Avignon may not be the biggest of France’s towns, but it is certainly one of the most beautiful. This little town has a very significant history; this alone makes it worth a visit when you’re in France. In fact, many attractions in Avignon’s historic town center have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Once you get there, you’ll find many things to do in Avignon. Here are just 25 of them.
1. Dance on the iconic Pont d’Avignon
You may be familiar with the popular French folk song “Sur le pont d’Avignon”, which naturally took its name and inspiration from the famous bridge. When visiting Avignon, it is nearly impossible not to get the song stuck in your head, especially when you pay a visit to this unique structure.
Due to a variation of human and environmental factors over the centuries, this bridge kept being destroyed, and so ends abruptly halfway across the river Rhone. You do have to pay to walk/dance along the bridge, but the views are free.
2. Marvel at the Palais des Papes
The Palais des Papes is one of Avignon’s most historically significant landmarks. Literally meaning “Palace of the Popes”, this is one of Europe’s largest Gothic buildings, and was home to six different popes.
This grandiose building was built for when Avignon became the seat of the papacy in 1309, amidst chaos in the Roman Catholic Church. Visiting this huge monument is truly a spiritual experience.
3. Explore the Cathédrale d’Avignon
Just next door to Palais des Papes is Cathédrale d’Avignon, the town’s foremost Roman Catholic church. This cathedral which dates back to the 12th century is the seat of the Archbishop of Avignon.
Paying this magnificent church a visit is a wonderful thing to do in Avignon, whether you want to witness a service, or simply explore its architecture and history. Best of it, it is free to enter.
4. Visit the Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon
The Musée du Petit Palais was opened in 1976 as a museum and art gallery. It’s home to an exceptional collection of Renaissance paintings. The museum’s collection is filled with beautiful works of the Avignon school, as well as a selection of Italian pieces.
These works are housed in a 14th-century building, overlooked by the Palais des Papes. The building itself is a source of beauty. For sure, visiting this art gallery is a fantastic activity in Avignon.
5. Stroll through the Jardin des Doms
Free to enter, the Jardin des Doms can be found in the heart of the city. This English-style garden sits atop the Rocher des Doms, offering magnificent views of the Provençal countryside and Mont Ventoux. Filled with stunning flowers, trees and ponds, the gorgeous Jardin des Doms is a tranquil place to go for a gentle stroll in historic Avignon.
6. Wander through Place de l’Horloge
The Place de l’Horloge is Avignon’s main square, and so exploring it is a definite must. Ironically enough, the clock tower from which the square takes its name is almost invisible from the square. Nonetheless, you can still take advantage of the square’s many cafés and restaurants and marvel at the city’s architecture in the very heart of Avignon.
7. Ride the Petit Train through Avignon
Who doesn’t love a tourist train to take you on a whistlestop tour of a new city?
In Avignon, the petit train is a fantastic way to see the town’s greatest hits all in one go, including the papal palace and famous bridge. All of these sights, plus a comprehensive guided tour make this an incredibly popular option for tourists in Avignon.
Bear this in mind as something to do in Avignon, especially if you’re short of time or traveling with children.
8. See the Avignon city walls
Like a lot of other 14th century towns, Avignon was once heavily fortified. Today, there remains over 4km of city walls enclosing Avignon city center. Taking a stroll around these remparts is a must in such a historic city. This walk also offers the opportunity for some unique holiday snaps!
9. Hit the Avignon shops
Although Avignon won’t offer you the same sprawling shopping malls as Paris or Marseille, Avignon has plenty by way of retail therapy. Yes, you may find some French favorites like H&M and Monoprix, but the real joy lies in Avignon’s hidden side streets.
Head to the top of Rue de la République near the Palais des Papes, and explore the small streets that jut off. Here, you can find an array of upscale, independent boutiques, high-end brands, and cool boutiques.
10. Explore the Synagogue d’Avignon
Much like other ancient European settlements, Avignon has a rich Jewish heritage. The Jewish community in Avignon is actually centuries old. However, a fire completely eradicated the original synagogue, causing it to be rebuilt in 1846. Since 1990, the synagogue has been classified as a Historic Monument, and makes for the perfect starting point to explore the former Avignon Jewish ghetto.
11. Visit Ile de la Barthelasse
Ile de la Barthelasse is the biggest river island in France, but is home to only around 1,000 people. This beautiful island is a convenient distance from Avignon city center, but feels utterly tranquil and isolated. It is well worth paying this little island a visit if you want to reconnect with nature, take in gorgeous views of the Avignon bridge, and have a gentle stroll or bike ride through some of its protected flora and fauna.
12. Explore the Musée Angladon
Heralded as one of the most beautiful museums in Avignon, the Musée Angladon is home to a sumptuous collection of classic paintings. Not only that, but these delicate artworks are housed in a stunning 18th-century building.
All previously owned by couturier Jacques Doucet, this collection is home to an exquisite array of 18th-century pieces, from exotic paintings from the Far East to the modernists of Europe. This is one gallery not to be missed.
