Perhaps most famous for being home to the Popes in the Middle Ages, Avignon has today embraced the avant-garde and is a vibrant destination with a respect for culture, the arts, and a long-standing tradition of exceptional wines. Stroll the boutique-lined streets and through leafy squares, dine in some excellent restaurants and see the impressive medieval wall that entirely encircles the old city.
The main feast for the eyes in Avignon is another of Provence’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Palais des Papes. It’s one of the largest medieval Gothic buildings in Europe, former home to nine successive popes during the 14th century. Amazingly, it took less than 20 years to build this immense religious structure, with its imposing walls and four impressive towers, and today palace tours give visitors the chance to explore – 25 rooms are open to the public, also adorned with watercolour paintings from the most important artists of the French and Italian schools of the time. Must-see rooms include the Consistoire (Audience Room), the Grande Chapelle (Great Chapel), the Grand Tinel (Banquet Hall) and the private papal apartments. From the terrace the views are superb, taking in the city, the Rhône river and the famous Pont d’Avignon (Pont Saint-Bénézet). The Palais des Papes is also part of Avignon’s thriving cultural scene and hosts concerts and exhibitions as well as the Festival d’Avignon in its courtyard, making it an integral part of the city’s modern artistic traditions. Multimedia audio guides are available in 11 languages.