The 12 Best Sights in Avignon – What to See

The 12 main sights of Avignon

Recommended sights in Avignon

Avignon is one of the oldest and therefore probably the most interesting city in France. All the attractions of Avignon are full of history.

This city boasts a large number of museums and medieval monuments that take travelers back in time. Avignon is also a very interesting place with its annual Avignon Festival and bustling nightlife.

Papal Palace

Papal Palace

Papal Palace.

The Papal Palace, the largest Gothic palace ever built, was built by Pope Clement V. The latter moved from Rome to Avignon in 1309 because of the turmoil that began in Rome after his election. The Avignon palace served as the residence of the papal authority for seven decades.

The size of the palace is a clear illustration of the power of the medieval Roman Catholic Church. The impregnable 3-meter-thick walls and monumental facade are virtually all that remain of the palace.

The interior, alas, has hardly been preserved. However, despite this visitors to Avignon will be something to see in the Pontifical Palace, because at the entrance with a ticket they receive a tablet, which, when put on the bare walls shows how this interior was in ancient times.

Among the miraculously preserved sights are fourteenth-century chapel frescoes by Matteo Giovannetti and the so-called Room with Deer, whose walls are decorated with medieval hunting scenes.

Navigating the enormous palace and finding these remnants of former luxury can be a challenge, so it might be worth joining one of the regular tours offered here by the tourist offices.

In 1995, the Papal Palace was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Look out for the palace’s events, the annual Avignon Theater Festival, and the special shows Son et Lumiere (Sound and Light), held from mid-August to September.

Address: Palais des Papes, Place du Palais, Avignon, France.

Pont Saint-Benenezet

Saint Benesieu Bridge

Pont Saint-Benenezet.

Legend has it that Pastor Benezet, then still a young shepherd, had three visions calling him to build a crossing over the Rhone. Built in 1185, the 900m long bridge connected Avignon with Villeneuve-les-Avignon.

During its history the bridge has repeatedly restored and rebuilt, but this did not save him – in the 1600’s, 18 of its 22 spans were washed away by a strong flood.

Since then, Saint-Benenezet remained a bridge leading nowhere. The view is beautiful (and free) from the Parc des Roches de Domes, the Pont d’Édouard Daladier and from the island of Barthelasse.

Address: Pont d’Avignon, Boulevard de la Ligne, Avignon, France.

Petit Palais Museum (Musée du Palais Minor)

Petit Palais Museum

The Petit Palais Museum (Musée du Petit Palais Minor).

This building housed the Palace of the Archbishops in the XIV-XV centuries. Today it has an outstanding collection of pre-Renaissance Italian paintings of XIII-XVI centuries of religious themes.

Among them are works by Botticelli, Carpaccio and Giovanni di Paolo. The most famous painting on display is the Madonna and Child (1470) by Botticelli.

Address: Musée Du Petit Palais, Place du Palais, Avignon, France.

Musée Angladon

Angladon Museum

Angladon Museum.

The tiny Angladon Museum houses an impressive collection of realist, Impressionist and Expressionist paintings, including works by Cézanne, Cisley, Manet, Modigliani, Degas and Picasso.

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The museum’s most “star” exhibit is Van Gogh’s “Railroad Carriages,” the only painting by the artist on display in Provence. Impress your companions by telling them that the ground in the painting is not actually depicted with paint – in this place, it’s just a bare canvas.

Address: Musée Angladon – Collection Jacques Doucet, Rue Laboureur, Avignon, France.

Place du Palais

Place du Palais

Place du Palais. | Photo: RuudV / Flickr.

This impressive, huge square, where the Papal Palace is located, is where you can take stunning photos. On top of the Romanesque cathedral, built in the 17th century, stands a golden statue of the Virgin Mary weighing 4.5 tons.

From the hill in the gardens of the Rocher de Dome, next to the cathedral, there are magnificent views of the Rhone, Mont Ventoux and Les Alpilles. Opposite the Papal Palace is the 17th century Hôtel des Monnaies, once the Papal Mint.

Its facade is decorated with elaborate carvings and heraldic representations of animals.

Address: Place du Palais, Avignon, France.

The Lapidary Museum

Lapidary Museum

Lapidary Museum.

Inside the stunning Jesuit chapel is the archaeological collection of the Musée Calvet, exhibited here in 2015.

