Avignon is a beautiful medieval city in the heart of Provence, along the Rhone River. You’ll want to stay within the castled walls of the city, stroll its winding streets, visit chapels and – of course – see Pont d’Avignon (Avignon bridge).
Popular things to do in Avignon include enjoying private wine tastings in the Rhone River region, visiting the nearby village of Chateauneuf du Pape, taking in-town cooking classes, exploring world famous museums (such as the ancient Lapidary to the modern Beaux-arts) and participating in historic walking tours.
While it’s known as the capital of the Christian world during the Middle Ages, today Avignon is a thriving destination for those who enjoy festivals, gastronomy, wine, architecture and history.
Avignon has roughly 1.5 million visitors each year, including 280,000 from Germany, Great Britain, USA, Italy, Spain and Portugal. It’s the perfect place for a day trip if you’re staying or touring elsewhere in southern France. It’s also a great place to consider for a unique special event, meeting or incentives program.
If you’re planning an event in Avignon, consider these ideas.
The Papal Palace is the most recognizable building in Avignon due to its size and historical importance. It was constructed because of a papal dispute between French and Italian Cardinals that moved the Papacy from Rome to Avignon for nearly 70 years.
The palace itself is a work of art and is Avignon’s most popular attraction. Leisure visitors are provided with an audio guide to visit areas such as the chapel, dining room, treasury and some of the private chambers. But the meetings and events spaces offer greater and more exclusive access. This area is divided into meeting rooms, reception areas and exposition quarters.
The Papal Palace meeting spaces can hold up to 550 business attendees. I wanted to highlight some of the spaces that can be used for meetings and/or regular visitors.
- Conclave Room (Meetings Only): This was the room that housed the College of Cardinals at the election of the pope as well as a meeting space for heads of state who visited the pope. You will be impressed with not only the decoration of the room but also the design in which guests will sit facing each other as the Cardinals did. This room seats up to 110.
- Treasury (Meetings and Visitors): This room used to house the riches of the Middle Ages, and it’s ornately decorated with three grand windows. You will be impressed with the scenic outdoor views as well as the seclusion within the large palace of the area. The room seats up to 150.
- Herses (Meetings Only): There are two smaller rooms (Herses Notre Dame and Herses Champeaux) that are perfect for smaller special events to hold up to 20 or 35 guests. These were guard rooms to certain parts of the palace, and the rooms will transport you back to the Middle Ages
The Avignon Papal Palace has eight areas that can be used to host receptions. Two particular highlights include:
- Cloisters (Meetings and Visitors): There are two separate cloisters which are perfect for reception areas, Benedict XII (holds up to 300 standing) and the inside Gallery of Cloisters (can up hold to 50 on each side). The Cloister Benedict XII was decorated for a wedding during my visit, taking full care to elegantly decorate the outside green space.
- Grand Tinel (Meetings and Visitors): This room is adjacent to the Conclave Room, and at the election of the new Pope, the guards would break down the door between the rooms (You can still see the marks in the wall). The Grand Tinel was then and is today a perfect place for a dinner and celebration. The area can seat up to 560.
The Papal Palace also has four exhibition areas, all of which are included in the reception areas listing. They offer a mix of modern amenities in historic spaces (the chairs even have arched backs giving a Medieval feel).
Le Petit Louvre
Le Petit Louvre is an old Templar complex that included a Templar military installation (Commanderie) and chapel in the heart of historic Avignon. Constructed in 1273, the building is actually older than the more famous Papal Palace.
The site itself is rich with history as it was given to the Knights of Malta after the popes dissolved the Templar order and the Templar Commanderie was destroyed during the French Revolution. However, what’s special is that the Chapel itself was restored and is used as a meetings and events space.
Then in the 19th century, a hotel was opened on the site of the destroyed Commanderie and is now used for meetings and also includes a little outdoor garden area. The hotel has a very classical feel and each room is adorned with unique features and artwork. A local family operates Le Petit Louvre, and they are very cordial and experienced in special events..
The medieval architecture and feel of the chapel and will take you a world away from the tourists who are walking through the streets of Avignon.
For meetings events, the following are the space capacities:
- The chapel can accommodate up to 225 in a classroom setting and 150 in a reception configuration.
- The 11 rooms of the 19th century hotel can accommodate between 20 and 120 business travelers each.
Although its housed in a historic space, it is equipped with updated AV technology and there is an onsite technician to help with any items needed.
Espace Jeanne Laurent
Espace Jean Laurent is an old reservoir used to house fresh water for the city of Avignon. One almost misses it when visiting the Papal Palace, but it is adjacent to the massive structure.
The events space is located on the Rhone River and boasts one of the best views of the river bank, Chateau Villeneuf and the Tower of Phillip. You will be impressed with the stone architecture that gives these Avignon meetings and events space its one of a kind feel.
The interior is artfully constructed and retains its original design with AV technology available. Espace Jeanne Laurent can accommodate up to 550 business travelers for special events, and is extremely flexible with respect to customization and event type.
For more information about meetings and events in Avignon, France, contact Avignon Tourism.
Updated. Initially published, July 23, 2014.