In 2019, the Obamas enjoyed a week’s vacation in Avignon. In addition to following in their footsteps, there are so many reasons to visit this beautiful, historic city and its charming surroundings.
Avignon became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995, which is no surprise given its rich history. The site of the city has been occupied since the Neolithic period and its name later appears in Greek and Roman records. Between 1309 and 1377, Avignon famously became the seat of the papacy. A total of seven popes reigned in Avignon, leaving the stunning Palais des Papes (the Popes’ Palace) as a legacy of their influence. The Popes’ Palace is one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe, a true historical and architectural landmark, and well worth a visit.
Another key site in Avignon is the famous Avignon bridge – le Pont d’Avignon. The construction of the bridge started in 1177 and was completed only eight years later. Before the bridge was built, people had to cross the river by boat, and the crossing could be quite dangerous. In the Middle Ages, it became part of one of the most important pilgrimage routes between Italy and Spain and one of the only standing bridges to cross the Rhône river. In 1226, the King of France launched a crusade against the Cathars (considered to be heretics in the South of France), following the siege of the city, three quarters of the bridge was destroyed. The people of Avignon later rebuilt the bridge. In the 17th Century, the cost of maintaining the bridge became too high and following strong flooding, several arches collapsed, leaving the part bridge that we see today.
Avignon is also the capital of the wines of the Côtes du Rhône. It is likely that vines have been cultivated in the Southern Rhône since the Greek and Roman eras, and the wine trade intensified when the papal seat moved to Avignon. Apparently, the Pope used to have his own fortified tower where he kept his most precious belongings, and the tower included his bedchamber, the safe as well as the wine cellar. As you can see, Avignon is very serious about its wines. Recent DNA testing has also revealed that the grape variety Syrah was born in the Rhône Valley, something the region and its people are really proud of. Avignon is a lively place with a wide range of wine bars and authentic local restaurants serving delicious regional dishes, showcasing fresh, local produce, including the extensive range of great wines produced in the Côtes du Rhône appellations.
If the above is not enough to convince you to visit Avignon, the tourism board also assured me that in Avignon, there are 360 days of Provençal sunshine each year.
Fancy a trip to Avignon? Don’t hesitate to contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org to start planning your sunny holiday to Avignon and the Southern Rhône vineyards. Please also feel free to browse our extensive array of Rhône Valley breaks here.