Overview & Brief History

Capital of Christendom in the Middle Ages, Avignon is famous as the city to which the Popes fled the corruption of Rome in the 14th century. Avignon is a charming destination in its own right with an abundance of architectural beauty and historic significance.


A Brief History

The city’s roots trace back to Neolithic times, but it gained prominence during the Roman era when it became a vital center known as Avenio. Avignon’s medieval history is closely tied to the papacy. In the 14th century, the city became the seat of the Catholic Church when Pope Clement V moved the papal court from Rome to Avignon, initiating the Avignon Papacy. Seven successive popes resided in the Palais des Papes, leaving an indelible mark on the city’s architecture and cultural heritage.


The Papal Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, stands as a testament to Avignon’s role as a center of power during this period. The 14th-century Avignon Bridge, famously commemorated in the nursery rhyme “Sur le Pont d’Avignon,” also dates from this era. In 1377, Pope Gregory XI moved the papacy back to Rome, but the Avignon Papacy’s legacy endured, contributing to Avignon’s cultural and historical significance.


Over the centuries, Avignon experienced a blend of influences, including periods of papal rule, French royal authority, and episodes of independence. The city played a notable role in the French Revolution, and in the 19th century, it became part of modern France. Today, Avignon is celebrated for its well-preserved medieval architecture, vibrant cultural scene, and annual theater festival, the Festival d’Avignon, which attracts artists and visitors from around the world.

Things to See & Do

Palais de Papes

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Palais de Papes (Pope’s Palace) was the residence of seven Popes from 1309 to 1377. It is the biggest Gothic palace in the world with 15,000 sq. meters of living space – the equivalent of 4 Gothic cathedrals. Visitors can see over 20 rooms in the palace, including the Papal apartments and frescoes, and it’s among the 10 most-visited monuments in France.

Musée du Petit Palais

Discover over 300 Italian paintings from the Campana Collection, acquired by Napoléon III after the collector’s financial woes. The collection includes notable works from Italy by Botticelli, Carpaccio, and Bellini. The museum’s most famous piece is Botticelli’s Virgin and Child painting.

Rocher des Doms Park

A short walk from the Pope’s Palace, this headland offers an exceptional panoramic view of Avignon. Consider a leisurely stroll through the gorgeous park on its summit. From the gardens, take in views of the Palais de Papes, Pont Saint-Bénézet, Rhône river as well as the village of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon on the far bank.

Eglise Saint-Pierre Church

Built in 1356, the Church of Saint-Pierre has a beautiful Gothic facade and carved Renaissance wooden doors dating from 1550. The site was originally dedicated to Saint Pierre of Luxembourg in the 7th century and the relics of the saint are still kept here.

Local Dining

Cuisine in Provence

Discover French cuisine with Mediterranean influences prepared on site using fresh seasonal products from Provence markets.


A Guidester favorite…

The restaurant Le 46 awaits for a gourmet meal in a friendly atmosphere which serves as a great getaway down a side street from the tourists near the Palais de Papes.

Insider Tips

Many travelers visit Avignon as a day trip from one of the larger centers along the coast such as Marseille and Montpellier. Aix-en-Provence is another gorgeous city in which to base yourself to explore Avignon and the wider region of Provence.

Virtual Tours

Palace of the Popes

Avignon France Provence

Lavender Fields of Provence France

Provence Wines

Jack’s Favorite Moment

Ancient City of the Popes

Avignon is one of my favorite places in France and should not be missed if you’re looking for a real gem. I was mesmerized by the grandness of the Pope’s Palace, the charm of the small streets, and an almost storybook-like ancient bridge.

Located in the heart of Provence in southern France, Avignon has been recognized the world over for its architectural beauty and historic importance as the center of Christendom for nearly 70 years. The city was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995, and was even named the European cultural capital in 2000.

If your situation permits, I would highly recommend getting a car to explore the area. You will be able to visit small villages and historic wineries at your leisure.

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Jack Bauman

Founder of Guidester


Interactive Maps

Wander around Pope’s Palace

Explore Rocher des Doms


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