I do believe that Avignon is my favourite large town in Provence. And if you arrive there on a warm spring day with the roofs of the medieval buildings outlined against the wonderful blue Provence sky – I think you’ll understand why.
Avignon is the capital of the Vaucluse department (84) and has enough to see and do to warrant a two or three day visit. There’s the 14th century Palais des Papes – basically the palace of the French pope, in the days when there were two Popes in Europe. And of course there’s the famous Pont d’Avignon (Pont de St Bénézet) which stretches into the river Rhône and the historic ramparts that surround the city.
Or just explore the old part of the city: discover typical streets like the rue des Teinturiers with its paddle wheels on the Sorgue canal which flows through the city, and numerous little streets and squares paved with cobblestones – all named after the ancient professions of the Middle Ages.
Take in the beautiful façades of the private mansions built in the 18th and 19th centuries. If you’re in to religious buildings, there are several small chapels to be visited as well as the cathedral. You should definitely visit Avignon’s covered food market. Open in the mornings, from Tuesday to Sunday, the market has around 40 stall holders, true ambassadors of local produce : fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices, olive oil and other culinary specialities of Provence.
If you’d like to try something a bit different, Avignon is the capital city Cotes du Rhone wines and there are tours that you can take that include cellar visits, wine tastings, and the wine museum.
Avignon has a great range of shops if you get history overload! The best boutique shopping is to be found on either side of the Place de l’Horloge: the pedestrianised area to the south east of the square, or the narrow streets to the west – don’t bother with the Rue République which is full of chain stores and a bit disappointing. People watching is excellent at any of the cafés in the Place de l’Horloge. And there’s a great café/bar called Phimabri where you can get an excellent light lunch.
I don’t have a large number of restaurants to recommend here, but La Fourchette, 17 rue racine has a very good reputation. I tried to get in there the last time I was in Avignon, only to be disappointed as it was fully booked. So don’t simply turn up and hope for the best.
There’s always something going on in Avignon – markets, festivals and celebrations take place throughout the year. And if you’re planning on visiting Avignon in the not-too-distant future, be sure to visit the Christmas Market that’s held daily in the Place de l’Horloge from the end of November.