Avignon, France Meeting Planning Overview
In the very heart of Provence, land of rose wine, olive trees and lavender fields, is assuredly one of France's most charming and attractive locations for meetings and incentives. But for many, the name Avignon evokes the popular children's song, Sur le Pont d'Avignon. Constructed in the 14th century, le Pont St. Benezet was the main artery connecting Italy and Spain across the River Rhone. Today, only half that bridge remains and is open to pedestrians on a limited basis. Its courtyard is one among many amazing event venues in Avignon.
Avignon is extremely accessible from Paris Charles de Gaulle. A fast TGV train departs directly from the airport and in little more than three hours one can arrive comfortably in Avignon.
History and preservation combine to make meeting venues in Avignon nothing short of spectacular. In the 14th century, the papacy quit Rome and established itself in Avignon, which for 70 years then held sway as the capital of Christendom. The most important site in the city remains the Palace of the Popes. Occupying two wings of the papal palace, the International Conference Center has been in operation since 1976. Among its historic meeting venues are the guardroom, the office of the treasurer, the cloister, and the papal banquet hall. The most spacious is the Great Audience Chamber for gala dinners and exhibitions (8,800 square feet). The conference center also includes the four-room Jeanne Laurent Building, with a convenient location in the former papal gardens next door to the palace. A 1990-conversion of the city's old water reservoir, it offers splendid panoramic views of the Rhone valley (8,500 square feet).
Avignon is a noted center for culture with numerous museums, theaters and an opera house. The Avignon Festival in July draws theater-goers from all over the world.
Avignon's relatively small size works to its advantage. Everything is walkable and the lively streets—many paved with their original cobblestones—are filled with shops and restaurants. Of particular interest is the wonderful covered market filled with products of the terroir (native wine-growing soil). And no visit to Avignon would be complete without a stroll along the 14th-century ramparts that still encircle the city.