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The historic city of Avignon, France, is an iconic gem in the heart of Provence. Its medieval city walls, old churches, and 12th-century bridge make any visitor feel like they’ve just stepped back in time. It even served as the papal residence in the 1300s.
But don’t let this town’s medieval looks fool you – this is a modern city full of famous attractions, lively people, and excellent cafes and restaurants. Avignon seamlessly blends old-world charm with modern life. It’s also a convenient location and base to explore more of France’s charming Provence region –from vast lavender fields to hilltop villages and other iconic sites with captivating chronicles.
Avignon can be visited year-round, but you really should visit in early summer. This will allow you to enjoy amazing weather and other gorgeous sites nearby. The lavender fields in Provence are in bloom from mid-June until mid-July before they are harvested.
If you are visiting Paris and would like to extend your trip to Avignon, check out Eurail to find the best train deals from within France and all around Europe to connect you to Avignon. Without further ado, let’s get into the fun and best things to do in Avignon, France!
- Things To Do In Avignon, France
- 1. Palais des Papes
- 2. Avignon Cathedral
- 3. Pont Saint-Bénézet
- 4. Rue des Teinturiers
- 5. Jardin des Doms
- 6. Les Halles Market
- 7. Musée du Petit Palais
- 8. Place de l’Horloge
- 9. Musée Calvet
- 10. Collection Lambert Avignon
- 11. Day trip: Pont du Gard
- 12. Day trip: Aix-en-Provence
- 13. Visit Local Small & Beautiful Villages Nearby
- Is it worth visiting Avignon?
- What is Avignon best known for?
- How many days in Avignon is enough?
|Most significant landmark||Palais des Papes|
|Best park||Jardin des Doms|
|Best free activity||Musée Calvet|
|Best activity for kids||Taking the tourist train around Avignon|
|Best activity for adults||Avignon Cathedral|
|Best food||Restaurant SEVEN|
|Best place to stay||La Mirande|
Things To Do In Avignon, France
1. Palais des Papes
Address: Place du Palais, 84000 Avignon, France
If you only have time to visit one place while in Avignon, it has to be the Palais des Papes. This former papal palace is the largest Gothic palace in the world and by far the most famous landmark in Avignon. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was the pope’s official residence from 1309 to 1377.
The stunning historic building we see today combines two palaces, the first constructed at the instruction of Pope Benedict XII in 1335 and the second by Pope Clement VI. Though, Avignon had been the pope’s official residence since Pope Clement V in 1309.
Admission tickets to the pope’s palace can be bought on their own or combined with the Pontifical Gardens, Pont Saint-Bénézet, or all three. If you want to learn even more about Avignon’s fascinating history, join a walking tour like this one. It’s a top pick because it includes admission into the Palais des Papes as well as a local wine tasting.
Add to the palace experience by staying nearby at La Mirande, a luxury hotel dating back to 1309. The chateau-like hotel overlooks the Palais des Papes and features a Chef’s table experience, continental breakfast, and cooking lessons.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Paris with Kids
2. Avignon Cathedral
Address: Place du Palais, 84000 Avignon, France
The Cathedral Notre Dame des Doms, known in English as the Avignon Cathedral, is the church counterpart of the Palais des Papes. It’s directly next door and houses the tombs of the Avignon popes, making it an easy and interesting stop.
The cathedral’s construction dates back to the 12th century. The bell tower, one of its most famous attributes, had to be rebuilt in the early 1400s. The famous gilded Virgin Mary statue that crowns it was added in the 1800s and has been its most prominent feature since.
Inside, the beautiful combination of Gothic, Roman, and Baroque architecture come together to display the centuries of changes and updates to the church. Many works of art are on display, including some very old pieces that were only revealed by opening walls for restoration works. Avignon Cathedral is not a place to miss.
3. Pont Saint-Bénézet
Address: Boulevard de la Ligne, 84000 Avignon, France
Pont Saint-Bénézet, also known as the Avignon Bridge, is one of the oldest landmarks in the city. Built in 1177, this medieval bridge stretched across the Rhone River to Île de la Barthelasse and Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.
Less than half of the original bridge still stands today. Still, it shows remarkable engineering and craftsmanship that was possible in the 12th century.
Though much of the bridge had been destroyed in a large flood, it still remains a symbolic monument of Avignon and the entire region, cemented in French pop culture by the famous French song “Sur le Pont d’Avignon.” When driving on the outskirts of the city walls, it is easily one of the most recognizable landmarks.
There is a small entry fee to visit the bridge, or you can purchase a combination ticket for the bridge and the Palais des Papes. It is notably the first fully handicap-accessible site from the Middle Ages.
