Things to do:
- Walk around and on the old city walls
- Visit the Palais des Papes
- Have a coffee on one of the terraces
- Walk on the Pont Avignon
- Visit the many beautiful parks and gardens
Avignon is situated in the Provence region in the south of France. It is easily accessible from Southern cities like Marseille and Montpellier, and via the North by TGV.
Avignon is genuinely one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. As soon as you leave the train station, you are confronted by the old city walls, which are not ruins, but have been magnificently restored. Entering the city, you are given the impression of a very small typical French town. There was the sweet smell of the freshly baked baguettes from the boulangeries, as well as an old man playing his accordion under the burning sun. It was a hot August day and the temperature reached 36c!
The office de tourisme is conveniently located in between the train station (that is Avignon centre, Avignon TGV is situated about 6km away) and the main city centre. Staff were friendly, providing maps and offering advice. It also gave us the opportunity to eat lunch in what was one of many beautiful gardens.
After this, to head to the main town centre, continue up Rue de la République until you reach Place d’Horloge, a large square with many restaurants and bars. Although many can be very expensive, no doubt aimed at tourists, there are many other streets off of here that are cheaper and offer more traditional French food. The square also contains the city hall, and like most city halls in France, it lived up to the grandeur that I have begun to expect!
Continuing down the road, and you soon reach the Place du Palais, featuring the incredible Palais des Papes. Before going to Avignon, it is important to know a little history about the city itself. In the 14th century, it was home to several popes, having moved the Papacy from Rome to Avignon. The Palais des Papes was built during this time, and is now a museum.
Reduced price for entry to the museum plus the Pont d’Avignon was 11€ and is available for students, children and people aged 65+. Normal entry is just a couple of euros extra. It is well worth it, as the museum is huge. There is also the option of getting an audio guide, and there is a place to leave luggage.
The museum is massive, and it took us about an hour and a half to walk around the entire thing.
There are various things to see, including the old Pope’s bedroom, with some incredibly old art murals.
There is also lots of modern day art, situated throughout the museum.
One of the things that I personally enjoyed most about the Palais des Papes were the views that it offered over the city of Avignon and beyond. Get up there and have a look. There is a café at the top to reward you for all those stairs that you have climbed!
Tip: Make sure you visit all of the rooms in the museum, there are many hidden away and you may easily miss something!
Just next to the Palais des Papes is a beautiful church- Notre Dame des Doms. Whilst rather small inside, it is well worth a look to see the mosaics and the small chapels.
Leaving the church, we passed by the gardens just to the right of it. They really were beautiful, and provided the perfect scenery for the summers day.
It is well worth going into the gardens to have a look, or even better, for a little picnic in the shade. The views of the Provence region are incredible. Beyond the river Rhône, you will see vineyards, castles, and the mountains. It is a very picturesque view. You will also see an overview of Pont d’Avignon from there.
Of course, you cannot come to Avignon without walking on the Pont d’Avignon. There is a small room that tells you a little bit about the history of the bridge, and of course a history of the song.
I only had a short time to spend in Avignon, but the city was very easy to view in 5 hours, without being too time-pressured. Although we saw the main things, there are also many other museums to see, and no doubt more beautiful scenery to explore!