Nicknamed “The City of Popes”, Avignon is immersed in French history. It is a city with two faces; on the one hand, seducing travelers by way of Gothic architecture and deep roots in Christianity.
Perfect for a weekend getaway, Avignon is a southern French city situated just north of Montpellier and built on the bank of the Rhône River. Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its historic center comprises of numerous reminders of the past, including: Le Palais des Papes and the Avignon Bridge. Stroll along the city walls, the bridge, and attend the famous theater festival to discover everything this provincial town has to offer.
HOW TO GET THERE
Located in the southern part of France, Avignon can be reached from Paris in two ways: the train or the car. From Paris Gare de Lyon, it is approximately a 3-hour train ride and costs between 90 and 150 euros. By car, traverse the entirety of France passing through famous French cities, such as: Lyon, Dijon, and Valence. It is about a 7-hour trip but we recommend making frequent stops and even spending the night in a few different towns before reaching Avignon.
Hot tip! You can also group together Avignon and Aix-en-Provence in your itinerary as the two cities are only an hour apart by car. If you plan on visiting lavender fields, then it’s also best to rent a car.
SEE / DO
Le Palais des Papes
Pl. du Palais, 84000 Avignon, France
This historical fortress is one of most visited monuments in the country and is one of the finest examples of gothic architecture in France. Originally, the site served both as a fortress and a residence for Popes as nine of them lived in the fortress during the 14th century, and each one left their mark. This landmark serves as a symbol of the Catholic Church’s influence and the power that popes held during that pious period of time. Opened to the public in 1906, 25 rooms can be visited, including: the banquet room, stateroom, Europe’s largest library, and the pope’s personal apartments overlooking the Avignon Bridge. The tour is enhanced by multimedia options and a museum. Bearing witness to Italian and French Art, the pope’s apartments are adorned with priceless paintings. 15,000 square feet large, The Palace of Popes is the largest Medieval Gothic fort in the world.
Pont d’Avignon, or The Avignon Bridge
Bd de la Ligne, 84000 Avignon, France
Known for its world-famous song and attracting more than 30,000 visitors each year, the Avignon Bridge is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Out of the 22 original arches, only 4 remain, but why? Between the numerous wars and water damage, the bridge was wrecked a number of times. During the Middle Ages, the Pont d’Avignon served as an important route between Italy and Spain and later on as an essential connection between the Palace of Popes and the cardinals’ residences. Formerly known as The Saint Berezet Bridge, this emblem was named after its architect and is one of the oldest bridges on the Rhone River. This cultural site’s construction was expensive and required 14 years to complete but it was a necessity as it remained as the only fixed river crossing.
Le Musée de la Lavande
276 Rte de Gordes, 84220 Cabrières-d'Avignon, France
The region of Luberon is known for its iconic and lush lavender fields. The closest location to capture that perfect photo is at Lavender Museum, situated less than an hour east of central Avignon. Musée de la Lavande provides the technical, agricultural and historical information about the lavender. The establishment takes travelers from the planting, harvesting, to the distillery process of refining this signature minted plant. The best months to visit start from mid-June to mid-August, bearing in mind of climate and temperature changes.
4 Pl. de l'Amirande, 84000 Avignon, France
Located near the Palace of Popes, La Mirande is a Michelin-starred gourmet restaurant recognized for its chef’s high-quality cuisine. Chef Florent Pietravalle transports each guest on a magical culinary journey through his sequential menus, revolving around Provincial flavors. Balanced and light, each dish is inspired by the chef’s seasonal ingredients and daily creativity. Visitors come from all over to taste Chef Pietravalle’s famous beef marrow with burnt onion and anchovy or eggplant tacos with wild rice. Set in a former cardinal’s residence, the restaurant’s interior is endowed with relics of the period and a highly detailed Renaissance ceiling. On a warm day, enjoy your dish on La Mirande’s outdoor terrace which constitutes a true safe haven. Overlooking the Palace of Popes and decorated with garlands of light, the terrace’s pastoral scenery is a true dream.
La Cantine du Nid
7 Rue Des Trois Faucons, 84000 Avignon, France
Aptly named, La Cantine du Nid or the Nest Canteen in English, is nestled away in the historic heart of Avignon. Opened in 2018, this concept store encompasses a restaurant, a clothing store, and even a yoga studio. The chef’s dishes are light and created with seasonal produce cultivated in local farms. The organic and vegan-friendly menu includes dishes such as: a veggie burger with red bean steak, seaweed tartare, and chocolate-hazelnut-sesame tart. Accompany your dish with an artisanal beer, locally brewed. Zen, new, and popular; better make a reservation in hopes of getting a table!
7 Pl. du Chapitre, 30400 Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, France
Put your bags down at Le Prieuré d’Avignon; an ideal base for visiting the town and its surroundings. How does a provincial resort in the heart of the busy city sound? This ancient cloister of the 14th century was rebaptized as a five-star hotel in 2007. Perfectly blending Le Prieuré’s 14th century architecture and modern amenities, the owner – Geneviève Charial – has a keen eye for details and creates a harmonious atmosphere. Along with 26 rooms and 13 suites, the hotel boasts a contemporary French restaurant where Chef Marc Fontanne creates typical rustic dishes, accompanied by exquisite wines of the Rhône Valley. Outside, stroll around the oldest part of the cloister where a vegetation courtyard now grows and head for the pool next if the weather’s fitting. Climbing vines connect the hotel to the gardens which enriches the serene and secluded soul of the estate.
La Divine Comédie
16 Imp. Jean Pierre Gras, 84000 Avignon, France
Much like Le Prieuré, La Divine Comédie is an intimate hotel set in a bucolic setting hidden within the historic district of the city. Each of the five rooms are uniquely decorated, evoking travel, literature, or art. The rooms are equipped with luxurious amenities, while preserving the vintage essence of the hotel. The 17th century villa boasts an impressive collection of oil paintings and antique trinkets. But the real gem of this site is the exterior as it is home to the largest private garden in Avignon. A botanical garden with over 100 varieties of plants, a stunning orangery, and a year-round outdoor pool – facing the Palace of Popes – enhance the hotel’s charm. Along with the numerous services offered, a hammam, sauna and massage room are at the guest’s disposal and yoga classes can be personalized to your liking. Breakfast is served each morning either in the hotel’s salon or out on the terrace. Indulge in delicious pastries, a generous cheese and charcuterie selection before heading out for a full day of sightseeing.
Eve spent 4 days in Avignon.