Set in Provence in southeastern France, Avignon is a city steeped in centuries of culture. On the banks of the Rhône River, the enchanting destination boasts a UNESCO designated historic center with stone streets, exquisite buildings, and notable points of interest such as Les Palais des Papes, medieval landmarks, and fine restaurants. For those who want to discover a more rustic side, the island of Barthelasse is perfect for exploring on two wheels. One event not to miss is the Festival d’Avignon which takes place across various venues with an exciting program of theater, dance, and cinema.
1.Le Pont d’Avignon
Legend has it that a young shepherd named Bénézet claimed God sent him down from the mountain to build a bridge in Avignon in 1177. Today, Le Pont d’Avignon, or the Saint-Bénézet Bridge, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and welcomes 300,000 visitors annually. The structure has a rich history from serving as an important pilgrimage route during the Middle Ages to inspiring a song called “Sur le Pont d’Avignon” in more recent times. As for its physical appearance, only four arches and the Philippe le Bel Tower remain.
Boulevard de la Ligne 84000 Avignon, Phone: +33-04-32-73-32-74
2.Le Palais des Papes
Boasting the distinction as being the Biggest Gothic Palace in the World, Le Palais des Papes, or the Popes Palace, is an architectural marvel and one of the most visited sites in France. Construction started in 1335, and it would take less than 20 years to complete the building under the direction of Pope Benedict XII and successor Pope Clement VI. There is much to see in the palace including beautiful frescoes by Italian painter Matteo Giovannetti, the private apartments of the different popes, the Grande Audience Hall, and ceremonial rooms including the Great Clementine Chapel and Grand Tinel banquet room. Throughout the year, the palace is also a popular place for cultural events such as a major art exhibit in the Great Chapel and Avignon Theater Festival performances in the Honor Courtyard, both during the summer months.
Place du Palais, 84000 Avignon, France, Phone: +33-4-32-74-32-74
3.Le Rocher des Doms
Set on top of a small hill, the urban park Le Rocher des Doms offers cool retreat with its gardens, shady trees, and fantastic vantage point of Avignon including views of Mont Ventoux and the Saint-Andre Fort. Established in 1830, the park is accessible via two sets of steps one near the Notre Dame des Doms and the other near the banks of the Rhône River. Along with an esplanade, there is a tranquil fountain with ducks and swans, and art by Félix Charpentier. During the summer, the seasonal cafe opens up and serves salads, sandwiches, and other light bites. Other highlights include two playgrounds, sculptures of notable Avignon figures and an analemmatic solar calendar and events such as the Band des Vendanges wine festival.
Rocher des Doms - 84000 Avignon, France, Phone: +33-4-32-74-32-74
4.Ile de la Barthelasse
Between Avignon and Villeneuve-Les-Avignon on the Rhône is Île de la Barthelasse, or Barthelasse Island, a peaceful place with a population of less than 1,000, a few country houses, green areas, and designated nature zones known for its nesting birds, beavers, and other wildlife. Visitors have a variety of leisure activities to pursue, whether they want to bike or walk the tow-path to take in the splendid views of the Popes Palace and the Rocher des Doms, try fresh produce from the local farmers, or visit the Manguin distillery. October sees the return of the Festival of the Rose d’Or, which takes people back to the Middle Ages with archery, re-enactments, and other fun stuff.
5.Musee Louis Vouland
© Musée Louis Vouland
Throughout his lifetime, agribusiness industrialist amassed a comprehensive collection of decorative arts from the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, this treasure trove of fine furniture and objects is on grand display at Musée Louis Vouland, housed in an elegant 19th-century mansion. Along with tapestries, watches, chandeliers, cabinets and other pieces, the museum also displays a collection of 19th and 20th century works by local Avignon artists. After viewing the exquisite interiors, visitors to the museum often retreat to the serene back garden. Chamber music concerts, temporary exhibitions, and other events are part of the dynamic year-round programming.
