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8 best places to visit around Avignon

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During your stay in Avignon, you have the opportunity to discover even more of Provence by visiting charming surrounding villages and splendid monuments. Privilege a hotel at the entrance of the city, close to restaurants and... farms!

Charming villages

– Villeneuve-lès-Avignon and Isle-sur-Sorgue

villeneuve les avignon
The environs of Avignon include charming villages that you can discover as a family. To get far away from the hustle and bustle of city living, the nearby village, Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, offers a peaceful setting. Come on Thursday morning to enjoy the market! If you are fond of antiques and flea markets, the village of Isle-sur-Sorgue organizes every summer a fair you don’t want to miss!


– La Roque-sur-Cèze

La Roque-sur-Cèze
If you are traveling with dogs, you will have to leave the old town to find a suitable playground for your pets. It would be best for you to take a trip to the countryside, especially to join the village of Roque-sur-Cèze. You may not find a swimming pool or WiFi there, but will enjoy instead a very beautiful beach at the edge of the Cèze.


– Rustrel and Fontaine-de-Vaucluse

After having visited museums and attended the Festival d’Avignon, enjoy the sunshine by visiting Rustrel, a charming village in the Luberon, renowned for the Colorado Provençal, a natural site with red, orange and yellow ochre. Do not miss Fontaine-de-Vaucluse which houses La Fontaine de Vaucluse, the biggest source of France, which is the starting point of the river Sorgue.


Beautiful monuments

– Philip the Fair tower

tour philippe le bel
During a weekend in Avignon, the ideal would be to stay in a hotel near the Popes’ Palace. If you are a lonely traveler, you can find a room for one person! You will be in the right place to visit other monuments like Philip the Fair tower outside the city. From the top of it, you will enjoy an extraordinary view on the castle domain, the garden of the Doms and the Rhone.


– The Chartreuse

If you plan a cultural stay in Avignon, you may have to ride on runways outside the city to discover other monuments such as the Chartreuse. It is a monastery, one of the largest houses of the Carthusian Order in Europe. It houses a church and the Centre National des Écritures du spectacle. It is the ideal place for theater enthusiasts!


– The gardens of Saint-André

jardin st andre
For a successful family stay in Avignon, no need to have a place of honor within the palace; all you need is discover enchanting places. The gardens of the Abbey of Saint-André are the ideal place to enjoy the beauty of spring. Beautiful and colorful flowers, medieval architectural elements and the Rhone with the Popes’ Palace as a backdrop await you!


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Visiting Avignon according to season

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Whatever the season, whether in spring, summer, autumn or winter, Avignon is always full of resources and offers its visitors quality moments thanks to various events and activities adapted to every season. It is up to them to choose the time that best fits their needs and desires.

Avignon: a mild climate in the South!

the pont af avignonHappy and successful holidays go together with well-being, tranquility, comfort, etc., but above all with pleasant weather conditions. Therefore, it is important to choose one’s destination based on this factor and thus determine the best times to visit a specific place. Avignon, just an attractive destination in the south of France, in the Vaucluse (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region), and installed on the left bank of the Rhône. This Provencal town offers a wonderful climate throughout the year despite the Provencal breeze which is appreciated by the way. Avignon has a warm temperate climate, with a minimum temperature of 20°C during 6 months a year and an average temperature of 13.7°C all over the year. It is a place where winters are less harsh than elsewhere in France, with more abundant rainfall than in summer. In addition, Avignon only receives an average annual rainfall of 698mm. July is the hottest month, with an average temperature of 22.9°C, while the coldest period is in January, with an average temperature of 5.2°C. As an interesting aside, Avignon is also one of the least polluted cities in the South, where the air is still better compared to neighboring towns.

Winter in Avignon: a Christmas like no other

To change a bit from winter holidays at snowy mountains, why not spend them under Avignon’s soft sunshine? Whether you plan a long stay or a weekend break, Avignon is an ideal place for an excellent stay that is both unusual and atypical. Families, couples, or even single people, there is sure to be something for everyone thanks to a variety of activities and entertainments. There is of course the unavoidable visit of the city of the popes and its famous bridge known worldwide thanks to the children song, a tour that allows visitors to discover Avignon medieval history, admire important monuments of the city, and take part in events and activities within the edifice: the workshops of the Popes’ Palace, cruises on the River Rhone, entertainment in the courtyard of the palace, and all kinds of tastings… But winter in Avignon is really unique, especially during Christmas holidays. During this period, the city offers a beautiful sun with a temperature that recalls the spring, and as a Christmas tree, autumn trees are decorated in a very original way. Avignon is also known for its Christmas figurines, a specialty of Avignon artisans, which are sold on Christmas markets. It should be noted that the 25th edition of the Santon fair will take place this year from 19 to 20 November.