Greek, Etruscan and Roman artifacts are on display, but the Gallic exhibits, including some grotesque masks and very unusual statuettes, are of particular interest to visitors.

Address: Musée Lapidaire, Rue de la République, Avignon, France.

Lambert Collection

Lambert Collection

Lambert Collection.

The Avignon Museum of Modern Art reopened in the summer of 2015 after a significant renovation and expansion. The Lambert Collection is considered the most valuable of the exhibitions that can be seen here.

It includes works of art dating from the 1960s to the present and ranging from minimalism and conceptual painting to video and photography.

Of particular interest is the stark contrast to the classic 18th-century mansion in which the collection is housed.

Address: Collection Lambert Avignon, Rue Violette, Avignon, France.

Calvet Museum

Calvet Museum

Calvet Museum.

The elegant Villeneuve-Martignan mansion, built in 1741-1754, is a fitting backdrop for the exhibits in the Avignon Museum of Fine Arts.

There are paintings created between the 16th and 20th centuries, ancient sculptures, wrought iron works of applied art from the 15th century, and landscapes by the Avignon artist Joseph Vernet.

Address: Musée Calvet, Rue Joseph Vernet, Avignon, France.

Saint Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica | Photo: Herbert Frank / Flickr.

Local folklore says that the church, once standing on this site, was destroyed by the Moors in the 7th century. Construction of the present Gothic church began in the 1300s during the papacy of Innocent IV, who was the fifth pope of Avignon.

In the Basilica of Saint Pierre one can see many real treasures, including gilded choirs from the 1700s, Renaissance and Baroque paintings, and authentic cardinal’s robes and a hat that once belonged to Peter of Luxembourg, a highly revered figure in Avignon.

Before going inside, take a moment to appreciate the monumentality and elegance of the wooden doors carved from walnut wood in 1551 by Antoine Volare.

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Address: Basilique Saint-Pierre, Rue Saint-Pierre, Avignon, France.

Church and Monastery of the Carmelites

Carmelite Church and Monastery

Church and Monastery of the Carmelites.

Construction of this Romanesque-Gothic church, belonging to the Order of Carmelites, began in the 13th century and lasted several centuries. In the 20th century it was one of the first venues of the Avignon theater festival.

Address: Eglise des Carmes, Place des Carmes, Avignon, France.

City Gate

Gate of the Republic

Gates of the Republic

The Gates of the Republic.

The Port de la Republique is the city gate through which you could enter the walled city of Avignon. It is located on the south side of the wall, opposite the central train station.

Address: Porte de la République 84000 Avignon France.

Saint Charles Gate

Saint Charles is one of the entrances to the fortress city of Avignon. It is located in the south-western part of the fortress wall, which surrounded the medieval city and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Address: Porte Saint-Charles 84000 Avignon France.

Porte de l’Oulle

Porte de l’Oulle is the entrance to the city-fortress of Avignon on the northwestern edge of the walls, near the banks of the Rhone and the Bridge of Avignon.

Address: Tour bus stop, Rue Rempart de l’Oulle, Avignon, France.

The Gates of the Rhone

The Porte du Rhône is the gateway limiting the entrance to medieval Avignon at the northwest corner of the wall, near the Saint-Benenezet Bridge.

Address: Porte du Rhône 84000 Avignon France.

Porte du Rhône.

The Porte de la Ligne is another gate, this time at the north end of the wall, near the Rhône River.

The address is Porte de la Ligne 84000 Avignon France.

St. Dominique Gate

Porte Saint-Dominique is the entrance to medieval Avignon, located at the western part of the fortress wall, near the Rhône River.

The address is Porte Saint-Dominique, 84000 Avignon, France.

Gates of Saint Roch

The Porte Saint Roche is a gateway in the city wall of Avignon, located on the southwest corner. This entrance is particularly well preserved.

The address is Porte Saint-Roch 84000 Avignon France.

The Gate of Saint Lazarus

The Porte Saint-Lazare is the entrance to the city-fortress of Avignon, located on the northeast corner.

Address: Porte Saint-Lazare 84000 Avignon France.

Magnanen Gate

The Magnanen Gate is a gateway located on the southeastern edge of a defensive fortification.

Address: Porte Magnanen 84000 Avignon France.

