There are quite a few towns which will entrance you with its well-preserved medieval architectural charm. And Avignon will cast its spell as soon as you step out of the train station.
The twin towers of one of the seven gates of the 4.3 km medieval walls will beckon you into the medieval town and walk you back in time. The ramparts enclosing the historic town of Avignon in France’s Provence region houses prominent UNESCO World Heritage listed sites of Palais des Papes, Avignon Bridge, the Avignon Cathedral and the stretches of ramparts.
We gathered information and map for the key attractions from the Tourist office which we could cover in a day. As the following day, we would be out exploring the beguiling Lavender fields around Provence. Avignon is a popular base for tourists looking to explore the quaint villages and the countryside of Provence.
We sauntered the winding narrow streets through ivory colored medieval buildings with elegant artwork.
The museum in a magnificent 18th-century building holds fine arts collection from the 15th to the 20th centuries.
We finally walked into a quaint residential area with close-knit buildings and vibrantly colored doors to the apartment we booked. Our host was waiting for us to show through the amenities and also briefed us on what we can explore around.
We were astonished when the narrow streets opened up into a large lively square. A throng of kids was frolicking around a colorful carousel. The square was lined with jam-packed restaurants and pizzerias on one size and on the other side were the 19th-century Neo-Classical buildings of Town Hall and the Opera. A myriad of street performers and musicians entertained the bypassers. The car-free zone of the square also teems with boutiques, ice creams shops, and many antique shops.
The town hall building features a 14th-century clock tower with life-sized figures that strike the hours.
Palace of the Popes
The 14th century Palace of the Popes built in Roman style is an iconic landmark of the old town of Avignon. A couple of minutes walk from the Horloge Square the colossal palace with austere facade dominated the square it stood with its towers piercing the skyline.
The palace a center of the Roman Catholic world has served as an abode to nine popes in the 14th century when Pope Clement V moved here to avoid the disorder in Rome. The architecture of the palace speaks of the powerful legacy of the Papacy.
Visitors can take a tour of the palace to see the 25 rooms that are open to the public. Most of the rooms and halls are unfurnished. The frescoes adorning the walls and vaults of the Saint-Martial and Saint John chapels are inimitably remarkable. The painted tiles and the elaborate paintings of Papal bedroom and the frescoes of hunting scenes of Stag Room exemplifies the past glory.
The plain ceiling of the Grand Tinel banquet hall once decorated with gold and much of the artwork in Consistory Hall was destroyed in a fire incident.
The large halls like Grand Tinel and the Grande Chappell are a testimony of the grandeur of the events that took place here in the past.
Several of the rooms including the North Sacristy and the Consistory have outstanding statues of kings and cardinals.
The multimedia presentations depicted the bygone glory, the sumptuous frescoes, furnishings and other ornamentations from the 14th century.
We finally climbed to the rooftop terrace which provides stunning views of the Avignon Mint Building, the red-roofed city of Avignon and the Rhone River.
When we exited the palace it had started pouring and Chhavi was asleep hence we decided to take shelter in one of the outdoor cafes in the square. The mystical imposing edifice of the palace and the golden lady standing atop the cathedral under the curtain of misty drizzle was mesmerizing.
Cathedrale Notre-Dame des Doms
The 6 meters high gold gilded statue of the Virgin Mary on top of the bell tower is a striking feature of the cathedral.
The interior is embellished with exquisite artwork inspired by Gothic and baroque styles.
We were awestruck with remarkable frescoes and the marvelous stained glass windows.
There is also a Petit Palais in the vicinity which houses an impressive collection of art, paintings, sculptures and other primitive masterpieces from the 13th to the 15th centuries.
Jardin du Rocher des Doms
The public garden atop a hill has an abundance of greenery surrounding a large pond dotted with swans and an elegant bronze statue of Venus in the center.
The garden has wonderful panoramic views of the prominent landmarks like Pont d’Avignon, parts of the Palais des Papes and the Rhone River winding through the city.
Saint Benezet Bridge or Pont d’Avignon
The intriguing 12th-century bridge running over the Rhone initially spanned for a km and had 22 arches of which only four remain today. The bridge rebuilt after severe destruction during the siege of Avignon was abandoned after frequent collapses and repairs due to the floods.
According to the legend, a 12-year-old shepherd named Benezet laid the foundation stone for the bridge commanded by a divine voice. Along the bridge stands a simple Chapel of St Benezet and above it is the Chapel of Saint Nicolas.
The entrance side of the bridge offers with amazing vistas of the old town of Avignon.
An interactive multimedia and the museum provides an insight into the original bridge and its eventful history.
The Halles Market
The covered market adorned with a hanging garden is a popular food market of Avignon with a myriad of market stalls and lively gastronomic activities.
Every year thousands of visitors flock into this medieval town of Avignon to witness the amalgam of the contemporary performances of the Festival d’Avignon (held in July) and the medieval monuments of the ancient times.
Have you been to Avignon? Which is your favorite medieval attraction in Avignon?
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