View over the Rhône River to North-East with the Pont Saint-Bénezet
Executive summary by Darmansjah
Avignon is a French commune in southeastern France in the départment of the Vaucluse bordered by the left bank of the Rhône river. Of the 94,787 inhabitants of the city (as of 1 January 2010), about 12,000 live in the ancient town centre surrounded by its medieval ramparts.
Often referred to as the "City of Popes" because of the presence of popes and antipopes from 1309 to 1423 during the Catholic schism, it is currently the largest city and capital of the département of Vaucluse. This is one of the few French cities to have preserved its ramparts. In addition, its historic centre, the palace of the popes, Rocher des Doms, and the bridge of Avignon are well-preserved. It was classified a World Heritage Site by UNESCO under the criteria I, II and IV.
As a showcase of arts and culture, the fame of its annual theatre festival, known as the Festival d'Avignon, has far exceeded the French borders.
Avignon is situated on the left bank of the Rhône river, a few kilometres above its confluence with the Durance, about 580 km (360.4 mi) south-east of Paris, 229 km (142.3 mi) south of Lyon and 85 km (52.8 mi) north-north-west of Marseille. Its coordinates are 43°57′N 4°50′E. Avignon occupies a large oval-shaped area, not fully populated and covered to a large extent by parks and gardens.
Avignon has a humid subtropical climate Cfa in the Köppen climate classification, with moderate rainfall year-round. The city is often subject to windy weather; the strongest wind is the mistral. The popular proverb is, however, somewhat exaggerated, Avenie ventosa, sine vento venenosa, cum vento fastidiosa (windy Avignon, pest-ridden when there is no wind, wind-pestered when there.
The Rue de la Republique, the city's main central boulevard
In the part of the city within the walls, the buildings are old but in most areas they have been restored or reconstructed (such as the post office and the Lycée Frédéric Mistral). The buildings along the main street, Rue de la République, date from the Second Empire (1852–70) with Haussmann façades and amenities around Place de l'Horloge (the central square), the neoclassical city hall, and the theater district. In 1960, Avignon was the subject of considerable debate during the creation of conservation areas. The then mayor of the district proposing a renovation of the district known as the Quartier de la Balance, that incurred the demolition of about two-thirds of the area, keeping only the listed buildings. The solution was adopted as a compromise, with a part of the neighborhood near the Palace Square actually enjoying a true restoration
Statues gaze over Place de l'Horloge in centre-ville
A few of the very artistic Avignon building façade paintings in centre-ville
Notre Dame des Doms, the cathedral, is a Romanesque building, mainly built during the 12th century, the most prominent feature of the cathedral is the gilded statue of the Virgin which surmounts the western tower. The mausoleum of Pope John XXII is one of the most beautiful works within the cathederal, it is a noteworthy example of 14th-century Gothic carving.
Palais des Papes ("Papal Palace"), almost dwarfs the cathedral. The palace is an impressive monument and sits within a square of the same name. The palace was begun in 1316 by John XXII and continued by succeeding popes through the 14th century, until 1370 when it was finished.
Minor churches of the town include, among the others, St Pierre, which has a graceful façade and richly carved doors, St Didier and St Agricol, all three of which were built in the Gothic architectural style.
Civic buildings are represented most notably by the Hôtel de Ville (city hall), a modern building with a belfry of the 14th century, and the old Hôtel des Monnaies, the papal mint which was built in 1610 and became a music-school.
Ramparts, built by the popes in the 14th century, still encircle Avignon and they are one of the finest examples of medieval fortification in existence. The walls of great strength are surmounted by machicolated sattlements, flanked at intervals by thirty-nine massive towers and pierced by several gateways, three of which date from the fourteenth century. The walls were restored under the direction of Eugène Viollet-le-Duc
Bridges include the little bridge which leads over the river to Villeneuve-les-Avignon, and a little higher up, a picturesque ruined bridge of the 12th century, the Pont Saint-Bénézet, projects into the river.
Pont d'Avignon (Pont St-Bénézet, see below) Only four of the eighteen piles are left; on one of them stands the small Romanesque chapel of Saint-Bénézet. But the bridge is best known for the famous French song Sur le pont d'Avignon.
The Calvet Museum, so named after Esprit Calvet, a physician who in 1810 left his collections to the town, has a strong collection of paintings, metalwork and other collections. The library has over 140,000 volumes.
The town has a statue of Jean Althen, who migrated from Persia and in 1765 introduced the culture of the madder plant, which long formed the staple — and is still an important tool — of the local cloth trade in the area.
The Musée du Petit Palais (opened 1976) at the end of the square overlooked by the Palais des Papes, has an exceptional collection of Renaissance paintings of the Avignon school as well as from Italy, which reunites many "primitives" from the collection of Giampietro Campana.
Collection Lambert, housing contemporary art exhibitions
Musée Angladon, which exhibits the paintings of a private collector who created the museum
Musée Lapidaire, with the archeological and medieval sculpture collections of the Fondation Calvet, in the old chapel of the Jesuit College.
Palais du Roure
Les Halles is a large indoor market that offers fresh produce, meats, and fish along with a variety of other goods.
Place Pie is a small square near Place de l'Horloge where you can partake in an afternoon coffee on the outdoor terraces or enjoy a night on the town later in the evening as the square fills with young people.
This luxury hotel, dating back to 1309, is located in Avignon city centre. It offers 18th-century Enlightenment-style guest rooms with views through the antique windows overlooking the Palais des Papes.
Each of the soundproofed guest rooms at La Mirande hotel are decorated with a different wall tapestry, have oak wood parquet flooring and silk lined curtains. All rooms have a private marble finish bathroom and some offer a view of the Palais des Papes.
In the morning, there is a choice of an American or a continental breakfast served either in the elegant hotel restaurant or in the privacy of the guest room. Guests at La Mirande can enjoy gourmet cuisine or relax with a drink in the hotel bar in the evening.
With private parking on site and a valet parking service available, La Mirande is 65.6 km from Marseille Provence Airport. There is a shuttle service available, and free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel. Calvet Museum is just 300 metres away, and guests can enjoy cooking lessons at La Mirande.