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Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Avignon

The former Papal Residence of Avignon, today the capital of the Département of Vaucluse, lies on the left bank of the Rhône where the river is divided into two by the island of Barthelasse, and at the foot of a limestone cliff on which stand the Papal Palace and the Cathedral. South of Avignon its tributary the Durance flows into the Rhône. Avignon is much favored by tourists for its art treasures and because it is an excellent setting-out point for excursions into Provence.

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Papal Palace

The Papal Palace of Avignon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has been expanded by various Popes since it became the Papal Residence in the early 14th C.

Notre-Dame des Doms

Near the Papal Palace on the north towers the Cathedral of Notre-Dame des Doms; its present architecture is mainly of the 12th C., but it was altered several times in the 14th-16th C. On the arch and gable of the main doorway are remains of frescoes by Simone Martin. The gilded statue of the Virgin on the tower and the Crucifixion group in front of the cathedral date from the 19th C.
In the interior, in the crossing to the left, can be seen a 12th C. bishop's chair of white marble; in the first side chapel on the north stands the former Romanesque main altar; in the fourth chapel on the south side the partly restored Late Gothic monument to John XXII. At the entrance to the Baptistry Chapel - the ante-room on the right - can be seen early 15th C. frescoes portraying the Baptism of Christ and also showing the donor's family, the Spiefami from Luca. A beautiful silver sculpture of the "Scourging of Christ" is to be found in the north aisle. The Chapel of the Resurrection, the third chapel on the south side, was a gift from Archbishop Cibelli and also contains his tomb.

Rocher des Doms

The Rocher des Doms is a rocky spur which rises to the north of the Papal Palace in Avignon and then falls steeply down to the Rhône. There is a fine panoramic view from the beautiful park on its summit of the famous Pont St Bénézet and the islands of Barthelasse and Piot in the river, as well as Villeneuve-lès-Avignon on the far bank.

Pont St Bénézet

Pont St Benezet in Avignon.
The bridge to St Béneezet (Provençal for Benedict) in Avignon is well-known because of the following legend attributed to it: it is said that in the year 1177 the shepherd Bénézet was instructed by the angels to build a bridge over the Rhône. The town fathers and citizens both mocked the idea, but he was given the strength to raise a giant lump of rock, which they then recognized as being a sign from God, further evidenced by the fact that the bridge was built in only eight years.

Pont d'Avignon

Jutting out into the river at the foot of the Rocher des Doms lies what is probably the most famous bridge in the whole of France, immortalized in the children's song "Sur le pont d'Avignon, on y danse tous en rond...". Built in 1177-85, this fortified bridge over to Villeneuve-lès-Avignon originally had 22 arches and was 900m/985yd long. A large part of it was destroyed in 1668, and only four arches remain; in the center of these stands the two-story Chapelle St Nicholas (St Nicholas' Chapel), the lower part of which is Romanesque and the upper Gothic and with a bell-gable. The chapel was restored in the 19th C.

Musée du Petit Palais

On the north side of the Place du Palais stands the 14th C. Petit Palais, a Gothic fort which used to serve as episcopal offices and residence. It has a beautiful arcaded courtyard and the core of the building dates from the 13th C. At present it houses the Campana Collection of paintings by 13th-15th C. Italian masters, as well as a collection of works by the Avignon School of Painters, established by Simone Martini (ca. 1280-1344) and Matteo Giovanetti. At one time Napoleon II had purchased the collection for the Louvre.
Address: Place du Palais des Papes, F-84000 Avignon, France

Hôtel des Monnaies

Opposite the Papal Palace in Avignon stands the Hôtel des Monnaies, the former mint. Built in the early 17th century, this Baroque building still displays a strong Italian influence; the facade is decorated with large figures of animals and bears the coat-of-arms of Pope Paul V, who came from the House of Borghese and whose vice-legate resided here. Today the palace houses the Conservatoire.

Avignon Town Walls

The whole of the Old Town of Avignon is surrounded by a complete ring of walls, constructed by Pope Innocent VI between 1355-68. At irregular intervals eight gates and 39 towers were incorporated into the wall, the total length of which is 4.8km/3mi. Some detailed restoration work was carried out in the 19th C.
At little way to the north the town wall is pierced by the Porte du Rocher, a gateway leading to the Pont St-Bénézet.

St Symphorien

At some distance east of the Papal Palace, on the Place des Carmes in Avignon stands the Church of St- Symphorien, dating mainly from the 15th C. It belonged to the former Monastery of the Unshod Carmelites, and was therefore also named the Eglise des Carmes. Inside will be found some 16th C. statues as well as paintings by Pierre Parrocel, a lesser-known member of the Parrocel family of artists, and others. A flea-market is held on Sunday mornings on the Place des Carmes.