Spring and autumn in Avignon: discovering nature at Epicurium

evening avignonIn Avignon, nature shows its beautiful colors in spring and autumn. During these seasons, the opportunity to do attend the Festival of Nature must not be missed. It is held across France, but is also very present at Epicurium in Avignon. Epicurium is a unique place in Europe. Located only minutes from the historic center, Epicurium is a living museum of fruits and vegetables set in a huge garden of over 8,000 sqm which consists of greenhouses, orchards, vegetable gardens, beehives, etc. It offers visitors recreational and educational means of discovering the history of fruits and vegetables from seed to plate: a real sensorial and interactive visit for the whole family! The aim is to introduce the visitors to new experiences and also to raise their awareness of the need preserve and protect nature.
Two events take place every year at Epicurium: one happens under the pleasant warmth of the spring sun, and the other under the shimmering autumn colors. This year will welcome the 5th edition of the Fête de l’Été and Fête de l’Automne (Summer and Autumn Festivals). During these festive days, guided tours, sensory experiences, games and activities, workshops and cooking demonstrations, farmers markets and other discoveries will await you.

Summer in Avignon: an idyllic romantic city

avignon summerAvignon is a place to discover throughout the year, but the best time to visit is in summer, during which the city is bathed in a golden light. It really is the perfect time for a romantic getaway. There is plenty to see and do, between bike rides in the hilltop villages and the ochre of Luberon, visits to Avignon’s vineyards and cellars, wine tasting and other local products, candlelight dinners offered by varied restaurants, not to mention various events and summer festivals that are the hallmark of Avignon, including the famous Festival d’Avignon, which is by the way one of the largest cultural and artistic events in the world. This unmissable event for all arts and culture lovers is held annually in July. For the 70th edition of the Festival d’Avignon, there will be theater, dance, music, exhibitions of plastic arts…


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The Festival d’Avignon

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One of the most important cultural and artistic events in France will be at its 70th edition this year. Being also one of the biggest attractions of the city of Avignon, the Festival d’Avignon attracts thousands of art and culture enthusiasts from around the world. During the month of July, the Avignon Festival offers among other things, plays, dance, music and video performances, art exhibitions, etc.


Birth and evolution of the Festival d’Avignon

Before becoming one of the most important events gathering many creations and spectators from all over the world, the Festival d’Avignon has had a modest beginning, born by the initiative of Jean Vilar who created in 1947 “Une semaine d’Art en Avignon” (A Week of Dramatic Art in Avignon) in order to get people to love art and culture again. Crowned with success, Vilar continued to direct and develop the Festival for over 20 years, bringing more plays, performances… and participants.


Jean Vilar, the man behind the Festival d’Avignon

Jean VilarBorn March 25, 1912 and died of a heart attack on May 28, 1971, Jean Vilar was best known worldwide as the founding father of the Festival d’Avignon which he created and directed until his death. But besides this role, the man was also an excellent stage and cinema actor, a stage director and also director of the Théâtre National Populaire (TNP) and the French theatre. He organized the first edition of the Festival d’Avignon in 1947, from 4 to 10 September, during which he presented three theatrical creations that took place in three important places of the city including the famous Cour d’Honneur of the Popes’ Palace.


An event related to the Popes’ Palace

festival-avignon-2016Since its creation, the Popes’ Palace was the birthplace of the Festival in Avignon. Opening shows are held every year in the Cour d’Honneur of the Popes’ Palace, but it is also the main place where the plays are represented. For the inauguration of the first edition of the “Semaine d’Art”, Jean Vilar chose to stage The Tragedy of King Richard II from Shakespeare, a play that was again represented at the 64th edition of the Festival d’Avignon.


A preview of the Festival d’Avignon 2016 program

This year, the Cour d’Honneur will welcome new plays, including Les Damnés by Luchino Visconti, Nicola Badalucco and Medioli, but also dance, music and video performances, including Prima Donna by Rufus Wainwright and Babel 7.16 represented by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet. In addition, the Festival will invest other key locations in the city, including the Gymnasium of the Saint-Joseph high-school, the Gardens of the University of Avignon, the Grand Avignon Opera, the Pénitents Blancs chapel… It will last 3 weeks, from 6 to July 24 and the tickets will go on sale from June 13, 2016.


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The Avignon bridge (Pont d’Avignon)

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Many people have heard of the Avignon Bridge, especially through the French world famous song “Sur le Pont d’Avignon” that is taught to the little ones. However, not everyone had the opportunity to discover this monument. The following is an overview of its history and legend and types of visits and services offered on the site.
pont st benezet


The Avignon Bridge: its history and legend

pont saint-benezetToday classed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Avignon Bridge was built over the Rhone in the late twelfth century and completed in 1185. Designed to link the two banks of this great river, the bridge extended approximately 900 meters and had initially 22 arches. Wars and river floods caused the deterioration of the bridge. After several reconstructions, it was finally abandoned in the seventeenth century, with only four arches and the Saint-Nicolas chapel left.

