arles hotel de lamphitheatre2The Hôtel de l'Amphithéâtre is a gorgeously restored 17th century private house just round the corner from the Roman arena in Arles' Old Town. This budget boutique hotel is a real original.

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The owners, Philippe Coumet and Denis Piras, bought a first house - which once belonged to a prominent local artist - in a dilapidated state two decades ago. Now they own three buildings, all of them in the same quiet side street, and all with bags of character.

A magnificent sculpted portal ushers you into the crimson main reception area decorated with reproduction Roman stucco. Off it runs a long daisy chain of cosy, peaceful salons and sitting areas painted in warm ochre colours, with high ceilings, period furniture and exposed beams.

These ancient houses don't have lifts / elevators so, unless you are staying on the ground floor, you'll need to be ready to climb plenty of stairs. Some upper rooms are accessed by a spiral staircase and several of them have yet another, quite steep flight of stairs between the bedroom and bathroom.

So the Hôtel de l'Amphithéâtre isn't ideal for either very small children or visitors with restricted mobility, though two ground floor rooms do have wheelchair-adapted bathrooms.

arles hotel de lamphitheatreThere are a few steps between some public areas on the ground floor but the breakfast room is fully accessible.

Each of the 33 rooms and suites is decorated differently. Those in the main building have period furnishings while those in the house opposite are more contemporary. All have basic comforts such as air conditioning, iPad sockets, a coffee tray and minibar with soft drinks.

Despite the hotel's name, you can't actually see the amphitheatre from any of them, but two top floor rooms have fine views over the towers and rooftops of Arles and the surrounding countryside.

The Belvedere room lives up to its name: it's a former pigeon loft, with windows on all four walls. One suite, no. 29, has a sunny terrace, though some of the lower rooms are rather small and dark.

Breakfast is served from 7.30 to 11.30 and must be ordered the evening before. Fear not if you forget: there are cafés nearby. But it would be a pity to miss it, as it is very good value.

Classical music plays softly while you wait for it to arrive on a tray: there's no buffet. The "sweet" option is Continental (croissants, pastries), while the "savoury" one includes a hard-boiled egg and regional cheeses. Both feature excellent unusual local artisan preserves.

There's a choice of coffees, teas, hot chocolate and fresh juices, and second helpings of everything are offered. It's all top quality. In summer you can take it in a tiny outdoor courtyard, where tables jostle for space with plant pots.

The Hôtel de l'Amphithéâtre doesn't offer evening meals, but the neighbourhood teems with restaurants and bars and the free city shuttle bus passes close by. Do be warned, though: parking here will be tricky in summer.

This is a modest two-star hotel, so there are no fancy bells and whistles here and the reception closes in the late evening. However the staff are very knowledgeable and two computers are available for guest use, as well as free wi-fi.

Visited November 2016

Where: Hôtel de l'Amphithéâtre, 5-7 rue Diderot, 13200 Arles. Tel: (+33) 4 90 96 10 30. Book a room at the Hôtel de l'Amphithéâtre

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