Over the Parisian crowds? Get away to this artistic city in the south of France instead.
Photo by Lindsay Tapscott.
Fashion designer Christian Lacroix was born there, and Parisian It Girl Jeanne Damas calls it her favourite city. Here’s what to do, plus where to eat, drink, shop and stay in this small but stylish Provençal town.
What to do
Hit the Boulevard des Lices on Saturday mornings for the Arles outdoor market, where you’ll find the best of local produce, Camargue salt and Provençal olive oil, and the freshest croissants aux amandes you’ll ever taste. Between July and late September, visit the famous Rencontres d’Arles, the town’s annual photography festival that draws international crowds. And a visit to the town that inspired 300 of Vincent Van Gogh’s Impressionist works (including his famous Café Terrace at Night, a rendering of a yellow Arles café that still exists today, in the Place du Forum) would not be complete without a visit to the Vincent Van Gogh Foundation, where you can see the artist’s paintings alongside contemporary artwork that pays tribute to him.
Where to stay
Right at the top of the town’s center square (the Place du Forum), the Grand Hotel Nord-Pinus has hosted famous guests like Jean Cocteau, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Images by fashion photographers Helmut Newton and Peter Lindbergh line the walls (including Newton’s iconic nude portrait of Charlotte Rampling) and the rooms are rich with colour, print and ornate accents.
Where to eat
Top choices for dinner are Le Galoubet, for a very rich and very French meal (hello, foie gras and magret de canard), Oscar, for tapas-style plates to share, and the candlelit, cozy Le Criquet for straightforward local dishes like mussels and Camargue bull stew. For lunch, visit La Cuisine de Comptoir for its range of tartines (a toasted open-faced sandwich with daily fresh toppings). For breakfast, grab a pain au chocolat from any nearby patisserie — there are many — and sip a café crème in the Place du Forum while watching the Arlesians go by.
Where to drink
La Table du Caviste is the sister wine bar to La Cave du Grand Sud, a wine shop owned by French sommelier and former chef Jean-Michel Guerin. Guerin opened La Table in 2015 as a lively place to taste the wines he sells at La Cave, which are some of the best and most unique wines from the region. Snack on local and seasonal food as you sip, and, should you want to bring La Table’s wine home, it’s all available to buy at La Cave.
Where to shop
Jute does handmade espadrilles in every colour and print under the sun, while Actuel B offers fashion-forward labels like Rick Owens, Jacquemus, Rochas and Cèline. And since Arles is the birthplace of Christian Lacroix, pick up one of the fashion designer’s wildly colourful scarves, pair of sunglasses or boxes of stationery at his flagship boutique.