See Related: Best Day Trips from Paris, France
4. Rue des Teinturiers
On the southern edge of the old town lies the charming Rue des Teinturiers, an old cobblestone street along a small canal with a remarkable history. This picturesque street gets its name from Avignon’s silk-spinning and textile industry that flourished during the 14th to 19th centuries.
Today, Rue des Teinturiers is shaded by large sycamore trees and is a cool and pleasant place to take a stroll through the old town. It extends from the city’s ramparts to Rue des Lices. During the Avignon Festival held every July, you can often find exhibits or performances on this street at several theaters.
Along Rue des Teinturiers, you’ll find many fantastic bars, cafes, and restaurants. Stop by Le Zinzolin for a fantastic ambiance or Le Cave Des Pas Sages for awesome local beer and wine options.
5. Jardin des Doms
Address: 2 Mount des Moulins, 84000 Avignon, France
Jardin des Doms, also called the Rocher des Doms, is an incredible expansive garden set on a hill. Not only does it feature stunning panoramic views of the old town and the Rhone River, but it’s also close to many of Avignon’s top attractions, including the nearby Palais des Papes.
This English-style public garden first opened in 1830 and has been a popular strolling spot since then. Throughout the garden, you’ll find paved walking paths, tranquil ponds, statues, and flower gardens. There are also two children’s play areas and a small seasonal restaurant.
From the gardens, you can also access some sections of the ramparts that surround Avignon via stairs. These iconic city walls have been torn down and rebuilt several times over the city’s history but remain one of its prominent symbols.
Consider the Mercure Pont d’Avignon Centre if you want a place to stay close to this beautiful spot. The area is resplendent.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Mulhouse, France
6. Les Halles Market
Address: 18 Place Pie, 84000 Avignon, France
Looking for an amazing place to sample local produce and purchase some fantastic souvenirs? Look no further than Les Halles Market! This local market features many craft and produce stalls, a vertical garden, and meat and cheese products from across the region.
The local spices and condiments you can find at the market make the best souvenirs and gifts to bring home. If you need provisions for a road trip or picnic, there are vendors who specialize in pastries, wine, regional dishes, and flowers.
Try to get to the market in the early morning, while you can find the best selection of all products. The market is open every morning and early afternoon except on Mondays and can be found near Place Pie, one of the city’s squares, which also features an outdoor market.
7. Musée du Petit Palais
Address: Palais des Archevêques, Place du Palais, 84000 Avignon, France
The Musée du Petit Palais is one of the most visited of Avignon’s museums and one of the most famous art museums in the region. It was once the residence of the Archbishop of Avignon and sits just next to the Palais des Papes.
The main collections at this museum include Italian paintings, sculptures made in Avignon, and an art gallery that features paintings from the Avignon School of Art back in the 14th century. The museum also has temporary exhibitions that highlight famous works of art and local artists.
The Musée du Petit Palais can be visited every day except Tuesdays. If you’re feeling short on time and want to get an efficient guided tour of all of Avignon’s top landmarks and attractions, consider taking the tourist train.
The included audio guide on the tourist train comes in ten languages and includes stops like the museum, Palais des Papes, Musée Calvet, and the Jardin des Doms. It’s also a fun way for kids to see all the sights this city has to offer!
See Related: Italy vs France: Which is Better to Visit?
8. Place de l’Horloge
Place de l’Horloge is the city’s main square and is located in its historic center. Surrounding this square, you’ll find Avignon’s opera house, city hall, and many cafes and restaurants. It gets its name, which translates to Clock Square, from the large clock tower that sits at the center of city hall.
While the clock tower was built in 1354, it wasn’t until 1497 that the actual clock was installed. From then, the square served as a main gathering place for the city’s residents and visitors alike. It then served as the central market and now serves as a main location during the Avignon Festival in July.
Restaurant SEVEN is the place to go for the most mouthwatering, amazing French food with a contemporary take. It’s a bit pricey but features local, seasonal ingredients with plating that is totally Instagram-worthy.
With its awesome location in the city center, Hôtel de l’Horloge is a fantastic base while you visit Avignon. It features traditional French design, and many rooms have an unbeatable view of the Palais des Papes.
9. Musée Calvet
Address: 65 Rue Joseph Vernet, 84000 Avignon, France
The best museum in Avignon is definitely the Musée Calvet. This antiquities and fine arts museum is located in the western part of the history center in two separate buildings a few blocks apart.
Both buildings house different pieces of the collection of Espirit Calvet, an art lover from Avignon who died in 1811 and left it all to the state for preservation and appreciation. There’s a considerable amount of paintings by French, Italian, Spanish, and other European artists, Greek and Roman sculptures, and all kinds of antiquities from ancient society.
