Avignon is the capital of the French department of Vaucluse in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, and is on the banks of the Rhône river. The ancient city of Avignon sits by the Rhône River, surrounded by a defensive wall fortified with towers and turrets. Within these ancient ramparts are galleries, museums, churches and one of the largest Gothic palaces in the world. Avignon was one of the European Cities of Culture in 2000 and its historical centre has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Avignon is also known as the City of the Popes, Avignon is famous as the city to which the Popes fled when leaving the corruption of Rome in the 14th century. In 1309, Pope Clement V relocated the Catholic papacy here away from the corruption and dangerous political infighting of Rome. Between 1309 and 1377, during the Avignon Papacy, seven successive popes resided in Avignon and in 1348 Pope Clement VI bought the town from Joanna I of Naples. Papal control persisted until 1791 when during the French Revolution it became part of France.
Though its stint as the seat of papal power only lasted a few decades, it’s been left with an impressive legacy of ecclesiastical architecture, most notably the soaring, World Heritage–listed fortress-cum-palace known as the Palais des Papes. While the main attraction of Avignon is the papal palace towering over the town, there is plenty of history, art, and theater to appreciate in this prosperous city. Its famed indoor market is open year-round and is a sure way to experience the local food culture.
A city of great history, Avignon sprinkled with buildings and monuments, stroll along the winding streets, the prosperity of this papal city in and around the medieval stone buildings and vibrant green parks in some slick marble tile streets. Avignon is full of history and antiquity, The historic centre, which includes the Palais des Papes, the cathedral and the Pont d’Avignon, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 because of its architecture and importance during the 14th and 15th centuries.
The best things to do in Avignon are largely centred around the city’s rich heritage. A theatre festival is held annually in Avignon. Founded in 1947, the Avignon Festival comprises traditional theatrical events as well as other art forms such as dance, music, and cinema, making use of the town’s historical monuments. Avignon festival was founded by Jean Vilar. This cultural initiative brought, year after year, a major economic boost to the city and to the region of Provence.
Due to Avignon’s convenient transportation, it is often used as a gateway city for exploring the Provence. The tourists visiting Avignon usually take benefit of their presence to go to the smaller villages around, to discover the local food, local wines, touristic activities.
Avignon has a very large number of sites and buildings that are registered as historical monuments. 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 theatre district.
Surrounding the old section of Avignon, are a series of imposing 4.3km of ramparts punctuated by 39 towers and seven gates. These stone walls guard the Palais des Papes, a palace of impressive size, with 25+ rooms, chapels, a cemetery and gardens. The Palace was constructed at the height of the power of the Catholic clergy at that time. Within the walls of the city are the Cathedral and the Petit Palais. Outside the walls, is the beautiful Saint-Bénézet bridge, built in the 13th century over the Rhône River and was rebuilt in the 17th century.
Most of Avignon’s main attractions are found within its fortifications. Enter the city through one of the Medieval gateways and head for the Palais des Papes. This immense Gothic palace that was built to honor God, house the popes and fend off attackers. The Palace of Popes which was built then is the world’s largest Gothic building. This fortress is a city within a city, with a labyrinth of vaulted halls, echoing assembly rooms, small chapels and narrow staircases, illustrating the palace’s multiple functions as residence, place of worship, fortress and administrative centre. It was largely emptied over the centuries, and its vast stone rooms are filled with few old frescos.
After investigating its vast stone halls and rooms head next door to Avignon Cathedral. View religious artworks and the tombs of some of the popes who resided in Avignon. From here, take the stone steps or ramps that lead to the hilltop gardens of Rocher des Doms. The papal garden has an excellent viewpoint on its northern edge overlooking the river Rhône with the famous Pont Saint-Bénézet in the background. From there you can follow the pathway down the city walls and through the ramparts onto the bridge.
The fortress town of Avignon is easy to navigate on foot and most attractions are within close proximity to Palais des Papes. Explore Avignon’s warren of backstreets which lead to convents and richly decorated churches. Browse modern boutiques and stores that fill the city’s pedestrianized shopping district. Sample excellent regional food and wines at the scores of brasseries at the Place de l’Horloge, Avignon’s main square. Wander down to the river and walk the remaining arches of the Pont D’Avignon, an ancient stone bridge that stretches over the Rhône River.
