Driving in Avignon, France
Avignon is an ancient walled city that has a long and interesting history. If you’ve a love for history and/or architecture then Avignon is definitely a must for you, with the Palais des Papes being the highlight for enthusiasts of both. The city was Europe’s capital of culture in 2000.
Avignon is the capital of its own department Vaucluse and it’s located in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur. This province is home to such other cities as Nice, Marseilles and the principality of Monaco.
As well as having a Mediterranean climate (long hot summers) it’s a culturally rich city with plenty must see attractions. The biggest landmark in Avignon remains the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes). It was designed to convey a sense of strength so it looks more like a fortress than a palace. The building became a museum in the early 20th century and has been undergoing restoration ever since.
Slightly older and slightly smaller, but no less impressive, is the Notre Dame des Doms which is a Romanesque church located near the Palais des Papes. The famous gilded statue of the Virgin is mounted on the western tower. There’s plenty more worth seeing in the church including the mausoleum of Pope John XXII which is a very interesting piece of 14th Century Gothic carving.
Aside from these huge edifices of worship there are many other smaller churches that are quite nice and worth dropping into if you’re passing – all are excellent examples of Gothic architecture. These include the Saint Pierre, Saint Didier and Saint Agricol churches. There’s also the Hôtel des Monnaies which was the papal mint in the 17th century and the City Hall which is a modern building that incorporates a 14th century belfry.
Another attraction is the Pont d’Avignon Bridge. Although much of it has been destroyed, and you can’t make your way across the river, it’s still worth a visit.
There are plenty of museums for you to visit and inspect during your visit to Avignon such as the Musée Requien (Natural History Museum, with over 200,000 types of herbarium), Musée Lapidaire (Gallo-Roman Museum, mostly statues), Musée Louis-Vouland (17th and 18th century antiques, mostly curios and other small artifacts), Musée Angladon (Modern Art including Van Gogh and Picasso) and the Calvet Museum which features the life collections of the physician F. Calvet and it includes many paintings, sculptures and other antiquities in glass and bronze.
What to see in the Avignon area?
Avignon lies on the main TGV line between Paris and Marseilles so you’re only a few hours away from Paris. Although public transport links are good, if you want the freedom to explore the area at your leisure, you’re best option is to hire a car. It’s definitely the best way to enjoy the breathtaking landscape, vineyards and quaint little villages of the Rhone Valley Region
Some places you could visit include Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. This town is located opposite Avignon across the river Rhone. Attractions here include the Tour Philippe Le Bel, the Fort Saint-André and the Chartreuse du Val de Benediction which is France’s largest Carthusian monastery.
Other places to visit in the Vaucluse include Mont Ventoux which is the largest mountain in the area and has the nickname the Giant of Provence.
Outside of Vaucluse but still within the Provence area there are many interesting towns and cities including Arles and Aix-en-Provence. Both of these are only a short drive away. Arles is located to the south along the Rhone and was famously home to Van Gogh – this is where he cut off his own ear! Aix-en-Provence (or more usually Aix) is sometimes known as the city of a thousand fountains. It’s also home to a great many universities so it’s very much a youth town.
A little further south about 100km from Avignon is the coastal city of Marseilles. This is one of the oldest cities in Europe and the 3rd largest in France. It has a large number of art galleries and museums as well an excellent shopping culture.
Why not hire a car?
As you can tell, there is much to see and do in the Provence region. And if you want to get a real feel of the area, Car Hire France is your best bet. Driving in France is on the right and when you are in the Provence area it might be a good idea to get a car with a GPS system or bring your own along if you have it. Most signs will be in French and the country roads can be a bit of a maze at times. Especially when the signs give distances in time rather than kilometres!
The motorways however are quite extensive as France has over 9000 km of motorways that can be toll free or with tolls – you’ll see the difference easily due to toll roads being signed as Autoroutes à péage’. You could make your way around the country avoiding tolls, but sometimes it’s worth the expense to save time and its less tiring as well. Just remember though that each commune is responsible for its own roads so it’s entirely possible that you are driving on top quality roads one second and then when you move to the next commune you are driving or shoddy ill kept roads!
It’s also worth noting that fuel is more expensive on the motorway so you should probably fill up when you’re stopping off at a town or village, especially at the large supermarket chains that offer a sizable reduction.
Something else to remember is that at a junction the person joining from the right has right of way, sometimes even regardless of the sizes of the respective roads!
If you’ve been to Avignon please feel free to leave a comment in the box below and let us know of any valuable tips for visiting the area. Or indeed, if you’re planning to visit Avignon or any part of the Provence region and have any questions about car hire, just drop us a line.