The gloriously honey-coloured walled city of Avignon is known for its magnificent Palais des Papes, the largest Gothic palace in Europe as well as the famous stone bridge, Pont Saint-Bénézet, which features in the French song ‘sur le pont d’Avignon’. Don’t be surprised if you can’t cross the Rhone on the bridge – it actually only goes half-way across - but there’s plenty of space for dancing if you want to re-enact the song.
Avignon is home to an outstanding historical and cultural heritage. A city of art, Avignon was the capital of Christianity in the 14th century, when the Popes lived here – explaining the Pope’s Palace and the many chapels and churches. Visiting the town is an absolute must do, but it’s also a great base for exploring the region around it and discovering the beauty of Provence. Find out what all the fuss is about and why so many artists chose to come here to paint.
Avignon’s beautifully preserved buildings, lit by the bright Provençal sun, give the city the feel of a living theatre set. Architecture from the Middle Ages gives way to graceful 18th century city mansions with Baroque and Italian influences.
Many have been converted into restaurants, hotels, boutiques and museums exhibiting art from the Middle Ages, decorative arts, the Impressionists and contemporary art.
Simply wandering the city streets allows you to shop on old streets where you'll find both haute couture and young designers. Browse in the antique shops and the art galleries. Taste the market's fresh food offerings, discover the crafts of Provence and enjoy cultural events all year long.
The holy trinity of food in Provence is tomato, garlic and olives, and most local dishes will include at least two of them, if not all three. Throw in some freshly-baked baguette, warm from the oven, tangy fresh goat’s cheese and a bottle of local red or rosé and you have everything you need for a delicious picnic.
One of the joys of Provence is that, whatever the day of the week, there’s always a market happening somewhere. Check the local newspaper for a list of regional markets, grab your shopping basket and head off to browse the stalls and try your hand at a bit of banter with the locals.
Even if you’re not planning on cooking while you’re on holidays, once you discover the joys of the pre-dinner apéro you’ll need to keep the fridge stocked up with some essential ingredients.
Tapenade – a paste made with olives, garlic and anchovies, which comes in green and black versions. Ask to taste before you buy as recipes differ from one seller to another. Serve on crusty baguette and enjoy with a glass of chilled rose de Provence
Anchoïade – a salty, gutsy anchovy spread that will wake up your taste buds with a bang. Delicious as an apéro on croutons, washed down with a glass of pastis – the only alcohol with a flavour strong enough not to be overpowered.
Aioli – a mayonnaise made from garlic and olive oil and used as a dip for vegetables, this delicious sauce won’t do much for your breath, but if everyone is having some – who cares?
The Festival d'Avignon is one of the oldest and most famous theatre festivals in the world. In fact there are two festivals. The fringe festival Avignon Off turns the city of Avignon into a huge stage for most of July and allows you to discover the biggest theatre scene in the world with its 1000 companies and over 1200 plays a day of every kind of live performances.
Founded by Jean Vilar in 1947, the official Festival d'Avignon presents contemporary creations throughout the month. lt is the place for artists and audiences to come together, and the scene of many contrasting aesthetics, origins and generations.
The backdrop of the magnificent Palace of the Popes soaring above the historical heart of Avignon, is the perfect stage for a monumental video projection, one of the highlights of the festival. Accompanied by music and story-telling, the show tells the history of the building, the city and the region in colourful imagery.
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