Measuring in at just over 25-square-miles, it certainly is easy to miss, especially when there are the tried-and-true promises of Nice, Marseilles, and Montpellier to compete with (for the record, also amazing French destinations––plan a road trip!). But Avignon is the town that seems made of medieval daydreams, with its 12th-century architecture and unmistakable local cuisine. The history alone is worth a trip to see in person.
Avignon is known for being the location of popes’ seats, centered around the Pope’s Palace, or Palais de Papes, that can still be visited in the city center today. The years between 1309 and 1377 saw this palace’s prime, serving as the heartbeat of Christianity in the western world. Today, its medieval gothic architecture attracts visitors from around the world. For an extra dose of history, you can visit the Avignon Cathedral next door, which was home to the Archbishop of Avignon and has a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary watching over the tombs of Avignon popes past.
If you’re in the market for marking off a UNESCO World Heritage Site, check out the Petit Palais, a previous home for episcopal bishops and current museum. Pro tip: Take a break at the tea salon, which is located in a quiet courtyard within the Petit Palais, perfect for getting lost in your thoughts. Speaking of, Avignon is the perfect place for flâneurs, or those who choose to stroll without any particular goal or action in mind, aside from taking in the sights and enjoying their surroundings.
Speaking of strolling, when you’re ready for some fresh air, head to the Jardin des doms to take in views of the countryside. There are plenty of cafes and shady areas to sit along the Rhône River, an opportunity to picnic that surely cannot be missed.
If you’re looking to catch Avignon with more buzz, plan your trip around the annual International Jazz Festival or the traditional Christmas markets that pop up in December. All of this is to say there really is never a bad time to visit Avignon.