Avignon: The Most Underrated French City

When traveling through France last year, my family and I visited a number of cities in the southern region of the country. After starting our trip in Paris, where I had been studying for the last 5 months, we took a train to Nice, where we stayed for several days. You can read all about my time in the French Riviera here. After visiting Nice, we drove to nearby Avignon and spent the next few days exploring Provence. Avignon is a quiet, small town with a long, interesting history. Avignon has been inhabited since prehistory and was once home to ancient Greeks and Romans. You can see all sorts of interesting remnants of these civilizations throughout the city and the surrounding area. Today the city is a quaint Provencal town, but it has been home to many important figures and movements since the Roman rule.

Avignon is most famous for being the papal seat in the 1300s, and you can visit the Palais des Papes to get an idea of how the popes lived while in this city. There is a beautiful garden attached to the palace that features great views of the famous Pont d’Avignon. One afternoon, we decided to take a tram ride around the city. While I know these tours are super touristy, it’s still a great way to see the whole city while resting your feet for a few moments. After a day of exploring the city, we had a lovely outdoor dinner in the main square, enjoying the ambiance of the quaint town.

If you’re visiting Avignon, I highly recommend taking a day trip to Les Baux des Provence. There are two great reasons to visit Les Baux. Firstly, the beautiful hilltop village is lovely. After walking through a little town filled with shops and cafes, you reach the remains of the Chateau-Fortress des Baux, a 14th century castle, featuring lots of interesting exhibits about life in Les Baux throughout different parts of history. This part of the town also features stunning views of the surrounding provencal towns. I’d recommended setting aside a few hours to wander around this area.

The second amazing attraction in Les Baux is the Carrières des Lumières. This is seriously one of the coolest art exhibits I have ever seen. Inside of an old, once-abandoned limestone mine, there is a magnificent multimedia exhibit featuring famous works from different artists. It is hard to put this experience into words, but you basically walk through these expansive rock rooms with moving paintings projected on the walls. These paintings are put to music which creates a really interesting, immersive experience. I’m hardly doing this incredible experience justice, but I highly recommend visiting if you’re in the area.

Another amazing attraction near Avignon is the Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct. The aqueduct itself is very impressive, almost entirely in tact after hundreds and hundreds of years. The history and science behind the aqueduct is fascinating, so the museum is definitely worth checking out. There are also caves with prehistoric paintings on the site! However, the absolute best part of this attraction is the light show that happens on select Friday nights during the summer. The tickets are a little expensive, but the show is definitely worth checking out. Before the show, we enjoyed an outdoor meal by the Pont, taking in the excellent pre-show entertainment. A full brass band in togas and gladiator outfits walked around playing songs and dancing around while the aqueduct was lit up in bright colors. The real show starts around 10:30, and it is AMAZING. There is a combination of music, projections, fire, and live actors, making this show unlike anything I have ever seen. If you’re nearby when this is happening, you have to go!

Have you all ever been to Avignon?! I couldn’t believe how many amazing attractions were close to this quaint city!

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