The City of Popes from 1309 to 1376, Avignon in the department of Vaucluse is a town steeped in history. Its historic centre is listed by UNESCO and its old town has kept some impressive reminders of its past! Protected by ramparts, it includes the emblem of the city: the Palace of the Popes (Palais des Papes). Open to visitors, this superb Gothic monument dates back to the 14th century and consists of the old palace of Benedict XII, built between 1334 and 1342, and the new palace of Clement VI, built between 1342 and 1352. The Palace's vast square is also surrounded by other prestigious buildings like the Small Palace (Petit Palais), which is in fact the former residence of the archbishops. Built between the 14th and 18th centuries, this elegant building of almost 3,000 m² now houses a museum that exhibits Italian paintings from the 13th to 16th centuries, such as Botticelli's Madonna and Child, as well as Romanesque and Gothic sculptures. You can also admire the former Mint (Hôtel des Monnaies), with its beautiful 17th-century Baroque façade featuring eagles and dragons. Then visit Avignon Cathedral (Notre-Dame-des-Doms), built in the 12th century and remodelled in the 15th and 17th centuries. An example of the Provençal Romanesque style, it contains a magnificent Romanesque cupola, a white marble bishop's seat, and the Gothic tombs of Popes John XXII and Benedict XII. Outside, look up to see the huge, gilded statue of the Virgin Mary at the top of the bell tower.
Then wander through the medieval streets to admire the period houses, Renaissance mansions and old town squares. You are sure to find your way to Rue des Teinturiers, a picturesque pedestrian street paved with pebbles. The busy Rue de la République connects the ramparts to the plane tree-shaded Place de l'Horloge, the lively heart of the town with its many cafés and restaurants. Here you can see the Neo-Classical façade of the 19th-century town hall and its clock tower, a former 14th-century belfry with a jacquemart clock.
It's worth taking some time to admire the many buildings you will come across on your walk. These include the Basilica of St. Peter, with Renaissance door leaves on its façade, 17th-century woodwork in the choir and a 15th-century pulpit making it well worth a visit. Also be sure not to miss the night-time illuminations that transform the building into a sublime spectacle during the Hélios festival in summer. The Gothic Collegiate Church of St. Didier has a beautiful 15th-century carved altarpiece depicting Christ Carrying the Cross. On Place des Carmes, the last vestige of an old convent is the Augustins bell tower, with a wrought iron campanile on top. In the church, the painted wooden statues date from the 16th century.
Don't forget to take a walk to the top of the Doms Rock, where the town's origins lie. The lovely garden there is ideal for a rest in the shade and offers superb views of the Alpilles, the Rhône and the unmissable Pont d'Avignon bridge. Made famous by the well-known folk song and also known as the Pont Saint-Bénézet, this medieval bridge used to connect the town with Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, 900 metres away. Although part of it was destroyed by the Rhône's repeated floods, it still has four arches and two superimposed chapels left. An exhibition space called "Le pont retrouvé" and touch screen tablets will help you discover a side of this iconic monument that you've never seen before!
Art-lovers have a number of museums to choose from: the Calvet Museum, which exhibits collections of fine and decorative arts and ethnography; the Lapidary Museum, which focuses on archaeology; the Louis Vouland Museum, with its prestigious collection of furniture and objects from the 17th and 18th centuries, and works by Provençal artists from the 19th and 20th centuries; and the Angladon Museum, which houses a remarkable collection of modern art.
The town of Avignon is a former city of the popes. It is located in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, in the department of Vaucluse, on the border of Gard and Bouches-du-Rhône. It takes place on the left bank of the Rhone, near Nimes, Orange, Montpellier or even Arles.
The city of Avignon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is known for having welcomed the popes between 1309 and 1423, in parallel with the Roman popes. It changes its face in the course of the eighteenth century with more modern developments and the disappearance of many narrow medieval narrow streets. Today, Avignon is best known for its architectural heritage, as well as for its cultural influence throughout the world.
The town is one of the few French cities to have preserved its ramparts and its historic center which attract many tourists every year. Gastronomy, especially wine production, is also the success of Avignon.
The Palace of the Popes, a monument of the 14th century, is surely the most famous tourist site of the whole city of Avignon. Classified in UNESCO, it is one of the largest Gothic constructions of all the Middle Ages. Formerly a pontifical residence, this fortress was the seat of Western Christianity during much of the 14th century. The Palace of the Popes consists of the intertwining of two distinct buildings, the old palace of Benedict XII which takes place on the rock of the Doms, and the new palace of Clement VI. It is now one of the ten most visited French monuments each year, and hosts important cultural events each year, as is the festival "in" of Avignon. During the visit, you can enjoy the twelve towers, as well as many rooms such as the hall of the conclave which used to serve as an apartment for the guests or the room of the Great Audience. The deer room is at present one of the most famous pieces of the Palais des Papes, notably because of its decoration. Visitors can discover a beautiful painted hunt on the western wall. The architectural ensemble is also composed of several chapels, as well as different courtyards like the courtyard of 1800 square meters, or the courtyard of the cloister.
Another famous tourist site in Avignon, the famous Saint-Bénezet bridge. Highlighted by a famous song, the building dates back to the 12th century and has also been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today it has only four arches that have withstood the vagaries of time.
The historic center of Avignon is still surrounded by ramparts dating from the fourteenth century. Four kilometers long, they are equipped with seven doors open on the city and 39 towers.
Classified as Historic Monuments, the Salt Grenier is an ancient salt storage place built in the mid-14th century. Close to the ramparts, the current monument dates back to the 18th century and now serves as a venue for exhibitions and shows during the "off" festival of Avignon.
Walking through the old center of Avignon, you can also admire many private mansions. There are no less than 130 built between the 15th and 18th centuries. One can thus note that of Brancas which welcomed Minister Necker during his disgrace, that of the Laurens, that of Brantes, or the Hotel de Sade which once belonged to the family of the same name.
The Hotel de Villeneuve-Martignan, built in the 16th century, is now used as a place of reception for the Calvet museum, classified as Musee de France. There are collections on archeology, fine arts, and decorative arts such as tapestry, ironwork and porcelain.
Other museums also take place in Avignon as the museum of the Petit Palais with its collections of primitive Italian paintings, the Requien museum which deals with natural history, the lapidary museum and its antiques, or the Jean-Vilar house The Bibliothèque de France, and the Angladon Museum. The latter takes place in the mansion of Massilian and uncovers collections of art from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. A collection of works of contemporary art, the Lambert collection can be admired in the Caumont hotel since 2000.
The Saint-Pierre collegiate church of Avignon is a monument dating from the mid-14th century, which took its place on an ancient building of the 7th century. Mainly in Gothic style, it has been classified as a Historic Monument. Inside, several works of art are present, like the monumental altarpiece of St. Peter.