A Good Walk in Arles

The best of Arles is enclosed in the inner maze of streets and alleyways known as the Old Town, nestled along the Rhône, where you can find noble 18th-century architecture cheek-by-jowl with antiquities. Only Les Alyscamps necropolis lies outside the city center, but it’s still within walking distance.

Though it's a hike from the center, a good place to set the tone and context for your exploration of Arles is at the state-of-the-art Musée Départemental Arles Antiques. From here, take advantage of the free museum shuttle; there's an adjacent parking lot if you're day-tripping by car. Get off at the Boulevard Clémenceau and arm yourself with literature at the tourist information center just up the road, on Boulevard des Lices. Then walk up Rue du President Wilson, and left to the Espace Van Gogh, the hospital where Van Gogh was taken after he severed his ear. Continue up Rue du President Wilson to the Rue de la République and the broad Place de la République, where you can study the Roman obelisk and the extraordinary Romanesque facade of the Église St-Trophime. Next door, enter the hidden oasis of the Cloître St-Trophime. Continue up Rue du Cloître to the Théâtre Antique, now in Byronesque ruins. Just above rears the Arènes, site of gladiator battles and modern bullfights.

Now wander down evocative back streets to the river and the Thermes Constantin, the ruins of Roman baths. On Rue du Grand Prieuré, stop into the Musée Réattu, which glorifies native-son painter Jacques Réattu and 20th-century peers. Not Van Gogh, alas. Pay homage to that painter by walking up Rue du Quatre Septembre and Rue Amédée Pichot to Place Lamartine, where the star-crossed artist lived in his famous Maison Jaune, destroyed in World War II.

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