Avignon

Attention, quiz fans: name the city where the pope lived during the early 14th century. Answered Rome? Bzzz: sorry, wrong answer. For 70-odd years of the early 1300s, the Provençal town of Avignon was the centre of the Roman Catholic world, and though its stint as the seat of papal power only lasted a few decades, it's been left with an impressive legacy of ecclesiastical architecture, most notably the soaring, World Heritage–listed fortress-cum-palace known as the Palais des Papes.

Avignon is now best known for its annual arts festival, the largest in France, which spans several weeks in July. The rest of the year, its rampart-ringed old town, medieval bridge, leafy squares and super restaurants are the main attractions. Be warned, however – the construction of a flashy new tramway around the old town's edge will be causing major traffic headaches until at least 2020.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Avignon.