UNESCO World Heritage
From its flamboyant past when the Capital of the Christian world, Avignon still has its overwhelming architectural heritage, much of which is part of UNESCO World Heritage: the Palace of the Popes, the Pont d’Avignon, the square in front of the Palace where you see the Baroque façade of the former Mint, the Petit Palais museum and the Cathedral des Doms, the ramparts from the Doms gardens to the Pont d’Avignon. Enter and explore this amazing open-air book of History, relive eras past and present that built, stone by stone, the city of Avignon, making it a land of exception.
Palais des Papes
The Palais des Papes is a historical palace located in Avignon, one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. Once a fortress and palace, the papal residence was a seat of Western Christianity during the 14th century. The Palace of the Popes in Avignon, which is the biggest Gothic palace in the world. That it was built in less than 70 years by the Popes, Six papal conclaves were held in the Palais. Since 1995, the Palais des Papes has been classified, along with the historic center of Avignon, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for its outstanding architecture and historical importance for the Papacy.
The studium, or private study of Clement VI, is commonly called the room of the stag, on account of the justly-celebrated 14th-century frescoes, depicting courtly hunting scenes, that decorate the walls and vaults. The Great Tinel was used primarily as a reception room. Covered with tapestries on starry blue background, there is actually nothing left of these decorations. Indeed, a fire destroyed the palace in the 14th century: many parts have been restored or rebuilt. During conclaves, it was in this room that the cardinals met to elect a new pope. Located on the second level of the Saint-Jean tower, the Saint-Martial chapel relates through painting the main parts of Saint Martial’s life.
The Palais des Papes regularly hosts art exhibitions. At one end of Palace of the Popes Square stands the Petit Palais museum, one of the leading European museums of medieval art. See its fabulous collection of paintings from the Middle Ages and the Italian Renaissance (over three hundred Italian primitives), that comes from the Campana collection. The Petit Palais museum also displays significant holdings from the Avignon School from the 13th to the 16th centuries (that belong to the Calvet museum) and medieval sculptures from the 12th to the 16th centuries, from Avignon and the surrounding area.
The ramparts, ranked as UNESCO World Heritage, encircle the entire old city. They are 4.3 km long, and were started in 1355 during the Papacy of Pope Innocent VI, to protect the city from the assaults by the roving bands of mercenaries. They were finished in 1370 under Pope Urban V. The walls are of great strength and are surmounted by machicolated battlements flanked at intervals by 39 massive towers and pierced by several gateways. The entrance of the Avignon Bridge provides access onto the ramparts, and to the Rocher des Doms Gardens. The views over the city and the Rhône River are breathtaking.
Basilica of Notre Dame des Doms
Close to the Palace of the Popes stands the Basilica of Notre Dame des Doms, crowned by a gilded lead statue of the Virgin Mary which seems to touch the sky. This church, built in the 1100’s, and reworked in the 15th and 17th centuries, stands majestically overlooking the Rhône valley from its position on the Rocher des Doms.
Pont d’Avignon, it was built in the 1100’s and once connected the two banks of the Rhône. Avignon is commemorated by the French song ‘On the bridge of Avignon’, which describes folk dancing. The bridge of the song is the Pont Saint-Bénézet over the Rhône, of which only four arches (out of the initial 22) now remain. A bridge across the Rhone was built between 1171 and 1185, with a length of some 900 m, but was destroyed during the siege of Avignon by Louis VIII of France in 1226. It was rebuilt but suffered frequent collapses during floods and had to be continually repaired. Several arches were already missing (and spanned by wooden sections) before the remainder was abandoned in 1669. Scene of legends, emblematic monument symbol of this area, today the Pont d’Avignon has only 4 of its original 22 arches.
Heritage associated with the Pope
In making Avignon their land of refuge, the Popes irrevocably marked the entire region with lasting influence. From Avignon to Roquemaure, a shared destiny. The presence of the popes forever fashioned this area. From the historic, cultural, architectural and artistic vantage points, the popes left lasting heritage. By making Avignon their place of residence for 70 years, the Popes wrought a change in destiny for the entire region.
