As they were attracted by the sweet life of the city and its strategic location on the banks of the Rhône, the popes chose to set up their residence in Avignon in the 14th century. Within a few years, this small town became the City of the Popes, the most important city for the Christians. This prosperous period has left us an exceptional heritage. Today the Palais des Papes, the Pont Saint-Bénézet, the towers and ramparts are the delight of tourists.
Culture is omnipresent in the city and plays a major role in the development of tourism. The Musée du Petit Palais houses some of the greatest masterpieces of the Renaissance, and a visit to the Palais des Papes, the largest building of its century, is quite simply a must. Every year, in July, the Avignon Festival invites various plays and contemporary performing arts to the heart of the city.
But your trip in Avignon will not be limited to visiting its monuments and museums. You will wander through the streets and alleys of the historic center to discover its hidden treasures such as the Renaissance facade of a former mansion or a small square where a fountain is making a sweet pattering sound. The setting will not fail to fill you with wonder.
If you feel like taking a break, stop off at the terrace of a café or restaurant on the Place de l’Horloge, to taste the local flavors. If you feel more like taking a stroll, take advantage of the calm atmosphere offered by the Rocher des Doms. The park that crowns it offers a superb panorama of the city and a large part of the former Comtat Venaissin. You can also take a walk on Barthelasse Island, where the roads and paths sometimes reveal a surprising view of the Rhône and the city.
Le Palais des Papes
The Palais des Papes, the largest Gothic building of the Middle Ages, was intended to bear witness to the opulence and power of the Catholic Church in the face of the Kingdom of France, which at the time was limited by the Rhône. The facade, with its remarkable dimensions, already surprises the tourists who discover it for the first time. Push open the doors of the building to visit its various rooms and its astonishing decorations, to meet a history that has spanned centuries. Many treasures await you, and you will be charmed by the finesse of the frescoes painted by Matteo Giovannetti in the pope’s private apartments. Temporary exhibitions are also regularly organized here.
Popularized in French-speaking countries by a famous nursery rhyme, the bridge of Avignon once spanned the Rhône and served as a link between the papal lands and the Kingdom of France. Only four of the twenty-two arches of this monumental building remain. The others were swept away centuries ago by the fury of the river in flood. Tourists from all over the world come to walk on the cobblestones and discover the Saint-Bénézet Chapel, built above one of the pillars. Exhibitions offer visitors a lot of information on the history of the bridge and a virtual reconstruction of its original state.
Musée du Petit Palais
As culture is at the heart of tourism in Avignon, the city had to have an exceptional Fine Arts Museum. Located in the former palace of the archbishops, which was built mainly between the 14th and 17th centuries, the Musée du Petit Palais offers a perfect setting for the many masterpieces it houses. Amateurs will be able to admire priceless Italian paintings, such as Madonna and Child by Sandro Botticelli, as well as many sculptures and paintings from Avignon.
Every year in July, for three weeks, Avignon becomes the capital of contemporary performing arts. Prestigious and unusual venues host numerous performances by well-known troupes and talents to be discovered. The Avignon Festival OFF offers an alternative to the spectators and a stage for independent companies. Since 1947, the Festival has been taking part every year in the cultural and tourist influence of Avignon, to the delight of artists and amateurs of performing arts and theatrical performances.
The tourist attraction of Avignon also lies in its exceptional geographic location. The former Comtat Venaissin, which was part of the Papal States until 1791, has many treasures. Just a few kilometers from Avignon, in the vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape you can discover all the flavor of a thousand-year-old wine-growing tradition and enchanting landscapes. You can also visit the historic center of Carpentras or set off to conquer Mont Ventoux, the Giant of Provence overlooking the Rhône Valley from its 1912 meters above sea level.
Prepare your stay or your holidays in Avignon and visit one of the most tourist cities of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.
- Tourist Office of Avignon: https://avignon-tourisme.com/
- Road service: A9 Highway (from Montpellier) and A7 Highway (from Lyon or Marseille)
- Air access: Avignon Provence Airport (22 minutes) and Marseille Provence Airport (1 hour)
- Railroad access: TGV station