The spectacular city of Avignon is an essential stop in Provence. Thirty-nine towers and seven gates punctuate ramparts surrounding the city. From the top of the ramparts you can understand why the site was chosen for a fort: Avignon stands high above the immense plains of the Rhône River and is the strategic point of the whole valley.
Within Avignon, you will find a cultural treasure-trove including a university, an opera house, theater companies, and town squares with mimes, musicians and other performers. Be on the lookout for Tromp l’oeil windows and walls decorating the city, especially around the Place de l’Horloge. The Place de l’Horloge is located at the entrance to the Papal Palace and is the center of café life. It is the place to stop for lunch or a cool drink.
One of the most elegant streets is the rue Joseph Vernet, adjacent to the Calvet Museum and the Requien Museum.
The Palais de Papes (Papal Palace) is a must-see. From the vantage point of the Palace gardens you can see the city, the Rhone, and the Sorgue Rivers as well as the famous Pont d’Avignon. In 1309, Pope Clement V moved the Seat of the Roman Catholic Church to Avignon “the other Rome”. During the 14th century, seven French popes and two anti-popes ruled from this white fortress. The Rocher des Doms gardens surround the palace. The tour of the Palace and the Petit Palace museum is well worth the time and money.
Points of Interest
Eglise St. Pierre
This church was built during the 14th to 16th centuries. Note the carved renaissance panels on the church’s west façade.
Palais de Papes (The Palace of the Popes)
In 1309, Pope Clement V moved the Papal Residence to Avignon from Rome. The popes resided here until 1403. The Palace consists of two buildings, both quite large and quite empty. There are some interesting frescoes and tapestries as well as a room with pictures and information offering a good history of the palace. The views from the many windows and walkways are very fine. Enjoy your walk through the cool maze of halls and passageways, imagining life in this luxurious palace.
The Wine Cellar at the Palace of the Popes, known as the “Bouteillerie“, offers the public a “guided” wine tasting of over forty wine choices selected by a committee of wine professionals and enthusiastic amateurs in a blind selection process. The objective at the Bouteillerie is to help the visitors to the Palace of the Popes to learn more about the quality and diversity of the Côtes du Rhône wines.
Place du palais
Open: Daily 9am-7pm
and 9-11:45am and 2-6pm from November through Mid-March
There are English tours offered at around 10am and 3pm from April-September. (Check at the tourist office for more complete information)
Pont d’Avignon (Pont de St. Benezet)
In 1177, acting on a divine inspiration, Saint Benezet (then a shepherd boy) began to build the bridge that now is named after him. Viewed best from the Rocher de Dom gardens. In the past, the Museum devoted to the “Pont d’Avignon”, called the Pont Saint Bénezet Museum, was located in the the Châtelet, which is the entrance to the bridge. The layout of this space has been restructured, and the shop and ticket area have been reorganized in the Saint Bénezet Space. The Museum provides a vast overview of the history of the legendary bridge and song, through objects, tools, documentation and period illustrations. In addition, at the end or beginning of your visit, you can visit the shop which offers souvenirs and regional products, and a large choice of books on the subject of the bridge and of Avignon. The Museum and the Shop are open every day of the year during bridge opening hours.
Hotel de Ville
Built in the 19th century, the town hall has an interesting clock tower.
Place de l’Horloge
The lively square near the Palais de Papes. The square is filled with open-air cafes, music, and street performers most of the year. Some of the buildings overlooking the square are decorated with tromp l’œil scenes
The most famous of Avignon’s museums, it was founded in 1810, by the collector Esprit Calvet. Recently restored, Musee Calvet houses a sumptuous collection of 17th and 18th-century paintings, a collection of 14th and 15th-century wrought iron works, as well as many other pieces.
