The city of Avignon is in the south of France and a world-wide tourist magnet. It is the apex of a triangle formed by the coastal cities of Montpellier to the south-west and Marseille to the south-east. Visitors can take a train to Avignon from Perpignan in 3h03 on the TER (Regional Express Transport) service, while the journey by train to Avignon from Marseilles takes 1h04 on the TGV high-speed service. Long-distance travellers will arrive at Avignon TGV station and from there it is an easy hop on the Navette shuttle to Avignon Centre. This station, as its name proclaims, is in the heart of the city, and so visitors are well placed to explore the famous streets and visit the Palais des Papes — one of the largest Gothic buildings in Europe.
From Avignon Centre railway station, visitors can walk through the charming cobbled streets of the Old Town in a northerly direction to arrive at the huge edifice of Europe’s largest medieval fortress, the Palais des Papes. This was the centre of Christendom in the 14th century and is now one of France’s major visitor attractions, which has gained the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Next to the palace is the Jardin des Doms, built on a hill that offers wonderful views over the city and the river, as well as across the plains of the Rhone. Leaving here, one of Avignon’s must-see sites is the Pont d’Avignon, which is now sadly only half a bridge, but still a hugely popular destination. From there, a 10-minute walk south (along Boulevard du Rhone and across the Pont Édouard Daladier) brings visitors to the island of Barthelasse, which is the largest river island in France.
It is a protected site for birds and wildlife, and it also hosts a skate park, a lake and a swimming pool, making it ideal for a recreational visit. If all that sightseeing has worked up an appetite, visitors in Avignon seeking an authentic experience of Provence should head back to the Old Town. Around the palace, there are plenty of little bistros offering local wines and specialities, such as Pissaladière, perhaps followed by the famous local sweet dish, Papalines d'Avignon, made with oregano liqueur and chocolate.