17 Rue Victor Hugo, 84000 Avignon, France, Phone: +33-4-90-86-03-79
6.Le Festival d’Avignon
Theater comes alive during Le Festival d’Avignon, a major event founded by Jean Vilar in 1947 that takes place each June. A popular cultural event for artists and audiences alike, the festival had its debut with William Shakespeare’s Richard II performed at the outdoor theater Cour D’Honneur du Palais Des Pappas, a location that has endured as the festival’s main venue today. Over the years, the festival has evolved from being an exclusive French showcase for theatrical productions to one that has expanded to include works from Europe and elsewhere in the world including Asia, Africa, and South America. Along with theater, dance, cinema, and musical theater are now part of the enriching programming that takes place across different venues across Avignon including La Fabrica and Opera Confluence.
Various Venues, Avignon, France, Phone: +04-90-14-14-14
7.Les Halles d’Avignon
© Jill Clardy/stock.adobe.com
A sumptuous feast of the senses awaits at Les Halles d’Avignon. Right by the Place Pie, the legendary market that first opened in the late 19th century is not hard to miss with its modern building featuring a wall of vegetables as its facade. Inside, vegetables and fruits are piled high, and there are 40 local vendors selling everything from spices to cheese, wine, meat, and fish. On Saturdays from 11 a.m. to noon, chefs from the area give a food demonstration featuring items from the market. There is much to see and experience and along with the food products, there is also a wine bar, oyster bar, and a few sit-down cafes. This is a destination that has attracted everyday people to top chefs and of course curious travelers.
18 Place Pie, 84000, Avignon, France, Phone: +33-7-63-21-27-54
8.Notre-Dame des Doms
© Pablo Debat/stock.adobe.com
Set on the Rocher des Doms and next to the Palais des Papes, Notre-Dame des Dom, also known as La Metropole and L’Avignon Cathedral, has graced the city with its presence since it was originally built in 1111. In 2016, the church received a multi-million euro makeover, restoring its grandeur. As for the architecture, the building boasts a Romanesque style and was, for the most part, was built in the 12th century and later expanded by Pope John XXII but you can surely spot it from afar with the striking gilded statue of Mary which was added in 1859. The cathedral, which also serves as the seat of the Archbishop of Avignon holds mass every morning.
Place du Palais, 84000, Avignon, France
Ancient antiquities and other artifacts are gloriously displayed at the Musée Lapidaire, set in a beautiful Baroque-style 17th-century chapel since 1933. Created to showcase the ancient and medieval sculptures of the Calvet Foundation originally preserved in the Hotel de Villeneuve-Martignan, the museum has since significantly grown its collection which features several civilizations including Greek, Roman, Etruscan, Paleo-Christian Gallic, and Egyptian. Visitors get to view everything from monumental works to sarcophagi, vases and more including temporary exhibits and an outdoor courtyard, which also serves as a site for a festival in the summer months.
27 Rue de la République, 84000, Avignon, France, Phone: +33-4-90-85-75-38
© Patrick Daxenbichler/stock.adobe.com
Located outside of the city walls, about a 20-minute walk from the center of Avignon is Cimetière Saint-Véran, a peaceful cemetery with an Old World ambiance. Among the decorative memorials, tombs and graves are the final resting place of several notable figures including French Infantry Commander Joseph Chabran, Former Mayor of Avignon and Senator Alphonse Gent, and the British Philosopher John Stuart Mill, as well as the St. Veran Chapel of the Priests. Although many come to visit for La Touissant, All Saints Day on November 1, the cemetery is a historical landmark worth visiting any time of the year.
Avenue John Stuart Mill, 84000 Avignon, France, Phone: +33-4-90-80-79-95
11.La Cuisine Du Dimanche
© La Cuisine Du Dimanche
Set in the historic heart of Avignon, La Cuisine Du Dimanche is a charming restaurant with a romantic atmosphere and delicious cuisine offered by Chef Mathieu Catry and his wife Pauline. The intimate space is inviting with distinctive details such as exposed stones, beams and arched ceilings, as well as an outdoor terrace. While the menu often changes, the use of seasonal ingredients is constant. Guests can expect quality, taste, and freshness on their plates with sumptuous dishes such as Duck Breast with Fine Carrot Puree, Pistachio, and 12 Spices or the Creamy Risotto with Truffle, and for dessert Creme Brulee with Organic Lavender.
