Arles Cryptoportiques du Forum

Les Cryptoportiques du Forum

Useful Information

Location: 5 Rue Balze, 13200 Arles.
(43.676810, 4.627410)
Open: MAR to APR daily 9-18.
MAY to SEP daily 9-19.
OCT daily 9-18.
NOV to FEB daily 10:30-16:30.
Closed 01-JAN, 01-MAY, 25-DEC.
Fee: Adults EUR 4.50, Children EUR 3.60.
Classification: SubterraneaCryptoporticus
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours:  
Photography: not allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Cryptoportiques du Forum, 5 Rue Balze, 13200 Arles, Tel: +33-490-49-59-05.
Town Hall, Place De la Republique, 13200 Arles, Tel: +33-490-18-41-20.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


46 BC Roman colony founded.
5th century partitioned off to serve as cellars for individuals.
17th century construction of the town hall.
1737 a fire in the basement of the Saint-Lucien church reveals a sculpted frieze.
1841 classified as a Historic Monument.
1935 begin of the excavation of the galleries.
1951 discovery of a marble deposit containing various fragments of statuary and inscriptions.
1966 opened to the public.
1981 inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.


The Arles Cryptoportiques du Forum is the basement of the forum, the huge Roman marketplace at the center of the city. The ground was sloping towards the river, so it was necessary to level it in order to have a horizontal ground for the surrounding buildings. Such a horizontal place has obvious benefits, so the Romans actually built the foundation first, a vast terrace to support the forum infrastructure. They had no huge machines to move great amounts of rocks, so they actually built walls and covered them by vaults. Such a passage needs much fewer rocks, and is stable enough. The forum was one of the first urban achievements of the new Roman colony founded in 46 BC.

After the end of the Roman empire the forum began to fall into disrepair. At the beginning of the 5th century, parts of the cryptoporticos were partitioned off to serve as cellars for individuals and a part was used as prison cells. This ended in the 10th century, with the construction of the Saint-Lucien church, which closed the entrance completely. And when the first scholars tried to find out what the use of the passages originally was, they failed. They thought they were catacombs, they even failed to recognize the Roman origin.

During the construction of the town hall in 1737 on top of the passages, the first idea of a Roman origin appeared. A fire in the basement of the Saint-Lucien church revealed a sculpted frieze which was of Roman origin and thus supported the idea. But it took until 1951 when the galleries were cleaned up, to actually get proof. A marble deposit contained various fragments of statues and inscriptions, one mentioned the Emperor Augustus.

The three galleries are forming a U open to the east. The southern gallery is dug into the rock, the northern is backfilled several meters The north and south galleries are 90 m, the west gallery 60 m. The passages are almost 10 m wide and form a double gallery, composed of two parallel barrel vaults. The floor of the passages is about the natural surface 2,00 years ago, the city around is today 6 m higher, In Roman times the galleries were not accessible to the public.