Place de l'Horloge

The idyllic Place de l'Horloge southeast of the Papal Palace, dominated by street cafes beneath shady plane trees, is the very center of Avignon life. On its west side stand the theater and the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall; 1845) incorporating a 14th C. clock-tower; life-sized figures on the top, known as "jacquemarts", strike the hours.

St Pierre

The Church of St-Pierre in Avignon, built in 1356 and extended in the late 15th C. and restored in the 19th C., possesses a very beautiful Gothic facade and carved Renaissance wooden doors dating from 1550. Inside the church will be found some 16th C. statues of burial groups and a splendid Baroque choral scene from the mid-17th C.

St Agricol

A short distance southwest of the Avignon Town Hall is the Gothic Church of St-Agricol, a very sombre triple-aisled basilica with no transept, built by Pope John XXII in 1321-1326.

St Didier

To the east of the Rue de la République, the main street of the Old Town of Avignon leading south from the Place de l'Horloge, stands the single-aisled Church of St-Didier, dating from the mid-14th C. It provides a further example of the stern Provençal Romanesque style. It contains one of the earliest Renaissance works of art, a Way of the Cross created between 1478 and 1481 by the Italian painter Francesco da Laurana, who had been working in France since 1476. Also worthy of note is the Late Gothic pulpit with richly flamboyant- style decoration. More recently wall- paintings dating from the 14th C. depicting the Crucifixion and Interment etc. have been uncovered in the church.

Musée Calvet

The Musée Calvet is the town's major museum. The museum has its origin in the private collection of the doctor, a native of Avignon, Francois Esprit Calvet (11729-1810) together with municipal collections. Since 1833 it has been house in the Hotel de Villenueve-Martignan which dates from 1750 and is situated at 65 Rue Joesph Vernet, south-west of the Place de l'Horloge. The contents embrace antique sculptures, medieval paintings by Provencal masters, as well as an instructive cross-section of French Painters from the 16th to the 19th c., together with collections of coins and ceramics.

Musée Requien

The Musée Requien in Avignon is located close to the Musée Calvet. A well as a large scientific library it possesses geological and botanical collections, including a large herbarium.
Address: 67, rue Joseph Vernet, F-84000 Avignon, France

Musée Lapidaire

The Musée Lapidaire (lapidarium) in Avignon can be found at rue de la République 27, in the Baroque former Jesuit Church, joined by a bridge to the Jesuit college - now a secondary school - which was founded in 1564. The exhibits include Roman mosaics, fragments of the former triumphal arch, reliefs and ancient sculptures.
Address: Rue de la République 27, F-84000 Avignon, France

Avignon Couvent des Célestins

In the south of the Old Town of Avignon, near the Porte St-Michel on the street of the same name, stands the former Célestine monastery, once the largest monastery in the town. The interesting church has a superb apse by Perrin Morel; in the cloister (c. 1400), which unfortunately is only partially preserved, is a 17th C. gateway.

Musée Louis Vouland

In the west of the Old Town Avignon, in rue Victor Hugo near the Porte St Dominique, can be found the Musée Louis Vouland, with French furniture, especially from the 18th C., pictures, Gobelin tapestries and ceramics. Of interest here too is the collection of Chinese porcelain and ivory sculptures.
Address: 17, rue Victor Hugo, F-84000 Avignon, France

Bibliotheque Ceccano

The public lending library is contained in a restored 15th C. building.
The Bibliotheque Ceccano was named for Cardinal Annibale Ceccano who held his place in history from 1333 to 1350. The building was used as a Jesuit College from 1564 to 1810 when it became a high school. The library contains over 250000 printed volumes, and nearly 7000 manuscripts.
Address: 2 bis rue Laboureur , F-84025 Avignon, France

Palais du Roure

The Palais du Roure is the home of an institute specializing in archaeology and ethnology and the promotion of the Provençal language.
One wing of the Palais du Roure contains libraries and archives as well as Italian literature that dates back to the Middle Ages. One entire floor is dedicated to Provençal anthropology including traditional tools, costumes, and regional art.
Address: 3 rue Collège du Roure, F-84000 Avignon, France

Maison Jean Vilar

In Maison Jean Vilar in Avignon, exhibitions are held depicting the history of the theatrical festival and providing information on the work of the producer Jean Vilar (1912-71), who was the festival director from 1947.
Address: 8, rue de Mons, F-84000 Avignon, France

Avignon Festivals

More than 20 festivals are held annually in Avignon, the major and most attractive one being the great International Festival in July/August; including jazz and rock concerts which are held against the impressive backdrop of the Papal Palace.
The Avignon festival runs from early July to early August and includes operas, concerts by major symphonies, choral groups and chamber orchestras, theatrical performances, dance recitals, film screenings and various lectures.
The events take place daily in numerous venues.
Address: 8 bis rue de Mons, F-84000 Avignon, France

Château de Barbentane

Château de Barbentane was built in the Classical style of the Paris region. South of this handsome 17th C. chateau is an ornamental garden with a rectangular pool, roses decorated balustrades. The château's Louis XV and Louis XVI furniture survived the 1789 Revolution and the chateau is still home to the Marquis de Barbentane.