31 Rue de la Bonneterie, 84000, Avignon, France, Phone: +33-4-90-82-99-10
Housed in the former Collège d’Annecy and home of couturier Jean Sully Dumas in striking buildings dating from the 14th and 18th centuries are a chic restaurant and wine bar that is known as 83.Vernet. Over the years, the site has been the home of other dining establishments, but now Bernard Blachère and Chef Hervé Sarrazin are offering their fresh take with a new minimal motif to complement the open-air courtyard for guests to indulge in solid main dishes such as salmon over ratatouille with a refreshing glass of rose. Open for lunch, dinner, and late-night, the Old Town restaurant features a menu of European and Mediterranean cuisine.
83 Rue Joseph Vernet, 84000 Avignon, France, Phone: +33-4-90-85-99-04
13.Restaurant Christian Etienne
© Restaurant Christian Etienne
Housed in a 12th-century residence next to Le Palais des Papes is Restaurant Christian Etienne, one of the best places to dine in Avignon and the recipient of the Michelin star year after year. After decades of success under the restaurant’s namesake Chef Christian Etienne, the establishment is now under the ownership and direction of Chef Guilhem Sevin and his wife Corinne who oversees the dining room. Here, menus are created to tell a gourmet story, a true feast for the senses such as the Palace Menu - All in Gluttony featuring Duck Terrine, Port Saint Louis Oyster Frit, Fillet of Turbot, Black Truffle Langoustine and other delectable flavors, all paired well with one of the selections on the excellent wine list.
10 Rue de Mons, 84000, Avignon, France, Phone: +33-4-90-86-16-50
© Bistro Balthazar
Whether it’s for snacks, a light lunch, dinner or cocktails, Bistro Balthazar delivers on all of the above. Located on a tree line square not too far from the ramparts of Avignon, the bar and restaurant offers an inviting retreat for food and drink whether it’s fromage plate with an aperitif, a savory burger with honey, goat cheese and mustard, tuna Nicoise salad or salmon tartare. When it comes to wine, the menu features red, white and rose from local producers. As for the decor, guests can expect a vintage vibe with flea market finds, old posters and other touches. The crowd is a mix of young and old and children are welcome here.
74 Place des Corps Saints, 84000, Avignon, France, Phone: +33-4-88-07-36-09
15.Restaurant Fou De Fafa
© Restaurant Fou De Fafa
A small establishment with about 10 tables that fill up fast, Restaurant Fou De Fafa is big in other ways, namely the bold flavors and presentation of the food and the fine hospitality from its staff. Starters range from Chilled Gazpacho with Provencal Vegetables to Oven Roasted Sardines Served with Black Olive and Fresh Herb Tapenade, while Main Courses are also tempting with selections such as Pan Fried Duck Breast with Raspberry and Orange Sauce and the Fish of the Day with Saffron Risotto. Dessert options are also delightful with Artisanal Sorbets, Creme Brulee and Banoffee Pie with Banana, Caramel and Whipped Cream.
17 Rue Des Trois Faucons, 84000, Avignon, France, Phone: +33-4-32-76-35-13
Established in 1938 by André Hiély, the fine establishment known as Hiély-Lucullus has earned quite the positive reputation receiving Michelin stars and the Golden Key in the Gault & Millau Guide. Today, Chef Gérald Azoulay and wife Patricia, who hails from Peru combine the flavors of Provence with Andean influences, resulting in interesting and flavorful cuisine. The wine cellar stocks up to 500 references with the majority of the selections originating from the Northern and Southern Rhone Valley. Diners will not be disappointed with dynamic, creative dishes such as Shells and Mussels of Bouchots with Aji Amarillo and Saffron of Ventoux and the Mediterranean Roche’s Poulpe Crepe with Ceviche.
5 Rue de la République, 84000 Avignon, France, Phone: +33-4-90-86-17-07
Located at Place des Corps Saint with prime views of the Old Town, L’Agape welcomes diners with classic and creative dishes under the direction of Chef Julien Gleize. The ambiance is friendly, while the interiors are stylish with a view of the open kitchen. Open for lunch and dinner, the restaurant changes its menu with the seasons with products and ingredients sourced from the local area. While the dishes may vary, guests can expect selections such as Carré de Cochon Fermier en Croûte de Noisette (Hazelnut crusted pork and potatoes) and the refreshing Pêches parfumées à la verveine (Poached Peach with Verbena). During the warmer months, the terrace is perfect for enjoying meals al fresco.
21 Place de Corps Saints, 84000, Avignon, France, Phone: +33-4-90-85-04-06
© Gregory Lee/stock.adobe.com
Considered one of the best restaurants in Avignon for a while now, Restaurant L'Essentiel certainly lives up to its name. Many consider the elegant establishment and essential stop for decadent dining. At the helm of the kitchen, is the young Chef Evan Neumann who has worked in Michelin-starred Plaza Athénée who turns out rich dishes such as Dos de Merlu Roti, Jus du Cuisson aux Câpres et Beurre Noisette Polenta Crémeuse (Hake Roti with Creamy Polenta and Hazelnut Butter). Housed in a stately mansion, the dining room is chic and well-appointed, and there is also a small courtyard that is open during the warmer months.
2 Rue de la Petite Fusterie, 84000 Avignon, France, Phone: +33-4-90-85-87-12
19.Restaurant Le Bercail
© Restaurant Le Bercail
On the banks of the Rhône on the island of Barthelasse, the Restaurant Le Bercail entices diners with its romantic setting in a rustic stone house on the edge of the water. The environment is serene with the surrounding plane trees and gentle breezes for enjoying dining indoors and out not to mention views of the Pont St Benezet and the Rochers des Dom. In the kitchen, Chef Oliver Chaussey creates traditional Provencal recipes along with wood-fired pizzas year-round. This place is great for dates and groups.
162 Chemin des Canotiers, 84000 Avignon, France, Phone: +33-4-90-82-20-22
20.Au Jardin Des Carmes
© Au Jardin Des Carmes
Since opening in 2015, Au Jardin Des Carmes continues to delight diners with its charming setting and simple provencal cuisine. Although space is small with a capacity for 30 diners, those who do manage to get a table in one of the two rooms or terrace will enjoy the gourmet dishes of Chef Justine. Open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, the restaurant features a set menu with French and Mediterranean selections and an emphasis on seasonal ingredients and delicious flavors such as Salmon in White Butter with Grapefruit, all presented in an artful fashion.
21 Place des Carmes, 84000 Avignon, France, Phone: +33-9-54-25-10-67
20 Best Things to Do in Avignon, France
- Le Pont d’Avignon, Photo: PackShot/stock.adobe.com
- Le Palais des Papes, Photo: PackShot/stock.adobe.com
- Le Rocher des Doms, Photo: julia700702/stock.adobe.com
- Ile de la Barthelasse, Photo: photoprofi30/stock.adobe.com
- Musee Louis Vouland, Photo: Musée Louis Vouland
- Le Festival d’Avignon, Photo: lamax/stock.adobe.com
- Les Halles d’Avignon, Photo: Jill Clardy/stock.adobe.com
- Notre-Dame des Doms, Photo: Pablo Debat/stock.adobe.com
- Musee Lapidaire, Photo: MangAllyPop@ER/stock.adobe.com
- Cimetière Saint-Veran, Photo: Patrick Daxenbichler/stock.adobe.com
- La Cuisine Du Dimanche, Photo: La Cuisine Du Dimanche
- 83.Vernet, Photo: 83.Vernet
- Restaurant Christian Etienne, Photo: Restaurant Christian Etienne
- Bistro Balthazar, Photo: Bistro Balthazar
- Restaurant Fou De Fafa, Photo: Restaurant Fou De Fafa
- Hiely-Lucullus, Photo: Hiély-Lucullus
- L’Agape, Photo: L’Agape
- Restaurant L'Essentiel, Photo: Gregory Lee/stock.adobe.com
- Restaurant Le Bercail, Photo: Restaurant Le Bercail
- Au Jardin Des Carmes, Photo: Au Jardin Des Carmes
- Cover Photo: Sergii Figurnyi/stock.adobe.com