Avignon has of course the deepest roots however outlying towns also have their pages of Papal history. Villeneuve-les-Avignon rapidly became a place of choice for the Papal court to live. Villeneuve-les-Avignon has no less than fifteen cardinals’ homes and gardens. In Le Pontet, the former cardinal’s palace Château de Fargues, also has deep roots. Sorgues had its very own Palace of the Popes. And on the banks of the Rhône, the wines produced in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and in Roquemaure continue to fulfil the destiny of this area that is so blessed by nature.
Villeneuve-lès-Avignon was the resort of the French cardinals during the sojourn of the popes at Avignon, in the 14th century. Crowning the hilltop of Mont Andaon, overlooking Villeneuve, Fort Saint-André, symbol of royal power, was built in the 1360’s. The fort was build by King Philip the Fair and John the Good, kings of France, who determined to assert their power with respect to the Popes in Avignon. The impressive fortress housed a permanent garrison, a court of law and a prison, scratched with graffiti from the prisoners it held in the 18th and 19th centuries. Soldiers occupied the site up until 1792. Today it is open to visitors, and from the fort you have magnificent views of Avignon and a breath-taking panorama taking in Mont Ventoux, the Alpilles and the Luberon.
La Chartreuse may well be one of the calmest, most peaceful places in the region. That IS not by chance. It was built under Pope Innocent VI for the original purpose of housing a small group of monks in the Carthusian Order. The Pope built a magnificent monastery and commissioned Matteo Giovannetti, painter of the frescoes at the Palace of the Popes, to decorate it, and the pope himself was buried there in 1362. Today most of La Chartreuse has been renovated. Its harmonious volumes, the beauty of the cloisters and the soft light all contribute to its pervasive atmosphere. The apse of the church has collapsed and light comes pouring through the broken roof. Today La Chartreuse is an artists’ residence and a cultural venue for the Festival d’Avignon.
Château de Farges
When the very first pope, Pope Clement V, arrived, he gave his nephew, Raymond Guilhem de Fargis, a gift of land in what is now Le Pontet, adjoining Avignon. Raymond Guilhem de Fargis, later to become a cardinal, built the monumental château which has undergone many changes, and many different owners, since. Shortly before the French Revolution, in 1763, Marquis de Cambis partly restored the château. In 1982 it was ranked as a Historical Monument and a vast rehabilitation programme was started. Since then, this superb castle is home to the School of Music, the School of Dance and Theatre (a branch of the Grand Avignon Regional Conservatory), exhibitions and a performing arts hall with 171 places.
The Wine of Châteauneuf-du-Pape
A divine nectar of international renown, Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine owes its origins to the Popes of Avignon. Precisely to John XXII, elected Pope in 1316, from the bourgeoisie of Cahors, the new pontiff established himself permanently in the Palace of the Popes but chose Châteauneuf to establish a secondary residence there. In his papal court, Cahors winegrowers to whom John XXIII requested the planting of the first papal vineyard. If the production was modest in the first years (the account books mention four then six barrels of wine per year), from 1325, the production of papal wine reached twelve barrels. In 1936, the AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape was born, whose bottles from prestigious estates adorn the tables of the greatest restaurants in the world.
Several museums are worth exploring, including the Musee Angladon showcasing Italian and Provencal paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition to works by Picasso, Degas and Cezanne, “Railway Carriages,” the only Van Gogh in Provence, can be seen here. The Musee Louis Vouland is a decorative arts museum that features furnishings, tapestries and a horde of porcelain from the 17th and 18th centuries, along with themed exhibitions.
Musée du Petit Palais
The Musée du Petit Palais is a museum and art gallery in Avignon, southern France. It opened in 1976 and has an exceptional collection of Renaissance paintings of the Avignon school as well as from Italy, 390 works by Italian and French primitive or early-Renaissance painters such as Sandro Botticelli (Madonna with Child, c. 1467) or Vittore Carpaccio.which reunites many “primitives” from the collection of Giampietro Campana.
600 sculptures including the effigy head from the tomb of Antipope Clement VII; the rest of the tomb was destroyed during the French Revolution. The Sculpture collection features Romanesque sculpted capitals from the churches of Avignon notably from the cloister of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame des Doms (12th c.), pieces of funerary monuments of the papal period (14th c.) like those of John XXII, Innocent VI, Urban V or the cardinals Philippe de Cabassole and Jean de La Grange (1388-–89), as well as sculptures of the school of Avignon (15th c.) with Antoine Le Moiturier or Jean de la Huerta.