Le Thor - Thouzon Cave

Thouzon Cave, also known as the Fairy cave, is located two kilometers north of Le Thor and is the only cave open to the public in the area. It includes fossilized galleries which were made by a now dried-up underground stream. There are abundant stalactites, soda straws, draperies, chimneys and pools.
Address: Route d'Orange, F-84250 Le Thor, France

Surroundings

Villeneuve-les-AvignonVilleneuve-les-Avignon

Villeneuve-les-Avignon, France

Fort Saint-André

Built in the 13th and 14th centuries, Fort Saint André sits atop Mont Andaon and offers great views over the Rhône valley.

Fort St André - View

From Fort St-André with its two mighty round towers, built in the second half of the 14th C by John the Good and Charles V, there is a magnificent view of Villeneuve, Avignon, Mont Ventoux and the Lubéron and Alpilles mountain ranges. The massive walls enclose the little town of St-André, a Benedictine monastery and the Romanesque Church of Notre- Dame-de-Belvézet.

Pierre de Luxembourg Museum

The "pièce de résistance" of the Musée Municipal Pierre de Luxembourg on the Rue de la Republique in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon is the "Coronation of the Virgin Mary", painted by Enguerrand Quarton (or Charonton) in 1453, accompanied by works by Nicolas Mignard in the mid-17th C. and a 14th C. Madonna of painted ivory. carved from an elephant's tusk. Some pieces removed from the Carthusian monastery are also to be found here, including a 17th C. door and cupboard and some pewter-ware.
Address: 3, rue de la République, F-30400 Villeneuve-les-Avignon, France

Chartreuse du Val de Bénédiction

Chartreuse du Val de Bénédiction, built in 1352, contains a church and three cloisters. The chapel is decorated with frescoes painted by Matteo Giovanetti. The Gothic tomb of Pope Innocent VI is also located within the chapel.
Address: BP 30, Rue de la République, F-30400 Villeneuve-les-Avignon, France

Chartreuse du Val de Bénédiction

In the northern part of Rue de la République in Villeneuve-lèz-Avignon can be found the former Chartreuse du Val de Bénédiction (Carthusian monastery), which was founded in 1356 by Pope Innocent VI and soon became larger than its mother priory, the Grande Chartreuse at Isère. In the church - the choir of which is in ruins, thus giving a clear view of the fort - can be found the tomb of Innocent VI, in the first bay on the right; dating from 1362, it was preserved thanks to the efforts of Prosper Mérimée in 1834.
To the north of the monastic church lies the Petit Cloître (Little Cloister) and the elongated Cloître du Cimetière, measuring 20m/66ft by 80m/263ft, adjoining which were the monks' cells.
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Cavaillon, France

Street scene in Cavaillon.
The little provincial town of Cavaillon - a center of melon-growing and of the canning industry - lies on the right bank of the Durance and on the western edge of the Montagne du Lubéron.

Cathedral of St Veran

In the center of Cavaillon stands the notable former Cathedral of St-Véran, which was probably founded in the 12th century, as indicated by its Romanesque Provençal architecture. Its exterior is rather less attractive, but inside can be seen beautiful capitals in the apse and a fine cloister.

Cavaillon Synagogue

The beautiful synagogue on Place Castil-Blaze is easily recognized by its arcades. Built in the Roccoco style in 1772 it was later altered on many occasions and today houses the little Musée Judéo-Contadin, or Jewish Museum, which is not open to the public.

Cavaillon Museum

In the chapel of the old hospital on the Cours Gambetta in Cavaillon, with its Roccoco facade, can be found the Archeological Museum with exhibits mainly from the Gallo-Roman period, including an interesting Merovingian altar-table. One room contains some interesting items of equipment from the old hospital dating from the 17th and 18th C.

Cavaillon Triumphal Arch

Southwest of St-Véran, in the Place F. Tourel on the edge of Cavaillon, can be found the only preserved building of the Roman era, the little triumphal arch of the former Roman Oppidum Cabellio. It was restored in 1880.

Great Parade

Cavaillon has an annual Great Parade in May.

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