Avignon

Avignon

Travel Eurostar to a historic city of art and culture. In the summer take a direct train to this jewel of the French Riviera, or throughout the year reach the gateway to Provence with a single simple connection.
In this former papal city you'll find a warm and friendly atmosphere, thanks in part to its large student and gay communities.

Travel to Avignon for its fine architectural heritage: a large area of the city is classed as a Unesco monument.

Walk up the path to the Rocher des Doms a rocky outcrop on the bank of the Rhone giving spectacular views over the city, including the statue of the Virgin Mary atop the Notre Dame des Doms Cathedral. At the top of the "Rocher" explore the pretty park with its caves and duck ponds.

The Palais des Papes or Palace of the Popes is an absolute must-see. The largest Gothic palace in Europe, it could contain four cathedrals. It was built when Pope Clement V left Rome to live in a Avignon, in 1309. Six other popes were to live there after him until the popes left Avignon in 1377. You can visit around twenty sumpuously decorated rooms in the papal apartments, as well as the treasures of the Petit Palace Musuem. The courtyard of the Palais des Papes is the setting for numerous performances at the annual Avignon Festival, while the cloister hosts 2,000 rose bushes in full bloom in springtime at the Alterarosa festival.
The remaining part of the Unesco listed area is of course Avignon's famous bridge, the 12th century Pont Saint Bénezet. Only four of its 22 arches remain, but you can learn all about the legend of the shepherd boy inspired by angels to built the bridge, at the little museum. If the mood takes you, do as the famous French nursery rhyme says "Sur le pont d'Avignon/L'on y danse" and have a little dance on the bridge.

Avignon becomes more of a cultural hotspot than ever during its celebrated festival in July, during which 125,000 people come to watch the performances of ballet, music and theatre. The Avignon Off Festival is its edgier younger brother, a fringe festival which is all about street and performance arts, with avant-garde plays and concerts from folk to jazz.

Pop over the other side of the river, to Villeneuve-Lès-Avignon, and visit its charming Chartreuse (Charterhouse) in the Val de Bénédiction.

After all that culture, take a breather at a cafe or bar in Avignon with a glass of Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine, perhaps at the place de l'Horloge or rue des Teinturiers where you can sit and watch the world go by.

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