Food and Drink in Arles
It's not hard to enjoy an authentic Provencal dining experience in Arles. There is a number of quaint cafes and more formal restaurants that offer a true taste of the region. Top choices include Cafe Factory Republique, Bel Oustau and Criquet.
Cafe Factory Republique: The most affordable and casual option is Cafe Factory Republique, which specializes in French breakfast, brunch and lunch. It's frequented by many locals and also offers outdoor seating. We recommend trying the rose wine. (Open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, except Sundays; 35 Rue de la Republique; 33 4 90 54 52 23)
Bel Oustau: Bel Oustau is another unique find that serves a mix of French and Mediterranean cuisine. It's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner; offers a full bar and outdoor seating; and is wheelchair accessible. (Open 11:30 a.m. to midnight daily, except Mondays and Tuesdays; 159 Route du Nord; 04 90 93 33 24)
Criquet: Criquet also focuses on French and Mediterranean and has a knack for unique soups. It's an intimate, stone-walled space perfect for date nights and has a nice wine list to boot. (Open noon to 1:15 p.m. for lunch and 7 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. for dinner daily, except Mondays and Tuesdays; 29 Rue Porte de Laure; +33 4 90 96 80 51)
Don't Miss in Arles
Roman Ruins: Arles is full of ancient Roman structures, and all are well worth a visit. The city, which was once known as the "Little Rome of the Gauls," was established as a Roman colony during Julius Caesar's civil war against Pompey -- roughly 46 BC. Monuments such as the amphitheater (Arles Arena), Theatre Antique, Baths of Constantine, cryptoporticus and Alyscamps necropolis still stand today, and can be easily explored by foot. All are in the same vicinity of Old Town, except the necropolis, which is about a 15-minute walk from the arena.
Tracing Vincent van Gogh's Footsteps: Art lovers can see firsthand the places that inspired van Gogh paintings such as "Cafe Terrace at Night," "Trinquetaille Bridge in Arles" and "Garden of the Hospital in Arles." The cafe is the most centrally located landmark, in a bustling little square five minutes from the arena. It's still open today and makes for a fun coffee break and photo opp.
Not far away are the bridge and hospital courtyard. The bridge is hard to recognize at first, while the hospital (no longer in operation) looks just as it does in van Gogh's canvas. The Langlois Bridge (another iconic painting) still stands but is not within walking distance from the others; it's about a 10-minute drive from the town's center. Sadly, "The Yellow House" was destroyed during World War II.
Les Baux-de-Provence: Referred to as one of the most beautiful villages in France, Les Baux-de-Provence sits atop the Alpilles mountains, overlooking Arles, Camargue and vast countryside. While its magical, medieval buildings and cobblestone streets are worth a day trip on their own, notable landmarks to seek out include the Carrieres de Lumieres, Chateau des Baux and Saint Vincent's Church. (River cruise line tours to Les Baux-de-Provence might include a special visit and show at Carrieres de Lumieres multimedia museum.)
Saint-Remy-de-Provence: Also located in the Alpilles mountain range, the village of Saint-Remy-de-Provence provides a more quaint escape. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll through its winding streets, past outdoor eateries, and through small but lively squares with fountains. The town also has two prominent landmarks: the archeological site of Glanum and Saint Paul de Mausole, the psychiatric hospital where Vincent van Gogh was confined before his death. Various-priced tours are available. (Although the village is merely 30 minutes by car from Arles, few cruise lines offer day trips.)
Browsing Old Town's Shops: Old Town offers an eclectic shopping scene, where you can find a mix of clothing and accessories, antiques, local art, souvenir-style trinkets and the most sought-after item, tablecloths. For those who've worked up an appetite, a number of cafes offer grab-and-go pastries and other snacks.