Walking Tour of Avignon, France
Avignon, France, is in the heart of the Provence region and, besides being a major tourist destination on its own, makes a great center of operations for an exploration of this charming area. The city traces its roots to Roman times although little is left from those days.
This walk begins in the Place de l’Horloge, the main gathering place in the city with its many cafes and restaurants, which is built over the location of the ancient Roman forum. It is now tree-lined and pleasant. From here, walk north (uphill), bearing right into the Place du Palais.
On your right is the number-one attraction in Avignon, the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes), basically a Vatican-away-from Rome. The palace recalls another critical event in the history of Avignon. Pope Clement V moved the papal residence from Rome to Avignon in 1309, to escape the bickering and in-fighting in Rome, where it continued until 1403 (although from 1378 to 1403 there were two popes, one in Rome and the other in Avignon). This palace is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the papacy was here, popes built this immense palace/fortress and also the city walls, to protect themselves. Beautiful frescoes adorn the many rooms and chapels. Some of the highlights include the Pope’s Bedroom, the Studium, and the Great Audience Hall.
Also on this grand square is the Petit Palais, once the home of a cardinal, but now a museum, and the Cathedrale Notre-Dame des Doms, built in the 12th century.
Just beyond the Cathedral is the Tourist Train embarkation point. This local service offers the best way to get to the Parc de Rochers des Doms, once the domain of Cardinals and Bishops, now a public park, a collection of hillside gardens and viewpoints. Walkways and terraces in the park offer superb panoramas of the surrounding countryside, especially of the Pont St-Benezet, which once spanned the nearby Rhone River.
After you have savored the views, walk down the stairs to the tower. From here, you can walk part of the city’s ramparts. Now exit the walled town and walk to and onto the Pont St-Benezet. It is also a World Heritage Site, although 18 of its original arches have been destroyed over the years (there is even a famous French song about the bridge). Next, walk back through the Porte du Rhone and straight ahead on Rue Ferruce, then turn right on Rue Grande Fuste. You are now in the Old Gypsy Quarter of the town. It has been recently renovated. Continue south, and then turn left on Rue St-Etienne, and then right onto Rue de la Balance, which leads back into Place de l’Horloge, where the walk began.