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Things to do in Avignon

Buy some decent olive oil

For any food with a Franco-Mediterranean bent, olive oil is the golden glue that holds it all together. Guided excursions arranged by the tourist office (www.avignon-tourisme.com) leave Avignon for the area around the pretty village of Les Baux-de-Provence, just to the south. At traditional oil mills you'll be shown how olive oil is made and get to taste plenty.

Cook like a local

The South of France's culinary reputation is unparalleled, so why not use some of your time here trying to cook like them. At Concept Chef (tel: +33 6 2536 1240; www.conceptchef.com) there are courses for adults and children, and anyone who wants insight into the local style of Provençal cuisine will be well pleased (not to mention well fed).

Go horse riding on Barthelasse Island

Horse riding is a highly regarded activity in the western Provence region, and there's no better place to do it than on Barthelasse Island. The Centre Equestre d'Avignon (tel: +33 4 9085 8348; www.cheval-avignon.ffe.com) runs a variety of short riding courses on the river island, which is accessed by a free ten-minute ferry from the Pont d'Avignon.

Haggle in the local flea markets

Nothing quite says immersive holiday like getting into a robust argument about the price of a knackered old Cezanne print. There are two excellent flea markets in Avignon: the Petite Brocante d'Avignon in Place des Corps every Tuesday, and the Puces de Bonpas in Monfavet on a Saturday morning. Arrive early for the best bargains.

Tackle the River Sorgue in a canoe

For the amateur, river canoeing on the Rhône can be a little too challenging. For a gentler canoe outing, head to nearby Fontaine-de-Vaucluse on the pretty River Sorgue with Canoe Evasion (tel: +33 4 90 38 26 22; www.canoe-evasion.net). Two-hour trips go downstream for 8km (5 miles) from Fontaine-de-Vaucluse to l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. Groups leave several times daily.

Featured Hotels

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Hotel Colbert

The Colbert's arty style, with bright decor, pictures on the walls and unusual breakfast plates, are all the product of the creative and generous spirit of hosts Patrice and Annie. Rooms are tiny but adequately equipped. Access is very convenient, and all the sights and city centre are just minutes away.

La Mirande

Opposite the Palais des Papes, this former cardinal's palace from the 14th-century is all sophistication and attention to detail. The rooms are delightful, and the hotel's restaurant is one of the best in town. The sumptuous décor has been chosen with flair and imagination. Expensive, but this is luxury with charm and personality.

Hotel de l'Horloge

Well placed on the main square, this handsome old 4-star hotel is in the midst of all the life of the town. Noise is not usually a problem, but if you're concerned, ask for one of the quieter rooms at the side. Rooms are small but comfortable and attractively decorated.

Novotel Avignon Centre

Well positioned just outside the gateway into the walled city, the Novotel has easy road and rail access, an underground car park, a decent restaurant, swimming pool and spa, as well as bright, spacious, comfortable bedrooms. And it is only 10 minutes' walk to all the attractions of the city.

Hotel de Blauvac

This small, inexpensive hotel is just off the place de l'Horloge in a sensitively converted 17th-century mansion. It feels redolent with history, especially in the rooms with mezzanines and walls of massive exposed stone blocks. A warm welcome and 16 very basic but comfortable rooms make this a fine, well-placed budget choice.

Hotel Splendid

The Splendid offers six simple, well-kept, brightly decorated little rooms. It occupies an ordinary terraced house in a quiet residential street within the city walls, opposite the garden of an old cloister. It's well placed for anyone arriving by train, as it's just a few minutes' walk up the street from the station.