It is not just the art, culture and specialties in Provence that make Avignon worth a visit. Almost the entire Old Town is encircled by a mighty fortress walls, reminiscent of the eventful history of Avignon. In addition, there are magnificent buildings from the Middle Ages, dreamy alleys and a bridge that is well-known within and outside of France. All of this and more makes Avignon a diverse travel destination.
Discover the city in the heart of Provence. Its magical city center, the Papal Palace and the aforementioned bridge all deserve their place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In Avignon, the mix of culture, culinary hotspots, world-class wines, and magnificent architecture provide ideal conditions for an unforgettable vacation. Let yourself be amazed by one of the most beautiful cities in Provence.
Where to stay in Avignon
The accommodation options within the city walls are very popular. Therefore, if you plan to stay in this neighborhood, especially if you're looking to save on your travel budget, do plan ahead.
Accommodation options outside the city walls are also well worth a look. There, you'll be able to find parking facilities more easily, often hotel-owned, and a good range of hotels and rental rooms. The city center as well as many sights and restaurants are comfortably within walking distance.
If you want to travel to Avignon in the summer, you should look for accommodation early on.
Things to do in Avignon
The city of Avignon has many facets, offering something for every visitor: cultural treasures, exciting historical events and refreshing natural oases.
Are you planning a trip through France or a vacation in Provence – but with a tight schedule? In that case, choose some of the top Avignon attractions and explore them within a day. If you have more time on your hands, a long weekend is perfect for a relaxed city tour, and while there, you should visit one of the charming villages in Luberon.
Are you interested in the diversity and exciting history of Avignon? Take a look at the CityPass. Depending on the length of your stay, you can choose between 24- or 48-hour passes. You can use it to visit the city's museums, the Avignon Bridge, the Papal Palace, and much more. For more information, read here: vaucluse-provence-pass.com.
Stroll through the narrow streets of the city and let yourself be inspired by the atmosphere. Discover the green squares and the churches from the Middle Ages that often have a new purpose today. The houses with wonderfully decorated doors give the city a special charm.
Place de l’Horloge with the magnificent town hall and numerous restaurants and cafes is worth paying a visit. The cobblestone side streets are ideal for a short break with a cup of coffee and French desserts.
To explore further after strolling in the city, walk to the Ile de la Barthelasse, the nearby island on the Rhone. It is one of the largest river islands in Europe and truly an oasis of well-being for nature lovers. The island is also perfect for seeing the city from a different angle.
Rue de Teinturiers
Although this street is becoming increasingly popular and is no longer a secret, you can still escape the noise of traffic here. Do allow yourself enough time to stroll through the narrow cobblestone alley, to enjoy the slowly rotating water wheels along the small canal. Rue de Teinturiers, Street of Dyers, is affectionately referred to as wheel street by locals.
The numerous restaurants and cafés are inviting bypassers to take a break in a relaxed atmosphere. Moreover, there are numerous many small shops and galleries in the area, also with curiosities on offer.
Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes)
The Palace of the Popes, one of the largest Gothic buildings in Europe, is extremely impressive from an architectural point of view. However, the palace is also of historical importance. In the Middle Ages, popes moved from Rome to Avignon. This made Avignon the capital of Christianity, with nine popes residing in the city one after the other.
During a visit you can marvel at 25 different places, such as the ballrooms, gardens and valuable frescoes. For more information about the Papal Palace, read here: palais-des-papes.com.
Pont d’Avignon (Bridge of Avignon)
A tour on the 12th century bridge showcases the history of Avignon and the legend of the bridge over the St. Bénézet Chapel, the origin of the other name of the bridge, Pont Saint-Bénézet. Moreover, while standing on the remains of the bridge, once 900 meters in length, an amazing achievement at the time, there's a wonderful view over the Rhone to enjoy.
The Pont d’Avignon has even been dedicated a French folk song that became famous across the borders.
If you want to save the entrance fee, it can be seen from the riverbank or from higher up by the Rocher de Doms.