Limbert Gate

The Porte Limbert is the last entrance to the medieval fortress city of Avignon. The gate is located on the southeastern edge of the wall.

Avignon

Avignon (France) – the most detailed information about the city with photos. The main attractions of Avignon with descriptions, guides and maps.

City of Avignon (France).

Avignon is a city in southeastern France and the center of the Vaucluse department. It is located on the left bank of the Rhône in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. Avignon is one of the most beautiful cities of Provence, which from 1309 to 1377 was the residence of the popes. This period gave it excellent Gothic and Renaissance architecture, as well as a magnificent papal palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Avignon is known for its relaxed southern French atmosphere, quaint streets, rich history and rich cultural life. The old town is very well preserved and still has medieval walls.

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Things to do (Avignon):

€150 per tour.

“The Three Keys of Avignon” – historical quest

Visit iconic places and discover mysteries of the city on a sightseeing tour

Geography and climate

Avignon is located on the left bank of the Rhône in the historic Provence region, 580 km southeast of Paris, 229 km south of Lyon and 85 km northwest of Marseille. The city is bordered on the west by the Gare and Bouches-du-Rhône departments. The Rhone divides Avignon into two parts. The climate is subtropical Mediterranean. Summers are relatively hot and winters are mild and fairly warm.

The Rhone River and the old city

The Rhone River and the old city

Tourist information

  1. The population is more than 90 thousand people. Of these 12,000 live in the old town.
  2. Area – 64.78 km 2 .
  3. The language is French.
  4. Currency is euro.
  5. Visa – Schengen.
  6. Time – Central European UTC +1, in summer +2.
  7. Avignon is located on the line of high-speed trains Paris-Marseille. Regional trains stop at a station on the southern edge of the old city.
  8. A flea market is held every Sunday at the Place des Carmes.
  9. Since Avignon is located in Provence, you can buy a variety of lavender products here.
  10. Do not sign any petitions outside the papal palace. They are crooks. They can demand money afterwards.

History

Avignon was founded by Phocian Greeks in the 6th century BC as a trading faction of a Greek city on the site of Marseilles. It later became the capital of the Gallic tribe of the Cavarians. Around 120 BC, the area was conquered by Rome. Under Emperor Hadrian the settlement was given the status of a Roman colony.

In the early Middle Ages, Avignon belonged first to the Burgundians, then to the Ostgoths and the Franks. In 736 the city was even briefly conquered by the Arabs. Though two years later it was destroyed by Charles Martel in the process of its liberation. In 932, Provence and Upper Burgundy reunited to form the Kingdom of Arles. Avignon joined the new state and became one of its most important cities.

The Streets of the Old City

The streets of the old city

In 1032 Avignon became part of the Holy Roman Empire, although in fact it was under the rule of the Counts of Provence and the rulers of Toulouse. At the end of the 12th century, Avignon declared itself an independent republic, but in 1226 it capitulated to the French troops. After that, the city was forced to tear down the fortifications and backfill the moat. Since the end of the 13th century Avignon was under the rule of the Counts of Provence.

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In 1309, Pope Clement V chose the city as his residence for the period of the Council of Vienna. During this period, Avignon begins to flourish, as the popes were forced to stay here until 1378. The city becomes one of the centers of the Catholic world. A magnificent papal palace was built here, numerous temples and the university was founded. Avignon was also surrounded by walls, which are perfectly preserved to this day. After the return of the popes to Rome, they ruled the city until the French Revolution.

Avignon

Avignon

In 1791 Avignon was occupied by revolutionary troops. And in 1797 the popes renounced their claim to the city and ceded it to France. In the 19th century Avignon became a major commercial center. The old town was subjected to rebuilding, in the course of which some of the historic buildings were demolished.

Sights

Papal Palace

Papal Palace

The Papal Palace is the main attraction of Avignon and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a grandiose building, which is considered the largest structure of the Gothic period. The palace was built between 1335 and 1352 and looks like a giant castle. More than 20 rooms and chapels with beautiful frescoes are now open to the public. The furniture and decorations of the papal palace disappeared during the French Revolution.

The old city of Avignon by order of the popes was surrounded by strong walls. These medieval fortifications are perfectly preserved to this day.

Place du Palais

Place du Palais

The Piazza dei Palais is a wide space in front of the palace, created by demolishing the adjacent streets on the orders of Pope Benedict XII. From here you have a great view of the papal palace. You can also see the Romanesque cathedral and the old mint.

