You love food, you love wine and you enjoy a little history and culture?
Come to Avignon – the capital of France’s beautiful Côtes du Rhône region.
Discover this city’s remarkable history, visit its ancient buildings … and enjoy all the rich array of food and wine this region has to offer.
History and culture
As you arrive in Avignon, you’ll be struck by the first of its four UNESCO World Heritage sites – the beautiful 12th century Saint Bénezet bridge that once, with 22 arches, spanned the whole width of the Rhône river. Today, only four arches remain, but you can still dance on them as the sun goes down … in fact any time of the day!
Go through the medieval city walls – ramparts that stretch 4.3km around the city and took only 15 years to build – and you’ll enter this fascinating city. Visit its many museums (at least 12) and, of course, its 14th century Palais des Pape, the largest Gothic palace in the world. Make sure the 12th century Basilica Notre Dame des Doms is on your itinerary, and the Carthusian monastery … there are many fine historical sites to choose from.
If you time your visit well, you can enjoy a number of the exciting cultural events the city has to offer each year too. Most importantly, in July, there is the drama festival – a wealth of live performances of all kinds – now in its 73nd year, plus its alternative OFF festival, for something a little off beat!
While you’re relaxing in Avignon, be sure to drop by the Maison des Vins. As you’d expect, this regional wine salon has a wide range of Côtes du Rhône wines there to sample, particularly enjoyable in its relaxing sunny courtyard.
Trekking the wine routes – book yourself in
If wine is top of your ‘to do’ list, then while you’re in Avignon why not book yourself a vineyard walking tour or take a trail on bikes? The Information centre will give you details of cycle routes, B&Bs, gites to stay in, as well as campsites and the best restaurants to stop at along the way.
If your emphasis is more on food, you can do the same with a food trail – you’ll be working up an appetite for sure.
A little learning
There’s lots of learning to be done as well – in a relaxed, informal style. You can learn how to taste Côtes du Rhône wines, book yourself in to help with harvest (late summer only) or sign up for a workshop on tasting and blending.
There are seven Vignobles et Découvertes (Vineyards and Discoveries) accredited venues that will be delighted to teach visitors how and where wine is made. Look out too for the Gold Leaf sign – 46 estates where you can be sure of an especially warm welcome and learning experience, beyond the simple rock up and taste scenario.
Gastronomic experience in this French Garden of Eden
Along with the wines, the land fanning out from Avignon is a culinary paradise. Orchards of peaches and plums, pears and apricots, fig trees and fields of strawberries and melons … plus those silver-leafed olive groves. Visit any of the local markets, and there are many, see the wealth of stalls with their gloriously technicolour produce to get a true feel of what the region has to offer. And at the price they go for, you can afford to gorge yourself!
The fragrance of the area is second to none as well – fields of lavender, those large nodding sunflowers, as well as jasmine, mimosa and roses, the flavours of which you’ll find seasoning the local dishes.
Sample the green and black olives and the olive oil, particularly from Nyons, scarlet tomatoes of course, aubergine, courgettes, garlic, peppers and the black diamonds of the region – truffles – all staple ingredients of this Mediterranean-influenced area and its cuisine.
All this wonderful food and the wines to pair with it – warm, ripe reds, bright berry-laden rosés and ample-bodied, mineral-crisp whites. These are all to be discovered and enjoyed. We will be giving you some essential tips to find the best in the months to come.