Updated: Jan 18, 2020
Number 1 - Pont d'Avignon
Most people who have been to nursery school associate Avignon with the famous children's song, "Sur le Pont de Avignon." The song is about dancing on the bridge - something that we actually saw a group of French tourists do when we visited. The bridge is a must see in this beautiful medieval city in Provence. Legend has it that it was built in the 12th century based on the visions seen by a young shepherd, Benezet. Today its official name is Saint Benezet Bridge. There is a medieval chapel on the bridge that dates back to those early days. Since the audioguide is included with the price of admission, it is a great way to learn about the bridge's origins while having the fun of living in a nursery song. We were surprised to learn that the original song was written as a medieval "pillow" or wedding song to be sung to newlyweds as they entered their bedchamber.
Walking on the Pont d/Avignon is just as popular today as it was at the turn of the century.
Number 2: The Papal Palace
Avignon's other premiere attraction is the Palais des Papes or Papal Palace. The massive structure is the largest Gothic palace in the world. It was constructed in just 20 years in the 14th century when French popes challenged the Vatican popes in Rome for domination of the Catholic world. In a showdown reminiscent of Game of Thrones, the dual papacies strove to show who was more powerful. The resulting palace in Avignon is truly awe-inspiring in its size. To compensate for the barren walls in the great halls of the palace where priceless artworks and other treasures had been displayed in the Middle Ages, the tourist authority in Avignon offers free 3-D tablet audioguides which visitors can point at walls and see what they had looked like when the Popes were here. The very colorful and ornate virtual experience is not to be missed as it truly brings the medieval era to life.
The Papal Palace is the largest Gothic palace in the world.
The Papal Palace can be explored along the ramparts as well as inside the great halls.
The free virtual reality audioguides help visitors experience what these barren rooms looked like in their heyday. We were surprised by the bright colors of the tapestries and other decorations.
Number 3 - The Petit Palais Museum
To further visualize what the palace looked like in its glory days, a visit to the Petit Palais Museum right next door is very helpful. The free museum houses 350 medieval paintings like the ones that hung on the palace walls. The collection includes works by Botticelli and other Italian masters.
Number 4 - Jardin du Rochers des Doms
Right behind the Petit Palais Museum and the Papal Palace is the vast Jardin du Rochers des Doms, a free park with great lookouts for taking photos and beautiful grounds to explore. There is also a charming café with moderately priced drinks and snacks.
Visitors can see Fort Saint-Andre across the Rhone River from the lookouts at the Rochers des Doms park.
The café in the Rocher des Doms park is the perfect spot for a shady break from sightseeing.
Numbers 5 and 6 - Mini train and bus
The Petit Train (little train) and the big red tour bus offer a combination ticket that can be purchased at the tourist office. The train has a circuit within the old part of town with an interesting introduction to several different sites that you can explore on your own after the ride. The bus is hop off at a couple of different locations and has a much longer route that crosses the Rhone River. The combination ticket gives visitors a very complete view of the city.
Number 7 - The Medieval Ambience
Avignon is a charming and safe city that is full of wine bars, trendy restaurants and little medieval alleyways full of discoveries off the beaten path.