Our two-day stay in Avignon just after New Year was one of the best times to visit Avignon. Having just experienced Christmas in France, Avignon was picturesque, especially at night with the Christmas lights and cooler temperatures.
With only 48 hours in Avignon, we were going to make the most of our visit.
We farewelled the village of Callas and our adorable pets, Bryn, the Border Collie and Maggie, the cat of our house-sitting assignment. Yvonne drove us to Les Arcs TGV station for our 8 am train to Avignon.
House Sitting, we discovered, is one of the best ways to reduce your travel budget. To learn more, here is a link to Go House Sitting, or you can read more of our house sitting journey here ⇒ House Sitting.
If you are interested in a membership with a discount, just click on Trusted Housesitters below.
TGV Nice to Avignon
The train from Nice to Avignon takes you along the beautiful Riveria coastline before heading inland, arriving at Avignon TGV station. We then had to walk outside to find the regional train for Avignon, a 10-minute journey.
Where to stay in Avignon
We chose Hotel Kyriad, located right in the centre of the old town, from recent reviews.
The staff were great, and the room was large, warm and clean.
Their best advice was to visit the local Tourist Office for the best things to see in Avignon.
Weather in Avignon
The sun was shining with a bitterly cold wind. Are we back in Wellington, New Zealand?
The cold wind is the mistral “100-day” wind coming down the River Rhone to Avignon. With the wind chill added to the current temperature, it was now -2degC. Quick, where is the backpack as we need another layer of clothing?
Avignon has been a place of interest for Maura since French classes back at school, so we “braved” the cold temperatures and went out to explore.
Palace of the Popes
Our first place of interest was a visit to the Palace of the Popes.
Wow. What a magnificent building. The Palace dates back to Sovereign Pontiffs in the 14th century when Pope Clement V moved the Papacy from Rome to France due to unrest.
The Palace is two palaces joined together. When the Papacy returned to Rome in the late 14th century, the Military Garrison used the Palace. Unfortunately, they let it fall into disrepair, and it was only restored in the 1900s.
The entrance fee of €10.50 each (including the Pont Saint-Benezet too) allowed us to explore both the upper and lower levels of the Palace.
We aim to walk along the outside parapet for views across the river.
We missed the stairs the first time and the second time around before finding the closed Terrace cafe was the key to our goal.
We were rewarded with a great view across Villeneuve Les Avignon over the Rhone river.
Rocher des Doms Park
A walk up to the Rocher des Doms Park was next for a view of the famous bridge Pont d’Avignon and Villeneuve Les Avignon across the Rhone river.
With the wind freezing our teeth, we decided not to stay long and headed back down the hill.
We walked down the hill from the Rocher des Doms Park to Pont Saint-Benezet, Pont d’Avignon, built 1177-1185.
The bridge we discovered has been destroyed and rebuilt several times due to flooding and was finally abandoned in the 1700s, leaving four arches intact.
Remembering French class – let’s sing
🎵 Sur Le Pont d’Avignon – On y danse- Sur Le Pont d’Avignon – On y danse tours en rond 🎵
Avignon Trading Route
The Rhone river was a major trade route in medieval times, with tolls along the banks controlling the access.
From the Pont d’Avignon, we could view the wall surrounding Avignon, still intact today, giving access to the old town through at least 14 portals.
Shopping in Avignon
The area in and around the Hotel Kyriad had a pedestrian area of shops amongst old streets, buildings, and churches.
So finding the local bakery and patisserie for croissants is always a great experience.
Avignon at Night
The evening was spectacular in Avignon, with Christmas lights flooding the square.
Although bitterly cold, we walked back to the Palace of the Popes and Pont d’Avignon for some nighttime views.
Where to Eat Breakfast and Lunch in Avignon
Finding breakfast was always fun as we wandered streets away from the main square to find a good deal.
Rossini was a small cafe where three lovely French people with Italian and Spanish origins made us feel welcome.
We ordered Noisette cafe (coffee with a little milk) and a tasty sandwich before the discussion turned to rugby. Avignon has a strong rugby culture, and knowledge of the All Blacks (New Zealand), Sevens rugby and Rugby greats who are now playing in France, came up in our discussion.
We made Rossini our local for our 48 hours in Avignon.
Villeneuve Les Avignon
Villeneuve Les Avignon is situated across the Rhone river from Avignon and is known as the City of Cardinals.
The old town built between the Philippe Bell Tower and Fort Saint-Andre is imposing.
Old Town of Villeneuve Les Avignon
Our walk over the river from Avignon took about 20mins, stopping on one of the two bridges to take photos.
We made our way up passed the Philippe Bell Tower, built to control access to the Avignon Bridge. A little further and we were at the entrance of Park Colline des Mourgues finding not only an old chapel but views across to Fort Saint-Andre.
Villeneuve Les Avignon is a beautiful and quiet old town. We took a peek into the Gothic Notre Dame Collegiate Church and Cloister dating back to the 14th century on our way through narrow streets and shops before finding the road up to Fort Saint-Andre.
Fort Saint Andre is a 5-minute walk uphill from the old town dating back to 1292. Philippe Le Bel, King of France, commissioned the Fort to affirm the royal power in Avignon at the time, particularly towards the Popes.
Entering between the twin towers, the outer fortified walls once protected the Benedictine Abbey within and the small village.
We visited the staff at Rossini’s for our lunch of soup and sandwiches to warm ourselves. Saying our goodbyes, we collected our bags for our next destination. The TGV Avignon to Lyon.
To read more about our next adventure in Lyon, here is the link. Lyon Old Town, French Cuisine and History