Avignon city guide: what to see plus the best bars, restaurants and hotels

May 3, 2015

Eurostar’s new direct service to the south of France has cut the journey time from London to Avignon to under six hours. The historic capital of Provence may be most famous for a song and a broken-down bridge, but its up-to-the-minute performing arts festival, great food and places to stay make it worth the train ride

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Avignon, on the leafy banks of the Rhône, is probably best-known these days for the children’s song – Sur le pont d’Avignon and all that. But for several decades in the 14th century it was the capital of Christendom, after Pope Clement V moved his court here to avoid the chaos in Rome. The legacy of that papal schism can be seen today in the city’s Unesco-protected architecture, including the vast Palais des Papes. And nearby Châteauneuf-du-Pape, site of a now-ruined castle built by a later pope, still produces acclaimed red wines.

The city’s intact ramparts and pedestrianised centre lend Avignon a small-town, medieval feel. Yet each summer, the city goes totally 21st century, as thousands of visitors descend for a contemporary performing arts extravaganza, the Festival d’Avignon (from 4-25 July this year). And the new Eurostar route will bring all of these delights within six hours’ journey from London.

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