Our Rhone river cruise ended at Avignon, a walled city dominated by the Papal Palace which was the largest palace in Europe when it was built.
Although the area has been settled from the C6th BC, it didn’t really reach prominence until the beginning of the C14th when Pope Clement V moved his court from Rome to Avignon. It remained the site of papal power for seven decades and continued to be under papal control until the French Revolution when it became part of France. For those wanting more information of the importance of the church, there is a wonderful account “here.”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/place/145280-review-avignon
Avignon is equally famous for the “broken bridge”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/205773-review-pont-st-b-nezet , made famous in the song Sur le Pont d’Avignon.
Avignon was a walled city. The original walls were built in the C13th but were extended in the mid C14th at a time of increasing unrest. With their defensive towers they still form a complete ring around the city.
The “Papal Palace”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/travel-product/attraction/205774 with the “Cathedral of Notre Dame des Doms”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/206438 dominate the skyline from the river, being built on Rocher des Doms, a massive limestone outcrop high above the river.
Near the Cathedral are the “Jardin des Doms”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/205512-review-jardin-des-doms which have some of the best views of the city and especially of the bridge..
Place du Palais in front of the Papal Palace is lined with splendid C17th and C18th buildings. The C17th Hôtel des Monnaies, opposite the Palace was the Papal mint, and has a very impressive facade decorated with sculptures, garlands and eagles.
The Place du Palais leads into Place de l’Horloge which is at the heart of the city. The Hotel de Ville is here, being built in the mid C19th on the site of a cardinal’s palace. It retained the old fortified clock tower. This cannot be seen from the square but is visible peeping above the rooftops from the Papal Palace. The square is surrounded by cafes and restaurants with tables spilling out across the square. The main shopping streets radiate from here.
“Les Halles”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/206426 on Rue Bonneterie is a large modern building with a car park above. Mid morning on a Thursday it was remarkably quiet.
Beyond this is “Rue des Teinturies “:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/place/205513-review-avignon which features in nearly all the tourist literature. Once a centre of the textile industry, this is now becoming gentrified with cafes and restaurants. runs beside the Sorgue River. From the C14th to the C19th this was the centre of the textile industry with dye works and mills. Four of the waterwheels still survive although they no longer work. Many of the buildings are now cafes and restaurants.
Avignon is a city that needs to be discovered on foot. “St Pierre Basilica”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/206412 is well worth finding and has the WOW factor.
For those not wanting to walk, there is a “tourist train”:https://avignon-tourisme.com/en/activities/the-little-tourist-train-in-avignon-lieutaud-visite-avignon-tour-2/ that does a 40 minute tour of the city from the Papal Palace.
I visited here on Day 7 of Burgundy, the River Rhone and Provence, a river cruise with Riviera Travel. We had a morning guided tour of the Papal Palace. The rest of the day and the following morning were free to wander by ourselves.
My full account with all the pictures can be found “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/otherholidays/rhone/index.html