65 rue Joseph-Vernet
Tel: 04 90 86 33 84
Campana Museum (Le musée du petit Palais)
Dedicated to mainly Italian Medieval and Renaissance paintings, the Campana Museum holds the largest and most important collection of Italian primitives in France. It also contains numerous works from the Provencal school of the 15th century and a rich collection of sculptures from the same period.
Located in the The Petit Palais
Place du Palais
Tel: 04 90 86 81 01
Open: Daily, except Tuesdays 9:30-11:50am and 2-6pm
Musee Louis Vouland
Dedicated to furnishings and art of the 18th century. The Louis Vouland Arts Decorative Museum is a stately mansion, opening on a lovely garden. Its interior is remarkable for the luxurious display of lavish furnishings and masterpieces collected by a generous patron.
17 rue Victor Hugo
Tel: 04 90 86 03 79 Open: June 1st to September 30th
10am-noon and 2pm-6pm
Open: October 1st to May 31st 2pm-6pm
Except Sunday, Monday and legal holidays.
La Mirande 5-star Luxury
The finest hotel in Avignon and the area, La Mirande is located in a historical building, the former Cardinal’s palace. It offers the finest accomodations and service, with prices that match.
4 place de la Mirande
Tel: 0 40 90 14 20 20
Hotel d’Europe 4-Star
Located in the heart of Avignon, this hotel was awarded the Trip Advisor best luxury choice award for 2006. It offers great service and comfortable rooms. Free WiFi is a plus.
12, Place Crillon
Tel: 04 90 14 76 76
De l’Horloge Hotel 3-star
Located in the center of Avignon and steps from the Palais des Papes, this hotels offers a fantastic location, comfortable rooms and service-oritented staff, all at a reasonable price.
1 Rue Félicien David
Place de l’Horloge
Avignon 84000, France
Christian Etienne $$$
Gastronomic cooking. The most famous restaurant in Avignon. Good, but expensive food.
rue de Mons
Tel: 04 90 86 16 50
La Mirande $$$$
Set in La Mirande Hotel’s Cardinalice room, this restaurant is probably the best in Avignon. The chef offers classic French cooking with some some modern elements.
4 place de la Mirande
Tel: (04) 9014 2020
This popular restaurant is located in a former 14th century cloister. Closed Sunday and Monday.
83 rue Joseph Vernet
Tel: (04) 9085 9904
Nestled amongst vineyards and olive groves, L’Oustalet offers traditional Provencal cuisine featuring the finest local ingredients. This place is outside of Avignon in the charming town of Gigondas, but is worth the trip.
Place de la Mairie
Tel:/Fax: 04 90 65 85 30
Dame l’Oie $$
Provencale cooking in Pernes Les Fontaines (25 km from Avignon).
56 rue Troubadour Durand
84210 Pernes Les Fountaines
Reservations: 04 90 61 62 43
For more restaurant recommendations, please read this article.
Shopping and Markets
Parfums Nadine Patout
Perfumes blended to your specifications.
Tel: 04 90 20 01 27
Cristallerie de Papes
Beautiful hand-made crystal.
Near the Place of the popes
One of a kind French Antiques and new hand-blown hurricane lamps
Open: Mon-Sat 9:30am-12:30pm & 2:30pm-7:00pm
19, 19 bis, 19 ter rue de la Petite-Fusterie
Tel: 04 90 86 37 66
Terre e Provence
Fantastic hand-made pottery (at prices well below what you would pay for the same Provencal pottery at finer US stores such as Barney’s)
Open: Mon 2-7pm, Tue-Sat 10am-12:30pm & 2-7pm.
26 Rue de la Republic
Tel: 04 90 85 56 45
Markets of Avignon
Usually open from 7am-1pm.
In front of the train station (gare).
Marché Forain (Food and crafts)
Saturday and Sunday
Rempart St Michele
Marché aux puces (Flea Market)
Place de Carmes
Marché Couvert (Covered Market)
Tuesday and Sunday
Les Halles – Place Pie
Marché aux Fleurs (Flowers)
Place des Carmes