Family Vacations to Avignon, France

Family Overview - Avignon, France
Wander the hidden courtyards of the Palais des Papes. (Digital Vision)

Avignon Highlights

  • Ride a high-speed train from Paris to Avignon.
  • Tour a 14th-century palace.
  • Cruise the Rhône.
  • Cycle past lavender fields.
  • Hike through vineyards.

Provence, a storied region of rivers, lavender fields, and hilltop towns, has long drawn artists—Van Gogh to Arles and Cézanne to Aix-en-Provence—as well as the powerful. The aqueducts and arenas built by the Romans and the 14th-century palace built by the French popes still stand.

The train, the TGV Mediterranée, whisks you from Paris' wide boulevards to Avignon, a medieval walled city, in less than three hours. From your window, the countryside around Avignon takes on the dappled look of an Impressionist painting. The soft yellows of old stone walls merge with the silvery greens of olive leaves and the mottled beige of sycamore trees.

The citadel-like Palais des Papes, built in the 14th century by a breakaway group of cardinals, dominates Avignon. By wandering through the hidden courtyards, the frescoed chapels, and grand, but bare rooms, kids come to appreciate the pomp and intrigue of the Catholic Church in the 1300s. La Fondation Angladon-Dubrujeaud, a collection established by designer Jacques Doucet, features works by Cézanne, van Gogh, Degas, and others.

Provence's real beauty, for most kids, lies outside. From the hilltop garden Rocher des Doms (Rock of the Domes), enjoy views of the palace and the city. Gradeschoolers who've begun French lessons may be downright gleeful at dancing along the Pont d'Avignon, the bridge made famous by the children's ditty. Only a small portion of the bridge, built across the Rhône in the 12th century, remains. At the facility's museum, learn about the legend of a young shepherd and how through miraculous intervention he helped get the bridge built.

See the bridge and the city from a boat or cruise the Rhône on a daytrip to Arles. Bike the countryside on your own or sign up for a guided tour through lavender fields. In summer, the fields around Apt, 25 miles from Avignon, bloom with the acres of the delicate-scented flowers. In Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 11 miles from Avignon, hike the rolling hills lush with vineyards.

Stroll Avignon's Old Town, browse the weekend flower and flea markets, look at work in the galleries and select treats from the many chocolatiers. The wonderful chocolates make perfect pick-me-ups.

Tip: Every July, for several weeks, Avignon hosts a theatre festival of plays and musical performances. At the same time, Festival Off takes place, featuring less traditional works, street performers, dancers, and musicians.

For more information:'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 26 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 17 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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