Sitting on a rocky bank of the Rhone River in Provence, France, Avignon is a fortified and walled city that dates back to the Roman Empire. Avignon is a popular destination for travelers for its exquisite dining, charming cobblestone side-streets, and its Gothic architecture.
The History of Avignon, France
Avignon has a rich and reaching history, with the area having been home to tribes stretching back thousands of years. While there is archaeological evidence of Greeks having a settlement in the area, Avignon was truly a product of the roman empire about 2000 years ago — around the time of Christ.
From the year 1309 to 1377, Avignon played host to the papacy while the popes briefly left the Vatican in Rome and ruled the Roman Catholic Church from Avignon. The housing of the popes during this time is what led to the creation of what we now call Old Town Avignon — a city walled with fortifications and ramparts. With 3 miles of walls over 13 feet thick in some places, Avignon was not only home to the popes of the time, but the richest residents and travelers who built the most extravagant of the city’s features including the Le Pont D’Avignon and the Palais des Papes, the oldest Gothic palace in all of Europe.
The Palais des Papes in Avignon, France
Built upon the Rock of Doms — an inpenetrable natural formation that gave Avignon its defensive edge against marauders and enemy armies — the Palais des Papes was the home to Popes Clement VI, Innocent VI, Urban V, Gregory XI, and Antipope Benedict XIII. An impressive and hulking structure, it is a wonderful example of 14th Century architecture and is today home to a museum covering the history of Avignon and its nearly a Century acting as the most holy place on earth.
If you want to see the Palais des Papes without paying for the museum tour, the gift shop and winery is open to the public and free. Not only can you get a look at the interior of the palace, but you can get in on the wine tastings that the winery holds on certain days.
Le Pont D’Avignon
The Pont D’Avignon — also known as Pont Saint-Bénézet — is the bridge that spans the Rhone river from Old Town Avignon to the opposite bank. Built around 1177, only about half of the bridge still exists, with most of it having crumbled into the river. Tourists today can still walk on the 4 arches that are still standing and get gorgeous photographs; but don’t worry, the part of the bridge that still stands gets plenty of maintenance and upkeep to make sure that travelers and visitors don’t end up in a bridge collapse into the Rhone River.
Place de l’Horloge — Avignon City Center
The city center in Avignon is called Place de l’Horloge and is a true city center, playing host to all of the city’s great events including concerts, festivals, and even the Annual Christmas Market. The city center is also home to its famous carousel and a recently added Ferris Wheel.
Dining in Avignon, France
While there are many options for high end dining in the old town of Avignon, one in-particular sticks out to us as “the best,” and we implore our fellow travelers to stop by if they are vacationing in Avignon: “L’essentiel.” Known for creating simple, yet creative dishes, Lessentiel’s chefs are geniuses that create dishes that are not only tasty, but works of art. Delicious fine dining — coupled with the inviting lounge atmosphere — make L’essentiel our top pick for dining in Old Town Avignon.
Visit L’essentiel For Yourself!
2, rue Petite Fusterie
Tél : 04 90 85 87 12