Rocher de Doms (park area)
The fact that the city was the papal seat in the 14th century is evident not only due to the imposing papal palace in the city center, but also due to the wonderfully designed episcopal complex. While this ledge served as protection during urban development, it is now a public garden, Jardin de Doms.
Especially on warm summer days, the beautifully planted park offers enough shade to get relief from the heat. The park is ideal for long walks as well as for learning exciting things about the history of the park. With your family and children along, the little ones can romp around on the green spaces.
In addition, the park provides a wonderful view of the river, the Avignon bridge and the landscape on the other side of the Rhone.
Wave Island (water slide park)
Are you looking for some fun and excitement? If you've had enough of sightseeing, Wave Island provides ideal change for families with children. The slide paradise offers more than 20 attractions with pure fun. The tropically designed park also creates a paradisiacal flair. The largest artificially generated wave in the world, the highest free fall in Europe and plenty of sliding fun await the young and anyone young at heart.
Shopping in Avignon
In central Avignon, there are plenty of small alleys, shopping streets and a market hall to satisfy your shopping cravings. Between the large Cours Jean Jaurès avenue and the Avignon market hall on Place Pie, there are a few pedestrian zones. The wide selection ranges from classy boutiques, international fashion chains to quirky and cute little shops.
The small, pretty Rue de Teinturiers is increasing in popularity, which shows in the range of shops available - including not only galleries but also shops for souvenirs from Avignon and the region.
In the area of Rue des Trois Faucons, Rue de la Bonneterie and the Saint Didier square, there are all kinds of small shops, such as bookbinders, carpenters, or art goods sellers to be found. The side streets of Saint Agricole and Joseph Vernet offer just as many opportunities for extensive shopping.
Les Halles de Avignon (Market Hall)
The largest covered market hall, located on Place Pie in Avignon, offers delicious regional and international specialties. Ranging from French cheeses and tasty sausages to typical dishes from Avignon and the surrounding area, the market hall offers real culinary delights for gourmets. On Sundays, there are even cooking lessons with local chefs on offer, with regional wine tasting at the end.
The hall is a hotspot for gourmets and ideal for a small round of shopping. You can get hold of different souvenirs for yourself or your loved ones from the numerous different stands around.
What to bring along from Avignon?
La Papaline d’Avignon - the sweet balls with two layers of chocolate and oregano liqueur filling are the pride of Avignon. They owe their name to the Popes of Avignon. To really please your taste buds, grab some right away - and then bring along some for your loved ones as well.
Wine - Do you have enough space? Do you feel like spoiling yourself, your family or friends with grapes from this renowned wine region? Then, a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine is a good souvenir. You will have to dig a little deeper into your pocket, but then again, it is going to be a delicious reminder of your vacation. If you prefer to go easy on your wallet, there's a wonderful variety of flavors in the wines of Côtes du Rhône. The large selection covers strong red wines, dry or fruity white wines and refreshing rosé wines. Whichever you choose the wines from the Avignon area are definitely worth tasting.
Lavender from Provence - When passing souvenir shops, the products surrounding these purple plants will not go unnoticed. The endless lavender fields are a trademark of Provence. You can marvel at them not far from Avignon.
Food and restaurants
Avignon has a lot to offer from a culinary point of view. The city boasts excellent French and international restaurants, cozy bistros and small cafes - just like you'd imagine France to be.
The Place de l’Horloge is well worth seeing, with its trees and terraces making it highly inviting. It is ideal for having a break with a refreshing drink or culinary delicacies. The charming atmosphere attracts a lot of tourists. If you want to escape the crowds, take a break in the back streets with a great atmosphere. As already mentioned, the Rue de Teinturiers is ideal for a delicious lunch or dinner. It is also one of the most beautiful streets in the old town.
Another suggestion is the Place des Corps-Saints. This shady place has a fine selection of bistros and restaurants. It is also suitable for a glass of rosé on warm nights. This refreshing drink is particularly popular in the south and southwest of France.
There are all sorts of hearty stews in France, and the Avignon version is also very much worth of tasting. The tasty dish usually consists of lamb, white wine, herbs such as thyme and parsley, onions and carrots.
