By Madison Mastrangelo
Getting to Avignon, France
- Airports – Aéroport de Marseille Provence (major airport), Aéroport d’Avignon-Provence, Aéroport Nîmes-Arles-Camargue
- Train Stations – Gare d’Avignon TGV, Gare d’Avignon-Centre
- Currency – Euro (EUR or €)
- Language – French
- Population – 91,283
- Region – Provence (Southeastern France)
“There is something about Provence that I can’t quite understand. It has a way of enveloping you, of transporting you from the everyday and it makes you feel as if you are living life in slow motion. The rest of the world disappears when I am in Provence . . . not an intentional decision, but one that just happens.”
-Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See
Avignon, France: A Provençal Holiday
Surrounded by fortified walls, the ancient city of Avignon is a historical jewel located in the sunny region of Provence. The friendly disposition of Avignon’s inhabitants and vibrant Provençal culture match the warm Mediterranean climate. A three-hour train ride from Paris, Avignon feels a world away with its relaxed atmosphere and picturesque countryside. A stroll through Avignon is filled with ceaseless wonders and beautiful views at every turn.
Crossing into this walled city, you enter a community that honors its rich history while also moving with the pace of the modern age. The Palais des Papes, the residence of seven popes in the 14th century, serves as both the focal point of Avignon and as a backdrop of the charming cafés. This palace takes on a new role each July when it features a stage for Avignon’s annual theatre festival. During the popular Festival d’Avignon, visitors receive a glimpse of the art and culture at the city’s core.
Pack your sunscreen and enjoy the lively atmosphere, sunny skies, and taste of history during a weekend getaway. Even better, make Avignon your starting point for exploring the incredible region: Provence is at your doorstep.
How to Get There
Located in the southeastern part of France, Avignon is often described as being “au cœur de l’Europe” (at the heart of Europe). This charming city is accessible by train, plane, car, and boat. One of the easiest ways to visit Avignon from other parts of France is to take a short train ride using the TGV (high-speed train). In under three hours, you can zip away from the bustling city streets of Paris to the quaint Provençal city of Avignon and enjoy the stress-free atmosphere. With three airports in the region, flying to Avignon serves as an alternative to the train. The major airport with both international and domestic service is the Aéroport de Marseille Provence. Numerous car lots, two commercial ports, and docking stations allow visitors to reach Avignon by sea and by land.
Pack your sneakers and get ready to bike! Avignon boasts 110 kilometers (68 miles) of bike paths that make it easy to navigate the city. Rent a bike from the bike sharing system Vélopop’ and return it at one of the many stations that dot the city. With over 200 bicycles available and 17 bike stations, it is incredibly easy to bike your way through Avignon.
Palais des Papes
Visit the star attraction in Avignon: a castle that holds rich historical, religious, and architectural meaning. This fortress dominates the surrounding city and stands as a monumental symbol of the church’s far-reaching influence in the 14th century. Tour more than 20 rooms that once housed seven popes who fled chaos in Rome to find sanctuary in the south of France. Amble through the palace that transformed Avignon from a small provincial town into a center of European power. Following its usage by the papacy, this monument gradually deteriorated and was ransacked during the French Revolution. A far cry from its days as the popes’ residence, the massive palace later functioned as military barracks and a prison. After a massive restoration, the palace opened as a museum and has welcomed over 600,000 visitors.
In addition to the austere-looking palace’s religious and historical significance, it is known as one of the most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. Visit one of the most popular monuments in France to peel back layers of history and to marvel at a palace that has withstood the test of time.
Place de l’Horloge
Place de l’Horloge (Clock Square) is the beating heart of Avignon. Lined with restaurants and cafés, visitors and locals alike gather in this charming town square to enjoy the lively ambiance. A beautiful carousel serves as a centerpiece and adds a pop of color to this traditional town hub. Stop by the square to watch the world go by in the middle of Avignon.
Each July, the town square transforms into a dynamic theatre as music notes, poetry, and laughter fill the hot summer air. For over 70 years, Avignon has hosted the aptly-titled Festival d’Avignon, the largest theatre festival in Europe. Time your trip well to enjoy the performances while having a glass of wine in the square.
Rocher des Doms
Enclosed by Avignon’s ramparts, the Rocher des Doms is a limestone promontory that offers a breathtaking panoramic view of Avignon. Wander through the adjacent charming park to enjoy the English-style garden dotted with ponds and statues. Reach the summit that once served as the center of the city and soak in the stunning landscape. Don’t forget your camera!
Pont du Gard
After visiting the infamous Pont Saint-Bénézet, better known the subject of the song “Sur le Pont d’Avignon,” take a short drive to admire the region’s crown jewel: le Pont du Gard. This ancient Roman aqueduct serves as a stunning example of Roman architecture with its three tiers of arches. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Pont du Gard holds the title of the highest Roman aqueduct and remains one of the best preserved.
The only thing that can rival this aqueduct is the natural beauty that surrounds it. Take a short hike up a hill to marvel at the colossal architecture and breathtaking Mediterranean landscape. This monumental aqueduct stretches into the bright blue sky and is surrounded by a lush forest. For an unforgettable photo, head to the water’s edge to capture the aqueduct’s reflection in the emerald green water. On a humid summer day, the pool and sandy beach are the perfect spots for a refreshing dip!
In this sunny region by the Mediterranean Sea, the food resembles Italian cuisine and reflects the warm climate. Fresh vegetables, seafood, herbs, and olive oil are staples in Provençal cuisine. While the dishes often appear simple at first glance, the flavors are strong and influenced by the Mediterranean.
While visiting Provence, make sure to sample the fruity wine of the region. Provence is widely known for its honey, and beautifully packaged glass jars of honey make perfect souvenirs. Honey also serves as an essential ingredient in Provence’s celebrated nougat. Nougat is a chewy treat that consists of sugar or honey, roasted nuts, and whipped egg whites.
Places to Try
Restaurant des Teinturiers
For a taste of traditional southern French food, head to this family-run restaurant known for its quaint atmosphere, friendly staff, and excellent fare. The delicious food and beautiful presentation speak for themselves. Sit outside to enjoy the spectacular view and be sure to try the duck breast served over violet mashed potatoes! Try to book in advance to avoid a wait at this popular restaurant.
Avitus: La Cave
Sink into the comfortable couches at this wine bar and enjoy amazing snacks paired with even better wine. Tucked away on an unassuming Avignon street, Avitus offers an extensive selection of local wine and the expertise of its friendly staff members. This cozy spot makes a perfect evening destination for wine enthusiasts and for groups interested in a French wine tasting experience.
Carrières de Lumières
For a truly magical experience, head to Les Baux-de-Provence and visit the Carrières de Lumières, a former quarry turned multimedia exhibition, for a once in a lifetime experience. Step inside this hidden sanctuary where constantly-changing media covers the walls, music bounces off the large columns, and the light gently flickers. In this sensory exhibition, the presentation is just as dazzling as the art. Visitors to these monumental caves will be quickly transported out of reality and into a mesmerizing art immersion. Akin to walking through a painting, the exhibition and unique type of artistic expression are simply indescribable.
Questions about traveling to Avignon? Leave us a comment below!