A world-famous arts festival, an ever-thriving wine trade and a lively student population ensure Avignon isn’t just a showcase of medieval architecture, but a buzzing Provencal center as well.
Day 1: Pont and Palace
Start at the Palais des Papes, the spot which was once the center of the Western world when the Popes made Avignon their home-away-from-Rome in the 14th century. The forbidding stone walls still exude an air of chilling authority. The palace’s Grand Chapel is an imposing bare space, but if you want decoration, the beautiful chapels of Saint Martial and Saint Jean are where it’s at. Stop in at the Notre Dame des Doms Cathedral with its squat, square spire on your way to the original bridge to nowhere, the Pont d’Avignon (actually Pont St-Bénézet). Dancing optional.
Day 2: Town and Country
The morning is devoted to
epoch-hopping art appreciation. Walk along Avignon’s charming winding
streets and take your pick from antiquities reflecting Avignon’s Roman
roots at the Musée Lapidaire, the Petit Palais, which displays art from
the Popes’ Avignonian sojourn, and the Musée Angladon which boasts a Van
Gogh among its small but impressive collection concentrating on
Post-Impressionists. Then for a complete change of pace, head for the
Collection Lambert, whose elegant stone building houses up-to-the-minute
contemporary art. In the afternoon, head out to the countryside and its
lush lavender bounty beyond the confines of Avignon’s medieval walls.
Day 3: Stones and Rocks
yes, the walls. They’re an attraction in their own right, with exhibits
at various points. Spend the morning on these medieval ramparts with
their sweeping views of the city within and the countryside beyond. Duck
into the narrow streets at will and you might come across the
university, founded in 1303, or ecclesiastical treasures along the
Promenade des Teinturiers. Finally, enjoy a well-earned rest in the
landscaped park on Rocher des Doms, an outcrop which enjoys stunning
views of the Rhône and surrounding countryside.