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- 16 Dec 2019, 3 nights
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Sunny Avignon, set on the banks of the stately Rhône River, is known for its Provençal charm. Much of its architecture dates from the 12th century, when it was the centre of the Catholic Church. Its standout attraction is Palais des Papes, an imposing fortified palace that once housed mighty medieval popes. Today, it's a hub for vibrant arts and food festivals.
Hostels in Avignon are often in traditional buildings with old stone walls and picturesque characteristics including balconies and terraces. You can book into a hostel with serene gardens or lounge at one with an outdoor pool. You can even stay in a countryside apartment for a rustic getaway. Many Avignon hostels have unique features such as a bar serving locally sourced wine, and social events like regular jazz and karaoke nights. Free Wi-Fi is standard in an Avignon hostel and some have computers available. If you'll be arriving late, pick one with a 24-hour reception.
To explore Avignon, start in the cobbled streets of the city centre, encircled by 14th-century defensive walls. This region is studded with medieval architecture and small squares. Keep an eye out for trompe-l’œil (optical illusion) paintings, a remnant of arts festivals past. A lot of Avignon's oldest buildings are clustered in the centre-ville (downtown) neighbourhood. Across the river, Villeneuve-lès-Avignon is home to the 14th-century Fort Saint-André, hilltop views and lively markets. Some of France's most famous villages are found in the surrounding countryside, including Vers-Pont-du-Gard and its Roman aqueduct.
One of the city's most recognisable landmarks is the 12th-century Pont d'Avignon. Place de l'Horloge is the busiest square and the area around it is dotted with pavement cafés and bars. Head a little out of town to discover Côtes du Rhône vintages at wineries such as the Château La Nerthe or see cutting-edge contemporary art at Collection Lambert Avignon. Plan a visit in July to experience the Festival d'Avignon, an annual celebration of the performing arts.
Avignon Provence Airport is approximately 10km away, and buses run frequently between there and the city centre. Avignon train station is on the high-speed rail line from Paris to Marseilles (a 2-hour journey) and you can also take the Eurostar direct from London St Pancras. In the city, walking is the easiest way to get around and local buses serve the town. Visitors can also use bike-sharing scheme Vélopop.