The Heart of Provence
Surrounded 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.
- The town has a population of over 90,000 people
- It's so stunning, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995
- The Avignon Festival, is held every summer in July and celebrates the arts
- Les Halles d'Avignon Food Market is held every day (except Monday). Local specialties like olive oil, tapenade, local wines, cheeses, and pastries can be found at the market. Perfect for stocking up your picnic basket before sunning yourself on the banks of the river!
- In medieval times the city boasted over 100 churches, many of these have been transformed into cafes, shops and movie theatres.
The fabled Pont St-Bénezet, 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. 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 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.
Fine views of the old city are afforded by the Tour Philippe-le-Bel, 3km across the Rhône in neighbouring Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.
Festivals and Events
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.
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
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.
Our guide suggested we have a picnic of local produce and wine and watch the world go by. A good cheap way to get immersed into the local life.