I had Avignon as a base on my trip to Provence and besides the location being great, the city has a lot to offer! Here I share 9 places to visit if you are looking for things to do in Avignon!
Avignon is perhaps the main city in the region of Vaucluse e Provença in the south of France, it serves as a base for many of the tourists who are coming to visit the region. It is located in the heart of Provence on the banks of the Rhône River (Rhone in French) very close to many other cities and attractions.
To get to Avignon it's easy, besides by plane (Avignon airport) you can go by train from many other destinations. The city is 2h38m from Paris by train (TGV) and also has direct international train connections with Genoa, Brussels, London, Madrid e Barcelona, and of course for several cities in the Vaucluse region.
By road it is 50 minutes from Aix en Provence , 1 hour from Marseille, 2 hours from Lyon and 2 hours from Nice.
Despite being small, the city has many sights and places to visit, here I name nine things to do in Avignon!
1. PALACE OF THE POPES
Avignon was considered the capital of Christianity in the world, place of the incredible and gigantic Palace of the Popes which was one of the largest and most important Gothic buildings of the Middle Ages in Europe and the city's main attraction.
The Palace became the residence of the Popes in 1309, when Pope Clement V decided to abandon Roma.
The palace is divided into two parts, the old and new building, the old one built by Benedict XII and the new, much more ostentatious, created by the controversial Pope Clement VI. It is said that he built the entire new fortress in just 18 years (1334-1352), something very impressive given the size of the construction.
To visit the Palace you need to pay 11 Euros (about 40 Reais). There is a ticket that allows you to visit the Bridge of Avignon and also the Palace of the Popes, that's what I did and this ticket cost me 13,50 Euros (about 48 Reais).
2. AVIGNON BRIDGE (SAINT BENEZET)
The bridge is also one of the most visited places in the city, which became known worldwide for the children's song “Sur le Pont D'Avignon” (On the Bridge of Avignon).
What caught my attention the most on my visit to the bridge was hearing about the legend of how the bridge came about. Legend has it that a young shepherd named Benedict had met Jesus Christ, who asked him to build a bridge over the river. He ran to tell the other shepherds and the people of Avignon about his meeting and that he would have to build a bridge over the river, but he was mocked by the whole town and challenged by a shepherd to carry a huge block of stone to the banks of the river, and that if he succeeded, he would be allowed to build it. Said and done: the boy miraculously lifted the block leaving everyone in shock. The people believed that he had divine help and from then on he had the support of the whole city in the construction of the bridge.
The bridge was built between 1177 and 1185, and was destroyed 40 years later during the invasion of Louis VIII. From then on, the bridge was rebuilt a few times, however, due to flooding in Rio rhodenum (Rhone) maintenance has been abandoned. Today, only 4 of the 22 arches that the bridge had remain, these four arches also built by Pope Clement VI, the same Pope who built the second part of the bridge. Palace of the Popes.
Today the bridge, along with the Palace of the Popes and Notre Dame des Doms Cathedral are considered UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
To visit the bridge you need to pay 5 Euros (about 18 reais) and you are entitled to an audio guide available in 11 different languages, Portuguese being one of them.
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3. CATEDRAL OF NOTRE DAME DES DOMS
The Cathedral, Roman Catholic, is located right next to the Palace of the Popes, built in the mid-twelfth century. Together with Palace of the Popes and Bridge of Avignon, it is considered UNESCO world heritage.
What caught my attention the most in the cathedral was the golden statue of the Virgin Mary at the top of the cathedral. With one hand blessing the city and with the other, protecting. The statue is 6 meters tall and weighs 4500 kilograms. It is impressive and indispensable for anyone looking things to do in Avignon.
4. GARDEN DES DOMS (ROCHER DES DOMS)
It is a garden located next to the Cathedral towards the rhodenus river (Rhon). It is incredibly beautiful and has panoramic views of the river and the bridge.
I didn't hesitate to interrupt the walk to simply sit and enjoy the view and the gardens and if you are a sunset lover like me then this is a great place!
5. CLOCK SQUARE (PLACE DE L'HORLOGE)
It is the main square of the city and also known as Avignon square. In it are two important buildings, the City Hall (Hotel de Ville) and the Opera.
The square is very pleasant to walk and has restaurants and cafes, it is a very touristy and tasty point of the city.
6. LITTLE PALACE MUSEUM
The museum is located in the square of the Palace of the Popes, in the historic center of Avignon, and hosts a collection of Provencal and Italian paintings from the XNUMXth to the XNUMXth century, as well as collections Romanesque e Gothic of sculpture.
The building appeared in the mid-XNUMXth century and was named “Little Palace” due to its gigantic neighbor. Palace of the Popes.
The museum is open every day of the week with the exception of Tuesdays, and a full ticket costs 6 Euros (about 22 Reais) to enter.
It is considered an exceptional French museum, so for museum lovers it is a must see.
7. RUA DU OLD SEXTIER
I really enjoyed walking along this street and the streets around it, where you can find markets and shops with regional products. I was able to try cheeses, oils and the famous “tapenades”, something very traditional like a pâté made with black olives, anchovies and capers (I love anchovies and capers and hate olives, I liked it).
Something that I found very interesting is that the streets have small statues at the top of their corners, something that other cities in the region also have. They are the “Madonnas on the Corner” that are images to scare away demons and pests.
Another street worth mentioning is the Balance Street, is the place for those who are looking to buy souvenirs!
8. FESTIVAL OF LIGHT IN THE PALACE OF THE POPES (AUGUST/OCTOBER)
I unfortunately couldn't attend this festival, but it left me with a taste of wanting to go back to see it. It's a light show that takes place in the Palace of the Popes and which also attracts people from all over the world.
This year (2016) happened from the 10th of August to the 2nd of October, and it is usually always at that time, in 2015 it was from the 12th of August to the 3rd of October.
The ticket for the show costs 11 Euros (about 40 Reais) and children under 8 years old do not pay admission.
I'll share a teaser video so you can get an idea of what the show is:
For more information about the festival, visit the website.
9. AVIGNON FESTIVAL (JULY)
To finalize the list of things to do in Avignon nothing more fair than talking about it, the annual arts festival that has already had 69 editions and that attracts people from all over the world to the city during the summer (month of July).
Its main stage is the “backyard” of the Palace of the Popes, a huge structure is set up there to receive thousands of tourists and dozens of plays, but stages for concerts are spread all over the city.
So during the month the city breathes art, breathes festival, breathes theater. Just to give you an idea, in 2008 the festival had 950 shows.
So if you were in doubt about things to do in Avignon I hope this list helps you plan and get to know more about this amazing city in Provence region.
I also want to say that if you haven't set dates for your visit to Avignon, I recommend going in July for the Festival or at least in August to October for the festival of light.
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Diego Imai traveled at the invitation of Tourism of France.
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