I spent half a year in Avignon in Southern France in order to go to university there. I did quite a lot during this time and I’d love to show you my Avignon tips in this article. If you ever happen to be in the region of Provence and have some spare time, Avignon is definitely worth a day trip.
The two main attractions of Avignon are definitely the Pont d’Avignon (the bridge of Avignon) and the Palais des Papes (Pope’s Palace). The bridge was built between 1171 and 1185 and the song Sur le pont d'Avignon (On the bridge of Avignon) made it famous. If you go there, make sure to either take the free ferry to the Ile (island) de la Barthelasse or walk to the island by using another nearby bridge, the Ile de la Barthelasse which offers a great view of the Pont d’Avignon and is perfect for a little picnic under the sun.
The Palais des Papes is where the Popes lived during the medieval times. It’s a pretty impressive building, you don’t necessarily have to go in there and pay the quite high entrance fee (if you decide to do so, you won’t regret it though), but you can also just hang out at the place in front of the Pope’s Palace, there are often street musicians and you can sit on the warm stone floor listening to them. There you can also find a sculpture of an elephant standing on its trunk, but to be honest, I don’t know for how long it’ll still be there, there’s an endless discussion in Avignon about whether or not the elephant should stay in front of an impressive and historically important building such as the Pope’s Palace. However, the tourist office in Avignon still produces ads with the elephant on it, so I guess it’ll still be there for a while.
As I was in Avignon during wintertime, I missed the theatre festival which takes place in summer and is apparently one of the most important theatre festivals in Europe (so if you’re in Southern France in the summer, make sure you go and visit!). Winter in Avignon, however, is equally wonderful, it has one of the most beautiful Christmas Markets in Southern France, and there’s always time for an espresso (un café) which will cost you only 1.30 Euros. Sitting outside a French café, watching the people walking by, enjoying a really good espresso, and the warm Southern French sun is probably the best occupation ever in Avignon :).
You need to watch out though, Avignon sometimes has the Mistral, which is a really strong wind. If the Mistral’s there, it makes everything approx. 5 degrees colder. However, it causes the sky to be absolutely blue and cloudless, so once you get used to the heavy gusts of wind blowing your way, the Mistral isn’t that bad after all. :)