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Located at the confluence of the Rhône and Durance rivers, Avignon is well known for its ramparts, its famous Pont Saint-Bénezet and the Palais des Papes. It is known as the City of the Popes. Avignon is a UNESCO world heritage site and home to the largest gothic palace in Europe.
The beauty of the medieval past in Avignon never ceases to delight. The ramparts, the magnificent Palace of the Popes, the sea of red-tiled roofs, clock-towers and steeples, and of course the graceful Pont d’Avignon create a magical setting.
Avignon, once the City of the Popes rivalling even Rome and for centuries a major artistic centre, is a marvellously preserved town, packed full of interesting museums, monuments, historical buildings, palaces, galleries, cafés and bars. It is a splendid place to explore especially during the months of July and August when the famous Festival of Dance, Music and Theatre is taking place.
The café-lined Place de l'Horloge is a good place to start and is the site of the imposing Hôtel de Ville and the Opéra. Just around the corner on the Place du Palais is the spectacular Palace of the Popes. Built primarily as a fortress it has a series of heavily fortified battlements that tower over the town, a tour of the Palace is a must for most visitors. To the east of the Palace of the Popes are the intriguing Quartier de la Banasterie and Place des Carmes a tangle of tiny streets dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries and now full of small cafés, bars, shops and interesting galleries.
The Avignon Opera house hosted Molière and his troupe in the 1700’s. Rebuilt in 1846 after a fire, the Opera House offers music, dance, theatre and opera performances throughout the entire year, and the well-balanced programming draws a wide audience.
The terraced gardens of the Rocher des Doms, perched above the Rhône, is where Avignon started. With its gleaming virgin on top of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-des-Doms, it is an imposing sight, as are its 2.5 miles of beautifully preserved ramparts.
Just outside the ramparts stands another attraction, the bridge of nursery-rhyme fame. Only four arches of the original 22 remain, together with a tiny Romanesque chapel, but still the 12th century Pont St-Bénezet inspires France's best known folksong. The famous 'Sur le pont d'Avignon, l'on y danse, l'on y danse ...' the 'Pont d'Avignon' is the bridge Saint Bénezet.
The little Romanesque chapel at the entrance to the Pont Saint Bénezet is now a museum, shop and ticket office. The Museum provides a vast overview of the history of the legendary bridge and its song.
Stroll the shopping streets in the pedestrian area, Joseph Vernet and St Agricol streets, the district of la Balance and the large Republic avenue where you will find a variety of well stocked luxury shops, ceramics and pottery, terracotta figurines, handicrafts, and other specialities of the region.