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Welcome to Avignon

The riverside city of Avignon in the Provence region of southern France entices travelers with stone architecture, a storied religious past, and close proximity to other Provencal towns. The city's UNESCO-listed historic center served as the home of the Avignon Papacy for nearly 70 years, and many of the medieval stone structures related to this time remain, including the enormous Palais des Papes (Pope's Palace). Other notable monuments in central Avignon include the 12th-century cathedral and the Hotel d'Europe (one of France's oldest hotels), and a stroll along the Rhone River will take you to the remnants of the Medieval Pont d'Avignon bridge, which inspired a song in the late 19th century.

While Avignon itself offers plenty of things to do, many travelers use it as a jumping-off point for a Provence tour. Arles and Nimes are each less than an hour's drive away. Gorges du Verdon, with its massive ancient Roman aqueduct of Pont du Gard, is another nearby spot. And for a taste of the outdoors, the wild landscapes of the Luberon and the world-renowned wineries of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape region are relatively accessible from Avignon.

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Top 10 attractions in Avignon

Palace of the Popes (Palais des Papes)
#1

Palace of the Popes (Palais des Papes)

The Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes) is one of the largest Gothic buildings in all of Europe and was classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995. Avignon became the residence of the Popes in 1309 during the period of the Avignon Papacy. It was then expanded and grew to occupy an area of 11,000 m² (2.6 acres). The papacy spent a large amount of money on the building during construction. The interiors are no less grand than the exteriors; the rooms were luxuriously decorated with expensive frescos, tapestries, paintings, sculptures and wooden ceilings. The palais deteriorated for the next couple of hundred years despite restoration efforts and was then sacked during the Revolutionary period. The Palais was eventually taken over by the Napoleonic government for military use during which time it further deteriorated. It finally became a national museum in 1906, and most of the Palais is now open to the public....
St. Benezet Bridge (Pont d'Avignon)
#2

St. Benezet Bridge (Pont d'Avignon)

The St. Benezet Bridge - known as the Pont d’Avignon - is a famous bridge located in Avignon. The 12th century bridge originally spanned 900 m (2,950ft) across the Rhône River. The bridge collapsed frequently and was reconstructed multiple times. Today, only 4 of the original 22 arches remain complete....
Les Halles Market
#3

Les Halles Market

Avignon’s Les Halles market is home to about 40 stalls, each selling some sort of Provençal goodies, from cheese and meats to oysters and foie gras, even rose petal-perfumed sea salt. There’s a wine bar and well-loved Italian stand too, and the popular market is easy to spot—its façade is covered in a frothy vegetable garden designed by botanist Patrick Blanc....
Avignon Cathedral (Cathedrale Notre-Dame des Doms)
#4

Avignon Cathedral (Cathedrale Notre-Dame des Doms)

Perched between the magnificent UNESCO-listed Palais des Papes and the hilltop Rocher des Doms, the Avignon Cathedral (Cathedrale Notre-Dame des Doms) is somewhat eclipsed by its neighboring tourist magnets. While the Cathedral’s comparatively demure façade fails to incite the same gasps as the castle-like Palais, its iconic bell tower, capped with a 4.5-tonne gold statue of the Virgin Mary, still demands attention from the passing crowds. The cathedral has a history dating back to the 12th century, but the majority of the present-day building dates from the 15th and 17th centuries. Most notable are the richly decorated Romanesque-style interiors, where highlights include a 12th century marble throne, a beautiful gilded organ and a chapel dedicated to John XXII, housing an array of artifacts and religious icons....
Little Palace Museum (Musée du Petit Palais)
#5

Little Palace Museum (Musée du Petit Palais)

The Musée du Petit Palais (or the Little Palace Museum) originally served as a bishops’ and archbishops’ palace during the 14th and 15th centuries. It was originally built for Cardinal Béranger de Frédol between 1318 and 1320, and Pope Benoît made it his clerical headquarters after the palace underwent extensive renovations....
Rocher des Doms
#6

Rocher des Doms

The Rocher des Doms is a bouldered spur which that lies north of the Palais des Papes in Avignon. Climb to the top and enjoy the panoramic views of Provence from the lovely park on its summit. The botanical park was a large undertaking when it wat built in 1830; it masks a reservoir that once supplied all of Avignon with water....
Pont du Gard
#7

Pont du Gard

The Pont du Gard is a 50 kilometer (31 miles) aqueduct that stretches between Uzès and Nîmes. It is located in Vers-Pont-du-Gard commune in the South of France, and UNESCO made the aqueduct a World Heritage Site in 1985. The famous aqueduct was constructed by the Roman Empire in the mid first century, before the dawn of the Christian era. The bridge is almost 50 meters high (164 feet) and has 3 levels, the longest being 275 meters (902 feet). Its first level carries a road and its third level carries a water conduit. The Pont du Gard is currently one of the most visited attractions in all of France....
Nimes
#8

Nimes

It's a history that stretches back to pre-Roman times, with various evidence of Bronze Age settlements. But with the Romans came more permanent colonization; soldiers were often given tracts of land in the area as payment for battles. The original Roman gates are still there, as is the Colosseum-style arena. Check the city's entertainment schedule before visiting, and catch a concert inside – something you can't do in Rome! Throughout the city are various ruins that have been preserved as best as possible, but the jewel of Nimes is without a doubt the temple Maison Carrée. Built just before the turn of the millennium, its near-perfect condition makes it one of the finest examples of Roman architecture found anywhere in the world. Thomas Jefferson was so taken with it, in fact, that he has the statehouse in Virginia built in its likeness! Today Nimes is a fairly large and bustling city, with great restaurants and gorgeous parks and other public green spaces....
Senanque Abbey (Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque)
#9

Senanque Abbey (Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque)

The 12th-century Sénanque Abbey, which to this day is the home and worshiping place of Cistercian monks, has no great history. There are no iconic frescoes or statues to see, and while pretty, it isn't especially notable architecturally. So why is it on every visitor's must-see list when visiting Provence? One word: lavender. The monks here grow, harvest and process lavender from the surrounding fields, which means that come June visitors have a front-row seat to one of the most gorgeous photo ops of all time. Whether passing by in a car or stopping to smell the flowers, the Sénanque Abbey, near Gordes, is a summertime treat....
Camargue
#10

Camargue

Visitors to Provence understandably concentrate on Avignon, Arles, and the charming towns, villages and vineyards in the region. And if you stick to that, you'll have a great time! But just as understandable is that while beautiful, these towns can all seem to blend together after a while. If that's the case, then you should head to the Camargue. Located in the southwest corner of Provence, the Camargue is a stretch of wetlands that also include salt fields and rice paddies as well as vineyards. The main town and jumping-off point for exploring the Camargue is Aigues-Mortes, a medieval walled town that is a great lunchtime spot – and you'll want to fuel up, as the Camargue is largely untouched. Although it is protected land, there are pockets of population that tend to the lands and work hard to protect its pristine geographical features. These include the famous wild horses of the Camargue, white horses largely allowed to roam free, although French cowboys....

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