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Thursday, April 20, 2023

Best Things To Do in Avignon

Avignon, often referred to as the gateway of Provence, is not only a convenient base for exploring the wider region but also a destination that captivates visitors and becomes a cherished favorite in its own right.

Despite being called a city, the inner heart of Avignon exudes the charm and vibrancy of a lively village.

Behind its well-preserved ramparts, the streets are steeped in history, filled with the melodies of music, and adorned with captivating art. Avignon possesses an irresistible allure that will enchant you and leave you longing to return.

Although it may initially seem that there are limited activities to partake in within Avignon, many travel guides tend to focus more on day trips from the city rather than highlighting the attractions within.

However, if you choose to stay in Avignon and fully immerse yourself in all that the city has to offer, whether it be for a few days or a few weeks, you will discover an abundance of experiences to keep you engaged and entertained throughout your holiday.

Best Things To Do in Avignon

Pont d’Avignon

Upon our arrival in France, I acquired an antique painting that depicted a charming bridge adorned with a small chapel. It wasn't until we relocated to Provence a year later that I realized the painting portrayed the Pont Saint-Bénézet of Avignon, which is often referred to as the Pont d'Avignon.

The bridge was once a crucial link between the papal state of Comtat Venaissin and France, spanning the entire 900m of the Rhône River.

After the original wooden structure was destroyed, a stone version with 22 arches was constructed in its place.

However, the river's erosion caused the bridge's iconic arches to collapse under the pressure of the swelling river.

Today, only four arches and the Chapel of Saint Nicholas remain of the once-grand bridge. The bridge has earned a special place in the hearts of many, both in France and abroad, and has been immortalized in the French song 'Sur le Pont d'Avignon.'

To visit the bridge, one must purchase a ticket (preferably at the same time as the ticket to the Pope's palace for the best price). However, the best views of the bridge can be seen from above at the Rocher des Doms or from below on the île de la Barthelasse.

Rocher des Doms

The elevated Rocher des Doms gardens offer a unique perspective and a stunning view in an otherwise flat city. The treescape provides shade and protection from the elements, making it a pleasant place to visit throughout the year. However, it truly comes alive during the warmer months.

Whether you choose to relax at the café terrace, sit by the pond, or explore the lookout points, you'll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the Pont Saint-Bénézet and Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. To reach the gardens, you can take the stairs from Boulevard de la Ligne or Rue des Escaliers Sainte-Anne, or opt for a leisurely walk around the Avignon Cathedral.

If you prefer a more convenient option, there is a tourist train available for a short tour of the old town and the Rocher des Doms gardens. Simply catch it from outside the Pope's Palace for a fee of €9.

Festival d’Avignon

Avignon comes alive every July with the Festival d’Avignon, the oldest festival in France, attracting visitors from all over the world. The festival showcases dance, music, and theatre performances throughout the city, with the Palais des Papes courtyard being the most famous venue.

However, the festival also spills out into other corners and crannies of the historic city.

The Off Festival, running concurrently with the main festival, adds to the excitement, with every park, courtyard, hall, and theatre abuzz with activity. To avoid getting overwhelmed, it’s best to choose a few ‘must-see’ shows and let the others lure you in as you soak up the atmosphere on the streets.

Due to the festival’s popularity, accommodation in Avignon in July fills up quickly, so it’s advisable to book early if you plan on attending this artistic spectacle.

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