Even if you don’t have time to explore every nook and cranny of the huge complex of buildings that make up Avignon’s Archbishop’s Palace, you should definitely pay the Musée du Petit Palais a visit. The buildings are stunning, inside and out, and they are a fine example of the architecture typical of Avignon’s old town. The museum itself focuses mainly on Italian and Provençal artwork, from stone carvings to paintings and sculptures dating from the Middle Ages through to the Renaissance. The permanent collection is vast and is beautifully displayed, but keep an eye out for the impressive temporary exhibitions.
The Musée Calvet is housed in the spectacular 18th-century Hôtel de Villeneuve-Martignan and is one of the oldest museums in the city. Here, you’ll find a number of different collections of paintings, sculptures, ceramics, furniture and other decorative arts, many of which belonged to the Avignon-born physician Esprit Calvet who gave the museum its name. The museum’s collection increases with each passing year – in 2010 a new room was opened with 75 tableaux by the likes of Manet and Sisley among others. The museum is one of the highest rated in France, so you should definitely pay a visit while you’re here.
Lovers of archaeology should head straight to Avignon’s Musée Lapidaire, conveniently located just up the road from the city’s tourist office. Housed in the chapel of the Collège des Jésuites, the building is just as impressive from the outside as it is on the inside. The museum, which is an annex of the Musée Calvet, contains Egyptian, Greek and Etruscan artifacts, and recent exhibitions have focused specifically on archaeological findings from these areas. The museum isn’t huge, so you needn’t set aside an entire day to peruse the items on display, but it’s definitely worth a visit especially since entrance is only 2€.
Another of Avignon’s best galleries, which you’ll find within the winding streets of the city’s old town, is the Fondation Angladon-Dubrujeaud. This gallery, which is dedicated to displaying the works of famous artist from Provence, first opened in 1996 and has been welcoming thousands of visits every year since. Here, you’ll find works from all schools and by many different artists, all local to the city or the surrounding regions. The Fondation Angladon Dubrujeaud is also home to the only work by Vincent Van Gogh on permanent display in Provence – the 1888 ‘Wagons de Chemin de Fer’ – making it one of Avignon’s most unmissable spots.
The Collection Lambert first opened its doors to the public in 2000, the same year that Avignon was named European Capital of Culture. The collection actually belongs to one man, the Parisian born art collector and gallerist Yvon Lambert, who first started amassing the collection in the 1960s. When the building was first made accessible to the public there were 450 unique pieces of art on display. This number has now grown to over 1,200 and continues to grow. The collection includes work from well-known artists as well as lesser known painters and sculptors, and there are temporary exhibitions held here which change every few months.
Located just around the corner from the Musée Calvet is the Musée Requien, Avignon’s own natural history museum. This museum, which first opened its doors in 1840, is one of the oldest in Avignon and was the result of the life’s work of Espirt Requien. Born and raised in Avignon, Requien dedicated his life to the sciences and, in particular, to botany. Today, the museum has two permanent collections. One is dedicated to prehistoric evolutionary biodiversity; the other is dedicated to the last indigenous predators in the region – the bear and the wolf. The museum also houses a library, whose extensive volumes are on display and can be inspected more closely on request.