13. Peruse Les Halles d’Avignon
Les Halles d’Avignon is the veritable beating heart of the city. Here, you will find some of Avignon’s freshest local produce in a beautiful covered market.
This site is what unifies the town of Avignon: everyone from the city’s best chefs to the resident mamie buys their ingredients here. Even the city’s youth looking for a tasty snack after an evening spent in the city’s bars would come in droves.
If you’re looking for something to do in Avignon that stimulates all of your senses, visit Les Halles.
14. Stroll around the Ile-de-Piot
Similar to the Ile de la Barthelasse, Ile de Piot is another nearby river island in the city of Avignon. Although smaller than Ile de la Barthelasse, this island is still worth exploring if you want to feel closer to nature, especially the waters of the river.
What’s more, for those taking a road trip around France, Ile de Piot is a convenient place to park your car, with regular shuttle buses running into the center of Avignon.
15. Dine at one of Avignon’s 3 Michelin star restaurants
Avignon is home to 14 Michelin recognized restaurants, with three of them possessing one Michelin star. This makes an exquisite meal out a really special activity when in Avignon.
La Vieille Fontaine specializes in traditional French dishes with a modern twist, with all ingredients sourced locally and seasonally, whereas La Mirande serves up dishes that are quintessential of the South of France – with an eye to sustainability and eco-friendly practices.
16. Go on an Avignon food tour
Avignon is a marvelous city for a walking tour, and what better walking tour than one that revolves around food?
With Avignon Gourmet Tours, you can explore the finest Avignon cuisine, from decadent French pastries in the morning, to sumptuous evening meals with wine pairings in the evening. Including sightseeing, guided wine tastings and delicious Avignon food, this tour is one for the foodies.
17. Boogie the night away in Avignon
Avignon is certainly not renowned for having a buzzing nightlife scene. However, this doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find somewhere to let your hair down in the evening. As well as lively bars such as Pub Z, offering fun drinks in a cool ambiance, there are also clubs such as dance and techno-centric Bokao’s, where you can party until 7am!
18. Take a trip to Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the de facto capital of the Cotes du Rhone wine region: a must-visit for wine connoisseurs and those who wish to explore more of rural France. Back in time, it was the summer residence of some of the Popes, giving the small town an even richer history.
Explore the ruins of the castle, go wine-tasting, and explore the rustic beauty of the town.
19. Educate yourself at the Brotte Wine Museum
If you do decide to take a trip to Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Avignon, you must pay a visit to the Brotte Wine Museum. This museum gives you an incredibly comprehensive history and overview of the culture of French vineyards. Take the opportunity to have guided tastings of their wines.
Being so close to Avignon, this museum really is one of the best places to visit whilst in the region.
20. Pay a visit to Les Baux de Provence
Another quaint village that’s worth visiting from your base in Avignon is Les Baux de Provence.
It has been voted “One of the Most Beautiful Villages in France”, and it’s no surprise why: sprawling countryside, gorgeous architecture, and stunning citadel. It offers everything from fine cuisine, independent shops, gorgeous walking trails, and breathtaking views. Visiting this Provençal village is a must-do when in Avignon.
21. Wander around Fort Saint-André
The Fort Saint-André is located in a small commune just outside of Avignon. It makes for a great afternoon trip if you’re looking to learn more about the local history. Not only that, this strategic fort offers panoramic views of the rolling countryside, Mont Ventoux and the Alpilles.
22. Sip on rosé in Provençal vineyards
Provence is the rosé wine capital of France, meaning you’re perfectly placed in Avignon to sample some of the most delicious rosés in the world. Simply head into the Provence countryside for a tour and a tasting at some of France’s best vineyards, specialising in rosé. Or, don’t even leave the confines of the city walls: stay in Avignon and see what local rosé you can find in the city’s bars and restaurants. Best drank whilst basking in the Avignon sun.
23. Hop over from Avignon to Nîmes
Lying just on the border of Provence, Nîmes is accessible from Avignon in under an hour. Famous for its well-preserved Roman ruins, including a breathtaking amphitheatre, and the birthplace of denim (De Nîmes literally meaning “from Nîmes”), there is no shortage of things to do here. Head to Nîmes for a day trip to explore its rich history, cute shops, and beautiful town center.
24. Take a day trip to the Pont du Gard
Pont du Gard isn’t technically in Avignon. But if you love exploring the countryside and taking trips off the beaten track, then I can highly recommend making the journey out to see this iconinc structure. An ancient Roman aqueduct, Pont du Gard is surrounded by the luscious greenery of the Provence region
25. Enjoy a day in Montpellier
While in Avignon, if you find yourself yearning for something a bit more cosmopolitan, Montpellier provides the perfect urban escape. Little over an hour by train, Montpellier is easily accessible from Avignon.
In fact, you can read some of the best things to do in Montpellier right here.
As you can see, not only is Avignon is a stunning and dynamic town in itself, but it may also be the perfect base to explore the rest of this region. If you’re looking to experience the best of Provence, from its gastronomy to its history, then Avignon is a splendid place to start.