Anyone taking a Rhone river cruise is likely to sail into the port of Avignon along the way. This Provençal commune is steeped in history, largely thanks to the fact that is served as the seat of the Pope between 1309 and 1377. The remnants of medieval city walls also add to the feeling that you have stepped back in time when you take a wander through Avignon’s streets.
So, what is there to do whilst you are here?
Palais des Papes
As the most eye-catching building in the city, the Palais des Papes (Pope's Palace) is probably where you will head first when your Rhone river cruise arrives in Avignon. It is here that you will learn about the seven successive popes who stayed in France rather than moving to reign from Rome and how this led to a Papal dispute with the French monarchy.
The palace itself is the largest in Europe and is as beautiful on the inside as its exterior is dramatic. Visitors can see the former private chambers, as well as a number of impressive frescos that line the walls. Plus, if you visit between August 10th and October 2nd, 2016, you can enjoy a nightly light show which illuminates the palace walls.
Perhaps the most famous thing about Avignon these days is a song about its bridge – ‘Sur le Pont d’Avignon’. Known formerly as the Pont Saint-Bénézet, the structure stretches partway across the Rhone and is likely to be the sight that greets you as you sail into the city. The bridge has been rebuilt a number of times in the past, but it has since become an iconic image of Avignon in its ruinous state.
As well as the bridge itself, visitors can see the chapel dedicated to Saint Nicholas situated half way along what’s left of the bridge. If you would like to see what it would have looked like in completed form, there is a 3D experience which shows you what the Pont Saint- Bénézet looked like through the ages.
Along with being the seat of the pope for a while and a children’s song about a bridge, Avignon is famous for part of a region known for fantastic food produce. Doubters only have to sample some of the food and drink on display in Les Halles to realise that this is the perfect place to explore Provence with your taste buds.
Over forty stalls beckon passers-by every morning of the week except Monday, offering fresh produce that fills the air with fantastic smells. Regional cheese, meat, bread, vegetables and more are available to buy and local chefs even stop by now and again to perform live demonstrations.
If you would like to visit Avignon for yourself, we have plenty of excellent river cruises on the Rhone available. Call the number at the top of the page or use the online form to get in touch.