The Windows of Arles, France

The southern French city of Arles has ties to the Ancient Romans and Van Gogh. It’s also home to some enchanting windows.

A collage featuring 9 colorful windows in Arles, France. Some are shuttered; others have flowerpots, or laundry adorning them.

Arles, France circa 1888: If you were to peek through the window at 2 Place Lamartine about this time, it’s likely you would’ve seen Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh at work in his studio. Van Gogh lived in Arles for about one year, spending part of that time in a building that’s since been called the Yellow House.

Van Gogh, a Post-Impressionist painter, painted hundreds of works in Arles, no doubt inspired by Provence’s abundant and legendary light. SunflowersCafé Terrace at Night, The Yellow House, The Bedroom, and Starry Night Over the Rhone are among van Gogh’s Arles creations.

And the Van Gogh trail isn’t the city of Arles’ only drawcard. This southern French town is also home to an impressive amphitheater, which was built by the Romans around 90 CE. The Romans used the two-tiered structure to hold gladiator fights. Today, it serves as an arena for bullfighting.

Interesting enough, after the fall of the Roman Empire, citizens of Arles took refuge inside the old amphitheater. They built chapels, hundreds of homes, and even a town square inside the old Roman structure. Since 1981, the arena has been designated one of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Arles. A Roman theater, baths, and several Romanesque sites are also included on the list.

In this window collage, I’ve captured a window in the arena’s tower (it’s the one in the center right). No windows from Van Gogh’s Yellow House are featured though, as the building was sadly hit by bombs during World War II and eventually demolished.

I especially like the trompe-l’œil likeness of a window in this collage’s center. The kitten, flowerpots, and birdcage add a bit of whimsy to the scene, don’t you think?

Have you explored Southern France — if so, what were some of your highlights?

Where in the World?

Planning Pointers:

  • Arles is located in France’s Provence region, about 90 km (55 miles) northwest of Marseille.
  • The city is set to open a new art center, Luma Arles, in 2020. The building is designed by Frank Gehry, the same architect behind Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum. It’ll be interesting to see if the “Bilbao Effect” transforms Arles, too.
  • Arles also has the Fondation Vincent van Gogh, which features a few van Gogh paintings each year. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to visit this gallery, but I’ve read that it’s a worthwhile spot to while away a few hours.
  • See the Arles Office of Tourism site for more tips.

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

13 thoughts on “The Windows of Arles, France

    1. Darlene, there is something calming about the earth tones that so often characterize Provence’s homes. We spent most of our time exploring cities to the west of the Rhône, but I’d love to get back and see more of Provence — especially the Luberon and all its lavender. Were there any spots that were stand-outs for you? Our must-see list continues to grow…

  1. Dearest Tricia, Thank you for bringing some lovely, positive photographs of France into my Sunday morning. Watching the riots in Paris has been disturbing.Cheers Virginia

    1. Thank you, Cornelia! I wish we’d had more time to see the city. Do you remember visiting the Roman sites there?

      I’m wondering if Arles will be rejuvenated once the new art center is opened there (Luma Arles). The building is being designed by Frank Gehry, the architect behind Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum, and the Disney Hall in LA that you photographed a few years ago.

      1. Hi Tricia. I did visit the Roman sites in Arles, but that’s back like over 3 years ago. How interesting that the new Art Center will be designed by Frank Gehry, who is truly a gifted architect. Indeed I photographed the Disney Hall in LA many years ago, wow you have a good memory, thank you.

    1. Hi Peggy! Our visit to Arles was short, so I’d love to return on a sun-drenched day when street artists and visitors are out and about. We’ve just returned from the Southern France, actually (Nîmes and Montpellier). We were hoping to visit Provence’s fields of lavender, but it was just a bit early in the season.

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