The jewel in the crown of Vaucluse, the land of wine and lavender, truffles and melons. From the red earth of Roussillon to the roof of the Provence (Mont Ventoux), the Roman legacy is omnipresent. The historic center of this city, nicknamed city of popes, is surrounded by medieval walls. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From 1309 to 1377, Avignon was the seat of the Papacy.
The Gothic Palais des Papes dates from the turbulent times of Popes and antipopes. This fortified palace, was the residence of nine Popes. During the reign of Benedict XII, the Palais Vieux was built, and later, Clement VI commanded the construction of the Palais Neuf. The papal court at Avignon was the center of art and science. During the Napoleonic era, the Palais des Papes was used as army barracks and later as a prison. Today, the Cour d'Honneur, the courtyard of the Palais Neuf, is the center stage during the annual Festival d'Avignon.
Another famous landmark is the bridge Pont St. BenezetPont St. Bénezet (12th century) that spans the river Rhône. It was made famous by the song Sur le pont d'Avignon. A more fitting tilte would be Sous (beneath) le Pont d'Avignon. It is said the song originated in a cafe located underneath the bridge. Hence guests danced beneath the bridge, not on top. According to legend, Bénezet build the bridge for pilgrims traveling from Italy to Spain.
It's easy to visit Avignon from the cruise port of Marseille. There are several transportation options to choose from. At least half a day is necessary to do this excursion.
Popular ports for an excursion to Avignon are: