Avignon

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Hooped by 4.3km of superbly preserved stone ramparts, this graceful city is the belle of Provence's ball. Famed for its annual performing-arts festival and its fabled bridge, the Pont St-Bénezet (aka the Pont d'Avignon), Avignon is an ideal spot from which to step out into the surrounding region.

Chez W@m (h10am-8pm Mon-Thu & 10am-10pm Fri & Sat) Cybercafe. (Tel 04 90 86 19 03; 34 rue Bonneterie; perhr €3; 10am-8pm Mon-Thu & 10am-10pm Fri & Sat) Cybercafe.

Lavmatic (9 rue du Chapeau Rouge; h7am-8.30pm) 21st-century laundrette with wi-fi.

Tourist Office (Tel 04 32 74 32 74; http://www.avignon-tourisme.com/; 41 cours Jean Jaurès; h9am-5pm Mon-Sat, 9.45am-5pm Sun Apr-Jun & Aug-Oct, 9am-7pm Mon-Sat, 9.45am-5pm Sun Jul, 9am-6pm Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm Sat & 10am-noon Sun Nov-Mar) Around 300m north of the train station. The Avignon Passion pass entitles you to discounted museum entry.

The fabled Pont St-Bénezet (St Bénezet’s Bridge; Tel 04 90 27 51 16; full price/pass & student €4.50/3.50; h9am-9pm Aug, 9am-8pm Jul & early–mid-Sep, 9am- 7pm Apr-Jun & mid-Sep–Oct, 9.30am-5.45pm Nov-Mar), immortalised in the French nursery rhyme Sur le Pont d’Avignon, was completed in 1185. The 900m-long wooden structure was repaired and rebuilt several times before all but four of its 22 spans were washed away in the mid-1600s. You can see it for free from the Rocher des Doms park, Pont Édouard Daladier or from across the river on the Île de la Barthelasse’s chemin des Berges.

Wrapping around the city, Avignon’s ramparts were built between 1359 and 1370. They were restored during the 19th century, minus their original moats. Within the walls is a wealth of fine museums, including the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes; Tel 04 90 27 50 00; place du Palais; full price/pass & student €6/3; h9am-9pm Aug, 9am-8pm Jul & early–mid-Sep, 9am- 7pm Apr-Jun & mid-Sep–Oct, 9.30am- 5.45pm Nov-Mar). Built during the 14th century and intended as a fortified palace for the papal court, it’s the largest Gothic palace in Europe, but its rooms are rather bare.

The Musée Lapidaire (Tel 04 90 86 33 84; 27 rue de la République; full price/pass €2/1; h10am-6pm Wed- Mon Jun-Sep, 10am-1pm & 2-6pm Wed-Mon Oct-May) houses a collection of Egyptian, Roman, Etruscan and early Christian pieces, while works by Cézanne, Manet, Degas, Modigliani and the only Van Gogh painting in Provence can be seen at the charming Musée Angladon (Tel 04 90 82 29 03; http://www.angladon.com/; 5 rue Laboureur; full price/pass & student €6/4; h1-6pm Tue-Sun mid-Mar–mid-Nov, 1-6pm Wed-Sun mid-Nov–mid-Mar).

Fine views of the old city are afforded by the Tour Philippe-le-Bel (Tel 04 32 70 08 57; full price/pass €2/1.50; h10am-12.30pm & 2-6.30pm Tue-Sun Apr-Sep, 10am-noon & 2-5pm Tue-Sun Oct, Nov & Mar), 3km across the Rhône in neighbouring Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.

Hundreds of artists take to the stage and streets during the world-famous Festival d’Avignon (http://www.festival-avignon.com/), held every year from early July to early August. The more experimental (and cheaper) fringe event, Festival Off (Tel 04 90 85 13 08; www.avignon leoff.com, in French), runs alongside the main festival.

Numéro 75 (Tel 04 90 27 16 00; 75 rue Guillaume Puy; mains from €10; hlunch & dinner Mon-Sat) Lodged inside the house of absinthe inventor Jules Pernod, the food at Numéro 75 is fresh, packed with flavours, and ever so cheap.

Au Tout Petit (Tel 04 90 82 38 86; 4 rue d’Amphoux; lunch menu €10, dinner menu €18-24; hlunch & dinner Mon-Sat, closed Wed night) The menu of ‘The Teeny Tiny’ is a foodies’ treat – asparagus ravioli, salmon lasagne, apricot tarte tatin with rosemary-and-madeleine ice cream. Food poetry.

Over 40 outlets fill Les Halles’ food market (place Pie; h7am-1pm Tue-Sun), or pick up groceries at Monoprix (24 rue de la République; h8am- 9pm Mon-Sat).