The ancient city of Arles in southern France is known for its centuries-old monuments -like the iconic Arles Amphitheatre - and its picturesque cobbled streets. Originally founded by the Ligurians back in 800 BC, Arles has changed hands countless times over the years. Most significantly, it was taken by the Romans in 123 BC and transformed into an important and influential governmental seat and cultural centre. These days, it's a popular stop for road trippers exploring the south of France, and it's the honorary capital of the Camargue region, which is famously home to more than 400 species of bird (including the largest colony of pink flamingos in the Western Mediterranean).
Indications of Arles' rich and complex past can be seen everywhere, from the 12th-century Church of St Trophime to the impressive Barbegal aqueduct and mill located just outside the city centre. To learn all about the history of Arles and this region, spend an afternoon at the Musée départemental Arles antique, which houses a huge collection of antiquities and eye-opening exhibitions. A highlight is the 2,000-year-old Roman cargo boat which was discovered in the Rhone river in 2011 and painstakingly restored.
In the winter of 1888, Vincent van Gogh moved to Arles and lived here for just over a year - 444 days, to be exact. That may not seem like a long time, but it clearly had a huge influence on the painter, as it proved to be one of his most productive and creative periods.
In fact, van Gogh was inspired to paint more than 200 works depicting the city of Arles, including some of his most famous paintings like Bedroom in Arles and Starry Night over the Rhone. While you're in Arles, visit the Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles on rue du Docteur Fanton to see some of his paintings and learn more about his connection to Arles.