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Enjoying 5 Days in Avignon, France Without a Car

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.

You really don’t need a car to explore the main part of town, which is shown in the turquoise circle below. You can walk to see the main attractions, like the Palais des Papes and the Pont d’Avignon.

Avignon map
Map of Avignon. The main, tourist, area is in the turquoise circle below. And, you can see the Gare d’Avignon Centre is on the very southern end of it. The town is small and very walkable. You could hop off the train and just walk to your hotel/Airbnb.
Avignon Palais des Papes aka Palace of the Popes.
Avignon Palais des Papes aka Palace of the Popes.
Pont d'Avignon. Walkable attraction from the city center.
Pont d’Avignon. Walkable attraction from the city center.

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.

camping avignon
Camping Bagatelle. Photo courtesy: Camping France.
rhone river boats avignon
Riverboats along the Rhone river.

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.

side street avignon france
A side street on the way to my Airbnb.

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.

cinema utopia avignon france movie theater
Cinema Utopia in Avignon. They only sold tickets right before the show, so you had to arrive early and wait. There was a nice restaurant/bar attached to the theater, so it was easy to pass the time.
avignon france sunset
Sunset walk along the Rhone River and looking up at the steps leading to the Palais des Papes.
Avignon france tourists
Strolling the streets of Avignon with other tourists. Always stopping for a gelato!

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.

From Wikipedia:

“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.”

.Villeneuve-lès-Avignon side street
Side street in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon

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.

Villeneuve-lès-Avignon lavender
Wild lavender growing in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.
A view of Fort Saint Andre.
A view of Fort Saint Andre.
A view of Fort Saint Andre towers
Big, impressive, towers at the entrance to Fort Saint Andre.
Quiet streets in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. I thought this was a cute bag hanging from a shop rack.
Quiet streets in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. I thought this was a cute bag hanging from a shop rack.

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.

bike rental cavaillon day trip from avignon
The bike I rented in Cavaillon on a day trip from Avignon.

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.

cycling route cavaillon luberon
Bike route map from Cavaillon through the Provence/Luberon region for about 20 miles.
cycling route map luberon region
This was the free map I got from the bike shop. As you can see, there are lots of options for cycling in this area!
cycling pic robion france
Stopping to pose for a pic while riding through the town of Robion.
robion france cycling
Bike against an old train station cafe outside of Robion.
Fontaine-de-Vaucluse cycling
En route to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse. Riding along the beautiful water.
Fontaine-de-Vaucluse
Fontaine-de-Vaucluse water. Green and blue and clear!
Stopped to admire the water at Fontaine-de-Vaucluse.
Stopped to admire the water at Fontaine-de-Vaucluse.
L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
cycling luberon provence
Most of the roads were quiet and well paved. I never had any trouble with traffic or drivers. I didn’t run out of water, but I could imagine that it’d be dangerous if you were out riding in the heat for a long time. Bring lots of water!

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.

Day trip to Saint Rémy de Provence
Day trip to Saint Rémy de Provence.

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.

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