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A view from the city’s Roman amphitheater, looking toward the Rhône.
(Courtesy Decar66 Via F Lickr)

A mecca for artists and art lovers alike ever since Van Gogh set up house here, this city in the South of France has a history dating back to Roman times and keeps current with an annual photography festival known as Les Rencontres d’Arles. The 46th edition, running July 6 through September 20, augments 35 thematic exhibitions with solo shows devoted to such masters as Walker Evans and Stephen Shore.


The director of Les Rencontres d’Arles offers a summer tip list: Musée Réattu, named for Arles-born painter Jacques Réattu, may be most notable for its holdings of photographs. This first public collection in a French fine art museum played a key role in sparking public interest and establishing the legitimacy of the medium. The Cloître Saint Trophime is worth all the Zen gardens in the world. Photography amateurs will feel the presence of Edouard Baldus, who photographed the beauty of this site as early as the 19th century. You have to climb the stairs to access the rooftop and discover the stone roof. Chez Caro, at the heart of the historical center of Arles, offers Provençal cuisine with a great selection of wines. L’Ouvre Boîte is an atypical place where you can find a large choice of Spanish tapas, drink a glass of wine, and buy select Spanish and French products. And each year, the festival Les Suds, from July 13 through 19, welcomes more than 60 concerts of world music in the heart of the beautiful city.”


The founder of Galerie Huit, a B&B-cumartist space that will feature six solo shows over the course of the season, shares her favorite local haunts: “The Museum of Antiquities is a wonderfully soothing introduction to Arles. I particularly recommend the Roman boat exhibit, which is accompanied by a short film explaining how the boat was recently rescued from the Rhône after 2,000 years of submersion. For a more contemporary take on Arles, do visit the Anne Clergue Galerie and the new Vincent van Gogh Foundation. This year I’ll be wining and dining at the Grand Hôtel Nord-Pinus’s new pop-up restaurant on the Place du Forum, which is open all summer. Le Gibolin in the rue des Porcelets is always fun too—if you can get a table. Sip digestifs in the late-night bar of the Hôtel Blain, which also serves as the new premises of the Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation. Or try Le Picador, which connects visitors to the more local side of Arles: bulls and tapas!”