In my AP European History class, I first learned about Avignon, France, a town in southern France that once served as the papal residence. But I closed my history book, passed the AP exam (with a 4!) and moved on with my life. But last year, I moved to Marseille and have been itching to explore more of France. With an impressive train system, France is easily traveled by rail, and I was curious about this town that I had learned about in my history book 7 years ago. So I took the 1-hour train from Marseille to Avignon and explored all this charming town of about 100,000 inhabitants had to offer. From its historical significance to its picturesque streets, here’s what to do on a day trip to Avignon, France.
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Palais des Papes
If you’re taking a day trip to Avignon, it would be a shame if you didn’t include a visit to the Palais des Papes as it’s this town’s claim to fame. It’s the largest Gothic cathedral in Europe and dates back to the 14th century, according to its website. We enjoyed walking through the massive halls and using the museum’s Histopads, or tablets with VR capabilities. After you buy your museum ticket, they hand you this tablet with headphones. And as you walk through the different rooms, you can use the tablet to scan the QR codes, which transform the screen to show you what the room would’ve looked like hundreds of years ago. I’ve been to many museums, but this is truly one of the coolest interactive features I’ve seen to date.
We’d bookmarked a number of places, but I was famished after our visit to the Palais des Papes and could not wait any longer. Nearby, we found Chez Lisette, a restaurant in a charming cobblestone square under a canopy of trees. We both ordered entrecôtes and enjoyed the food, ambience and service. And the prices were not ridiculous either.
If you’re not in the know, ice cream is one of the main food groups, and I am the expert of all things ice cream. My friend Mallory, who lived in Avignon for a year, recommended La Princière, and naturally, it was at the top of my itinerary because ice cream, y’all. This spot, too, is located in a darling, shaded square and is the perfect place to unwind. When we arrived to La Princière, I noticed two magical words: sans gluten. I have a gluten intolerance that is rather penible to manage while living abroad (but not impossible). But at La Princière, they serve up gluten-free waffles, and I ordered one covered in chocolate syrup, chantilly and a scoop of ice cream. They have a full dessert menu to suit your fancy, and you absolutely must stop here.
Le Nid and Café Tulipe
I first read about Le Nid, a concept store that’s a store-meets-restaurant/café-meets-yoga studio, in Ichtus Magazine. I enjoyed perusing the different paper goods, artwork and trinkets in the shop and bought a postcard. I could’ve spent a good hour in the store just browsing. Connected to le Nid, Café Tulipe serves up a wide range of coffees and a chic ambience. We sipped on an iced latte and V60 pour-over. The space is modern and bright and definitely worth a visit.
One of my favorite things to do in France is flâner, or to wander. I love getting lost in idyllic cobblestone streets, and Avignon has plenty of spots to do exactly that. Do not miss the sunflower canopy on Rue du Vieux Sextier. We kept saying to ourselves during our day trip to Avignon, “It’s just so cute!” Because there are so many photogenic spots nestled throughout the town.
Ask any French person; they know le Pont d’Avignon, or the Avignon bridge, because it’s a children’s song. We sang the song to complete our experience: On y danse on y danse sur le pont d’Avignon. The goofy thing about this bridge is that it doesn’t make it across the river. This UNESCO World Heritage site was first built in the 1100s but was battered by many floods. You need to pay to access the bridge, but you can get a discounted price if you buy your Palais des Papes and Pont d’Avignon ticket at the same time.
Île de la Barthelasse
We finished off our day trip to Avignon by walking to l’Île de la Barthelasse to sit on the grass, relax and enjoy the river. It’s a great place for a picnic or apéro because of its amazing views of Avignon and the Rhône River.
I’m glad I didn’t leave Avignon in my AP European History book because this darling town has not only historical significance but also a halcyon charm. From the Palais des Papes to all the amazing things we ate and drank, taking a day trip to Avignon is worth the trek. What else do you like doing in Avignon? Tell me in the comments.