Situated along the banks of the Rhone, the French city of Avignon has a rich history dating back even before the famous three-month siege of the town that took place in the summer of 1226. A little over a century later, the Black Death swept through the town, killing over two-thirds of the population.
To get a better idea of the kind of history present in Avignon, consider this: the University of Avignon was first established in 1303 and has historically focused on law. Some 700 years have passed since then and yet the University remains.
Avignon became a papal territory in 1348 and remained that way until 1791, when it was sold back to France during the turmoil surrounding the French Revolution.
Today, chances are you’ll recognize parts Avignon even if you’ve never been there before. The Palais des Papes and the Saint Bénézet bridge are some of the most photographed structures in Southern France.
Your River Cruise Ship Docks …
Most ships dock near the Pont Saint Bénézet bridge, in the heart of Avignon.
When in Avignon …
Avignon is extremely walkable, and visitors should have no difficulty getting around. Many major attractions and historic sites are grouped near each other due to the relatively small size of the town.
- Palais des Papes is the imposing Papal residence constructed by and for the popes in 1316. Its construction would span the next fifty years, eventually finishing in 1370.
- Right next to the Palais is Notre Dame des Doms. This cathedral was built during the 12th century, and contains the stunning Mausoleum of Pope John XXII.
- History buffs and shutterbugs will definitely want to check out the medieval fortification walls that still encircle the city. Some of the best examples of medieval architecture in existence, the walls are flanked by various towers and entrances.
- The Saint Bénézet Bridge (Pont Saint Bénézet) was in part made famous by the French children’s song, Sur le pont d’Avignon. Only four arches of the original twenty-two survive of this incredible structure that used to measure almost 3000 feet in length.
- If you’re fortunate to visit Avignon during July, chances are you will be able to experience the incredibly popular Theatre Festival. During these weeks, the town plays host to hundreds of professional performers, musicians and actors who not only hold scheduled, ticketed plays, but are also known to conduct impromptu performances streetside and indoors. Not to be missed.
River Cruisers Should Know!
- While some English may be spoken in Avignon, knowledge of basic French will go a long way.
- The Euro is the official currency of France. Other currencies can be exchanged at major banks and financial institutions.
- Crime is generally not an issue in Avignon.