Welcome to Avignon
Situated on the River Rhone, the historic holiday destination of
Avignon is famed for being the Vatican of the 14th century; six
successive Popes resided here from 1309, making it one of Europe's
largest and most important cities of the time. The papacy retreated
back to Rome in 1378, but this was just the beginning of a battle
between the Italian capital and Avignon for control of the Church's
riches and power.
Altogether Avignon was the seat for nine Popes, until the last,
Pope Benedict XIII, fled into self-exile in 1409. Without the Pope,
the city went into a decline that has been exacerbated ever since
by floods, fire, the plague and the Le Mistral, the harsh wind that
whistles down the Rhone valley in winter.
Avignon supposedly was named by the Celts who gave the area the
name 'Avenio' or 'the town of violent winds'. Despite all this,
Avignon has one of the best-preserved centres in France, a strong
holiday attraction. Piercing the skyline are the beautiful spires
of the Palais des Papes, and along the cobbled streets are
countless richly decorated buildings, ancient churches and
spectacular monuments and museums. Imposing medieval walls, built
in 1403 by Pope Benedict, enclose the old town.
The yearly Avignon Festival draws performers and art enthusiasts
from all over France every July. Despite the huge influx of
tourists, which double the town's population of 100,000, this is a
wonderful festival and a must-see for anyone on holiday in the
Information & Facts
French is the official language.
The Euro (EUR) is the official currency in France. Currency can
be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and some large hotels,
though you will get a better exchange rate at the ATMs. Major
credit cards are widely accepted, as are travellers cheques,
particularly in major tourist destinations. Foreign currency is not
Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 between last Sunday in March and
last Sunday in October).