One of the great historic destinations of France, Avignon is bursting with inspiring sights. The world famous town stands at the heart of the Rhone Valley surrounded by brilliant things to see and do.
If you want to see Avignon and the wider region, it’s best to have a rental car. We’re in a great position to help you - we’ve got convenient car rental pick-up points across the city, including Avignon’s TGV rail station.
Don’t forget that, if you are touring the area, we can arrange for you to collect a car in one of our locations and drop it off at another if that helps your travel plans. You’ll find all our offices feature our best-price promise – we will refund the difference in the unlikely event that you find similar Hertz car rental at a cheaper price.
The spectacular walled city alongside the beautiful River Rhone deserves to be explored – but so do the sights in all directions, like the romantic Camargue delta, the old artists’ town of Arles and the scenic road up Mont Ventoux. It’s easy to see them all if you have a rental car. The road network around the Rhone Valley is good and the traffic is usually light.
The city of Avignon itself is easy to navigate. It may be a hotspot for tourists but there are two informal ring roads around the old medieval heart of the city. These let you bypass the busiest streets and easily get round to the part of town that you need or head off in another direction.
The A7 runs north towards Lyon and south to the Mediterranean at Marseilles. The A9 runs from Orange, just north of Avignon, via Nimes and right down the coast to Perpignan and the Spanish border. Other prime routes will take you to pretty neighboring towns like Arles, Carpentras, and Bagnols.
You’ll find most of the roads around the Rhone Valley are modern and well maintained, although some of the mountain routes can be a little rougher, so take care.
The traffic drives on the right throughout France. And you’ll find most of the rules of the road are the same to other to other continental European countries.
When you are driving around the Rhone Valley you’ll find that the maximum speed limit is 81mph, on rural motorways. This reduces to 68mph if it is raining and 31mph in fog. Built-up areas have a 31mph limit.
Avignon gives you the chance to step back in time to the days of warrior priests and knights in armor. Wander a wonderfully intact medieval papal fortress, through narrow cobbled streets and down worn stone steps. It’s one of the most atmospheric destinations in the south of France. Don’t forget the surrounding area - both sides of the Rhone are dotted with major sights that you should try to see while you’re here.
A city of history and culture
This beautiful spot on a hill alongside the Rhone was once owned by the Pope, who fortified the town and built a massive palace. It’s still there, within the intact city walls. Today the whole town is a World Heritage Site.
The Papal Palace is the main lure - it is one of Europe’s biggest Gothic buildings and one of France’s most visited historic sites. Inside you’ll find huge open courtyards, fabulous wall paintings and miles of dusty atmospheric corridors. Every July, it is the central venue of the Avignon Festival, an acclaimed international art event.
Alongside is the 12th-century Romanesque Cathedral, full of old treasures. Look out for the huge gold statue of Mary on top of the spire.
Saint Benezet Bridge was built by one of the medieval popes who lived in the papal palace and was a vital strategic point – the only crossing of the Rhone for its first 200 miles. Centuries later it was neglected and lost most of its structure in floods.
Today you can stroll along the surviving arches too and find an ancient chapel halfway along, a fortified tower at one end and a drawbridge connecting it to the main city wall.
Just strolling around Avignon’s narrow streets can be inspiring. There are 173 buildings registered as national historic monuments. You’ll find good restaurants and craft shops to browse too. And you can take boat trips on the Rhone, including overnight hotel boats and dining boats.
Van Gogh's Arles
Just a 30-mile drive south, Arles is a chance to escape the medieval era and enter the 19th-century world of the painter, Van Gogh. The famous impressionist was so inspired during his stay in the pretty old riverside town that he produced more than 300 pieces of work, including many of his best-known pieces.
You’ll be able to sit at a table at the location for his ‘Night Café’ painting, see a ‘starry, starry night’ over the Rhone and visit the old hospital where he painted his bedroom, the garden and even portraits of the doctors.
Nimes' Roman history
A short drive to the west of Avignon you’ll find the ‘French Rome’ – as locals often call the city of Nimes. That’s because it has major landmarks dating back to the time of the Roman Empire, 2,000 years ago. The fantastic Nimes Arena dominates the heart of the city. This Roman Amphitheatre has a capacity of over 16,000 and is so intact that it is still used to stage events. Nearby is the Maison Carree, one of the best-preserved Roman temples anywhere in the world. It was built for the grandsons of Emperor Augustus and stood alongside the old city forum. Today you can walk around the colonnaded exterior and step inside its strangely dark and somber interior.
Opening hours: Mo-Fr 0730-2200, Sa 0900-2030, Su 0900-2200
Address: Place de l'Europe