Gorgeous landscapes peppered with beautiful villages, sunflowers and lavender, art-filled towns, lively cultural festivals and exquisite food and wine. Provence is everything you imagined it would be.
Bucket list destination:
Destination guide for Avignon
Avignon, Provence, France
Perched above the Rhône, effervescent Avignon still retains the ramparts and urban fabric of the days when it was a premier league medieval city, especially when the popes moved here from Rome.
Their enormous Palais des Papes is now a World Heritage Site, but the whole town is full of grand prelates’ palaces and townhouses – many now converted into museums, hotels and restaurants.
Take time to stroll through Avignon’s picturesque backstreets, not missing the lovely Rue des Teinturiers, the ‘Street of the Dyers’ with its waterwheels on a branch of the river Sorgue.
It famously hosts the massive Avignon Festival. Many of Avignon’s windows and walls have amusing trompe l’oeil figures and statues, adding the feel (especially notably during the Festival) that the entire city is a stage.
When to go
Provence is at its seductive best in June and the first half of July, when the lavender and sunflowers bloom and festivals are in full swing. It’s hot, but even hotter in August, when French families take their holidays and everything is packed.
April, May, September and October are delightful, uncrowded and mild. Many sights are closed down by mid-November until Easter; also in winter it’s far more likely to rain and stay overcast until the fierce mistral wind blows, often for several days in a row, gusting up to 100km per hour, but sweeping the sky crystal clear.
The Avignon Festival runs for most of July and the city heaves. If you’re not going specifically for it, it’s best to avoid this month.
Getting there and away
From Avignon airport, take a taxi or city bus No.21 to the city’s train and bus stations. For those arriving at Marseille airport, there’s a shuttle to the nearby station in Vitrolles, where trains run directly to Avignon on the Montpellier line.
The old walled city of Avignon is compact and easy to get around on foot. Alternatively, the city’s Velopop scheme provides bicycles for rent by the hour or day; to access them you need a credit card and mobile phone. Or hop on a Velo Cite rickshaw.
Other guides relevant to this destination
Fascinating Roman, and medieval monuments and memories of Van Gogh, plus a winsome shabby-chic charm.
Cezanne’s elegant hometown, filled with fountains and beautiful mansions, works of art and excellent restaurants. The ‘Florence of France’.