48 Hours in Avignon, France
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Avignon, France, is a tale of two cities. There’s the larger commune that’s home to some 90,000 residents and then there’s the town center, a walled-in enclave that dates back to medieval times and houses about 12,000 luck inhabitants. The older streets are small and overflowing with charm. It’s a place where people get lost on purpose, just to see what they might find.

With only 48 hours to see all Avignon has to offer, you’ll need to move quickly. Thankfully, the city hums with activity and it’s easy to get swept along by the irrepressible energy. New and old, traditional and progressive, carefully curated antiques and designer duds — it all happily coexists here on the scenic left bank of the Rhone.

Book a Room

Stay at Hotel D’Europe and you’ll join a long list of impressive guests who have checked in since the Marquis de Graveson lived here in 1580. Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, Picasso, Jackie Kennedy, and countless other celebrities and politicians have stopped by over the years to revel in the hotel’s luxurious décor, impressive architecture, and captivating views.

Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, Picasso, Jackie Kennedy, and countless other celebrities and politicians have stopped by over the years to revel in the hotel’s luxurious décor, impressive architecture, and captivating views.

If you prefer the intimacy and charm of a B&B, there’s Mas de Capelou, a historic 17th-century home that has been renovated into a collection of well-appointed apartments. It’s a quick, 7-mile jaunt from Mas de Capelou into Avignon via a bridge from Barthelasse Island, but with the gorgeous house, lush grounds, and a swimming pool all at your disposal, it may be hard to leave.

Mas de Capelou

Park your suitcase in the epicenter of Avignon at the Le Magnan Hotel and enjoy a mix of contemporary amenities – air-conditioned rooms, anyone? – and classic Provencal hospitality. From the breakfast buffet table laden with farm-fresh eggs, pots of jam, charcuterie, and flaky pastries to the garden sanctuary that affords guests a spot to chat, read, and relax in the shadow of the city’s famous ramparts, Le Magnan is downright bewitching.

Dine & Drink

Leave your dinner selections up to the chefs at Maison Christian Etienne and you’ll be rewarded with a Michelin-quality meal in an unparalleled setting without any of the snobbery or stuffiness that so often accompanies highly-lauded eateries. Menus are set and seasonal and the wine list is of particular interest; pair artichoke ravioli in rosemary broth with a bottle of something spectacular and you’ll feel deservedly spoiled.

Expert plating at Maison Christian Etienne

The fare at La Sou’Pape is decidedly simpler than Etienne’s perfectly plated cuisine, but it’s no less flavorful. In fact, this is a place where local produce and simple-yet-tasty technique reign supreme. Pickled vegetables, savory paninis, tomato carpaccio, delicately sweet head-on shrimp, Thai-inspired sauces — they all live side-by-side on this spot’s interesting, surprisingly affordable menu.

Outdoor dining and comfort food merge at Jardin des Carmes, where you can soak up your surroundings and indulge in a stellar conversation while noshing on monkfish with creamy peas and bacon, veal over black risotto, and lemongrass panna cotta with coconut crumble.

When your belly’s full and you’re itching for a cocktail or two, plug into the native vibe over at Red Sky. The drinks are bursting with colorful garnish and that penchant for zany overabundance carries over to the entertainment schedule, regular beer pong games, and theme nights. If you’re a hop head or ale fiend, Le Gambrinus may be more your speed. There are more than 100 beers up for grabs and a ton of whisky, too. If an Irish pub and French bistro had a baby, it would look a lot like this family-owned joint.

View of the Avignon's Old Town

See the Sights

In the early 14th century, Avignon was the home of the Pope, and much of the Roman Catholic-inspired architecture that was erected during that time is still standing today. Palais des Papes is just saw an awe-inspiring relic. The papal palace is 700 years of history, art, and mind-blowing engineering sitting at the very heart of the walled old-town area. Opt for a guided tour and enjoy some colorful stories as you get a glimpse at the palace’s secret passageways and priceless frescoes.

In many ways, Avignon itself is an extraordinary work of art, but there are actual artistic masterpieces on display as well.

In many ways, Avignon itself is an extraordinary work of art, but there are actual artistic masterpieces on display as well. Musee de Petit Palais was once the lavish home of an archbishop, but it currently contains works by Botticelli, Carpaccio, and Crivelli, among others. There’s also Musee Angladon, a home formerly occupied by a Parisian couturier who left patterned silk walls to complement the Degas, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Manet, and Modigliani paintings displayed nearby.

Stop & Shop

Head to Les Halles, Avignon’s celebrated covered market, and shop like the locals. A diverse slate of some 40 vendors happily introduce tourists to Provencal favorites and visit with neighbors as they pick up spices and produce. Even if you don’t buy any goodies to take back to your hotel, you can indulge in some gastronomic goodies onsite – some artisan cheese, a quiche, and a basket of freshly shucked oysters would make a quintessentially French picnic.

Provence and lavender are forever intertwined, and Le Chateau du Bois (The Castle of Wood) honors this aromatic marriage with an entire shop full of cosmetics, soap, sachets, and other perfumed products. If your idea of a souvenir leans a little more towards the sartorial side of things, consider a visit to La Chapellerie Mouret on Rue des Marchands. It’s a hat shop as well as a government-recognized historical monument. Step inside the stunning façade, which remains virtually unchanged since the store opened in 1860, and you’ll be able to choose from a selection of 8,000 hats.

Posters line the streets during the famous Festival d'Avignon

What to Know Before You Go

  • The Best Way to Travel: There’s an airport about eight kilometers from Avignon and CityJet offers a direct flight from London that clocks in at under an hour and a half. There’s also the Eurostar train that whisks travelers from Paris to Avignon in approximately 2 hours and 38 minutes.
  • When to Go: Avignon is incredibly popular in the summer months — especially in July, when the annual Festival d’ Avignon attracts theater lovers and troupes from around the world — and places book up quickly. Make reservations early to join the throngs or go in the off-season for more space and less commotion.
  • Local Currency: Euro
  • Native Language: French
  • How to Get Around: The maze of medieval streets in Avignon make for crazy driving. Ditch the rental car and hire a professional driver, many of whom can be found offering their services at the airport.
  • Plan to: Do plenty of people watching. There are tons of communal spots in Avignon that lend themselves to a little rest and reflection and, if you’re lucky, you’ll be entertained by a street performer or two as well.
  • Here’s a Hint: Impress old timers with your recitation of the 15th-century nursery rhyme Sur le Pont d’Avignon which talks about dancing on the city’s Pont St. Bénézet bridge.