If you feel an irresistible urge to hear the song of the cicadas, breathe in the scent of lavender and take a stroll in the shade along centuries-old cobbled streets, then a trip to the former City of the Popes could be just what the doctor ordered!
Avignon boasts an exceptional heritage, much of which is UNESCO-listed, thanks largely to its flamboyant past as the capital of Christendom. Its 4.3km-long ramparts, built as of 1355, were intended to spurn enemy advances but also served to protect the city's inhabitants when the Rhône flooded.
The Palais des Papes, which took only 70 years to build, is the largest Gothic palace in the world and was the residence of the 14th-century pontiffs. From the ceremonial rooms, cloisters and Pope’s private quarters to the priceless frescoes, the Palais des Papes is well worth a visit using the unusual Histopad system, which takes you back in time and allows you to experience the palace as it was at the time of the sovereign pontiffs.
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The Saint Bénezet Bridge, built as of the 12th century, is a technical feat that once linked the two banks of the Rhône. A bearer of legends and an iconic regional monument, only 4 of the 22 original arches now remain. In addition to the famous Pont d'Avignon bridge, the old town is the perfect place to take a stroll and delve into the history of France.
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July is festival time in Avignon
Definitely something not to be missed! The historic Festival showcases the creative talents of some of the greatest names in theatre and dance across a whole host of prestigious locations, including the Cour d'Honneur at the Palais des Papes, and runs alongside the Off festival, which consists of various performances staged in a variety of sometimes unusual locations. Venture beyond the ramparts and let the festive atmosphere carry you away. You’ll find posters hanging in windows and on balconies all over the city, and you’ll come across actors talking about their shows and festival-goers recommending those they enjoyed all over the place. This is what Avignon is all about in July, so become a festival-goer and enjoy the stories to be told - there really is something for all ages (including some wonderful children’s shows during the day) and all tastes (tragic, comic, contemporary, classical, etc.) and at all hours of the day from 10am to 11pm.
Festival d’Avignon - From 7th to 26th juillet : Programme & booking
Avignon le Off - From 7th to 30th July: Programme & booking
In the neighborhood
And don't leave the region without checking out all of the legendary places surrounding the city, either, including Châteauneuf du Pape and its excellent wines, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and its antique shops, and a whole host of beautiful villages and landscapes to which this region steeped in history and culture is home. More details and recommendations can be found in the Tourism feature of the latest edition of our Autotouring magazine