Calvet Museum is the Fine Arts Museum for Avignon, with paintings, sculptures and works of art from the 15th to the 20th centuries, in a beautiful 18th century mansion. Together the building and the collection compose one of the most poetic history-imbued places in Avignon. There is a special section honouring the School of Avignon, with an overview of Avignon artistic creativity from the Renaissance to the French Revolution. Through its paintings, sculptures and works of art, viewers will grasp the splendour of this 17th and 18th century production, with works by Simon de Châlons, Nicolas Mignard, Reynaud Levieux and Pierre Mignard, as well as works from the 17th and early 18th century.
Moreover, the museum’s painting collection shows works extending from the 15th to the 20th century. Sculptures are also exhibited and include works by C. Claudel, Francesco Laurana, Jame Pardier etc. Donation Marcel Puech: furnishings, faiences, bronzes. The Egyptian collection covers three rooms. The Galerie Vernet: Dedicated to the illustrious dynasty of Avignon artists. From masterpieces to masterpieces, from H. Vernet in Vien, Peyron, Regnault, David, Vigée Le Brun, Chassériau, Géricault, Manet, Corot, Sisley, a new hook will open the chapter of a history of art between classicism, romanticism, realism and impressionism.
Museum Requien is a natural history museum in Avignon, France. Some of Jean Henri Fabre’s work is displayed here. The Muséum Requien was founded by Esprit Requien in 1840 as a cabinet of curiosities. The collections are then regularly supplemented by local researchers and scientists, in particular by Jean-Henri Fabre. The most visible activity is the museum itself, retracing the fauna and flora of Vaucluse since prehistoric times.
Explore the city lots of walks and circuits to discover the history and heritage in Vedène, Villeneuve and Avignon, explore the city in city-adventurer mode. Cobblestones laid on edge, niches on house fronts, Avignon and its narrow winding streets have lots to look at. From the legendary Rue des Teinturiers to medieval Rue Peyrolerie, history is there on every corner. Today, with its large student population and fashionable shops, Avignon is an intriguing blend of medieval history, youthful energy, and urban sophistication. Street performers entertain the international throngs who fill Avignon’s ubiquitous cafés and trendy boutiques.
The historical centre is surrounded by ramparts, and has built its urban organization around many small squares inside the city walls, each with its own history, reputation and specificity. Under the shimmering Provence sun, city squares are where people get together, the source of life style in Provence. Place Pie, in front of Les Halles marketplace, is full of sidewalk cafés, bars and brasseries. Place Pie is the square of Epicureans, where people meet up and celebrate. Place des Corps Saints also has its fair share of good restaurants. Stately plane trees provide shade, there is the magnificent Church of Les Célestins.
Place des Corps Saints is headquarters to actors and actresses during the festival, it’s food-lovers’ favourite with its great addresses. Place des Corps Saints is just a few streets away from Place Saint-Didier, once the silkworm market as an inscription in the stone wall of a city mansion still tells us. Place Saint Didier has a true neighbourhood feeling to it, with its sidewalk café the Grand Café Barretta, the vegetable shop, a butcher, lots of other shops, and the Church of Saint Didier.
In the main street, Rue de la République, discover the epicentre of Avignon intra-muros with the big square Place de l’Horloge. Here you can look closely and find all the symbols of Avignon, in the mosaic on the ground there is the city’s motto Inguibus et rostro, and in the tower (known as the Jacquemart) above the City Hall, there are the two automatons that strike the hours. A few steps beyond Place de l’Horloge is the square in front of the Palace of the Popes, the Place du Palais, not to be missed. A narrow street leads to the amazing discovery of this magnificent Italianate square which reveals the Palace, the basilica of Notre Dame des Doms and the Petit Palais.
In the popular neighbourhood around Rue de la Carreterie, there is the square Place des Carmes, a charming square that makes Avignon feel like a village. The square has a covered marketplace (Halle), thriving theatres, and lots of restaurants and cafés where it is a pleasure to watch city life. As you enter Avignon, you come upon one of the most bourgeois squares in Avignon, Place Crillon with its old Jeu de Paume building. City mansions line the square which stands opposite one of the oldest hotels in France, the beautiful Hôtel d’Europe which will soon be celebrating its 200th anniversary. It is quite chic to sit back in the sun and enjoy a glass of bubbly on Place Crillon.
