What To See: Avignon

This is an overview of the best tourist sights in Avignon, from the Palais des Papes and the famous bridge to the city's gourmet food market, its delicious green spaces and its fantastic selection of museums.

Click here to read our full guide to the annual Festival d'Avignon, click on each image in our gallery to find out more and click here for practical information about the city to help you enjoy your trip.

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News for what to see in AvignonOver 70 sculptures by leading contemporary African artists are currently on display all over Avignon. And they include some dazzling discoveries.

This must be the year's most exciting art event in Provence: an absolute must-see if you are in town, and worth a special trip there even if you are not.

confluences el anatsuiIn the Palais des Papes, a spectacular, glittering cape, pictured, by Ghana’s El Anatsui is made of crushed cans and bottle stoppers.

The exhibition notes – which are, helpfully, in English as well as French - point out that Pope Clement VI, one of the biggest-spending Avignon popes, had a fondness for sumptuous golden sheets too. These African artists achieve their glorious effects with humble, recycled junk or natural raw materials.

A mighty bison turns out to be an assembly of spark plugs and other car parts. We also loved Andries Botha's massive, noble wounded elephant made of wood and, pictured below, the wildly eccentric Egg Fight by Yinka Shonibare, inspired by Gulliver's Travels.

The sculptures are on loan from the Fondation Blachère in the Luberon, near Apt. So they aren't site-specific. But they work marvellously in their new surroundings. And much thought has been given to their placing.

For example, Diagne Chanel’s bronze women, victims of the war in Sudan, lie like sepulchres in the courtyard of the Petit Palais, a museum which houses similar tombs of popes and cardinals.

The story behind the pieces is intriguing too. The Fondation is owned by Jean-Paul Blachère, the head of a hugely successful multinational company that makes Christmas illuminations. The exhibition's title, Les Éclaireurs (The Pathfinders, or Enlighteners), must be in part a sly reference to this.

egg fight yinka shonibare avignonHe first discovered African art in 2000 and has been an avid collector ever since, making regular trips to the continent to discover new talent. His Foundation now owns over 1800 pieces. It also invites African artists to France for residencies.

Monsieur Blachère has been wheelchair-bound for over 30 years following a car accident. He told the French newspaper L’Express in an earlier interview, "I’ve spent a long time in the desert and Africa brought me out of it. It has so much human richness."

These magnificent sculptures are all around Avignon until 14 January 2018. Some are in key museums: the Petit Palais, the Musée Lapidaire and the Musée Calvert.

Intriguingly, the city's Collection Lambert currently has its own separate show of African art as well - this time from the private collection of the fashion designer agnès b.

This work captures a funky, ultra-modern, mainly urban Africa, and is a fascinating contrast to the more traditional visions of Les Éclaireurs. Called On aime l'art!, the exhibition - plus three other, also very good ones of contemporary art - is on until 5 November.

universal prayer ndary lo avignonPictured, one of Ndary Lo’s tall, slender, yearning figures throws up his (or her) hands in supplication on the square in front of the Palais des Papes.

The great majority of these pieces are inside the Palais itself, and so this should be the focus of your visit if you're on the African trail. On sale at the Avignon Tourist Office, a ticket costs 11 €uros and gives you access to the Palais as well as all the other museums. An absolute bargain!

And, if you can't make it to the Papal city in time to catch Les Éclaireurs there, never fear: you can always head off to Apt to view the permanent collection at the Fondation Blachère, which is open to the public.

palais des papes smallThe Popes' Palace, is the star attraction in Avignon, a monumental structure which briefly transformed a sleepy provincial town into a glittering centre of European power.

Tapenade stall at Les Halles, AvignonWith around 40 stalls selling a cornucopia of regional produce, Les Halles is a must for any dedicated foodie in Avignon.

Avignon Bridge viewed from Barthelasse islandThe Pont d'Avignon - or Pont Saint Bénézet - stops suddenly half-way across the Rhône river. But this dramatic, broken bridge remains an iconic landmark, inspiring a famous song.

The Garden at Epicurium AvignonSteeped in art and history, serious and monumental Avignon is often seen as a rather family-unfriendly city. But we have ideas for an enjoyable activity or three if you are staying with children here.

Young Woman Holding a MaskThere's something for everyone in Avignon's museums, from a Tyrannosaurus Rex skull and avant-garde art to the Countess du Barry's travel tea service and one of the few paintings by Vincent van Gogh on view in Provence.

The Rocher des Doms, AvignonA gentle five-minute stroll up a small hill, the Rocher des Doms offers a welcome refuge from Avignon's heat and bustle on a summer's day and panoramic vistas of the surrounding countryside.

Pope Clement VIThe Avignon Popes' private quarters in the Palais des Papes have long been closed to the public. But now this tour gives a fascinating insight into the pontiffs' secret daily lives.

The rue des Teinturiers, AvignonThe rue des Teinturiers is one of the prettiest, most historic spots in the walled city of Avignon - and also one of the most fashionable.

La Cathedrale Notre Dame des Doms, AvignonAvignon's cathedral sits in the mighty complex of buildings on the Rocher des Doms overlooking the city.

Railway Wagons by Vincent van Gogh at the Angladon Museum, AvignonOne of Avignon's most delightful galleries, the Angladon Museum has a discerning collection, including one of the very few paintings by Vincent van Gogh on view in Provence.

barges moored barthelasse avignonSet on the Rhône river between Avignon and Villeneuve lès Avignon, Barthelasse Island is a relaxing haven of peace and greenery just a few minutes' walk from these two cities.

lambert collection interior gallery smallIn 2000 the legendary gallery owner and art dealer Yvon Lambert offered hundreds of major works by the cream of contemporary artists to the city of Avignon for the Collection Lambert.

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