Avignon is a historic city in southern France, on the left bank of the River Rhône. The ancient town center is enclosed by medieval walls as between 1309 and 1377 it was the residence of popes: In fact, seven successive popes resided in Avignon, and in 1348 Pope Clement VI bought the town from Joanna I of Naples. Papal control persisted until 1791 when, during the French Revolution, it became part of France. The historic center became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 because of its architecture and importance during the 14th and 15th centuries.
For my quick trip, I choose to stay one night in a cute studio 10 minutes’ walk from the city center. Moreover, I checked all the sites I wanted to see, and getting the Avignon Pass for 24h was more convenient than paying for each entrance!
WHAT TO SEE
The monuments that you do not have to miss in Avignon are not many! That is why I decided to stay one night only. First thing first, it is the Palace of the Popes, the largest and most important medieval Gothic building in Europe. Once a fortress and palace, the papal residence was the seat of Western Christianity during the 14th century. I thought it would take more time to visit but it took me 1h30! The Palace is big, but the interns are bare. The visit was interesting as you receive a little iPad that guides you in the Palace and shows you how it was back in the day!
Right next to the Palace there is the Avignon Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church seat of the Archbishop of Avignon. The cathedral is a Romanesque building, constructed primarily in the second half of the 12th century. The building was abandoned and allowed to deteriorate during the Revolution, but it was reconsecrated in 1822 and restored by the archbishop Célestin Dupont in 1835–1842. The most prominent feature of the cathedral is a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary atop the bell tower which was erected in 1859.
Then we have the Pont Saint-Bénézet, also known as the Pont d’Avignon, a medieval bridge in the town. A wooden bridge spanning the Rhône between Villeneuve-lès-Avignon and Avignon was built between 1177 and 1185. This early bridge was destroyed forty years later and was rebuilt with 22 stone arches. The bridge was abandoned in the mid-17th century as the arches tended to collapse each time the Rhône flooded making it very expensive to maintain. However, four arches and the gatehouse at the Avignon end of the bridge have survived along with the Chapel of Saint Nicholas which sits on the second pier of the bridge.
If you love art as much as I do you cannot miss the Calvet Museum. Since the 1980s the collection has been split between two buildings, with the fine arts housed in an 18th-century hôtel particulier and a separate Lapidary Museum in the former chapel of the city’s Jesuit college on rue de la République. Its collections also include goldwork, faience, porcelain, tapestries, ironwork, and other examples of the decorative arts, along with archaeology and Asian, Oceanic, and African ethnography.
Then there is the Lambert Collection, situated in two very beautiful private mansions built in the 18th century, the Hôtel de Caumont and the Hôtel de Montfaucon. The Collection is the testimony of a visionary dealer, who was passionate about minimal art, conceptual art, and land art before turning his attention to the return of painting in the 1980s, then to photography, video, and installations in the 1990s and 2000s.
Finally, the Angladon Museum – Collection Jacques Doucet owes its name to its founders, Jean Angladon and Paulette Martin. Artists from Avignon who had no descendants, heirs to the magnificent collection of paintings and objets d’art of their great-uncle Jacques Doucet, both were driven by the desire to share with the public the marvels that the family had been preserving for two generations. Since 1996, the museum has endeavored to present masterpieces in a setting in keeping with their quality. The first floor is devoted to the display of rare works by the greatest artists of the 19th and 20th centuries: Degas, Van Gogh, Cézanne, Sisley, Manet, Picasso, and Modigliani. The second floor preserves the intimacy of an art lover’s interior through a succession of thematic rooms, from the Renaissance to the 18th century, covering European and Far Eastern decorative arts. In addition, the numerous works of the Angladon library, as well as the sumptuous collection of 18th-century drawings.
WHERE TO EAT
Of course, you cannot visit a city without having at least one great meal. As soon as I arrived I found by chance the amazing Café Tulipe that I loved! They have a lunch menu that is very convenient related to the quality!
Another place to visit is the covered market Les Halles. Its construction began in 1898 and was completed in June 1899. Nowadays, this market proposes different stands, where you can buy food to cook or have a meal there. From pastries to cheese the products are local and fresh.