So having settled into the Airbnb, we finally got a chance to explore our new home city for the first time. It is very easy to see why the pope decided to move to Avignon in 1309 and build his palace outside of the Vatican. A picturesque city within the old walls. Characteristically French, with medieval winding streets and architecture everywhere to be seen. Right on the banks of the river Rhone which runs all the way along the north side of Avignon. Home to the famous bridge “Pont Saint-Bénézet”. A fantastic city for walking around and exploring the local history and culture.
Where to start?
So, what to experience first we thought? The bridge? The palace? The beautiful food and market stalls of “Les Halles“? ….Crepes! that was our first experience of Avignon outside the 4 walls of our Airbnb. Fresh crepes and a heated discussion about what was best. Sweet or savoury (sweet of course!) Nutella or good old lemon and sugar? Walking around the city you will come across a couple of this local crepe shop chain “Jean Le Gourmand“. With its intricate machinery, they serve up fresh crepes to locals and tourists alike. Well worth a look and highly recommended.
Within walking distance
Exploring the old parts of the city by foot is the perfect way to take in the sights, sounds and smells of Avignon. Within the old city walls, you can find plenty to keep you occupied. It takes around 20-30 minutes to walk across Avignon, from north to south or vice versa should you choose to do so.
The main tourist areas of Avignon tend to be centred around the Palace square, gardens and bridge. These are a very good place to start exploring from. You will soon find beautiful views of the city from the Palace garden’s on top of the hill. Overlooking the entire region from all sides, this creates some perfect photo opportunities. The grandeur of the palace itself can be seen from the square. Here you will find many cafe’s and restaurants offering refreshments and alfresco dining.
Tour the famous bridge. It collapsed into the river in the mid 17th century and remains halfway across the water. One of Avignon’s most renowned landmarks. The subject of the well-known children’s song “Sur le Pont d’Avignon“.
Take a walk along the banks of the river Rhone at sunset. You will find many locals enjoying the open space in the evenings to relax and meet up together. The city also provides a riverboat crossing service. From very near the palace/bridge entrance of the city, across to the other side of the river, every 10-15 minutes.
Once we had taken in these local attractions, we found that we had built up quite an appetite. So feeling we had burnt off our crepes from earlier, we returned to “Rue de la Republic” in the city centre for lunch.
There are many shops and restaurants in Avignon to choose from. All offering the culinary choices you would expect to find in a French city. On this occasion we chose to go with what seemed to be a very popular choice by the locals.
Boulangerie Marie Blachere. A small street side vendor that we later learned is part of a very popular chain in France. With several shops and bakeries (boulangeries) over the local Vaucluse region. Freshly baked and prepared. Baguettes and patissiers of all kinds. Reasonably priced with drinks included at around €5-6 euros.
We then sat in the main square on one of the many public benches. Watching the world go by, taking in our new surroundings. Content with our baguettes and resting our weary legs from the days’ explorations.
Happy with our days’ excursion we retired to our apartment. But, it was obvious we had just touched on a fraction of what was available to us in Avignon that day. A city of beauty and wonders. A fantastic city to visit on a short weekend break or longer, with plenty to see and do right on your doorstep. Markets, boutiques, cafes and bars abundant, we have so much more to explore and share with you. So keep an eye out as there will be plenty more to come in the future. Sign up here for regular updates and blog posts.
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