Avignon, cycling and walking in Provence
Avignon - City of Popes
Avignon, the French city of Popes and capital city of the Cote du Rhone vineyards is famous for its UNESCO world heritage city centre, home to the incredible Pope’s Palace, its world-renowned Saint Benezet bridge - also known as Pont d’Avignon, origin of the famous song - and finally its wonderfully preserved ramparts, built in the 14th century. Walking or cycling through this incredible opulent medieval city-centre, its narrow streets and hidden squares, sure is a must-do while travelling to Provence!
Following the anarchic feuding going on in Rome at the beginning of the 14th century, the Pope Clement V decided to flee Vatican city and headed to Avignon - close to Chateauneuf du Pape, a papacy territory - and stayed with the local catholic landlord of Avignon.
Later, the fourth pope Clement VI bought Avignon from the Queen Jane of Naples and Provence against her absolution in her involvement in the murder of her husband. Clement VI then started the construction of the Pope’s palace that would later be embellished and fortified by the following two popes.
The seventh pope Gregory XI, after years of negotiation with Catherine of Sienna, decided to move back the Papacy to Rome in 1377. The anger tethered to this decision was the origin of a schism - known as the great schism - which was a division in the Catholic church, that lead to the presence of a Pope (Gregory XI) and an Antipope (Clement VII).
In 1403, the successor of Clement VII, Benoit XIII, was chased from Avignon by the King of France.
Avignon, however, remained a Papacy territory up to the French revolution. Its rich religious history is still visible today as many churches, chapels, icons and of course the Pope’s palace are still very well maintained.
What about now?
Avignon is a vibrant city that has managed to keep and maintain its amazing cultural heritage while expanding. The city centre, intra-muros, is home to nearly 100.000 inhabitants, and has become a -for the most parts - pedestrian area, with many streets unaccessible to cars. Perfect for wandering! It is also the birthplace of the Festival d’Avignon, a prestigious festival of contemporary theatre, founded by Jean Vilar – a famous French actor and director - in 1947, has become one of, if not the, world’s biggest theatre and live performing arts festival. With its unique atmosphere, especially during its festival that is organised every July, it would be unimaginable to travel to Provence without visiting Avignon.
Where is Avignon?
The central location of Avignon, in Provence, gives you many opportunities when it comes to visiting the South of France: you can enjoy a few days out hiking in the Luberon, heading towards the Mont Ventoux, famous cycling mountain and considered to be one of the most difficult stage of the Tour de France. You can also head towards Nimes and le Pont du Gard, a breathtaking Roman aqueduct (also a World heritage site) that you can visit. If this is not your cup of tea, you can always visit the famous cote du Rhone wineries, a perfect area to hike, cycle and taste some incredible wine.
Avignon is very easily accessible and is only a few hours away from Paris (2h40), an hour away from Lyon and 30 minutes away from Marseille by T.G.V. (high-speed train).
Avignon enjoys a Mediterranean climate thus meaning that the winters are mild and the summers very hot, reaching up to 40°C. This is the case for most of Provence! The mistral, a strong cold wind that travels through the Rhone Valley can often be quite strong, with peaks reaching up to 100km/h and more!
Our cycling and walking tours in Avignon and its surrounding areas
Our walking tours:
Our cycling tours: