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Avignon, is a commune in south-eastern France in the department of Vaucluse on the left bank of the Rhône river. Of the 90,194 inhabitants of the city (as of 2011), about 12,000 live in the ancient town centre enclosed by its medieval ramparts.
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. The town is now the capital of the Vaucluse department and one of the few French cities to have preserved its ramparts.
The historic centre, which includes the Palais des Papes, the cathedral, and the Pont d'Avignon, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. The medieval monuments and the annual Festival d'Avignon have helped to make the town a major centre for tourism.
The commune has been awarded one flower by the National Council of Towns and Villages in Bloom in the Competition of cities and villages in Bloom.
|TIME ZONE :||• Time zone CET (GMT +1) (UTC+1)|
• Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
|AREA :||64.78 km2 (25.01 sq mi)|
|ELEVATION :|| 10–122 m (33–400 ft)|
(avg. 23 m or 75 ft)
|COORDINATES :||43°57′N 4°49′E|
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Four million visitors come annually to visit the city and the region and also for its festival. In 2011 the most popular tourist attraction was the Palais des Papes with 572,972 paying visitors. The annual Festival d'Avignon is the most important cultural event in the city. The official festival attracted 135,800 people in 2012.
River tourism began in 1994 with three river boat-hotels. In 2011 there is a fleet of 21 river boat-hotelsbuildings, including six sight-seeing boats which are anchored on the quay along the Oulle walkways. Attendance during the 2000s was increased with nearly 50,000 tourists coming mostly from Northern Europe and North America. In addition a free shuttle boat connects Avignon to the Île de la Barthelasse and, since 1987, a harbor master has managed all river traffic.
Avignon has a very large number of sites and buildings (173) 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.
Avignon has been continuously inhabited since the stone age, when inhabitations were built in caves in the “Rocher des Doms”, a massive outcropping of rock rising over the banks of the Rhône. Today, a public park with benches, views over the surrounding countryside, a café and playground is on top of the Rocher.
The Romans had a presence in Avignon, though the walls they built lie buried somewhere under the modern streets. Vestiges of the forum can still be seen, lying unassumingly near the Rue Racine and the Rue Saint-Étienne, to the west of the city.
Then, in medieval times, the town grew to an important center of communication and trade. The stone bridge spanning the Rhone was one of only three between the Mediterranean and Lyon. It was undoubtedly for its strategic location and ease of travel that it was chosen by the papacy as home within the then kingdom of Provence. The presence of the papacy made Avignon into a city of great political and economic activity. The old city wall, now visible only as a street that circles the very center of the town (changing names 5 times in the process!) was much too small and a larger wall, still visible today, was necessary to protect its bulging population. Wealthy Cardinals built extravagant palaces known as livrées both within Avignon and across the river, in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.
The city teemed with activity and building as architects, builders, artists flocked to the town. At that time, within the city walls there were over 100 churches and chapels - many of which have been transformed since then into everything from shops to a movie theater! The wealth and activity generated by the presence of the papacy spilled out into the region, so that even small villages nearby boast a rich architectural past.
Avignon has a humid subtropical climate, with semi mild winters and very warm summers, with moderate rainfall year-round. July and August are the hottest months with average daily maximum temperatures of around 28 C, and January and February the coldest with average daily maximum temperatures of around 9 C. The driest month is July when the average monthly rainfall is 35 millimetres, which is a little too wet for the climate to be classified as Mediterranean (Köppen Csa). The city is often subject to windy weather; the strongest wind is the mistral. A medieval Latin proverb is somewhat exaggerated: Avenie ventosa, sine vento venenosa, cum vento fastidiosa (Windy Avignon, pest-ridden when there is no wind, wind-pestered when there is).
|Average high °C (°F)||9.9|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||5.8|
|Average low °C (°F)||1.6|
Avignon is situated on the left bank of the Rhône river, a few kilometres above its confluence with the Durance, about 580 km (360 mi) south-east of Paris, 229 km (142 mi) south of Lyonand 85 km (53 mi) north-north-west of Marseille. On the west it shares a border with the department of Gard and the communes of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon and Les Angles and to the south it borders the department of Bouches-du-Rhône and the communes of Barbentane,Rognonas, Châteaurenard, and Noves.
The city is located in the vicinity of Orange (north), Nîmes, Montpellier (south-west), Arles (to the south), Salon-de-Provence, and Marseille (south-east). Directly contiguous to the east and north are the communes of Caumont-sur-Durance, Morières-lès-Avignon, Le Pontet, and Sorgues.
Avignon is the seat of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Vaucluse which manages the Avignon - Caumont Airport and the Avignon-Le Pontet Docks.
Avignon has 7,000 businesses, 1,550 associations, 1,764 shops, and 1,305 service providers. The urban area has one of the largest catchment areas in Europe with more than 300,000 square metres of retail space and 469 m2 per thousand population against 270 on average in France. The commercial area of Avignon Nord is one of the largest in Europe.
The tertiary sector is the most dynamic in the department by far on the basis of the significant production of early fruit and vegetables in Vaucluse, The MIN (Market of National Importance) has become the pivotal hub of commercial activity in the department, taking precedence over other local markets (including that of Carpentras). In the 1980s and 1990s the development of trade between the North and South of Europe has strengthened the position of Avignon as a logistics hub and promoted the creation of transport and storage businesses for clothing and food.
A Sensitive urban zone was created for companies wanting to relocate with exemptions from tax and social issues. It is located south of Avignon between the city walls and the Durance located in the districts of Croix Rouge, Monclar, Saint-Chamand, and La Rocade.
Avignon is the prefecture (capital) of Vaucluse department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azurregion. It forms the core of the Grand Avignon metropolitan area (communauté d'agglomération), which comprises 15 communes on both sides of the river:
- Les Angles, Pujaut, Rochefort-du-Gard, Sauveterre, Saze and Villeneuve-lès-Avignon in the Gard département;
- Avignon, Caumont-sur-Durance, Entraigues-sur-la-Sorgue, Jonquerettes, Morières-lès-Avignon, Le Pontet, Saint-Saturnin-lès-Avignon, Vedène and Velleron in the Vauclusedépartement.
Prices in Avignon
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||€1.10|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||€5.00|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||€29.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||€44.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||€|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||€7.50|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||€4.00|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||€4.00|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||€|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||€|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||€|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||€7.00|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||€|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||€|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M)||1||€|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1||€|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||€1.35|
61 € per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- meals in cheap restaurant
- public transport
- cheap hotel
231 € per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- mid-range meals and drinks
Transportation - Get In
- Gare d'Avignon Centre (Avignon central station), Boulevard Saint-Roch. Local and regional trains call at the central station, just outside the walls on the southern edge of the old town.
- Gare d'Avignon TGV (Avignon TGV Station), Avenue de la Gare, 84000 Avignon(about 2 km out of town; a regular shuttle train to the Avignon central station). Avignon lies on the TGV line from Paris (2.5h) to Marseille. It is also served by numerous local and regional services. Eurostar operates several services a week from London St. Pancras International, with a journey time of around 6 hours.
Avignon is connected to most other European cities with Eurolines. For regional travelers, following your common source, you can take: the Vaucluse département cars circulating in the appelation "TransVaucluse Network"; departmental cars Bouches-du-Rhône, whose schedules are available on Lepilote; departmental cars du Gard, working under the name of "Edgar". All lines to the terminal bus station Avignon, itself located near the train station and the walls surrounding the city center.
From Paris or Lyon, you can reach Avignon by the Autoroute du Soleil and take the Avignon-Nord exit and follow the N107 then the D225 towards AVIGNON Centre. This urban road leads straight to the famous Avignon bridge just before where you have a large pay car park (car park the Palais des Papes), which leads directly onto the Place du Palais des Papes in the heart of the city.
Other parking solutions, the municipality has set up 2 ' relay ' parking + free shuttle " ' , with one bus every 10 minutes from 10:00 to 22:00. The first "Parking Italians" , accessible the D225 road which runs. Circuit the shuttle drops users directly in the intramural centre , near the Town Hall Square ; the second is located on the Ile de la Barthelasse ( head Villeneuve lès Avignon and follow the signs). The shuttle drops users to Gate Oulle , about 200m from the bridge of Avignon (Saint Bénézet bridge).
From Montpellier or Nîmes, exit on the A9 (exit Roquemaure, the first after the junction with the A7), then follow the direction Avignon.
Transportation - Get Around
The old city centre is not very big and can be easily explored on foot. An automatic bike sharing scheme called Vélopop' allows you to ride along [www]. Smartcard needed.
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- Flea Market, Place des Carmes. Every Sunday morning. browse the tables looking for your hidden treasure.
- Food Market, Les Halles d'Avignon, place Pie. Every morning except Monday.Local specialties like olive oil, tapenade, local wines, cheeses, and pastries can be found at the market along with fresh local produce. Cooking classes are available on Saturday mornings.
- Pure Lavande, 61, rue grande Fusterie, . This boutique specializes in lavender and lavender products.
- D'Ici et d'Ailleurs, 4, rue Galante,. "fresh products on a sunny terrace."
- Fou de Fafa, 17 Rue Des Trois Faucons, , e-mail:[email protected]. dinner from 6.30pm. quality French food with an international twist.
- Restaurant l'Orangerie, 3 Place Jerusalem (A few minutes walk from the tourist-centre Place de l'Horloge), . This is a small restaurant and the style is Provençal/Corsican. In Summer it has tables on the Square, the rest of the year it has four tables and bar on the ground floor and a few more upstairs.
- Terre de Saveurs, 1 Rue Saint-Michel (Just south of Places des Corps Saints), . Mixed vegetarian and meat menu using fresh local ingredients to produce food highlighting Mediterranean flavours. Main dishes with meat, €14.50, without €13.50. Starters at €8.50 and desserts €6.50. Sit outside on the terrace, or inside in the dining room. They also sell locally made jams and tapenades.
- L'Epicerie, 10, Place Saint Pierre (tucked in a nice little square just south of the Palais des Papes), . Try the Assiette Epicière for a plate full of provençal specialities such as tapenade, ratatouille, with a salad and some ham. Count around €25 for lunch, more with wine.
- Restaurant Christian Etienne, 10 Rue de Mons, . A well known Provence chef, his restaurant is right next to the Palais des Papes. An excellent vegetarian menu is available.
Sights & Landmarks
- Papal Palace (Palais des Papes), Place du palais des papes. This is the palace where the Popes of Avignon ruled, during a period when the Papacy was divided, with a Pope in Rome and another in Avignon. Most of the artwork inside (statues, frescoes) was destroyed during the French Revolution, but the impressive building still stands, and little bits of artwork, such as those that were too high to be convenient to ruin, remain.
- Le Pont Saint-Bénezet (Le Pont d'Avignon). It is a ruined bridge not far from the Palais des Papes. The bridge was built in the Middle Ages — before the arrival of the Papacy — perhaps partly to allow the local bishop to cross the river to Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, where the church authorities had installed themselves because of Avignon's then-infamous dirt and lawlessness.
The legend of the bridge's building is that a local shepherd, Benezet (a dialect form of Benedict) was inspired by angels to build a bridge. When his appeals to the town authorities proved fruitless, he picked up a vast block of stone and hurled it into the river, to be the bridge's foundation stone. Convinced by this demonstration of divine will, the bridge was swiftly built. The poor shepherd boy was canonised, and his chapel remains on the surviving portion of the bridge.
If the bridge was divinely inspired, the Deity must have quickly changed his mind, because before long the bridge became unsafe and, following numerous floods, mostly derelict.
Originally, the bridge had 22 arches, reaching across to the tower of Philippe le Bel via the mid-stream île de la Barthelasse. Only 4 of the 22 arches now remain. A multilingual audio tour of the bridge explains some of the local history.
A well-known song Sur Le Pont D'Avignon (on the bridge at Avignon) refers to the bridge. The bridge itself is far too narrow for dancing or festivals - the original text of the song was "Sous (under) le pont d'Avignon", referring to the festivals and entertainments staged on the île de la Barthelasse. The current version was popularised by a 19th-century operetta, whose librettist clearly assumed that 'sous le pont d'Avignon' would have meant in the river.
Other popular tourist destinations include: the Place du Palais, just next to the Place de L'horloge, though someone may find these places shockingly expensive, and overcrowded in season. Within a short distance in just about any direction are some smaller squares frequented by the locals, and much lower prices. Like Place Pie, with its covered market (open 6AM to 1PM everyday) which sells fresh produce, cheeses, wines, and produits du pays.
Museums & Galleries
Avignon has its share of museums, ranging from Modern Art Museums to museums housing artifacts from the Roman and pre-Roman days.
Festivals and events
- Theatre Festival. Avignon is famous the world over for its annual theatre festival. For three or four weeks in July the city is virtually swollen with street performers, actors, musicians, and of course the ubiquitous tourists. The festival is an excuse to turn any room with enough seating into a 'salle de spectacle' and the city is host to a wide variety of entertainment. The gem of this festival are the performances which take place inside the Pope's Palace itself. Tickets are expensive, but this is considered by many French and European thespians to be a crowning achievement of a career. The vast majority of performances are, of course, in French but a number of foreign companies perform in (eg) English. Even without attending any events, the atmosphere and street theatre give the city a marvellous feeling.
- The International Congress Center. Was created in 1976 within the outstanding premises of the Palace of the Popes and hosts many events throughout the entire year.
- esclavebar (gay club), 10 rue du Limas (near place Crillon), . 11PM-5AM. The best gay and straight friendly club in town, open 7/7, full every night with shows, house and cruising area. Entrance is free of charge all year except July (5€ including a drink) alcohol:8€ soft drinks:5€ beers:7€ frequented in summer by most of theatre festival artists and celebrities. The place is small but on two floors with a smoking area inside. Second floor there is a backroom, first floor a small bar (mostly gay male) with videos. Ground floor dj's, main bar, and a small dance floor. Most people arrive after bars closing hour (1:30AM) so come here later, it's a must! Very friendly staff (1st floor bartender speaks good English)
- Le Vin Devant Soi (wine shop), 4 rue Collège du Roure (just off of Rue de la République, south of the Place de l'Horlorge), . Until 7PM or 8PM. This wine shop has a permanent tasting machine set up with 32 wines. You purchase tasting credit for however much you like, they give you a card that you can put in the tasting machine to select the wine you want to taste. Tastes come in three different sizes, with different prices for different wines. The staff is very friendly, and there is a nice atmosphere.