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This is why you should visit Avignon this summer

PUBLISHED: 16:43 13 April 2017 | UPDATED: 16:43 13 April 2017

The grand Palais des Papes dominates the skyline in Avignon © Jean-Marc Rosier CC BY-SA 3.0

The grand Palais des Papes dominates the skyline in Avignon © Jean-Marc Rosier CC BY-SA 3.0

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From the spectacular, 14th-century papal palace to the renowned performing-arts festival, there is plenty to see and do in Avignon in the south of France

The Palais des Papes

Set at the heart of Avignon’s old town, the 14th-century Palais des Papes was built to house the Catholic Church when Pope Clement V relocated here to escape the chaos which was erupting in Rome. This mighty, 700-year-old structure is considered one of the most important Gothic buildings in Europe, and together with the ramparts and the Petit Palais museum, forms part of a stunning architectural ensemble. A visit to the palace - which was once home to 9 popes - enables you to view the ornately frescoed papal apartments, along with their places of worship and impressive stone halls.

Le Festival d’Avignon

Founded in 1947 by Jean Villar, Avignon Festival is an annual performing arts festival which transforms the city into a live theatre every July. The festival, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year and will take place from 6 - 24 July, welcomes people from different walks of life and generations to create performances which are both avant-garde and imbued with tradition. More than forty different plays are performed in over twenty magical venues across the city, ranging from small chapels to the 2000-seater Cour d’honneur in the Palais des Papes.

The Pont d'Avignon stops half way across the River RhôneThe Pont d'Avignon stops half way across the River Rhône

Sur le Pont d’Avignon

Avignon’s famous bridge is immortalised in song thanks to the famous children’s nursery rhyme. Completed in 1185, the Pont Saint-Bénezet, as it is officially known, was said to be named after a local pastor who had saintly visions urging him to construct a bridge across the Rhône. The bridge measured 900 metres long with 20 arches and linked Avignon with neighbouring Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. Today, the bridge no longer spans the whole of the Rhône as all but four of its spans were washed away in the 17th century following centuries of ongoing construction work. Venture out across the remains of the bridge and you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views over Avignon’s old town and beyond.

The Rocher des Doms

Set 30 metres above the mighty Rhône, this English-style public garden is a popular spot for both Avignonais and tourists to relax or go for a promenade. The garden, which you [can] reach by steps leading from the Notre Dame des Doms or from the banks of the Rhône, was laid out in 1830 and conserves a reservoir which once supplied water to the city. There are also a number of water pools featuring statues of famous names, with the Vénus aux Hirondelles designed by Félix Charpentier proving a particular favourite. This spot is particularly popular in the summer months when the park café opens its terrace from where you can enjoy stunning views over the Rhône and beyond with a cool drink in hand.

The Paplines d'Avignon are a welcome sugary treat © Marianne Casamance CC BY-SA 3.0The Paplines d'Avignon are a welcome sugary treat © Marianne Casamance CC BY-SA 3.0

Papelines d’Avignon

Created in 1960, the Papaline d’Avignon is a small thistle-shaped chocolate truffle filled with the plant based liqueur d’origan du Comtat. This popular confection was named in honour of the many Popes of Avignon and is hard to come by as it is only made by the Maîtres Pâtissiers of Vaucluse. This popular treat is made from sixty different plants picked on Mont Ventoux, with Provençal honey added to make it just that bit sweeter.

The River Rhône

At the bottom of Avignon’s old town lies the River Rhône, which offers splendid views over the city from the boat deck. Thanks to repairs to the riverbed, it’s now really easy to access the water and embark on a memorable fluvial cruise. Options range from the traditional food and wine itineraries to more contemporary choices which even include a live DJ cruise.

It’s really easy to get to

During the summer you can hop on a Eurostar in London and be in Avignon in just under 5 hours without having to change. Plus you get to watch the beautiful French countryside as you speed on down south. And you miss the traffic jams!

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