A few minutes from the Papal Palace is Rocher des Doms, a rocky promontory with a great panoramic view of Avignon.

The Musée du Petit Palais is an art museum with excellent collections including masterpieces of Italian painting from the 13th to the 15th century (works by Botticelli, Louis Brea and others). The museum building is on the square in front of the papal palace and is a Gothic fort with a crenellated exterior wall and typical elements of Medieval architecture. This was the residence of the popes before the construction of the modern palace.

Saint Benesieu Bridge

Pont Saint-Benenezet

One of the symbols of Avignon and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Pont Saint-Benenezay is a dilapidated bridge over the Rhone. This structure was built between 1177 and 1185, that is, in just 8 years. The construction of the bridge is associated with an interesting legend. The shepherd Benoit, who later became known as Saint Benezet, received instructions from the angels to build a bridge across the Rhone River. The people of Avignon ridiculed the idea. But when the little boy picked up the huge stone, they thought it was a divine omen.

After its construction, the Saint-Benenez Bridge was an elegant structure consisting of 22 arches with a total length of more than 900 meters. In the Middle Ages, this engineering structure was an important crossing over the Rhone. The bridge was destroyed by floods in the 17th century and was never rebuilt. Four arches and the small Romanesque-Gothic Chapel of St. Nicholas are extant.

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Notre Dame de Dame

Notre-Dame-de-Dame

Notre-Dame-de-Dame is a beautiful 12th-century medieval church that gets a little lost next to the papal palace. The building has a Romanesque interior, and the tower is crowned by a magnificent gilded statue of the Virgin Mary. Interesting features of the church include a 12th-century white marble bishop’s chair, a Romanesque altar in the first chapel, a late Gothic monument in the fourth chapel on the south side, and beautiful frescoes.

Church of Saint Didier

Church of Saint-Didier

The Church of Saint-Didier is a medieval church in the style of Romanesque architecture of Provence, built between 1356 and 1359. The building has thick stone walls and a large nave. Interesting features include one of the earliest works of Renaissance art in France by the Italian painter Francesco Laurana, remarkable 14th-century paintings, and a late Gothic pulpit.

de l

de l’Horloge

The Piazza de l’Horloge is a charming town square surrounded by shady plane trees. The square has a theater and a town hall on its west side. The town hall was built in the 19th century. Although the tower dates back to the 14th century. On top of it are life-size figures known as “jacquemarts.”

Church of Saint-Pierre

Church of Saint-Pierre

The Church of Saint-Pierre is a 14th-century medieval church with a beautiful Gothic facade and Renaissance wooden doors. The relics of St. Pierre of Luxembourg are kept here. The church houses some impressive sculptures and paintings, as well as baroque choral scenes from the mid-17th century.

Rue des Teinturiers

Rue des Teinturiers

Rue des Teinturiers is a charming old street along the Vaucluse Canal with beautiful stone houses, cobblestone sidewalk and old plane trees.

Interesting places near Avignon

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard is a grandiose Roman aqueduct located near the city of Nîmes on the river Gardon. It is the tallest of the Roman structures of this type.

Lavender Fields near the town of Roussillon

Lavender Fields near the town of Roussillon

Lavender fields are one of the most famous and picturesque sights in Provence. The most beautiful are those around the charming towns of Roussillon and Sault.

Medieval villages of Provence

Medieval Villages of Provence

Provence is famous for its charming medieval villages:

  • Saint-Rémy de Provence is a quaint Provence town with elegant buildings, pleasant squares and charming pedestrian streets. It is located only 20 km from Avignon. It is known as the birthplace of Nostradamus and as an archaeological site of the Greco-Roman period.
  • Villeneuve-les-Avignon is a small village with a wonderful historical atmosphere and sights of the Middle Ages.
  • Cavaillon is a small town with an interesting historical and cultural heritage. It is famous for its melons.

Interesting excursions

Grand Tour of Montmartre

From €105 for a guided tour

Grand tour of Montmartre

The Moulin Rouge, Dalida House, Villa Léandre, Chateau des Mists and other iconic spots of the bohemian quarter

The Louvre for Kids 6+

from €130 for a guided tour

The Louvre for children ages 6 and up

An educational but not boring adventure which will be remembered by young travelers

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