It is often referred to as the Avignon Bridge, but its real name is the Saint-Benézet Bridge. This historical monument is named after a young shepherd named Benézet who, according to legend, came down from the Ardèche Mountains in 1177 to reach Avignon with the mission to bring a message of God to the people of Avignon which says he had to build a bridge on the Rhone River. Even today, the locals fervently believe that Benézet received divine help when he carried a huge stone to throw it in the river. Although he really existed, Benézet has not had the opportunity to see the completion of the bridge, as he died a year before.


Multimedia visit of the Avignon Bridge: discover the bridge differently


The Avignon Bridge is accessible to all types of visitors, little ones and grown-ups, tourists and residents, in groups or alone. Today, visitors can only see the remains of the bridge, with only four of its 22 initial arches and the chapel dedicated to Saint-Nicolas. However, with modern technology, it is now possible to visit the bridge differently in a playful and interactive way through a 3D model of the bridge available on tablets, showing its original greatness, accompanied by a historical reconstitution and an audio guide available in French, English and Italian, also suitable for children.


Visit suitable for people with reduced mobility (PRM) and visually impaired

Currently, we can say that the bridge is accessible for everyone. Since October 2015, with the collaboration of various partners, PRM can now access the site thanks to the renovation of the ramp and the cobbled way of the bridge so that they are wheelchair accessible. In addition, an audio guide with keys specifically dedicated to the visually impaired is also available on the site.


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palais des papes et cathédrale Notre Dame-des Doms

The Popes’ Palace

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The Popes’ Palace, a huge historical and cultural landmarkthe pope's palace

Located in the Vaucluse department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, and built on the highest part of northern Avignon, the Popes’ Palace overlooks the city by its impressive size and timeless splendour, making this place the capital of Christendom. It is the most impressive Gothic palace of the Middle Ages and the entire world. This huge edifice composed of a fortress and a palace remains emblematic of the power of the Christian religion.
The Palace was a papal residence in the fourteenth century, where nine popes have succeeded each other: Clement V, John XXII, Benedict XII, Clement VI, Innocent VI, Urban V, Gregory XI, Clement VII and Benedict XIII. Two of them, Benedict XII and Clement VI, called the builder popes, were at the origin of the old palace and the new palace. Its construction started in 1335 and took less than twenty years, with the collaboration of two great French architects, Pierre Peysson and Jean du Louvres.


Discovering the wonders of the Popes’ Palace

popes palace avignonThe Popes’s Palace is ideal for all sorts of visits, either alone, in couple, among groups, family or friends. Outside regular visits of the Palace, including the Notre Dame des Doms cathedral, the Ramparts, the Petit Palais, the immense walls surrounding the four gigantic towers of the Palace and the famous Saint-Bénezet bridge, known worldwide as the Pont d’Avignon, secret areas of the Palace are also to be discovered with the help of tour guides, including hidden stairways and corridors leading to unusual places such as the former papal apartments and the terraces.
But to have an unforgettable experience of the Popes’ Palace, one should not miss the major event that allows visitors to discover a majestic Palace bathed in light and colour. “The luminescence of Avignon”, to be held this year on August 10 to 2 October, will take place each evening in the famous courtyard of the Palace in a magical atmosphere, and tell the story of the Palace using a huge video projection accompanied by music, with sessions in English and French.


Multimedia tour, visiting the Popes’ Palace differently

avignon palaceThanks to modern technology, it is now possible to tour the Pope’s Palace differently, in a more up-to-date and playful way, and pull the clock back to the time while enjoying a glimpse of the ancient splendour of the edifice when it was created in the fourteenth century, and also the evolution of its construction until today. A multimedia tour is made possible thanks to the use of advanced multimedia and scenic devices composed of a multilingual audio guide synchronized with several films representing the Palace at various stages of its construction.


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the popes’ palace in avignon

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The history of the world’s largest Gothic palace

le palais des papes avignonWe all have heard of its splendour and immensity, but few of us know its history. Located in the south of France, precisely in Avignon in the Vaucluse department (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region), the Popes’ Palace is built against the Doms Rock, overlooking the north of the city by its phenomenal size. Being the largest ever built Gothic palace, this monumental papal palace made of Avignon not only the capital of Christianity in the West, but also the most visited city in the world.


palais-des-papesIt took about 20 years to build this gigantic palace, its construction having started in 1335. The Popes’ Palace is the interweaving of two buildings (the Old Palace and the New Palace), and consists of numerous architectural elements including the western facade with its turrets and arches used as the main entrance to the palace, several towers, large rooms, the Clement VI studium also called “La chambre du cerf”, the chapels and courtyards, including the famous Court d’Honneur where various events such as the famous Festival d’Avignon take place regularly.


