Expat life in Avignon, France’s Provence region

Nestled inside medieval ramparts on the left bank of the river Rhône is a historic city that is home to a number of British expatriates looking for a new way of life. Avignon, in the south of France, enjoys a good reputation among wealthy retirees, but its buzzing and modern centre also attracts professionals and their families.
It’s easy to see why this region is so desirable for expats. The Mediterranean climate ensures year-round warmth and sunshine. Despite feeling so far from the hustle and bustle of a major capital, hop on the high-speed TGV and you can be in Paris in under three hours. A trip back to the UK takes just five hours on the Eurostar, and it’s also served by a large airport, making it well located for travelling.

Art and culture

Everywhere you turn in Avignon you come face to face with culturally important architecture and design. Gorgeous winding cobbled streets navigate around the city, joining together the main attractions and sights. For example, Palais des Papes (Palace of Popes) is a Gothic masterpiece, once the seat of papal residency in the 14th Century.
For art history enthusiasts, there are plenty of museums worthy of a visit. The Musée du Petit Palais has plenty of examples of medieval and Renaissance art. Be sure to check out the Musée Calvet, the Musée Angladon and the Lambert Collection of contemporary art.
The annual Festival d’Avignon attracts thousands to this historic city every year. The three-week arts festival is held in July and has been running since its foundation in 1947. It’s the oldest festival in France and widely considered to be one of the greatest in the world. There are also plenty of other cultural, theatre and arts festivals throughout the year, lending the city a vibrant air.
Just walking around the city is enough, with those famous ramparts encircling the urban centre. A gentle stroll through the streets will uncover many medieval buildings and mansions. Every square and terrace has been artfully designed, encouraging you to stop and pause a while, enjoying a slower pace of life.
The famed Pont d’Avignon is a sight to behold, stopping halfway across the Rhône. The broken bridge has even been the subject of a song, such is its impact. It was originally built in the 12th Century, but was damaged by flood waters in the 17th Century and has remained in this state ever since.
For those moving with children, rest assured that there is plenty to do. The Ile de la Barthelasse is a large river island, accessible via one of two bridges on foot, bike or by car, or a ferry service. There are also a large number of picturesque parks and sports facilities.

Expatriate life

Eating out is considered a part of normal life, so expatriates will soon get to know their way around the local restaurants, cafés and coffee shops. It’s almost impossible to find a bad restaurant in Avignon, at the heart of Provençale cuisine. There is a real focus on good, locally sourced food and there are some exceptional chefs who work out of the region.
There are some local specialities, such as Pieds et Paquets, which is a dish made of tripe and trotters – certainly not for the faint-hearted! You’ll also find more palatable national dishes, as well as some of the most incredible fish restaurants in the area. An ever-changing menu of seafoods is expected, with delicacies such as scallops, lobster, sea urchins and spiny lobsters. Be sure to try Les Papalines d’Avignon, small pink chocolates that are only made in this region by a select few chefs. Its secret is in the inclusion of oregano alongside chocolate and liqueur.
In the summer months, the streets of Avignon will get overrun with tourists. If you’re moving to the region for a quieter way of life, it’s worth considering living in one of the small villages that surround the main city centre. Some villages that are popular with expatriates include Sorgues, Montfavet and Beaucaire, and Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, all within easy reach of the main city centre. There are a number of good schools in these areas, as well as a nice community feel and weekly markets for a rural feel.
If you’re moving to Avignon, be sure to check out our guide on moving to France and how we can help you with your shipping, packing and relocation.