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. logo

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As in Marseille and Aix, a petit train (little tourist train) runs around the main sights, in Avignon's case the Palais des Papes, the famous bridge and the winding, pretty back-streets of the Old City. The circuit takes about 40 minutes and is quite good fun.

Another option is the hop-on-hop-off open top bus that tootles round the ramparts and across the Rhône river, or even a tour of the city in a horse-drawn carriage. Check with the Tourist Office for details of what's available.

Alternatively, rent colourful bicycles from one of the many racks dotted around the city as part of Avignon's Vélopop scheme.

You might consider a short river cruise or, if you're feeling energetic, a canoe trip. Or try taking the boat shuttle across the Rhône to the 700 hectare / 1730 acre Barthelasse Island, one of the largest river islands in Europe.

Once there, you will find a footpath and cycle path with beautiful views across to the Avignon skyline, a pony and horse-riding club, bikes for hire (with roadbooks) plus numerous B&Bs and campsites. Barthelasse Island is also accessible on foot via the Daladier bridge.

Sur le Pont dAvignon the songThe boat shuttle (navette fluviale) to the island is free and runs for much of the year apart from mid-winter and on days of high winds.

It departs from a point about 500 metres east of the Saint Bénézet Bridge, better known as the famous Pont d'Avignon, which inspired the song your children have probably learned in school.

The bridge itself isn't a terribly exciting visit for kids, but the views from it are nice and at least children under the age of eight get in free.

Avignon's other main attraction, the austere Palais des Papes, is perhaps more suitable for older children. But the super, brand new HistoPad (an interactive digital tablet that comes free with admission) includes a specially designed treasure hunt and games for kids.

Bear in mind that the Palais des Papes involves quite a few stairs and uneven surfaces, and would be difficult for pushchairs / strollers and toddlers.

Insider tip for the Palais des Papes in AvignonIt is cheaper to buy a pass to both the Palais des Papes and the Pont d'Avignon - you can buy one in advance which will also allow you to skip the (sometimes very long) lines. Alternatively, if you'r planning to take in a number of sights, you might check out the "Avignon Passion" pass.

Pick it up on your first visit to a monument and you will get discounts of between 10% and 50% to subsequent attractions both in Avignon itself and in Villeneuve lès Avignon, just on the other side of the river. The card is valid for 15 days and can apply to up to five persons.

If the weather is fine, make for the Rocher des Doms, a park above the Palais with superlative views across the city, river and surrounding countryside, a couple of play and picnic areas, a carousel, a snack bar, a pond with ducks, swans and other birds, pictured, and plenty of space for kids to let off steam.

At the other end of the walled city, right next to the Tourist Office, the square Agricole Perdiguier is actually a leafy little park with a simple open-air restaurant for al fresco lunches.

venus2Avignon has a small but select array of museums, most of which would appeal to teenagers with an interest in art.

The Musée Requien, a natural history museum, might be more attractive to younger children, and there is no entrance charge, though most of the signage is in French only.

In contrast to the Requien's traditional, even old-fashioned approach, Epicurium is a fun interactive gallery and gardens, pictured top left, exploring questions around fruit and vegetables. It's a short drive or bus ride from the centre of Avignon.

In summer a giant Ferris wheel is installed on the allées des Oulles on the river bank, and there's a carousel on the place de l'Horloge, near the Palais des Papes, all year round.

Apart from the museums, the bad weather options in Avignon are limited. There are two large indoor play centres from the Royal Kids play park chain, both of them somewhat outside the walled city, in the suburbs of Les Angles (the nearer of the two) and Vedènes.

You might also consider Avignon's covered food market, Les Halles, which is right in the city centre. Here each Saturday at 11am one of the region's top chefs demonstrates a recipe - and onlookers get to taste the results.

This is all in French, of course, but these free public sessions are generally lively, and budding foodies will have a field day at the colourful market stalls- and owners will often offer free taster samples if they're asked nicely.

A number of festivals in Avignon are of great interest to families. If your kids are horse-crazy, brave the winter weather and make a diary date for mid-January and Cheval Passion, one of the largest equestrian shows in Europe.

There are horse and pony rides, demonstrations and sporting events and a gala spectacle, the Crinières d'Or (Golden Manes). One hall is given over entirely to activities for children.

Also in the late winter, Les Hivernales, Avignon's prestigious modern dance festival, also has a separate strand especially for kids called HiverÔmômes.

Each year around Easter Avignon hosts a children's festival, the Festo Pitcho (Pitchoun or pitchoune is a provençal word for a small boy or girl.) It features a fancy-dress parade and shows and performances - puppets, dance, theatre - all over town.

The Avignon Festival includes a range of events and activities for kids and the current Festival Director, Olivier Py, has a policy of expanding this aspect of the programme.

the off festivalThere'll be lots of informal street performers in town too if you prefer just to soak up the atmosphere and wander around.

The main Avignon "In" Festival (and the Fringe, or "Off" Festival) both run throughout most of the month of July. Note, however, that accommodation will be expensive and in short supply during this period.

If you want to venture further afield, check our family-friendly section for more ideas within a 40 minutes' drive from Avignon or from Aix en Provence (which is to say, still well within striking distance for a day trip). We also have some suggestions for the Marseille region if you want to go further.

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All these things to do with your kids will be enjoyable even if they don't speak French. If they do, many more options will be open, from cooking lessons, guided tours and nature walks to treasure hunts and children's theatre.

To find out more, call at the Avignon Tourist Office (Office de Tourisme), 41 cours Jean Jaurès, BP 8, 84000 Avignon Cedex 1. Tel: (+33) 4 32 74 32 74. Website for the Avignon Tourist Office


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