Avignon tourism & sightseeing
Visit Avignon (Provence, France)
Avignon is a historic town on the Rhone River in Provence, and a beautifully preserved medieval town surrounded by the original fortified city walls. The part of Avignon that is of most interest to visitors falls inside the fortifications and is called the intra-muros quarter.
The central historical part of the city, including the Palace of the Popes, the Saint-Benezet bridge, and the fortification walls that surround the city, is now a protected UNESCO heritage site and Avignon is also one of the French 'secteur sauvegardé' towns (see Historic towns of France).
There is much more to Avignon than these famous sites, and during a visit you will see a wealth of beautiful buildings, historical churches, a fine collection of museums, an extensive pedestrianised shopping center, and lots of cafes and bars. The possible downside is that Avignon does inevitably become a bit hot and crowded in the summer.
The heart of Avignon is around the Place de l'Horloge (clock-tower) and the large open area in front of the Pope's Palace, so this is the best place to start a visit.
Place de l'Horloge
The centre of the town for 500 years, this open square and broad boulevard has the town hall dominating one side, with the 19th century theatre next door. Although the town hall was built in the 19th century, it incorporates the original clock-tower in its construction.
The square has been extensively remodelled over the centuries and took its present form at the end of the 19th century after earlier market buildings had been cleared away to make a more open space.
Palace of the Popes (Palais des Papes)
One of the most important gothic buildings in Europe, the Palais des Papes is also one of the most impressive buildings in Europe. It's size and grandeur can't be seen from a photo, but it is very large and dominates the square in front of the palace - which allows a clear view of the whole building.
The interior of the Palace of the Popes is now much more austere than it would have been in days gone by. Avignon was home to the popes from 1309 - 1377. The Palace is enormous, and comprises an 'old palace' and a 'new palace'. The extraordinary chapel, 52 metres long, forms part of the 'new palace'. There are numerous gothic towers and splendours in the palace.
Following centuries of neglect, misuse and attack the Palace is now finding a new lease of life as a tourist attraction. Guided tours will show you many of the highlights and chapels etc within the palace.
Although some effort has been made to recreate / renovate some of the original features e.g. the walls in the Pope's bedroom, the interior is still very barren. Nevertheless it remains a fascinating experience to pass through the great rooms where such important matters of state and politics were debated and plots were hatched.
The smaller, grassed inner courtyard is a highlight of the visit. See also Pope's Palace, Avignon under France castles
Pont d'Avignon (Pont St Benezet)
Not far from the Pope's Palace lies the famous Pont d'Avignon, well known around the world because of the nursery rhyme about the bridge. Constructed in the 12th century, only 4 of the 22 original sections of this bridge now remain - the bridge was frequently damaged by the Rhone flooding and by war, and repairs were often made until the 17th century at which time efforts to maintain the bridge were finally abandoned.
The author of the famous song "Sur le Pont d'Avignon" is unknown. Interestingly, the original version was "Sous le pont d'Avignon" ('Under the bridge...") rather than "Sur le Pont d'Avignon" ("On the bridge...") and referred to the dancing on the island below - Island Barthelasse. The bridge no longer reaches the island.
France This Way comment: because of it's fame visitors all want to see the Pont Saint-Benezet but in our opinion it was the one disappointment of a visit to Avignon: a road now passes under the bridge and to be honest we have seen lots of bridges elsewhere in France that are much more scenic and more interesting.
See article about the Pont d'Avignon
Rocher des Doms Gardens
The Rocher des Doms Park and gardens is up a grand sweeping entrance to the side of the cathedral (left of the Palace of Popes) and is a large English style gardens with various water features and views back across the city and the Rhone River. This is a good place to go if you are getting hot and bothered on the streets of Avignon!
There are many interesting museums in Avignon - for these see separate article about the Museums of Avignon
Shopping in Avignon
The main shopping region is partly pedestrianised and found around the bottom of the Place de l'Horloge east of the Rue de la Republique where there are numerous boutiques, shops and art galleries etc.
For 'high-street' shops follow the Rue de la Republique straight down from the bottom of the Place de l'Horloge. This long straight boulevard continues right to the edge of town and the railway station, and is lined with lots of impressive 19th century buildings (it was in the 1850's that rail opened to Marseille and Nice, bringing prosperity to the town). The Avignon tourist office is also along this road.
Most important of all when you are in Avignon...don't forget to just keep walking! There are numerous features and things of interest to discover as you simply amble around Avignon - allow plenty of time for your visit so you can also spend some time sat in the cafes!
A visit to Avignon is ideally combined with trips to the other important historic towns in this region such as Arles, Nimes and Orange, as well as a visit to the most beautiful villages of the Luberon region to the east of here.
Map of Avignon and places to visit
Visit near Avignon with France This Way reviews
... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Vaucluse
Avignon is classified as a historical protected town centre' (secteur sauvegardé)
Address: Avignon, Vaucluse, Provence, 84000, France || GPS: latitude 43.948, longitude 4.8059
Plan your visit to Avignon, Provence
Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby
- Avignon Centre: heritage site
- Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Repos de Montfavet (Avignon): religious monument
- Villeneuve-les-Avignon: secteur sauvegarde
- Fort Saint-Andre: national monument (2km)
- Jardin du château de Brantes: remarkable garden (9km)
- Jardin aquatique « Aux fleurs de l'eau: remarkable garden (11km)
- Glanum: national monument (18km)
- Beaucaire: recommended detour (20km)
- Pernes-les-Fontaines: recommended detour (21km)
- Orange Roman Theatre: heritage site (21km)
Market days in Avignon, France
Regular market(s) are held in Avignon each every day except Monday. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)
The French version of this page is at Avignon (Francais)