Fancy exploring a Mediaeval city with a rich history where most of the landmarks are UNESCO World Heritage sites? Then look no further, Avignon will satisfy budding knights and culture vultures alike.
As the heart of Christianity in the Middle Ages, the City of Popes has retained its charm and its impressive architecture, while becoming a Mecca for culture with its theatre festival, not to mention its bridge, immortalised in the famous song!
To visit Avignon is to step back in time to age of knights: explore the monumental Papal Palace, sitting atop the Rocher des Doms, built in the 14th century under the auspices of Popes Benedict XII and Clement VI. It is the largest Gothic palace in the West and its 25 rooms that are open to the public will delight those with an interest in history and religion.
But this imposing rock, which dominates the city and the Rhône, is not home just to the palace. Once your visit is finished, set off to explore the Pont Saint-Bénézet, the Ramparts, Avignon Cathedral and the city walls, all UNESCO World Heritage sites. Art-lovers should head for the Musée du Petit Palais, which is famous for its paintings and sculptures from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
If it's culture you crave, Avignon is the perfect destination: in addition to its museums, its opera house and its exhibition park, the city hosts the famous Avignon Festival every July. Established by Jean Vilar in 1947, it is one of the oldest theatre festivals in the world and offers nearly 40 shows in around 20 venues, from small chapels to the legendary Cour d'honneur of the Papal Palace.
The city is a real architectural and historic gem, which is still very easy to reach via the Mediterranean high-speed line: Marseilles is only 30 minutes away, Lyon an hour and Paris 2 hours 40 minutes. The small Avignon–Provence airport is also five miles away from the city. The city is also right on Provence's doorstep, so is an ideal base from which to explore the region.