wines are carefully chosen by the sommelier.

    Iris Millot
  • There’s no place like Provence for a long lunch en plein air.

    Iris Millot

Mas de la Chassagnette, D36 Route Sambuc

One of the city’s most scenic spots, La Chassagnette is set on a small farm across the river from the center of Arles, where head chef Armand Arnal and his team grow most of their ingredients right on the premises. Allot at least three hours to enjoy their six-course menu and roam through the greenhouse, orchard, and beautifully designed vegetable garden. You’re sure to leave inspired and satiated.

Open Thursday – Monday, chassagnette.fr