How to visit the Palais des Papes: our ideas and tips

Planning a stay in Avignon? Don’t miss the Palais des Papes! Here’s all you need to know about this fortress and palace!

On the Place du Palais in Avignon, Provence, stands the largest Gothic building of the Middle Ages, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Palais de Papes. Leaning against the Rocher des Doms in the center of the city, it’s a must-see when visiting this leading tourist city.

Serving as both fortress and residence for the popes, no less than six conclaves were held at the Palais des Papes in the space of 9 years (1335-1394). With 600,000 visitors a year, it is now one of the most visited historic buildings in France, where numerous cultural and artistic events are organized: exhibitions, concerts, themed tours and even a few performances during the Avignon Festival in the main courtyard of the Palais des Papes.

So if you’re wondering what to do during your stay in Avignon, I can only recommend one thing: visit the Palais des Papes to discover all its mysteries.

History of the Palais des Papes

Palais des Papes

The history of the Palais des Papes begins with the strategic choice of its location, because nothing was left to chance! In terms of the Christian world of the time, Avignon was much more central than Rome, and was also ideal for business: its famous Pont d’Avignon linked the city to Spain, Provence and Italy. The idea of building the palace on the Rocher des Doms was also well thought-out, as this location meant that the Palais des Papes could be seen from the city and from the summit of the Alpilles, but also that it would overlook the Rhône and thus escape flooding.

Under the influence of the French king Philippe le Bel, the city became the residence of the popes in 1309, with the installation of Pope Clement V. The papal palace was then built in less than 20 years (from 1335 to 1352). It was mainly the work of two papal builders: Benedict XII (who built the first papal palace, known as the Old Palace), and Clement VI (who built new extensions, known as the New Palace).

After 1417, once the papacy had returned to Rome, the palace became the residence of the legates, the pope’s cardinal representatives, until the French Revolution. Later, the Popes’ Palace was decommissioned from its religious functions and became a military barracks. It wasn’t until 1906 that the State took over the Palais des Papes and began to renovate it. The scale of the work was so great that it lasted a century…

What to see and do in the Palais des Papes?

Palais des Papes

But what to see and do at the Palais des Papes? With its 15,000 m2 of floor space, the Palais des Papes is the largest Gothic palace in the world, equivalent in volume to 4 Gothic cathedrals! In addition to its sheer size, there are many other architectural features that deserve a closer look. A visit to the Palais des Papes will enable you to discover more than 20 rooms – including the pope’s private apartments and their incredible frescoes by artist Matteo Giovannetti – as well as the stages and techniques involved in building the Palais des Papes, and to understand how the power of the papacy has been exercised over time.

Through the two buildings of the Palais des Papes, the Palais Vieux and the Palais Neuf, you can discover :

  • The Consistory: This is where Popes and Cardinals used to meet to discuss current affairs. It is decorated with frescoes by Simone Martini, and houses St. John’s Chapel.
  • La Chambre du Camérier
  • The Lower Treasure Room: This is where the safe was located, accessible only to the Pope, the Treasurer and the Camerer. In this room, caches were built into the floor. Bags of gold and silver could be stored here.
  • The Courtyard of the Cloister of Benedict XII
  • The Salle du Grand Tinel: This large hall was the venue for the most prestigious feasts in the world.
  • La Chapelle Saint Martial
  • Rooms: The Chambre Neuve du Camérier, the Chambre des Notaires, the Chambre de Parement, the Chambre du Pape, the Chambre du Cerf… The last two rooms feature splendid frescoes and larch ceilings.
  • La Terrasse des Grands Dignitaires, where a magnificent panorama of the town, Villeneuve-les-Avignon and the surrounding region awaits you!
  • The Grand Audience Hall, 52 metres long and 11 metres high
  • The Pope’s Tower
  • The Cour d’Honneur: This is where people used to gather to receive the Pope’s blessing, and where the Avignon Festival has been held since 1947.
  • The Great Chapel: this is where the coronations and funerals of popes were held, among other events

How do I get to the Palais des Papes?

If you’d like to visit the Palais des Papes, you’ll find it at the following address: Place du Palais, 84000 Avignon.

You can also visit the Palais des Papes :

  • By plane: You can reach Avignon by plane if you want to visit the Palais des Papes. Marseille-Provence airport is 1 hour away, Nîmes Garon airport 35 minutes, or you can land at Avignon Caumont airport. If you choose this means of transport, you can rent a car to reach Avignon.
  • By car: You can reach Avignon by car via the A7 freeway. For parking, the Palais des Papes parking lot is just a few meters away.
  • By train: You can take the train to Avignon to visit the Palais des Papes. The distance between the train station and the TGV is 15 minutes, and you can take the TGV shuttle bus from Avignon station.
  • By bus: You can take lines 5, Citizen (CZen) and Baladine to visit the Palais des Papes.

Visit the Palais des Papes : Prices and opening hours

Palais des Papes

SCHEDULES

The Palais des Papes is open every day, all year round.

  • September 1 to November 1: 9:00 am – 7:00 pm
  • November 2 to February 29: 9:30 a.m. – 5:45 p.m.
  • March: 9:00 am – 6:30 pm
  • April 1 to June 30: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
  • July: 9:00 am – 8:00 pm
  • August: 9:00 am – 8:30 pm

RATES

(SELF-GUIDED TOUR + HISTOPAD INCLUDED)

  • Full price: €12
  • Reduced rate : 10€
  • Free for children under 8

There’s also a package that includes a visit to the Palais des Papes and the Pont d’Avignon. You can also book your own guided tour!

You can find more information on prices, and the conditions of application for reduced and free admission by clicking here.

GOOD TO KNOW:

– Last admission to the ticket office is 1 hour before the monument closes.

– September 21 and 22: Heritage Days – free admission subject to availability.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

To visit the Palais des Papes in Avignon, you’ll need to prepare for your visit by learning all you can about this historic site. Here is a selection of the most frequently asked questions:

When is the best time to visit the Palais des Papes?

If you want to visit the Palais des Papes without too many people, it’s best to go early in the morning or at the end of the day.

How long does a visit to the Palais des Papes last?

A visit to the Palais des Papes takes an average of 3 hours.

Is it possible to eat inside the Palais des Papes?

The terrace of the Grand Dignitaries houses the Palais des Papes Cafeteria, where you can enjoy a delicious meal.

Are pets allowed?

No, you can’t bring your pets with you when you visit the Palais des Papes.

Accessibility

Unfortunately, the site is not accessible to people with reduced mobility.