Avignon is a city of antiquity with many medieval castles and old towns to ignite your curiosity. If you are a history buff like me and want to learn more about France history during the medieval time, Avignon is the place to be.
Located on the south-eastern part of France on the left bank of the Rhône river in the area called the Vaucluse, the city does not offer just historical value but also provides a perfect base for you to explore the towns and nature surrounding the region.
For 4 full days, I had the chance to experience Avignon and its neighbors in its entirety and I am here today to share the things you can do when you use Avignon as a base for your visit to the south-eastern part of France.
Looking for a complete itinerary for France? Two Weeks In France - The Perfect Itinerary For Backpackers.
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Where to Stay in Avignon
POP Hostel is centrally located along the main shopping street of Avignon. The hostel is shared among the residents of a stunning traditional European-style building, only a few minutes walk away from all the attractions in the city. The room is very spacious with one of the most comfortable bed in a hostel in France. The bed is equipped with a locker and a curtain for extra privacy. The staff was nothing but awesome. Very friendly and very well informed. Not sure what to do or which bus to take? The staff can tell you what you need.
From the central station, simply walk out of the station and continue straight through the city gates onto rue de la République and around 5 minutes walk, you should see a sign on your right. Go up the building to the second floor and you should be there.
How to Get to Avignon
The best way to get here is to fly into hub cities like Paris or Lyon and take a train or a bus from there. I would recommend you browse through Skyscanner or Momondo to find all the cheap flights from where you live to France and compare them so that you can find the one best fit for your itinerary.
The train is the easiest way to get to Avignon since both the normal train and the TGV train runs through the city. If you get on a train that drops you off at the Avignon central station then you are pretty much in the city center. If you take the TGV train to TGV Avignon station which is 2kms away from the city then you will have taken another train/bus into the city.
To book a train, visit the SNCF Voyage website.
You can also take a FlixBus which is much cheaper and widely connected throughout Europe.
How to Get Around Avignon
Everything is in walking distance if you stay in the city center. If you want to visit one of the many towns nearby you can either take a local bus (you can get the bus number and schedule from your hostel's reception) or take a train. The price does vary from time to time so don't expect it to be cheap even if you take the bus. We had to pay around 7 euros for a bus ticket to and from Arles.
Traveling here, on average, will cost you more than traveling in most countries out there. You can expect to spend around 45 - 65 USD per day per person with food, accommodation and transportation.
Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more toward the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in dorms, eat out only a few times, and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often times involves walking.
If you are looking for a travel insurance to go along with your trip to France, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure. They have a simple and flexible search system that allowed me to find the right insurance for the right amount of time at an affordable price in seconds. If you need a travel insurance, give WorldNomads.com a try.
Top Things to Do in Avignon
1. Visit the Palais des Papes fortress and the Cathedral
I'm not gonna lie, this fortress was the sole reason why I was in Avignon in the first place. The fortress is so unique and massive in size that after I saw a photo, I told myself that I must see it with my own eyes. The structure is probably one of the most beautiful castle around here with a little bit of a Game of Throne vibe. Once, this place was the seat of Western Christianity during the 14th century. Today, the place is converted into a national museum and occastionally used as an event site.
After you have explored the fortress, go a little further and check out the Rocher des Doms and the Cathedral as well. It is located in the same area.
2. Learn the history by attending the Avignon Light Shows
I'm not usually the type of person who enjoys light shows but this one was exceptional. They use the courtyard of the Palais des Papes fortress to project colorful imagery that teach viewers the history and the blood bath that decended upon Avignon throughout its life time. The light shows was not just spectacular but it also let you learn the history and the reason why the city was so important back in the medieval times. They do shows every evening usually around August to October, both in French and in English on different days. Do check their website for the schedule before you plan your visit.
3. Shop for antique items at L'Isle sur la Sorgue Market
L'Isle sur la Sorgue is a small town 30 minutes away from Avignon and every sunday morning, the streets of Sorgue is converted into one of the biggest antique market in France. Your eyes will be delighted with all the fresh food, and varities of cool handcrafted items being sold on the street by the locals. If you are looking to buy something unique and cheap, this is the place to be.
To get here, we had to take a bus from Avignon bus station as early as 8 AM. It took us around 45 minutes to get to L'Isle sur la Sorgue just in time for the market. The vendors will start to pack their things around 1PM so plan your visit accordingly.
4. Hike around Fontaine de Vaucluse
From L'Isle sur la Sorgue, you can take a bus further to the fountain and do some hiking there. The fountain itself was not the best sight and the main area is crowded with tourists. What's cool around this area is not the fountain but the nature surrounding it. Typical tourists will only stay along the main road and the fountain so in order to get away from them we have to hike a little bit.
As you walk along the main road toward the fountain, you will notice a medieval ruin on top of a rock on your right. If you look around enough there should be a stairs going up toward this broken structure.
From the the roundabout shown above, you should be coming from the left. Most people will go to the right toward the fountain. For you to get to this small hike, you have to go toward where I took the photo from, the bridge, cross it and go right with the road. At the turning point, on your left there should be a way up to the ruin. If you couldn't find it, you can always ask the Tourist Info which is located near the roundabout.
You can also hike further but since I did not have enough time, I decided to hike a little bit of it and return to catch the last bus back to Avignon.
5. Walk the streets of Arles
Arles is a must visit if you are in Avignon and you are interested in the history of France during the medieval time. The city holds plenty of historical landmarks from the roman period like the coliseum and the necropolis.
Not to mention, every streets in Arles are photo-worthy. Yes, every one of them! Check out the photos if you don't believe me but the streets of Arles are the kind of streets I expect to see in France. It just fits so well with the vintage and romantic perception people have about France.
While in Arles, make sure to drop by the St Trophime Cloister as well. Peaceful, beautiful and rich in history and art. The ornate carvings around the Cloister will blow your mind.
6. A day outside Avignon
At the outskirt of Avignon lies a town called Villeneuve lès Avignon. This is one of the few hidden gems not many people know about. It is located across the Rhône river, only a few minutes bus ride away and the town offers a few cool attractions away from all the tourists. Such attractions are the Chartreuse Notre Dame du val de Bénédiction which is a church with a gigantic hole on its wall like someone blew it up or something. Unfortunately, there were no English information available so I was unable to decipher what the place was all about.
That said, if you are looking for a nice place to walk around and chill without having to deal with a bunch of tourists then Villeneuve lès Avignon will not disappoint you.
Digital Nomad Friendly Cafe
I had around 6 days in Avignon and one of those days I decided to go find a perfect cafe for us, digital nomads, to work from and I found a great one nearby my hostel. It's called The Milk Shop, the hippest coffee shop in town with free Wi-Fi and an unlimited supply of coffee and bakery for you to indulge in. Unfortunately, they did not have a power outlet available so you will have to pack some external juice if you want to work from here.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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