Avignon, a commune in the department of Vaucluse in southeastern France is located on the banks of the Rhone River. The scenic medieval town is surrounded by the well-preserved original fortified city walls while the city itself is famous for the Palais des Papes, which was home to the popes in the 14th and 15th centuries. The historical city centre, which includes the Palace of the Popes and the Saint-Bènèzet Bridge along with the fortified city walls is a UNESCO declared World Heritage Site.
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The Cavares Gallic tribe founded the city and thus began its long history of invasions and conquests and change of powers, which was common in those centuries. Avignon has a wealth of historical buildings in the Gothic and Romanesque styles that lend a picturesque beauty to the city. Right in the city centre lies the Place de l’Horloge or the Clock Tower with a large open square in front of the historical Palace of the Popes. The Town Hall, which is a 19th century building, was built in a manner that it integrated the Clock Tower as a part of its structure.
Next to the Town Hall is the theatre while the city square is lined by several restaurants and shops. There are numerous churches in the city too of which the most notable is the 12th Century Romanesque architecture Notre Dame des Domes Cathedral with its gilded statue of Virgin Mary marking the western tower. The smaller churches include the St Pierre, St Didier and the St Agricol churches, all of which are built in the Gothic architectural style.
However, it is the Palace of the Popes that dominates the city landscape being one of the most important buildings in Europe and a wonderful example of Gothic architecture. The huge palace remained neglected for a long time, but now a little effort has been made to renovate the palace as a tourist attraction with guided tours of the palace that offer a pleasurable experience. It is a treat to walk through the enormous palace, its many towers and the grass courtyard within the palace.
The well-known 12th century bridge, Pont Saint Bènèzet or Pont d’Avignon, now in ruins, still has four of its 18 original sections in place and the Romanesque Saint Bènèzet Chapel stands on one of these sections. Also in Avignon are a number of museums, which include the 18th Century townhouse Calvet Museum of Fine Arts that houses a worthwhile collection of paintings and metalwork among other exhibits. The Musee du Petit Palais (Museum of the Small Palace) is a 15th century building that displays Renaissance paintings of the Avignon school of arts.
Other museums include the Angladon Museum, Lambert Collection, Lapidaire Museum, Museum Requien and the Louis-Vouland Museum. The Rocher des Doms Gardens, a huge English-style garden consists of some attractive water features and is a pleasant place to walk around to beat the summer heat. A large part of the shopping area is in the pedestrian zone of the main city square while some of the up-market shops are at the other end of the Place de l’Horloge. The city in total is an attractive place and much worth a visit.