Arles opening week | Advice | How to do it

Opening week Arles 2018

Les rencontres de la photographie


official Festival Map, 2018

official Festival Map, 2018

Round up: Opening week – Monday 2 – Saturday 7 July

Arles is to photographers what Cannes is to filmmakers

Totally the same concept: takes place in a beautiful old French town, involves awards, champagne, and brings together an industry…  but with Arles, just minus the red carpets, Hollywood A-listers and Uber Helicopters (yes, that’s a thing).

With such a buzz around the opening week and FOMO of those who stay behind – weighing up if it’s all hype and ‘if it’s really worth going?’ is an unavoidable question. With 18,500 visitors from all around the world attending the opening week it presents a unique opportunity to meet like-minded, brilliant people. Whilst the special Arles mix of sun, photography, dancing, and rosé, makes business not seem like business.

For this year’s programme there were 36 official exhibitions, 17 on the associated program, put together by 49 guest curators who exhibited 151 artists. Post-Arles there has been a lot of dissatisfaction around the programming with it being too American-centric-White-Male heavy and with an 80 male to 20 female exhibition ratio – the bias doesn’t have anywhere to hide...

Rather than give a review of the exhibitions (you can find plenty of these online – I would recommend Sean O’ Hagens) – here is a round-up of the practical stuff…

Costs / How to get there

Eurostar London to Avignon – £148.00 return (book 6 months in advance)

Train Avignon to Arles – 15€ return (can book on the day)


EasyJet Flight – Gatwick to Marseille £116 return (book 6 months in advance)

Free Shuttle outside the airport from bus stop 5 to TGV Vitrolles Aéroport Marseille

Train TGV Vitrolles to Arles. 13€ return (can book on the day)

/ Or Taxi Marseille airport to Arles 150€ (one way – 5-seater

You can also fly in to Nimes, Montpellier - then train to Arles from there.


Opening week pass  

Unlimited access to all exhibitions (from 2 to 9 July inclusive)

48€ online / 55€ on site

Note: to access Luma Foundation exhibitions there were additional exhibition ticket costs 16€ - borrow a press / guest pass from a friend - they get free access to the shows included.


Where to stay

  • A house share - I would highly recommend the website over Airbnb - as you can reserve now and not pay until June 2019. With advance planning, it’s very easy to get a room in town for 50€ a night.
  • Hotel out of town - for cheaper accommodation consider staying 20 mins walk away and coming in each day. A gang of influential photo editors always seem to congregate at Première Classe Arles 39€ per room (some rooms have three beds in - so that works out super cheap!). I've also heard a late-night Pastis is only 2€.
  • On a kind mates’ floor - if you move the couch forward, put the couch cushions on the floor - it makes a cosy bedroom behind (I did this my first two Arles - and now always offer my couch out).  This option could cost you as little as putting two bottles of rosé in the house fridge. 
  • Camping - the site Camping City is 15 minutes from town and has a lovely swimming pool. 18€ per night for a pitch. Note: watch for Mosquitoes - take LOTS of jungle strength spray



If you’re trying to save money definitely don’t get involved in the big group dinners. Eat at home then join at the end of the meal for coffee and drinks.

Shop at Carrefour then save your pennies for one splurge 'living the life' meal.

Le Galoubet - the best French restaurant in town, ask to sit outside - you MUST book in advance. Two sittings per night 6:30/7pm and from 9pm. Choose the fixed menu - 33€ for three courses or 27€ for two courses.

 Louis Vuitton city guide, 2018

 Louis Vuitton city guide, 2018

Portfolio Reviews

Official Arles festival reviews - 200€ for 5 reviews

Fringe Voies Off festival reviews - 12€ per review

Before you hand over any cash, consider if a set of portfolio reviews are really worth it at this point in your career. Could you do a WSG workshop instead? Having a supportive crew around you is an easier (and more fun) route to success than chasing (expensive) gatekeepers.



  • Visiting so many exhibitions, handling lots of new books, and attending interesting evening talks and events.
  • Geek out about photography – have impromptu meetings – with people from around the world
  • Dance until 4am alongside curators to form genuine relationship NOT static, forced portfolio review ones
  • Feel part of a community and get to hang out with your creative crew which is normally far too busy to ever meet up.


The programme

  • 36 official exhibitions, 17 on the associated program
  • 49 guest curators / 151 artists
  • 80 French and international publishers at Cosmos Arles Books
  • 6 evenings at various venues in town, including 3 free ones
  • 129 public events: public tours with artists and curators, book signings, live France Inter shows


The parties

  • Wednesday – Photographers’ Gallery / BMW
  • Thursday – Women in Photo / Prix Pictet
  • Friday – HSBC / Night of the year

Next Arles 2019 Work-Show-Grow are planning a workshop and Friday night party!

For the official Arles festival opening week breakdown