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7 Best things to see & do in Avignon

  • Avignon, Provence, France

Last updated: 28 June, 2023
Expert travel writer: Dana Facaros
  • Avignon, Provence, France

An actor with a painted face, waistcoat, and a bowler hat, walks on stilts and holds fliers to advertise his performance

Bucket List Experience

Avignon Festival

Founded in 1947 by theatre director Jean Vilar, this festival was France’s answer to the UK’s Edinburgh Festival. It’s since evolved into a mass celebration of drama, music and dance, concentrating on edgy and avant-garde performances and companies from around Europe.

Nowadays, nearly a thousand shows and exhibitions take place over three weeks in July, both in Avignon and across the river in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. The Off Festival, a completely independent fringe event, runs alongside, attracting 1,000+ independent companies.

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 3 weeks

When: July

Freq: annually

  • Avignon, Provence, France

Exterior view of front facade

Bucket List Experience

Palace of the Popes

When the popes abandoned tumultuous Rome in 1309, they came to Avignon. Seven reigned here until 1377, in a colourful period of greed and depravity that the poet Petrarch labelled the ‘Babylonian captivity’. They left behind nothing less than the biggest Gothic palace of all time, built for luxury as well as defence.

Although much of its decoration has been lost over time, it has lost none of its power to amaze. It’s a big site not really suited to younger children, though ‘Les Luminessences’ – an outdoor 3D show, held every evening from mid-August to late September – is good for all the family.

Adult price: £10

Good for age: 18+

  • Vers-Pont-du-Gard, Occitaine, France

The remarkably preserved Pont du Gard is a masterpiece of Roman engineering. Built in the 1st century BC as part of a 50km aqueduct, it once supplied 30,000m³ of water daily to Nimes and until recently was used as a car bridge.

There’s a small museum on site that documents the history of the aqueduct, and explains how it was built with a variety of models, virtual reconstructions, multimedia screens and sounds.

Adult price: £8.50

Good for age: 6+

Duration: -

  • Avignon, Provence, France

Inside the museum, three paintings hang on three different coloured walls.

Bucket List Experience

Angladon Museum

The paintings by Chardin, Manet, Cezanne, Degas, Modigliani, Sisley, Van Gogh and Picasso that fill this delightful museum were collected by Paris fashion designer Jacques Doucet – the Yves Saint-Laurent of the early 20th century. They were later donated to the city of Avignon by his great-nephew and wife, who were both artists and collectors themselves.

This inspiring selection of art is housed in the Doucet family’s elegant Avignon townhouse, with one floor preserved exactly as it was during their lifetime. Be sure to track down Van Gogh’s Railway Carriages, the only Van Gogh painting that remains on permanent display in Provence.

Adult price: £7

Good for age: 18+

Maison Carree

  • Nimes, Occitanie, France

exterior of the Maison Caree, Nimes – world's best Roman ruins

Experience

A genuine masterpiece of classical architecture, and looking almost good as new after recent restorations, the gleaming white Maison Carree (really a temple to the divine heirs of Augustus) is one of the best-preserved of all Roman buildings. Nearby in the Jardins de la Fontaine is another unique monument, the Tour Magne, a tower offering views over the city.

Adult price: £5

Good for age: 18+

Les Alyscamps

  • Arles, Provence, France

View into a graveyard with old ruin walls around

Experience

An evocative, romantic Roman burial ground – once the most famous cemetery in medieval Europe. It’s the burial site of the legendary St Trophime and the first bishops of Arles, and remains an important stop on the pilgrimage to Compostela.

Good for age: 18+

Amphitheatre of Nimes

  • Nimes, Occitanie, France

Aerial view of Nimes Arena, Roman amphitheatre

Experience

Nimes’ landmark amphitheatre makes an elegant focal point for the city centre. Like many others, it owes its survival to being converted to a fortress in the Middle Ages. ‘Les Arenes’, as the Nimois call it, is now restored, and used for bullfights, courses camarguaises (bloodless bullfights), historical re-enactments and concerts.

Adult price: £12

Good for age: 18+