lavender still avignonEasy to walk around and packed with unusual finds, Avignon's walled city is super for shopping. Whether you’re after a souvenir, a gift or something tasty to eat, this is a guide to the best retail therapy in town.

 

 

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Don’t bother with the main street, the rue de la République, though. It's lined mainly with banks, brasseries and fast-food outlets, though you will also see high-street stalwarts such as Monoprix, H&M and FNAC.

Instead, for upscale boutiques and retail outlets, especially clothing and homeware, wander up to the top of the rue de la République (the end near the Palais des Papes).

Then dive into the side streets around the junction between the rue Saint Agricole and the rue Joseph Vernet.

Yet these more mainstream stores are not Avignon's strongest shopping suit. Rather, the best buys are to be found in the city's fantastic array of funky little designer and craft boutiques, and its small but select range of shops offering fine regional food and drink specialities.

They are mainly found in the part of town between the Tourist Office at 41 cours Jean Jaurès and the gourmet Les Halles food market on place Pie. A number of these narrow alleys have been recently pedestrianised, and now this part of Avignon is really pleasant to stroll around.

Note that a number of shops, especially smaller ones, are closed on Mondays and some also shut for a couple of hours at lunchtime.

NEW DESIGNERS, ARTISTS AND ARTISANS

A group of young creative types have banded together under the banner Les Fabricateurs d'Avignon. They organise regular craft markets and other special events, as well as producing a handy annotated map of the best shops of this type in town. The Tourist Office should have copies.

avignon04Especially popular is a concept store called CQFD at 16 place de la Principale. The acronym (Création EthiQues Franco Décalées) indicates quirky, ethically sourced objects made in France.

Expect recycled or upcycled clothing, furniture, jewellery, scented candles and more.

In the area around the rue des Trois Faucons, place Saint Didier and rue de la Bonneterie, you'll see everything from an artisan bookbinder or a cabinet maker to shops specialising in hand-made paper or spray cans and stencils for street artists.

The very pretty rue des Teinturiers, pictured, is also lined with somewhat more tourist-y craft shops.

SOUVENIRS, GIFTS AND TRADITIONAL HANDICRAFTS

At 40 rue Jean Jaurès, near Avignon Centre train station, is the ticket office for Visite Avignon, the company that operates the city’s little tourist train and hop-on-hop-off bus tours.

This office also has a shop with a decent range of popular souvenirs, from soaps, wines and calissons to hats and T-shirts. Ideal to pick up last-minute gifts if you’re in a hurry!

If you’re after les indiennes, the colourful traditional fabrics of Provence, pictured, for a tablecloth or a brightly patterned shirt, Avignon has several options.

At 19 rue Joseph Vernet is a branch of Soleiado, one of the oldest and best-known manufacturers while Les Indiennes de Nîmes is at 18 rue des Marchands and also stocks dashing Camargue cowboy boots, and hats.

provencalfabricsJust round the corner from the Palais des Papes, La Licorne du Palais sells Gobelins-style "mediaeval" tapestries, bags and cushions.

Avignon is in the heart of lavender country: pictured top left is a lavender still outside a shop in the city.

The best place for essential oils, soaps and cosmetics is Le Château du Bois. It's also in the Palais area, at 61 rue de la grande Fusterie.

 

FOOD AND DRINK

The go-to place for top quality regional produce is Les Halles, Avignon’s covered food market, where you can buy charcuterie, fish, wine, fruit and vegetables and a fantastic variety of cheeses at La Maison du Fromage.

tapenade stall les halles avignonYou'll also find dozens of variants of tapenade (provençal olive spread), pictured, and unusual varieties of salt as well as AOC olive oils and other local specialities.

If you crave a more traditional open-air food market, pop across the river to Avignon's sister town, Villeneuve lès Avignon.

In the area around the place Jean Jaurès, it has large food markets on Thursday and Saturday mornings and a brocante (bric-à-brac) market, also on Saturday.

Also across the river, this time on Barthelasse Island, the Ferme La Reboule at 1250 Chemin de la Barthelasse is a brilliant little farm shop packed with organic vegetables fresh from the fields and locals snapping them up at bargain prices. It's a short-ish walk from the Daladier bridge.

For regional specialities, the branch of the regional mini-chain Les Délices du Luberon at 20 place du Change is a good source of olives, olive oils, tapenades, mustards and condiments and other tasty treats.

Chocoholics, on no account should you miss Aline Géhant, an award-winning young chocolatière whose exquisite cocoa creations are spiked with provençal flavours.

In her little boutique, fragrant with delicious aromas, you might well be offered a taster, after which we defy you not to buy.

We tasted four varieties, scented with thyme, lavender, fig and wild mint: all of them divine! Aline makes more traditional specialities too, such as mendiants (round chocolate disks studded with nuts and candied fruit).

papalines2Note that this shop (at 15 rue des Trois Faucons) closes in July and August when temperatures can soar to up to 40 degrees Celsius / 104 degrees Fahrenheit: lethal to chocs.

On the other hand, if you're in Avignon at Christmas or Easter, head over there for decadent seasonal specialities featuring locally distilled liqueurs.

Speaking of which, the Distillerie Magnuin makes eau de vie from its own home-grown pears, including the ever-popular Poire William one with the pear inside the bottle, as well as other liqueurs. There are free guided visits on Saturdays.

At 784 Chemin des Poiriers on Barthelasse Island the Distillerie claims on its website to be just five minutes from the Palais des Papes. That's by car, of course!

We asked Aline Géhant about papalines, an Avignon sweet speciality, pictured above. Curiously, these bright pink chocolates spiked with herby liqueur are made by pâtissiers rather than by chocolatiers. You can find papalines at the Pâtisserie Mallard, 22 rue du Vieux Sextier.

For local wines, try L'Ampélos, just along the road at at 11 rue du Vieux Sextier. This tiny, friendly wine and tapas bar also sells bottles to take away at vineyard prices: there are over 700 to choose from.

On a grander scale, Le Carré du Palais is a lavish, brand-new showcase for Rhône wine and regional food right opposite the Palais des Papes.

 

 

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