Nestled along the Rhône river, Avignon is in the heart of Provence in the south of France. Think lavender fields, warm sunshine and delicious food! Here is my guide to Avignon for an amazing time in this palatial town.
Don’t bother renting a car while in Avignon, it is a very walkable city and there are public buses as well. Best of all, it’s just a quick two and a half hour train ride from Paris. Avignon is a fabulous city with a fascinating history and lively culture.
Palais des Papes
The first place to visit in my guide to Avignon is the papal palace or Palais des Papas in French. Despite what most people believe, the Catholic papacy wasn’t always in Rome. In fact, Pope Clement V moved the papacy to Avignon in 1309 and built a palace. The papacy remained in Avignon through 7 popes until Pope Gregory XI moved it back to Rome in 1377. Throughout that time, the palace was expanded by several popes.
The Palais des Papes (Papal Palace) and gardens are amazing. Just a short walk from the main square, Place de L’Horoge, it opens at 9 am. Closing time varies during the seasons, but it does stay open until 8 pm in the Summer. Cost is €12.
Sur le pont d’Avignon, on y danse…I still remember learning that children’s song in 2nd grade French class! The famous bridge in Avignon is formally named the Saint Bénezet bridge. According to the legend, a shepherd named Bénezet came to Avignon to deliver a message he received from God to build a bridge. Obviously, the people thought he was off his rocker. Locals still believe that it was divine intervention that enabled him to throw a massive stone into the river to start the bridge.
Built in the 12th century, the bridge was the only way to cross the Rhône river from Lyon to the Mediterranean Sea. Before its construction, the only way to cross the river was by boat, which was pretty impossible during high river levels the Spring. The bridge was over 900 meters long and had 22 arches. It was ruined and washed away, then repaired several times before being abandoned in the 17th century.
No guide to Avignon would be complete without a visit to this famous bride. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the bridge is open for visitors to walk on and costs €5.
A visit to Provence, specifically Avignon, would not be complete without some retail therapy. Most of the shopping is located around the Place de L’Horoge and side streets.
Be sure to pick up some local Herbs de Provence, lavender beauty products, and some famous provençal table linens!
Snack on a chocolate crêpe while strolling along the streets. For a gourmet meal, head to Restaurant Christian Etienne on Rue de Mons for its fabulous fare…and it even has a coveted Michelin star. For something more casual, check out La Cuisine du Dimanche. Located the center of Avignon at Rue de la Bonneterie it has an adorable courtyard terrace and fabulous French bistro food.
For all of you fellow winos: Avignon lies just 12 km from the famous Châteauneuf du Pape wine appellation! Châteauneuf du Pape literally translates to the pope’s new castle. If you like burgundy style wines, you’ll love these reds and whites too!
Located on the main square, the Hotel L’Horoge is a charming boutique hotel with refined rooms and suites overlooking the Place de L’Horoge and the Palais des Papes. The location couldn’t be better as it’s within walking distance to great restaurants, shops, the bridge and papal palace!
If you’re headed to France, you will surely visit Paris as well. Read 5 Easy Day Trips From Paris before you go.
Now go pack our bags and head to Avignon! Leave any comments or questions below.