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Seven Ways to Experience the Appeal of Avignon

The skyline of Avignon, France

Overlooking the Rhone River on the western edge of Provence is the brilliant city of Avignon, France. Here, cobblestone lanes lined with towering plane trees swirl within the city’s medieval walls. Outdoor cafes sprawl into the squares where visitors and locals enjoy the sun and a glass of France’s best wine. While its long heritage plays a critical role in its success, Avignon is a very modern city with all the beauty, spirit, and French-ness that Provence has to offer. For all these reasons, I chose this lovely, walkable city as one of the bases on my Provence adventure. Here are a few of my best suggestions for what to do in Avignon.

Check current prices for accommodations in Avignon here

A visit to Place de l’Horloge is what to do in Avignon, France

Hanging out on the Place de l’Horloge

People watch at the Place de l’Horloge

Place de l’Horloge (Clock Tower Square), Avignon’s main square, is bursting with life. On any given afternoon, it is full of children begging for a ride on the carousel and adults enjoying a break at one of the many outdoor cafes and restaurants.

The busy square is also home to the city’s 19th century city hall and opera house. Spend some time here people watching and soaking up the atmosphere. Even better if you have an ice cream or glass of wine in-hand.

Palace of the Popes in Avignon, France

The Palace of the Popes in nearly 700 years old

Step back to the 14th century at the Palace of the Popes

From 1309-1378, seven popes occupied the massive Palace of the Popes in the heart of historic Avignon. When the popes lived here, it was lavishly decorated. Brilliant, lifelike frescoes graced the chapels. Elaborate tilework adorned the floors. It was all done in a style befitting the popes and appropriate for hosting coronations, conclaves, and other important events.

Since much of the interior has been destroyed over the centuries, rent an audio guide or take one of the regular guided tours (I recommend the Secret Palace tour) to help spark your imagination.

Tea at La Mirande in Avignon, France

So many goodies to choose from at La Mirande

Indulge in tea at La Mirande

The five-star La Mirande hotel was once a 14th-century cardinal’s mansion. Today, it combines its heritage of hosting travelers with its original purpose as a lavish home. If the €400/night rates are too steep (as they were for me), enjoying the daily afternoon tea is a great way to peek into this beautiful space. For around €15, you can have an assortment of indulgent French pastries and a beverage in the sitting room or the quiet garden area. It’s the perfect afternoon break.

Spending an afternoon at Parc Rocher des Doms is one of the most relaxing things to do in Avignon, France

Spending an afternoon at Parc Rocher des Doms is one of the most relaxing things to do in Avignon

Take a walk in the Parc Rocher des Doms

The Parc Rocher des Doms, just a short walk from the Palace of the Popes, is a great place to wander around or just relax and enjoy the Provence sun. This sprawling green space covering seven acres is designed around a large pond full of ducks and geese (and its adjacent snack bar).

The park also provides beautiful views of the surrounding area, which are explained on signs around the grounds. On a clear day you should be able to see as far as Mont Ventoux, the tallest mountain in Provence. A visit here is one of the best things to do in Avignon in the spring or summer.

Art on display at the Musee du Petit Palais in Avignon, France

Only a few of the works at Musee du Petit Palais

Visit the Musee du Petit Palais

Also in the historic center of Avignon is the Musee du Petit Palais, a cardinal’s palace turned art gallery. It contains a world-class collection of Renaissance works from Italy and from the Avignon school, all dealing with Christian themes. These include prominent works by Botticelli, Carpaccio, and Giovanni di Paolo.

Depending on your level of interest in the details, a walk through the museum will take about an hour. In addition to the impressive artworks, the museum is also home to a garden café.

Spices for sale at the Les Halles market in Avignon, France. Visiting here is one of the best things to do in Avignon.

The many colors of Les Halles

Be mesmerized at the Les Halles market

Not far from the historic area, Les Halles, Avignon’s covered market, has a permanent home on Place Pie. One of the best markets in Provence, Les Halles is home to 40 stalls selling just about every food item one could think of.

Several of the shops will heat up the dish of your choice for you to enjoy in the square just outside the market. There are also several bars and “sit-down” restaurants inside, if you’re looking to stay in the air conditioning as long as possible. Even if you’re not hungry, Les Halles is certainly worth a visit for the colors and scents alone.

La Cave des Pas Sage on Rue des Teinturiers in Avignon, France. A visit here is one of the best Avignon things to do.

La Cave des Pas Sage is a great stop for a cheap glass of wine

Stroll Rue des Teinturiers

If you’re wondering what to do in Avignon in the afternoon, the pretty Rue des Teinturiers (Street of the Dyers) is a short walk from Les Halles. This tree- and canal-lined street used to be home to Avignon’s cloth industry–weaving and dyeing. Remnants of this past can be seen in the form of four water wheels along the canal.

A walk along this street is one of the best things to do in Avignon outside the historic center. The cobbled street is now home to a number of shops, galleries, and cafes shaded by the ubiquitous plane trees where you can easily while away an afternoon. My favorite stop along this path is La Cave des Pas Sages, where you can get a cheap glass of regional wine (€2,50-3,50) at one of their lovely outdoor tables.

Check current prices for accommodations in Avignon here

My visits to the Palace of the Popes and the Musee du Petit Palais were hosted by Avignon Tourisme. All opinions of the beautiful and charming are my own. Note: Some links may be affiliate links, which means Travel Addicts may earn a few pennies if you buy something, at no additional cost to you.

Have you been to Avignon? What was your favorite thing to do there?

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What do you think about Seven Ways to Experience the Appeal of Avignon?

  1. Rossi | Rossi Writes November 10, 2015 at 1:37 am #

    Avignon is firmly on my European travel wish list and your text and photos just made it jump to the top.
    Best wishes,

    Rossi

    • Laura Longwell November 10, 2015 at 10:21 am #

      That’s great, Rossi! Avignon is such a lovely town.

  2. Gill gignilliat March 5, 2016 at 8:57 am #

    I will be in Avignon in late June – is there a dinner cruise on the Rhone that you could recommend? Any suggestions for best place to take pictures of sunrise? Sunset?

    • Laura Longwell March 5, 2016 at 10:08 pm #

      I didn’t do a dinner cruise, although it sounds absolutely lovely. Pont d’Avignon seems to be a popular spot for both sunrise and sunset photography, and the Parc Rocher des Doms is lovely at sunset — it has a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding area.

  3. Sophia March 7, 2016 at 8:57 am #

    I love Avignon, been there a number of times and still haven’t got sick of this beautiful city.

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