Historic, gastronomic and beautiful – the top things to do in Avignon Provence to make the most of your time in this fabulous city.
Palais des Papes
The UNESCO listed Palace of the Popes is quite simply awesome in its immensity and sheer presence. It’s not hard to imagine the effect seeing it must have had on the peasant populace when it was built in the 14th century. It takes your breath away today to see it today. Allow two – three hours to see it in its entirety and take in the ambience.
Famous around the world, the Bridge of Avignon is known locally as Pont Saint Bénezet, the name of a 12-year-old shepherd who in 1177 heard a divine voice telling him to go to Avignon and build a bridge. There’s not much left of it, it is after all quite ancient, but the remains are iconic and make for a perfect selfie spot especially if you’re dancing à la famous nursery rhyme!
The old city of Avignon
The French have a word for strolling and enjoying the sights – flâner. I don’t think there’s a much more gorgeous city to be a flâneur than Avignon. Wear your comfy shoes and get lost climbing hills and wandering round cobbled stone streets filled with historic buildings.
Boat ride on the Rhone
Take the free shuttle boat from a pier by the famous Pont d’Avignon across to the Ile de Barthelasse. It’s the largest river island in France. From here you’ll have breath-taking views of the city and it’s a beautiful place for a ride, walk or picnic. You can also take a half day or full day boat trip.
Take a break in Avignon
You’re absolutely spoiled for choice here with the famous strip Place de l’Horloge. Or take a short walk to discover the locals’ favourite spots in Places des Corps, an elegant square lined with restaurants. Rue des Teinturiers in the former dyers district with a pretty little stream running along one side is also popular with those in the know.
Aperitif time in Avignon
There are numerous shady squares, elegant terraces and pavement cafes to tempt you to enjoy a sundowner. Why not enjoy a pastis – after all it was invented in Avignon! The name pastis comes from the Provencal word “pastisson” – mixture. It was invented in 1918 by Jules-Francois Pernod of the Pernod distillery.
Market Les Halles Avignon
The covered market is a feast for the senses and a must see if you love food and let’s face it most of us do! Olives, charcuterie, cheese and cakes, bread, fruit and veg, fish and flowers. This place is full of scents and colour. You can buy a tasty baguette and filling and sit outside on the tables and chairs to enjoy your market banquet. Daily (except Monday).
On Tuesdays and Thursday opposite Les Halles and spreading across Place Pie you’ll find a fabulous flea market. It’s a great place to seek a souvenir of your trip.
Jardin des Doms
Head for the hill where this English style park is perched. From here you’ll have tremendous views over the surrounding countryside. And, on a clear day you can see as far as Mont Ventoux. It’s a lovely spot to sit and relax surrounded by cool water features under the shade of the trees.
Let the Tourist Train take the strain
You’ll either love the little trains that you get in most French cities and tourist towns – or you’ll not! Personally, I think they’re a terrific way to get your bearings. They enable you to see the sights so you can figure out which of them you want to spend time at. These Petit Trains are especially helpful when you don’t have much time and the tourist train in Avignon takes in all the major sites.