Let's begin with the starter. This puff pastry pockets contain minced meat, olive oil and shallots and are refined with red wine. This is a sure treat for gourmets.
The tasty specialty from Avignon is all about eggplant, which are pureed, combined with eggs and herbs and served with tomatoes. The specialty owes its name to the papal era in Avignon, too.
Drinks and nightlife
With terraces on the banks of the Rhone, cozy cafes, roof terraces with a magnificent view and bars for the later hours nearby, you don't have to look far for a thirst quencher.
Do you want to immerse yourself in Avignon's nightlife? Take a look around Place de l’Horloge, Place Pie, Place du Palais, Place des Corps-Saint and Rue Carnot, all with a wide variety of indoor or outdoor fun attracting night owls, especially in summer. Here, you can celebrate with the locals and holidaymakers, or sip a drink after a long sightseeing tour.
If you are already in the country, nothing beats a typical French drink. When thinking of France, wine comes to mind first, right? That is especially true for the Avignon region. The winegrowers in the area, especially in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, have made a significant contribution to the success story of French wine, which shows in the quality of these wines. If you want to treat yourself to a sip, there's plenty of choice. Don't hesitate to ask the staff for recommendations, as they can probably help you decide between wines.
In summer, the locals and visitors enjoy a refreshing glass of rosé. Another popular drink, especially in south-eastern France, is pastis, a spirit, which gets its unmistakable taste from star anise and a mixture of herbs.
Events and holidays in Avignon
Avignon Festival (early July - early August)
Every year in July, the Avignon festival, one of the most important theater festivals in Europe, attracts theater fans from all over the world to see national and international musicians, actors and dancers. Among both young talents and professionals showcasing their skills, the city is transformed into a theater stage for three to four weeks, with the impressive Papal Palace as the largest stage. In addition to theatrical performances, there are films, readings, debates, and exhibitions to enjoy.
Avignon Vibrations (mid-August to late September)
Experience a unique 360° spectacle in the middle of the largest Gothic monument, the Papal Palace of Avignon. As night falls, the four walls of the Ehrenhof become part of an extraordinary show taking you on an exciting journey.
For more information about new dates and the festival, read here.
Day trips from Avignon
Chateauneuf-du-Pape – an idyllic place with the most prestigious wines of the Rhone Valley.
Nimes - a city steeped in history, which is rightly called "the French Rome".
L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue – a cozy village with canals, paddle wheels and numerous charming alleys.
Menerbes - one of the most beautiful villages in France in the middle of the extraordinary nature of Luberon.
Arrival in Avignon
Typically, Avignon airport offers flights only from Great Britain. It is, therefore, worth heading to the nearest airport in Marseille. From there, you can reach Avignon in 30 minutes by train.
Another nearby airport is in Montpellier. From there, Avignon can be reached in about 1,5 hours by public transport.
If you are flying to Paris, you can take the TGV (high-speed train) from Paris to Avignon, with the trip taking some 3 hours.
The best time to travel to Avignon is between May and October. To admire the blooming lavender fields in the area, it is best to schedule your vacation between June and July.
Winter: The probability of rain increases in the winter months. It is relatively mild in winter, and the temperatures are mostly above zero.
Spring: In March, April and May, the temperatures fluctuate between 15 and 25 C. There are already numerous tourists on the move in spring, but less than in the high season in summer, making spring a good travel time, if you want to avoid the crowds.
Summer: In June, the temperatures are very pleasantly warm and climb up to 30 C. In July and August, the temperatures regularly reach 30 C and more. If you need to cool off in summer, consider combining your vacation with a trip to the Mediterranean.
Autumn: Temperatures average between 10 and 25 C. There are fewer tourists in Avignon in the autumn months, especially in October and November. In September and October, the weather is often still mild and overnight hotel prices are falling. Therefore, an autumn city break in Avignon could be worth your while.
Text: Katrin Lindenbauer
Images: Katrin Lindenbauer, Adobe Stock