First founded several millennia ago and once known as Avenio to the Romans, Avignon is a city with many façades, as opposed to only the medieval history aspect that everyone is so familiar with. From the world-famous Pont d’Avignon to discovering the hidden side of the city, here’s a suggested itinerary for how to spend one day in Avignon!
Breakfast at Maison Violette
Crumbly croissants, fresh raspberry tarts, and a piping hot espresso served fresh to the table: start your day the right way by heading to Maison Violette, a traditional French bakery in the heart of the city. Located on Place des Corps Saints on the fringes of the historic city centre, highlights include sweet madeleines, light as a feather raspberry pastries, and every type of French cake you could possibly imagine.
Visit the Palais des Papes
Of all the places to visit in Avignon, the Palais des Papes (Papal Palace) is easily the most famous. As its name would suggest, the fortified residence was the abode of seven successive popes during the 14th-century when the ecclesiastical men fled Rome due to uncertainty in the Middle Ages.
Today, you can truly step back in time by visiting the two historic palaces, many courtyards, and by admiring the painted rooms throughout the complex. The rooftop of the complex offers fantastic views onto the River Rhône, including of the Pont d’Avignon. Fun for all ages, an interactive tablet with headphones to borrow is also included in the price of your ticket so that you can explore each room in further depth.
Wander along the Pont d’Avignon (or at least admire it from afar)
The iconic Pont d’Avignon is actually not a full monument, but rather what is left of a bridge which washed away during the Middle Ages and has been made even more famous by the popular famous French nursery rhyme ‘Sur le Pont d’Avignon’ which is learned and sung by French children all over l’Hexagon and dates back to the 15th-century.
Today, you can stand on the bridge for a small fee and wander along its cobbled remains. Your guided visit includes an in-depth audioguide, which will take you through the history of the bridge, as well as the story of the wider city. Alternatively, you can wander along the pedestrian footpath which meanders along the main road below the bridge. The best views of the Pont d’Avignon can be found at the Parc Rocher des Doms and the Pont Édouard Daladier, en route to Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.
Pick up Lunch Supplies at Les Halles d’Avignon
For those looking for a tasty pick-me-up in the very heart of town, a trip inside Les Halles is an absolute must. Described in some of the best books about Provence, including by authors such as Jean Viard and Peter Mayle, Les Halles food court is a traditional covered market place.
Home to a huge array of fresh produce, baked goods (I highly recommend purchasing the warm focaccia topped with fresh vegetables), local delicacies, larger than life olive stands, and locally sourced fish, the covered market is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 6 am – 1:30 pm on weekdays and 6 am – 2 pm on weekends.
Enjoy your food at Parc Rocher des Doms
Instead of eating your food in Les Halles (though, this of course, is always an option!), take your lunch to go and head to the Parc Rocher des Doms. Perched atop a rock high above the city, this park is home to fantastic views, pretty greenery, and even a secret vineyard. Though the vineyard may appear as if it has been in situ for centuries, the row of vines overlooking the River Rhône were actually planted in the 1990s.
Go in search of Hidden Gems of Avignon
After seeing the major Avignon attractions, take the time to get to know the city on a more local level specifically by going in search of hidden gems before your one day in Avignon comes to an end. Some of the best secret spots in Avignon include many a little-known church, off the beaten path cloisters, and a leaning bell tower that’s the city’s answer to the leaning tower of Pisa.
Caffeinate at Café Tulipe
Hands down the best coffee to be found in Avignon, Café Tulipe is one of the newer and trendiest cafés in the city. This is also one of the only places where you can order delights such as Matcha lattés, almond milk speciality coffees, and altogether the tastiest coffee in town. For those who are a little peckish, Café Tulipe also serves a selection of delicious cakes, as well as light savoury snacks such as avocado on toast.
Enjoy dinner in Avignon
To end your one day in Avignon itinerary, dinner in the walled and fortified city is an absolute must, particularly because the city is one of the top foodie destinations in Southern France. During our recent visit to Provence, we were lucky enough to sample a variety of menus at several locations across the city. Some of my favourite picks of places to eat include, as well as those which we didn’t get to sample but are highly reviewed include:
La Mirande, 4 Place de la Mirande: Set against the backdrop of a luxruious five-star hotel and in the shadows of the Palais des Papes, this Michelin Star restaurant offers a gastronomic tasting menu which is paired with various wines from the region and beyond. The food is quite literally art and while the experience is pricier than some other places to eat in the city, the culinary tastes are unparalelled.
Au Jardin des Carmes (21 Place des Carmes): For those who are looking for great food in an even prettier location, this hidden away restaurant serves locally-inspired dishes, including fish plates and wonderful desserts. Well-reviewed, the food comes in at around €30 for two courses and €30 for three courses.
L’Agape (21 Place des Corps Saints): Not too pricey and consistenyly ranked as one of the best places to eat in Avignon, L’Agape serves food with a modern twist on a traditional French bistro. Seasonal and delicious, even the bread is made in-house.