The largest Gothic palace in the world, Avignon’s Palace of the Popes (Palais des Papes) was home to the heads of the Roman Catholic Church in the 14th century. Visitors can tour the grand rooms, landscaped gardens, and secret passages used by members of the clergy, and see special exhibitions and concerts held at the palace.
The seat of the Roman Catholic Church moved from Rome to Avignon in the South of France in 1305, under the orders of Pope Clement V. Some 30 years later, construction of a huge papal palace began under Pope Benedict XII, on the site of the former Bishop’s Palace. The enormous scale of the fortified building can only really be appreciated in person. The interiors were equally grand, decorated with rich tapestries, frescoes, and carved wooden ceilings.
In later years, the palace served as a military barracks for Napoleon’s army, a prison, and even used as stables. It was restored as a museum in 1906. Highlights of the construction include the 170-foot-long (52 meter) Grand Chapel, and the central courtyard, which now plays host to theater and music performances. The palace draws visitors from all over the world who come to see the palace, often as part of a guided tour. Tours often combine the museum with visits to the nearby Chateauneuf-du-Pape winery and Provence.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Entry to the palace is via paid ticket.
- Children under 8 enter for free.
- An interactive Histopad guide device is included in the admission price.
- Prebook a guided tour to skip the entry line.
- The palace is not suitable for wheelchair users.
- Visitors can stop for a drink at the rooftop cafe.
How to Get There
The palace is located in central Avignon and is accessible on foot or as part of a walking tour from other central locations, including the St. Benezet bridge. Guided tours with transport included depart from towns including Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, and Paris.
When to Get There
The Palais des Papes is open every day of the year. Most people spend around two hours exploring the museum. Opening hours are seasonal: From April to June, it is open 9am–7pm. In July, 9am–8pm. In August, 9am–8:30pm. From September to February, 9:30am–5:45pm. In March, from 9am–6:30pm. Last entry is one hour before closing.
Experience the Avignon Jazz Festival
For one week every summer, the town of Avignon comes alive to the sound of jazz music. The Avignon Jazz Festival has operated since 1992 and welcomes some of the top names in jazz music to the Provencal city. Restaurants and cafes fill with music enthusiasts and there’s a celebratory atmosphere that all visitors will enjoy.