Arles is one of the major tourist attractions in France. It is a magic place with its Roman heritage, the narrow cobblestoned streets, the "van Gogh lived here" mystique and the Fête des Gardians, the colorful parade of the cowboys of the Camargue in May each year.
As to the Roman heritage, they are still discovering artifacts! In May 2008 divers brought up a well preserved marble bust of an aging Caesar in the Rhône River near Arles. The life-sized bust, which shows the Roman ruler with wrinkles and hollows in his face, is tentatively dated to 46 B.C.
South of Arles lies the Camargue, the flat Rhône delta with its numerous rivers, brine lakes, rice fields, the black bulls and white Camargue horses. A good part of the Camargue is a nature reserve, one of the best brid watching spots in Europe during the bird migration seasons. Great area for horse riding, hiking and biking, but watch the mosquitoes during the summer.
L'Affenage Francis, Melissa and Thierry, the trio, are real winners and posed to give you a tour of Mediterranean food. Italian, French, Spanish, Moroccan and Portuguese dishes served as generous tapas. Flavorful and without being pretentious. Arlesians line up at this place. Worth the money. The only drawback: owners take 15 days vacation during August. Prices: €30-55. 4 Rue Molière, Arles, Tel: +33 (0)4 90 96 07 67.
L'Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel Special occasions are made for this Michelin 1-star restaurant. Everything is perfect and freshly made. Chef Rabanel bases his menus on what is in season in his 3ha garden, where more than 100 varieties of organic fruit and vegetables are grown. You can be sure that each dish is original and a veritable discovery. We liked the friendly, top-notch service and relaxed atmosphere. Prices: €45-75. 7 Rue des Carmes, 13200 Arles, Tel: +33 (0)4 90 91 07 69
Le Bistro a Côté, Arles, Rabanel's 2nd venture next to l'Atelier. A bar with open kitchen area, cool deco and ambiance. Open 7 days until late. A great evening pit stop. And the best of all: You can taste Rabanel's imaginative cuisine at accessible prices. Great concept!. Prices: €15-30. 21 Rue des Carmes, 13200 Arles, Tel: +33 (0)4 90 47 61 13.
Le Barrème, Arles A restaurant and elegant B&B in the historic center of Arles. Trendy decoration, inventive chef, terrific wine list (wine by the glass available) at reasonable prices and all of this topped by great service. Prices: € 15-35. 3 Rue Barrème, 13200 Arles. Tel: +33 (0)4 90 96 42 16
Au Brin de Thym Provençal cooking big on taste. Presentation eye catching. Fabulous cheese platters and desserts to die for. Reservation is a must as the place fills up quickly. Limited seating at this small restaurant dearly loved by those who know. Prices: €20-30. 22, Rue du Docteur Fanton, 13200 Arles, Tel: +33 (0)4 90 49 95 96
Lou Caleu Popular and unpretentious place serving dependably delicious regional specialities. All cooked by owner/chef Christian Jimenez. Great lunch deals. Reliable and fairly priced. Prices: €24-34. 27 Porte de Laure, 13200 Arles, Tel: +33 (0)4 90 49 71 77
Le Cilantro Contemporary bistro with a Zen atmosphere. Chef Jerome Laurent expands the concept of the traditional Provençal cuisine by adding new techniques and flavors from around the world. His dishes are spiced up with imagination. We are happy he got his first Michelin star. High standards still pay off. Chef Laurent offers cooking classes on Saturday mornings. Prices: €29-99. 31 Rue Porte de Laure, 13200 Arles, Tel: +33 (0)4 90 18 25 05.
Cuisine de Comptoir Definitely the place for Tartines, the open faced sandwiches popular in France. They come in all variations. Served with a freshly leafed salad or soup. Great Gazpachos. Popular with locals and visitors. No Provençal decor, they concentrate on "les Tartines" here. Prices: €10-15. 10 Rue de la Liberté, 13200 Arles, Tel; +33 (0)4 90 96 86 28.
Le Criquet Family run restaurant where mother and daughter serve delicious food prepared by Papa, who is the chef. Traditional dishes with emphasis on fish. Warm welcome, you are family! Prices: €15-30. 21 Rue Porte de Laure, 13200 Arles Tel: +33 (0)4 90 96 80 51
La Gueule du Loup Well managed restaurant near the ancient arena. The Allard family plays chef, host and waiter whipping up French gourmet style food, all beautifully presented. A veritable gem in Arles. Only 30 seats - reservations are a must! Prices: €12-25. 29 Rue des Arenes, 13200 Arles, Tel. +33 (0)4 90 96 96 69
Lou Marques, in the Hotel Jules César, an oldtimer in a former 17th century Carmelite convent on the Boulevard des Lices. Classy food in a classy dining room or on the al fresco terrace. Flavorful traditional cuisine and solicitous service. No fancy experiments here, but excellent price/quality. Prices: €21-40. 9 boulevard des Lices, 13200 Arles, Tel: +33 (0)4 90 52 52 52
La Paillotte Wood beamed interior, jolly decoration and a nice terrace outside. Traditional Provençal fare at reasonable prices. Competent service. Prices: €15-25. 28 Rue du Docteur Fanton, 13200 Arles, Tel: +33 (0)4 90 96 33 15
La Chassagnette in Le Sambuc. A former sheep fold transformed into a magical place respecting the fragile environment of the Camargue. Walk through the organic garden and you get an idea what might be on your plate tonight. Outdoor dining on a large terrace with a designer mosquito netting (an absolute must in the Camargue during summer time) or indoors with contemporary frescos. Chef Armand Arnal creates a menu which elevates the fresh offerings of his garden and the bounty of the nearby Mediterranean sea into a top notch gastronomic experience. He got his first Michelin star in 2009. Bravo! Long overdue! Prices: €34-60. Le Sambuc, 13200 Arles, Tel: +33 (0)4 90 97 26 96. From Arles take D-570 to Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and then D-36 to Salin de Giraud; the restaurant is 2.5 km before le Sambuc on the right side, 15 km from Arles.
Hostellerie du Pont de Gau A good place when in Les Saintes Maries de la Mer, the famous town brimming with scores of visitors. Rustic decor with outside dining overlooking a bird sanctuary. Country fare from the Camargue, no experiments but reliable. Prices: €23-35. Route de Arles, 13460 Les Saintes Maries de la Mer. Tel: +33 (0)4 90 97 81 53
Le Mas de Peint. The hotel and restaurant near Le Sambuc is a favorite of many visitors to the Camargue. Rustic setting on a 500 hectare Camargue cattle ranch and rice farm. Dining here is a communal experience: large rustic tables and a kitchen which opens to the dining area. The traditional cuisine centers on local produce. Beef and Camargue rice from the estate are a feature in many dishes as is seafood from the nearby Mediterranean Sea. You will love it. Reservations days in advance a must. Prices: €45-60. Same directions as to La Chassagnette, but continue through le Sambuc, turn left after 2km to Pâtis/Anes and follow the signs. Le Sambuc, 13200 Arles, Tel: +33 (0)4 90 97 20 62
Le Mazet du Vaccarès in Méjannes on the shores of the Étang de Vaccarès, the largest brine lake in the Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue, a unique environment. Camargue specialities are offered here. Well known for their Tellines à la Persillade, small clams in parsley sauce. Top it off with a superb fruit tart. Open only on weekends. Prices: €25. Méjannes, 13200 Arles, Tel: +33 (0)4 90 97 10 79