24 hours in Avignon

Pont Saint-Bénézet, the Pont d’Avignon, built between 1177 and 1185.

Avignon is an important town in Provence and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Palace of the Popes is the centerpiece of a town inhabited since the Neolithic, but which didn’t come into its own until the Popes settled here in the 14th century.

The other UNESCO site is the bridge you see in the picture. Pont Saint-Bénézet, also known as the Pont d’Avignon, is a famous medieval bridge first assembled between 1177 and 1185. The 12th century Chapel of Saint Nicholas sits on the second pier of the bridge. You can see it in the picture above.

The enormous Palace of the Popes, the attraction everyone comes to see, was built in a mere 20 years. You can visit it in considerably less time than that. Get yourself an Avignon Pass (free at the tourist office) and pay full price for your first Avignon museum, then get a discount at each subsequent museum you visit. An audio tour will animate the now empty palace for you.

A perfect day in Avignon? Skip the hotel breakfast except for the coffee, head over to the area near les halles (the covered market) and get a slab of Pizza Provencal and wander around the city with the essential elements of Provence in your hand: bread, olive oil, herbs and tomatoes. Shop or visit smaller museums in the cool of the morning, like the little archaeological museum, leaving the Palace of the Popes for the afternoon. When lunchtime comes, head off the beaten tourist track—maybe to Le Chandelier, 29 rue Sarailleire, where you’ll have the special lunch menu. I enjoyed a wonderful salmon surrounded by grapefruit slices and everything that could be bought fresh at the vegetable market, including grilled asparagus, brussel sprouts, tomatoes, green beans, peas, and carrots. Yum.

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