What to do in Avignon when it rains
The climate in Provence is generally great, with roughly 300 days of sunshine beaming down across the region each year. However, that statistic does still leave 65 days on average when the sun doesn’t shine.
We can often struggle to dispel a sense of disappointment when a holiday vision of sunshine is marred by rain or windy weather. Happily, bad weather passes through Provence quite quickly after a few torrential downpours. To help you dispel the gloom and recognise all the fun still to be had when it’s raining here, we’ve pulled together a list of the best activities for rainy days in Avignon.
For the foodies
Provencal cuisine is based on colourful vegetables, aromatic herbs and other high-quality local ingredients including delicious olive oil, fish, rice and truffles. Combined in simple dishes, this produce has turned the region into one of the most looked-after destinations for foodies. Avignon offers plenty of opportunities for gourmets to savour Provencal delicacies. The best place to start is the local food market, Les Halles, where you'll find fresh fruit and veg, olives, truffles, cheese, nougat and lots of other specialities. They also organise cookery courses every Saturday at 11:00 taught by famous local chefs, so you can even learn to prepare some regional recipes here. You'll probably build up an appetite after perusing all the goods so book a table at one of Avignon's gourmet restaurants to satisfy your appetite.
For the culture vultures
Avignon's rich history and stunning architecture were recognised by UNESCO when the old town was awarded World Heritage Status in 1995. No trip to this charming Provencal city is complete without a visit to the Palais des Papes, one of the most important Gothic constructions in the world. Built in the 14th-century, nowadays you can still glimpse the luxury and medieval glamour that this imposing building must have once offered the Popes who inhabited it. To explore the rest of the historical centre while avoiding the rain, hop onto the Petit Train, a tourist train that takes riders around Avignon's main jewels including the famous Pont Saint-Bénézet, on which the 'Sur le Pont d'Avignon' song is based. Stop at the Calvet Museum and the Collection Lambert to see two of the city's best art collections.
For the active visitors
Why not go for a swim indoors? Most hotels in Avignon have their own wonderful swimming pool facilities but, if yours doesn't, then head to the Caneton indoor heated pool in the neighbouring town of Sorgues, just a 15-minute drive from Avignon. Be aware that French pools insist on Speedo-style swim trunks for males rather than board shorts – if you don’t have any you can normally buy them at the venue.
For the sweet-toothed
Cafes and patisseries line the streets of Avignon's old town so grab a table at one of them and enjoy some people watching while the rain splashes on the cobbled roads. Milk Shop is an American-inspired cafe and bakery serving smoothies, homemade pastries, bagels, all sorts of hot drinks and 'freakshakes', towering milkshakes topped with whipped cream and all sorts of sweet goodies. You'll have an even cosier experience at La Compagnie des Chats, Avignon's one and only 'Neko Café' or cat café. They serve delicious bites for lunch including quiches, salads and sandwiches, as well as homemade pastries and ice cream, but the highlight here is not so much the food but the company. A clowder of cats has taken up residence inside and make for the best possible allies on a cold, rainy day. They're also available for adoption so, if you can't part with your new buddy, just ask the staff how you can apply to take him home.
For the kids
Just a 30-minute drive away from the centre of Avignon is one of Provence's biggest spectacles, the Carrières de Lumières. This abandoned quarry in the heart of the Les Baux countryside has been turned into a larger-than-life canvas where contemporary audiovisual artists can project their light and sound shows. Current exhibitions include Picasso and the Spanish masters and Flower Power. On the outskirts of the city, Epicurium is a unique educational space dedicated to fruits and vegetables. With a hands-on exhibition on how they are grown from the seed to your plate, an orchard and vegetable garden and even hives, kids will learn all about what they eat in a fun way. They also organise regular workshops for children.
For the adults
What better way to indulge yourself on a rainy day than a pampering treatment at one of Avignon’s great day spas? Afterwards, spend the day hopping from one shop to the next in the narrow streets of the city and make the most of the local boutiques. Finally, end your day with a nightcap at the legendary Ajmi Jazz Club, one of the most prestigious jazz bars in the country.
Whatever the weather, there is plenty to do in and around this beautiful region of Provence.