Back to the time of the Knights
Once the capital of the Comtat Venaissin, and now prefecture of the Vaucluse department, Avignon is still seeped in its medieval past.
Discover the Palais des Papes, a vast fortress in the heart of the city, which was the seat of the papacy in the 14th century. Its ramparts are classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the city's bridge, built in the 12th century and made famous by the French children's song, “Sur le Pont d’Avignon”.
Find out more here: avignon-tourisme.com
Facing Avignon from the other side of the Rhône river, this small but popular destination is brimming with sites dating from the medieval era:
La Chartreuse: formerly a cardinal's residence in the time of Pope Innocent VI, it housed a community of monks following his election.
The Philippe Le Bel Tower: Once connected to Avignon by the Saint Bénézet Bridge, the tower is an imposing example of military architecture from the 13th century, offering a stunning panoramic view from the top.
- The Saint-André Fort: Built around a former monastery, this impressive fortress defended the Kingdom of France against the Holy German Empire.
Fort de Buoux
One of the most spectacular sites in the Luberon, the Fort de Buoux is a 13th-century fortress built on a rocky outcrop, which is now in ruins. Here you can discover the remains of the ramparts and the former medieval village within their walls, the troglodyte houses around it as well as a stunning panoramic view over the surrounding countryside.
Admission: €5/person // free for under 10s
Find out more here: lefortdebuoux.com
Castle of Lacoste
Dominating the pretty Provençal village of Lacoste, a detour to this 11th-century château is well worth the while for its architecture and exciting history. Once belonging to the Marquis de Sade, erotic writer of the 18th and 19th centuries, it was bought by famous fashion designer Pierre Cardin back in 2001. Whilst here, you can discover rooms, furniture and works of art from Cardin’s collection, brought back from his many exotic travels.
Admission: €12/adults // free for children and students
Find out more here: Château Lacoste
Le Barroux Castle
This military fortress built in the 12th century in order to protect the Comtat Venaissin was remade during the 16th century and is now one of the most gorgeous Renaissance castle of the region. But following a fire caused by the german solders during the second world war in 1944 who though that it was used by french resistance, the castle was almost entirely rebuilt after this episode.
Although private, some parts of the castle are open to visit in season.
Price of visits 5 € / adult (visit with booklet) // free children (a parchment of the little visitor is given to them at the entrance)
To find out more: www.chateau-du-barroux.com
The Baptistery of Venasque
This old 6th-century baptistery is unbelievably well-preserved. Reworked several times over the centuries, and contained within the 13th-century church, the imposing edifice was used twice a year to baptise adults through immersion during ceremonies exclusively performed by the bishop.
The hole where the octagonal-shaped baptismal font was positioned is still visible today.
Sénanque Abbey, in Gordes
Tucked away in the hollow formed by the surrounding vale, Sénanque Abbey was built in the 12th century and is still home to a community of Cistercian monks.
Find out more : Abbaye de Sénanque
Distance between Bedoin and Sénanque Abbey: 30 km / 19 miles
The Fortress of Mornas
Dating back to the 10th century, the military defence of this citadel was reinforced in the 12th century when it fell into the hands of the counts of Toulouse, who handed it over to papal authority from the 13th century. After the Wars of Religion, the building was left to ruin until, in 1977, the "Friends of Mornas" association launched its restoration.
We recommend the tour with guides in costume who will immerse you in this era of knights with realistic re-enactments of medieval life in the castle. An uninterrupted view across the Rhône Valley awaits you when you reach the defensive wall.
Find out more here: www.forteresse-de-mornas.com