le palais des papes a avignonThe establishment of the Popes’ Palace in Avignon originated from Pope Clement V’s refusal to move to Rome due to political reasons. The palace has therefore become a papal residence in the fourteenth century. Starting with Pope Clement V, eight other popes took up residence there: John XXII, Benedict XII, Clement VI, Innocent VI, Urban V, Gregory XI, Clement VII and Benedict XIII who have succeeded each other in that order.

palais-des-papes-4Outstanding among them are the builder popes, Benedict XII and Clement VI, who ordered the construction of the Old Palace and the New Palace with the collaboration of their respective architects, Pierre Peysson and Jean du Louvres, two talented French architects judging by their works. The chapels of the palace owe their beautiful ornamentation to the greatest fresco painters in the world, Simone Martini and Matteo Giovanetti, whose respective works are visible in the Notre-Dame des Doms cathedral and the Saint-Martial chapel.

Discovering a huge historical and cultural heritage

The Popes’ Palace opens its doors to all kinds of visitors, and thanks to the collaboration of Avignon Tourisme and different partners, many forms and types of tours are offered on the site, be it an individual visit (families, couples, solo) or a group tour (educational, tourist or even professional).

Le Pont d'Avignon ( Pont St-Bénezet )The Palace and its famous Saint-Bénezet Bridge, empirically known as the Pont d’Avignon, are open to visitors every day at 3PM. Apart from regular and free tours of the Palace, including the Notre-Dame des Doms cathedral, the Ramparts, the Petit Palais, the courtyards, etc., secret places inside the Palace are also to be discovered with the help of tour guides, including hidden stairs and corridors leading to unusual places such as the former papal apartments and the Palace’s terraces.

palais-des-papesThemed tours are especially dedicated to groups of adults or students. Different themes are scheduled, including Markets and Corporate, Unusual Avignon, The Festival d’Avignon side windows, Avignon and the Pope’s Jews, Avignon and its Museums, etc. There is also a modern and interactive way to visit the site. Thanks to modern technology, visitors can now use advanced multimedia and scenic devices composed of a multilingual audio guide synchronized with several films representing the palace at various stages of its construction.


palais-des-papes-8 cuisineHowever, it should be noted that the Kitchen Tour is currently closed to visitors due to repairs and will be reopened within the next two or three months.
Different rates are applied depending on the desired tour types: guided tour, thematic tour, multimedia tour, etc. Indeed, there are rates for groups, students, adults and children. However, the visit is free for young people from Avignon and children under 8. An interesting offer is also available to visitors who wish to return on the site several times. It’s called the Key of the Palace (Clé du Palais) which will allow you to visit the palace and all that is found therein as many times as you like, to get a discount on events organized on the premises, and to profit from further advantages.

The Palace’s signature events

spectacle festival d'AvignonApart from the visits of the Popes’ Palace and its bridge, both listed UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Palace also serves as a venue for various cultural and artistic events that are regularly organized therein, such as the Ateliers du Palais, the big show “Les Luminessences d’Avignon” or the famous Festival d’Avignon.


palais-des-papes-6Medieval art workshops are organised throughout the year by the Altera Roma association, allowing art enthusiasts, beginners or enlightened, to enjoy traditional crafts training within the Palace. Training programs include illumination, calligraphy, creation of marbled paper, ceramics, traditional painting, fresco, glass paste and decorative painting, and the training is carried out by influential speakers. Be aware that breakfast, appetizers, and snacks are offered during a one-day training session that lasts 6 hours.

Attracts in the cours d’honneur of the Palace

palais-des-papes-5Furthermore, a breath-taking show attracts every year thousands of visitors from around the world in the Palace’s famous Court d’Honneur. It is indeed “Les Luminessences d’Avignon” show. Once again this year, this phenomenal show composed of lights, music and monumental images will be edited for the fourth time in the same place every evening from August 10 to October 2. This is the perfect opportunity to relive the history of the Popes’ Palace and discover the site differently, in a magical atmosphere. The creator and director of this monumental video show with 360° projection, Bruno Sellier, felt a bit apprehensive about the vastness of the place, but eventually, his work was highly successful and continues to capture audiences year after year.
Avignon-festival-2016Another world famous event is also closely linked to the Popes’ Palace. Becoming today an important contemporary performing arts event, the Festival d’Avignon was established by Jean Vilar in 1947. Since its inception, the festival was held mainly in the Palace’s Cour d’Honneur. Theatre, dance, reading, exhibitions, plastic art, film and music and other art forms are on the agenda during the month of July. This year the famous festival will be held for the 70th time and will take place in different parts of the city of Avignon from 6th to 24th July.


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