The Roman Catholic world’s centre, Avignon, a charming Provencal town, is now alive with energy and modern festivals.
Avignon’s Old Town, surrounded by medieval ramparts, is flanked on both sides by the Rhone. It’s a beautiful place to stroll around, admire the city’s UNESCO-protected architectural masterpieces, and slow down to watch people in one of the many cobbled squares.
Palais des Papes
The impressive Palais des Papes dominates the skyline of Avignon and is the main attraction. It is also one of the most popular monuments in France.
This colossal Palace, which was the seat of the papacy during the 14th century, is now UNESCO World Heritage-listed. It has 25 rooms and is open to the public. You will be able to see the private apartments of the popes and the Saint-Martial or Saint John chapels which are both decorated with stunning frescoes from Matteo Giovannetti.
Throughout the year, the Palace hosts various cultural events, art exhibits and festivals.
The three-week-long Festival d’Avignon is a great way to see the city at its best. This internationally acclaimed performing arts festival brings the city’s architectural treasures alive with exceptional theatre, dance, music, and other performances every summer.
This festival, founded in 1947 by Jean Vilar (a French actor), is one of the world’s most renowned performing arts festivals. It features over 40 shows, film screenings, poetry readings and exhibitions.
There are more than 20 venues that host both ticked and free events in the city. These range from small chapels to scenic open-air sites to majestic historic buildings and grand theatres. However, the Palais des Papes’ main court, also known as the Cour d’Honneur, is the most impressive.
Abbaye Notre-Dame de Senanque
Notre-Dame de Senanque, a beautiful Cistercian monastery, was founded in 1148. It is located 50km from Avignon near the charming hilltop village Gordes. The grounds of the monastery are available for recreational use. There is also a charming gift shop that sells handmade honey and lavender-based products.
You can book ahead for guided tours of the abbey or its cloisters. You can arrange longer stays for as low as EUR30 per night if you want a spiritual retreat.
It is worth renting a car from Avignon during the summer months to take you there to see the beautiful Romanesque architecture of the abbey and the iconic lavender fields of Provence in full bloom.
One of the city’s most iconic landmarks, the Pont Saint-Benezet – better known as the Pont d’Avignon – is a medieval bridge built in the 12th century across the River Rhone to link the Old Town of Avignon with Villeneuve-Les-Avignon. The French song Sur le Pont d’Avignon has given the monument worldwide popularity.
Floods gradually destroyed the massive structure. There is only a chapel and four of its original 22 arches today. You can walk the bridge and learn more about its history by purchasing a 5 EUR ticket.
Les Luminessences d’Avignon
Les Luminessences d’Avignon is a spectacular 3D light show held every summer in the Courtyard of the Pope’s Palace. It uses state-of-the-art sound technology and image technology to tell the story of the Avignon popes.
Over 100 spectacular shows, accompanied by English and French narration, are shown on the Palace’s ancient walls from August through October. This provides guests with an unforgettable experience.