In Avignon, the walls tell a story through the creativity of street artists and highlights from the Festival d’Avignon immortalized on 50 painted windows throughout town. Trompe l’œil windows frame timeless scenes from the Festival d’Avignon on buildings throughout Avignon, the perfect thread for a walk through the streets of the centre city. Painted by Dominique Durant and Marion Pochy, these windows, on high building façades, tell stories from the festival. You will see Gérard Philipe, Jean Vilar, Jeanne Moreau, Daniel Auteuil, Maria Casarès, Daniel Sorano and others. All seem to continuously be acting out the scenes which contributed to their fame.
Maurice Béjart, mime Marceau, and Bartabas and his equestrian theatre are also on these stopped-in-time wall paintings. Like tattoos on the skin of the city, images from the Prince of Hamburg, Scapin, Macbeth, Marianne, Lorenzaccio, Harpagon, Antigone, Hamlet and other famous plays are forever on display on the walls of this city of theatre. Some fifty windows have been painted … discover them during your city wanderings.
Come to the streets and squares in the towns and villages around Avignon to going off the beaten path of the historical monuments. In the streets of Villeneuve, find the strange statue of a lizard on the square Place Jean-Jaurès. Then, discover, on Rue des Récollets, the high-water mark that stands witness to the ravages of the impetuous Rhone before it was tamed by man. In the plains at the base of the Abbey, or in Rochefort du Gard, see the statues and ex-voto which are along the Way of the Cross and take you back to centuries past. And, in Roquemaure, the relics of one of the most famous saints, Saint Valentine, can be seen in the collegiate church in Roquemaure. A treasure which is celebrated every other year on Valentine’s Day weekend, with people in costume telling of the legend of the patron saint of lovers.
Avignon markets, celebrations and food and wine discoveries are popular and fun. Explore Côtes-du-Rhône wines and food pairings during frequent events. Cotes du Rhone wine, olive oil and locally grown fresh produce prevail here, and dishes are entirely seasonal. Be sure to check out the Les Halles indoor market where you can sample all the region has to offer, a great variety of foods, and you can have a delicious breakfast. Try the iconic sweet dish, Les Papalines d’Avignon, which consists of chocolate and oregano liqueur.
In Avignon the curtain rises on the stage of gourmet experiences too. In the villages, at Les Halles marketplace in Avignon, savour an area rich with authentic fresh products. On the Palace of the Popes Square, the embassy for Côtes-du-Rhône wines provides a warm welcome. Avignon is the capital of wine from the Rhône valley, and is the epicenter for divine wine, the beverage of the Popes. In and around Avignon, throughout the entire area, meet the Chefs who perpetuate the traditions of seasonal Provençal cuisine, discover their specialties and enjoy.
Creative energy, diverse talents, beautiful venues conducive to cultural exchanges, Avignon is a vibrant land of festivals all year long. A theatre festival is held annually in Avignon. Founded in 1947, the Avignon Festival comprises traditional theatrical events as well as other art forms such as dance, music, and cinema, making use of the town’s historical monuments. Every summer approximately 100,000 people attend the festival. There are really two festivals that take place: the more formal “Festival In”, which presents plays inside the Palace of the Popes and the more bohemian “Festival Off”, which is known for its presentation of largely undiscovered plays and street performances.
Avignon festival was founded by Jean Vilar. From the Festival d’Avignon founded in 1947 by Jean Vilar, to the exuberant OFF festival, and the lively events at Villeneuve en Scène, there is not a single area that goes without vibrant performing arts and enthusiastic applause. Much more than a festival, Avignon Jazz Festival is a launching pad, a springboard for young musicians. After the intensity of the month of theatre in July, Avignon offers a musical breather of the highest caliber. This cultural initiative brought, year after year, a major economic boost to the city and to the region of Provence.
With the approach of winter, every year, Avignon turns into the capital of contemporary dance with its iconic dance festival Les Hivernales: shows, classes, exhibitions and other events take place in and around Avignon. Much looked forward to, Les Hivernales draws dance professionals and dance lovers of all kinds to Avignon, to experience all the riches of contemporary dance.