The best part of the Calvet Museum is that entry is totally free! You can also stop at the Muséum Requien, in between the two buildings of the Musée Calvet, to enjoy some natural history exhibits. It’s also free, but this one is mostly geared towards French speakers.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Normandy, France
10. Collection Lambert Avignon
Address: 5 Rue Violette, 84000 Avignon, France
A more recent collector named Yves Lambert made a similar gift to the city in the year 2000, making his art collection available to the public at the Collection Lambert. However, you won’t find very old paintings, sculptures, and artifacts in this one; rather, this is a collection of contemporary art from recent decades.
It contains more than 1,200 pieces by famous American and European artists of the 1900s, including Jean-Michel Basquiat and Cy Twombly. Some of the artists represented are still around today. There are very often special exhibitions with other works from around the world, and you can check out the museum’s website to see if anything catches your eye.
11. Day trip: Pont du Gard
Pont du Gard is one of the easiest day trips from Avignon that you can take. This stunning three-tiered stone aqueduct bridge across the river was built in the first (!) century by the Romans. It’s amazingly still standing today, and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It’s less than a 30-minute drive west of Avignon to Pont du Gard. Park in the large lot on the left bank, where you can also find the ticket office; buy a ticket in advance to skip the line. If you aren’t renting a car, there are plenty of guided Pont du Gard day trips that will do even more, such as wine tasting and other Provence region sightseeing.
From the entrance, it’s a lovely walk down a paved path along the river with great views of the bridge. Little dirt paths across the rocky bank can take you to even better photo points and river beaches beneath the bridge. You can even walk across the two-thousand-year-old bridge for even more views from the other side.
12. Day trip: Aix-en-Provence
One hour down the highway in the other direction is another beautiful, small city called Aix-en-Provence. Locals often just call it Aix (pronounced: Ex). Along with Avignon, this is one of the most popular places to stay when exploring the Provence region, and both cities are well worth a visit.
Aix has a large but very walkable historic center with narrow, cobblestone streets lined with old stone buildings. I loved the fact that there was an ice cream shop just about anywhere you turned! Lavender is a big theme here, and you’ll see plenty of places to buy the plant’s oil, perfume, and even flavored treats.
This is also where famous painter Paul Cézanne was from, and visitors can tour his childhood home and his studio to see some of his work. If you’d rather spend a night or two here to explore the city and this side of Provence, the Hôtel Aquabella & Spa has to be the best place in town to stay, thanks to its central location and beautiful spa.
13. Visit Local Small & Beautiful Villages Nearby
Did you know that there’s an official list of the most beautiful villages in France? We also made our own ViaTravelers version. Luckily, a few of these tiny, picturesque places are within easy reach of Avignon, and they’re packed with history, heritage, and scenery.
One of them is Les Baux de Provence, just 40 minutes south of the city, among the peaks of the Alpilles Regional Park. It’s one of the hilltop villages of the region that are a photographer’s dream. There are old stone houses on the smaller peaks below the ruins of a medieval fortress that you can explore.
Combine a trip with a stop in Saint Rémy de Provence, which is the next village to the north of Les Baux. Saint Rémy is the place that inspired Vincent Van Gogh to paint some of his most famous works, thanks to its beautiful scenery.
He spent some of his most difficult years here as he checked into a mental hospital near the village. You can see some of that and walk in his footsteps in the village today.
Again, if you aren’t driving, it’s easy to find a guided villages tour from Avignon that takes you to these two plus more. If you are going to do it yourself, consider learning some basic French on Babbel – you’ll be in the countryside and might need it!
Is it worth visiting Avignon?
Avignon is absolutely worth a visit. It’s full of history and incredible sights while also providing modern amenities and a lively atmosphere. There are lots of activities for the whole family to enjoy, excellent restaurants, and plenty of hotel options.
What is Avignon best known for?
Avignon is best known for the Palais des Papes. This incredible palace was the official residence of the pope from 1309 to 1377 and is the largest Gothic palace in the entire world!
How many days in Avignon is enough?
You can see all of Avignon’s main sights in just one day. It is extremely walkable and easy to get around. On an extended trip, you’ll have more time to explore the nearby villages and other nearby tourist attractions.
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Brittney is a lifelong traveler from Oahu, Hawaii. She has visited more than 35 countries and is continually researching new places to explore – even though she hates flying. Her favorite destinations have one thing in common: they’re warm. With expertise in French Polynesia, Hawaii, and the Mediterranean, you can follow along as she checks out the cleanest beaches and clearest water on the planet. Brittney is currently based in the South of France.
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