Arles is located in the historic province of Provence in the south of France, so the local culture shows many Mediterranean influences. There are several history museums of classical Arles from the Roman Empire, as well as numerous Roman ruins in the region, some of which are designated World Heritage sites.

Culinary specialties of Arles include olive oil (made with eight types of olives), Camargue rice (grown in local rice paddies) and farandole (a type of sausage). Vineyards surrounding the city also produce some excellent regional wines.

A traditional Arlesian costume, based on Parisian styles of the era, developed during the 18th and 19th century. For women, this includes a simple, narrow skirt, light shawl and white, ribboned bonnet. Men typically wore wide-brimmed hats, velvet jackets and corduroy breeches, a French version of the Western cowboy. Today, such costumes can still be seen in Arles during festivals and special occasions. In fact, there is a famous competition in which the most elegant Arlésienne (chosen from native-born women from old Arlesian families) is crowned Queen of Arles during the Festival of Arles in July; during her three-year reign, she acts as an ambassador of the city.

Famed painter Vincent van Gogh lived in Arles for only a little over a year (February 1888 to May 1889), but during this short time, he produced over 300 paintings and drawings of Provençal landscapes.