Avignon travel guide
A brief stint as the seat of Papal power in the Middle Ages gave Avignon an architectural majesty that still endures today.
Encircled by 800-year-old stone ramparts that rise grandly from the bank of the wide river Rhône, the UNESCO-listed centre boasts one of the most iconic skylines in France. At its heart is the Palais de Papes – a vast turreted fortress that overlooks a magical mixture of mansion-lined streets and medieval squares.
The 12th-century Pont Saint-Bénézet (the arched bridge of nursery rhyme fame) only retains four of its original 22 arches, but history buffs will still find plenty to tickle their fancy in Avignon. From the old papal mint and three spectacular Gothic churches, to the artworks of the Musee du Petit and Collection Lambert, the city is a cultural treasure box of epic proportions.
The prestigious annual Avignon Festival in July brings the cobbled streets around the Palais de Papes to life. Even out of season, the vast square in front of the fortress is the scene for all sorts of entertainment, including buskers and shows. Take a stroll through the nearby Rochers des Doms gardens to enjoy wonderful, airy views far across the Rhône and the sunlit Provence countryside.
Cosy pavement cafés and fantastic restaurants make Avignon the perfect place for a romantic weekend away. It has a range of hotels from great little budget places to grand luxury establishments, some of which are in converted mansions and convents. It’s also a fabulous shopping city, with elegant jewellers and chic fashion stores standing shoulder to shoulder with quirkier boutiques.
You’ll find Provencal specialities like fragrant flowery perfumes, prestigious local Côtes du Rhône wines, and edible treats such as fougasse bread, Papalines d’Avignon liqueur chocolates and nougat in the markets of the medieval quarter. Foodies will also find a generous smattering of traditional Provencal eateries and a few prestigious Michelin star establishments.
Capital of the Vaucluse region in the heart of Provence, Avignon makes an ideal base for out-of-town excursions. Some of the prettiest corners of southern France are within a couple of hours of the city.