The surrounding region is full of interesting sites, from the red ochre earth in the Luberon to the flawless white cap of Mont Ventoux, the iridescent blue of Camargue, discover a region that is a concentrate of beauty. There are three sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Arles is full of Roman and Romanesque monuments and worthy of a full days exploration. Orange just a short train ride to the north is home to one of the finest Roman theatres in Europe. Le Pont du Gard is about 30 km to the west it is probably the finest Roman aqueduct still in existence, and a great place for hiking and canoeing.
The Luberon national park is an area in Vaucluse, Provence, dominated by a small mountain range running East-West between the Durance and Calavon rivers. It is a favourite destination for French high society and British and American visitors because of the pleasant and picturesque towns and villages, comfortable way of life, agricultural wealth, historical and cultural associations, as well as hiking trails. There is one very narrow winding road running South-North from Lourmarin to Apt over the mountains with occasional views over the Provence countryside. Much of this is fairly unspoilt agricultural land with many vineyards contributing to the Cotes du Luberon appellation. Very popular with cyclists, hill walkers and rock climbers.
The Luberon is a Provençal painting where the palette holds intense saturated colours. Red, orange, yellow, mauve and brown. The pigments in the Provençal Colorado are warm and deep. In this part of Vaucluse, just a few kilometres from the town of Apt, the ochre industry shaped the landscapes imparting harmonious beauty. Cliffs, box canyons, wind-eroded earth pillars and hillsides all show the result of ochre mining in the 18th century. The ochre quarries were gradually abandoned over time, and today form part of a vast stretch of countryside where hiking paths take you through stunning beauty. Four kilometres of former quarries and breath-taking views await you amidst geology reminiscent of the greatest Westerns.
Mont Ventoux located some 20 km northeast of Carpentras, Vaucluse. At 1,909 m, it is the highest mountain in the region and has been nicknamed the “Beast of Provence”, the “Giant of Provence”, or “The Bald Mountain”. It has gained fame through its inclusion in the Tour de France cycling race. The top of the mountain is bare limestone without vegetation or trees, which makes the mountain’s barren peak appear from a distance to be snow-capped all year round. Its isolated position overlooking the valley of the Rhône ensures that it dominates the entire region and can be seen from a long distance away on a clear day. In all seasons, the Giant of Provence wields strong attraction on all. Cyclists, nature-lovers, hikers, snow-shoeing.
The small village Sault, once fortified with strong walls, stands atop a rocky spur overlooking the Sault valley. Sault is famous the world over for its magnificent lavender crop. In June and July, the peak of the flowering season, the Sault highland shimmers with every shade of blue and mauve, giving visitors unrivalled views of beautiful countryside. It is the land of blue gold for here we grow, harvest and distill the precious lavender flowers, to extract the essential oil that is so delicate and so full of healthful properties. Located on the north slope of the famous Mont Ventoux, the resort of Mont Serein is The resort of Provence to discover in this period of great cold. Ideal to spend a day, a weekend with family or friends, let yourself be tempted by the many winter sports offered by the resort: skiing, sledding, snowshoeing.
The lacy peaks of the Dentelles de Montmirail stand proud against the clear blue sky. Erosion has fashioned a craggy steep area that is beloved to hikers and rock-climbers. Chiselled peaks stretch out like a ribbon of lace, which explains the Latin name: ‘Mons mirabilis’, for admirable mountain. At the base of the Dentelles de Montmirail are prestigious vineyards producing Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Beaumes-de-Venise and other AOC wines. Picturesque villages await you, and the countryside offers lots of outdoor activities such as rock-climbing, hiking, mountain-biking, and of course visiting the villages, the wine estates, tasting the wines and other wine-tourism events.
In the Sorgues area there is lots to do and see, outdoor activities, water sports, history, architecture and Provençal lifestyle. L’Isle sur la Sorgue is the pearl of the Sorgues area, it must be seen. The Sorgue river flows through town and sets the pace, the river is divided into multiple channels which cause this city to be a group of islands. The waters of the Sorgue permitted the development of wheat mills and silk and madder over the centuries, the water wheels testify to past trades in L’Isle sur la Sorgue, for the city was once the thriving centre of wool and silk textiles.
