After visiting Toulouse, I decided to head south and spend a few days in the Luberon Region. I figured this would be a good base for exploring some nearby areas, like Provence and the Lavender region. I bought a one-way train ticket from Toulouse to Avignon and stayed for about 5 days.
Main Things to Know When Visiting Avignon
It’s hot! This is the number one thing I’ll remember about my visit. Haha. I arrived at the end of summer, in late August, and it was about 95 degrees most days and very dry. I didn’t realize it’d be so hot and booked an Airbnb without air-conditioning. Do not do this! Since I didn’t have a car, I wanted an Airbnb that was in the very center of town and was easily walkable. The one I chose was about 40€/night and on a main tourist road, which also meant that it was noisy. And, since it was so hot, I was sleeping with my windows open. Let’s just say that most nights ended with a cold shower and then sweaty, restless, sleep. But, I survived and enjoyed exploring. My advice would be to go in the spring, when things are still green and the temps are cooler and it’s not prime vacation season.
Avignon is a prime summer vacation destination for not just French, but also for Americans and British. I’d recommend booking in advance and finding a place with air conditioning. I believe that you have to pay to bring a car inside the main town area, so keep that in mind if you’re renting. I lucked out and found an affordable, basic, Airbnb with a gracious host, despite it being so hot. If I were to go back, I might even check out the camping available on the island.
Affordable Lodging Options in Avignon
Here’s the affordable Avignon Airbnb where I stayed. The current rate is $33/night. It was on Rue Vieux Sextier in the heart of the city center.
I also walked across the Rhone to the little island across from the main part of town and saw that there were Avignon camping options. If I were to visit again in a cooler month, I’d probably check those out! Seems pretty affordable at about 10€ per night.
I was trying to keep costs low, so I mostly cooked at the Airbnb and brought sandwiches me if I were going to be out exploring. Sometimes I’d splurge on a coffee at a cafe or maybe a gelato. 🙂 There were a few small grocery stores within walking distance of the Airbnb called Casino and that’s usually where I’d pick up a few things.
Budget Entertainment in Avignon
Instead of going out for fancy dinners, I preferred to go to the movies, especially ones in English! I found a cute independent theater around the corner from my Airbnb and discovered that tickets were only about $5. It was called Cinema Utopia and I think I went to see 3 movies! It was a nice way to spend a hot afternoon and helped with homesickness and loneliness. Yes, I did get lonely and homesick. It was okay though. I expected it. I was still grateful for the chance to explore and took advantage of the time to read, journal and reflect. Plus, I called my family and Jason and kept in touch with friends on social media. I also liked to take walks in the morning and at sunset and enjoy the views, watch people and take photos. I would explore the side neighborhood roads and visit local parks. I came back to the Airbnb before dark almost every night and never felt unsafe.
Day Trips from Avignon
The main city center of Avignon can easily be explored in a day or two and since I was there for about five days, I took some day trips. The first place I went was just across the Rhone River to Villeneuve-lès-Avignon to see Fort Saint-André, a14th-century fortress on a hill with gardens, walking paths & mountain & city views.
“Medieval Villeneuve-lès-Avignon lies on the Rhône river beneath the imposing hilltop Fort St.-André, with its well-preserved 14th-century battlements. The Chartreuse de Villeneuve lez Avignon convent has peaceful cloisters and an arts center, and Musée Pierre-de-Luxembourg shows religious art. Saturday market Marché et Brocante sells antiques and food, while delis and al fresco Provençal bistros dot cobbled streets.”
I think I was there on a Sunday because I remember the streets being very quiet and not many things open. Regardless, it was fun to just explore and go up and down the cobblestone streets and take photos of the lavender and limestone facades.
The next day trip I took was to a town called Cavaillon located closer to the Provence region. I took a train from Avignon to Cavaillon in the morning, I think around 9am, and rented a bike from a Cavaillon shop. It was a Trek hybrid and came with a helmet, map, lock and little bag. I think it was about 30€ for the day and totally worth it! I rode about 20 miles through small nearby Provencial towns and really enjoyed it. There wasn’t much traffic and the roads were easy to navigate. Again, the only thing was that it was hot.
I found a website called Velo Loisir Provence, which had routes for bike riding in the Luberon and Provence region. Below is a screenshot of the map I followed. I left Cavaillon and rode to a small town called Robion, then I went to Lagnes and then up to the spectacular Fontaine-de-Vaucluse to see a beautiful river and waterfall. From there I rode over to the busier L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and then back to Cavaillon, where I returned the bike and got on the train back to Avignon. I brought a sandwich and snacks with me and stopped on the bike ride for a picnic.
I also took a day trip via bus ride to Saint Rémy de Provence, which is about 12 miles outside of Avignon. I walked the city streets, browsed the shops, strolled through the market, stopped at the mental hospital where Van Gogh was treated (woohoo!) and went for a short hike in the Massif des Alpilles, now classified as the Parc Naturel Régional des Alpilles (Alpilles Region Natural Park). The little town is built at the base of the mountains and you can walk straight onto the trails. There were a few people walking their dogs, but it wasn’t crowded. I went just long enough to get a view of the town and then went back down and caught the bus back to Avignon.
Overall, it was lovely to visit the region and see the lavender and summering tourists. I’d love to go back in the cooler spring and do more bike riding and maybe rent a country house with a group of friends or family.