Known as the Venice of the Comtat, L’Isle sur la Sorgue has been the favourite destination of antiques-lovers and art lovers for over 80 years. It abounds with cafés and great little restaurants along the banks of the Sorgue river. Relax and sit back, see the sparkling clean waters of the Sorgue, enjoy time – that is all part of the Isle sur la Sorgue experience. In an atmosphere punctuated by rivers across the city, many antique dealers, antique dealers, galleries and art museums place Isle sur la Sorgue at the forefront of the French platforms of the art and craft trade. Still today, the great Brun de Vian Tiran manufacture pursues its ancestral weaving expertise. L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is also home to countless other treasures, for it is a thriving antiques and collectibles’ centre, full of shops and galleries proposing unusual finds.
Vaucluse is also home to the village of Fontaine de Vaucluse, a very special place. Fontaine de Vaucluse, for starters, gave County Vaucluse its name, which comes from ‘Vallis Clausa’, the closed valley, which became Vaucluse. A mysterious spring surges from deep beneath the ground in this closed valley. It is the origin of the Sorgue river which irrigates a large swath of the county, and the start of the spring still today, has not been found. The spring has a total average flow of 630 million m3 per year, and is the biggest in all of Europe and one of the biggest in the world in terms of flow rate. Lots of spelunking here, water sports and hiking. Explore the picturesque village itself, with its peaceful atmosphere, where many great artists and writers have lived and worked.
The Camargue delta
The Rhône river flows into the Camargue delta forming the mouth of the Rhône on the shores of the Mediterranean. A love story woven between the two, over centuries of time. Natural history, where flora and fauna are the breath-taking actors, and stand in mute testimony to the vestiges of the Roman presence in this timeless land. Camargue is a delta where river and sea meet… La Camargue means 100,000 hectares of land and 75 kilometers of sea front with all the riches that thrive there. Pink flamingos, Camargue horses, Camargue bulls are the most emblematic examples of the fauna. Channels, wetlands, rice paddies reflect ancestral traditions that man continues to pursue and transmit to the next generation. Land of migration for countless birds, Camargue is a strategic observation post for ornithologists. Take the time to discover this unique ecosystem. Visit the Camargue Regional Natural Park, open to all.
With amazing architecture and heritage, Arles doubly ranked as UNESCO World Heritage, Arles holds beautiful buildings in its historical centre, buildings that pay tribute to the presence and the architectural mastery of the Romans. Arles has a Roman amphitheatre that seats 12,000 people. Also known as the ‘arènes’, or arena, the Arles amphitheatre today is the venue for many bullfights and other types of events and performances. The Roman theatre is still a theatre, where you can see performances of many kinds, during every season. Yet Arles is also a thriving forward-looking modern city, home to the internationally renowned Photo festival known as the ‘Rencontres de la photographie’, the Festival des Suds in Arles, the Escales du Cargo and others.
A visit to Nîmes takes you through the History of the Roman era and up to the present time through the amazing architectural fabric of the city. Nîmes’ Roman heritage from the era of Emperor Augustus includes the amphitheatre (Arènes) and the Maison Carré. In the 2nd century, Nîmes, with its ideal location on the Via Domitia connecting Rome to Spain, was at its peak, with a population of nearly 25,000. Water flowed through the city thanks to the construction of the Pont du Gard. The Roman city was extended and textile industry got its start and was to last for centuries. Nîmes is also a resolutely modern city, with contemporary projects such as its magnificent modern museum on Roman history, the La Paloma performing arts centre. Its 21st century contemporary architecture has been designed by great names in modern architecture. Another facet of Nîmes to discover.
A true masterpiece of creative human genius, the Pont du Gard today is also admired as a major technological feat. Nothing but superlatives to describe this work. The highest Roman aqueduct in the world, 49 metres high and 3 rows of superimposed arches. It is remarkable also due to its amazing condition. A registered site, the aqueduct got a new lease on life in the early 2000’s, with the addition of a museum telling its story. The Pont du Gard is also the venue for concerts, and there are spaces designed for relaxation, and discovery trails. The beautiful natural setting is preserved, and there is a restaurant to enjoy local gastronomy while right next to the Pont.