The southern French city of Avignon is Provence on a plate. Here, you’ll get to savour all the produce and flavours that make the region such a treat: fish, fruit, fresh vegetables and delicate meats.
Architecturally beautiful, historically fascinating, Avignon is on the cultural map thanks to its legacy as the capital of the papacy in the 14th century. Then, of course, there’s the bridge made famous in the song, “Sur Le Pont d’Avignon.” This Provençal city has plenty to waylay you for a day – see the Palais des Papes, relax in the park – but you should aim to stay longer, as the culinary scene is terrific. From simple local market produce to Michelin-star wizardry, here are the best places to eat in Avignon. Bon appétit!
As one of Avignon’s most acclaimed restaurants, Restaurant Sevin enjoys a prestigious setting beside the town’s main attraction, the Palais des Papes (Popes’ Palace), in a building that dates from the 12th century. The restaurant has been the pride of chef Guilhem Sevin and his wife Corinne since 2016, when they took over from Sevin’s former boss Christian Etienne, whose name was above the door until recently. Sevin’s seasonal dishes draw on Provence’s exceptional produce, such as Camargue black rice and langoustines.
Step into Avignon’s buzzing market hall, admire its eco-friendly wall of plants and gaze at the abundant stands piled with everything from fresh fish to unctuous cheeses, warm pastries or superior wines. If you’re a seasoned cook, you’ll snap up your own ingredients. If that sounds like too much hard work, take a table at Cuisine Centr’Halles where American chef Jonathan Chiri has a small bistro drawing on the best market produce. Given his experience in the US, Germany, Barcelona and some of Provence’s top restaurants, you can imagine how good your lunch here will be.
With industrial decor reminiscent of a garage (a nod to Michelin’s other raison d’être, perhaps) and a terrace shaded by plane trees in the square opposite, L’Agapé serves a creative menu devised by passionate chef Julien Gleize. He launched the restaurant with his wife, Anne, in 2014 after years spent working in Michelin-star restaurants across Provence. Below bare walls and light bulbs, his modern twists on French classics are delicious to graze on, as are the desserts and bread made on site by their pâtisserie chef.
Newly relocated – and now among the chic boutiques of the old town – Pollen begins a new chapter as one of Avignon’s hottest restaurants. Chef Mathieu Desmarest’s career has seen him work at the Élysée Palace, and his creative cuisine draws on the natural flavours of carefully chosen local produce, with menus changing weekly. It’s closed on weekends, so come and dine between Monday and Friday – but be sure to reserve a table (well) in advance.
The setting is special, below a 7th-century church in the heart of the city, and L’Essentiel conjures magic, as chef Laurent Chouviat brings his experience of working at some of Paris’s acclaimed restaurants south to Avignon. His menus feature fresh, citrusy flavours that reflect the season and local produce. Sit in the modern dining room with its understated decor or take a table in the courtyard at the back, shaded by ancient honey-stone houses and petite olive trees.
Provençal cuisine is one of the healthiest in Europe – and this chimes with the Danish concept of hygge, which celebrates well-being. This friendly café serves a healthy menu of salads, soups and tartines, as well as a dish of the day, while dietary requirements are well-catered for, with vegan and gluten-free options. Inside, decor is an eclectic mix of vintage and Scandi furniture, and colourful knick-knacks; outside, the sun-dappled terrace is a good place to while away a few hours.
Welcome to the new incarnation of popular bistro Ginette et Marcel, just two doors down from the celebrated L’Agapé, on the same plane-tree shaded square. It’s a good stop for a budget lunch – the speciality is tartines, the more-elegant French phrase for “things on toast”; no beans in sight, though – instead think grilled baguette topped with goat cheese and thyme, brie with walnuts and acacia honey or chicken-mayonnaise with crunchy crudités. Inside, there’s a ‘50s vibe – a bit like sitting in your granny’s kitchen.
Having danced upon the Pont d’Avignon, as the traditional song suggests, make EAT your next stop, as it’s just a short walk away. The small and friendly bistro takes its initials from the words estaminet (a kind of pub in northeast France), arômes (flavours) and tentations (temptations). That hints at its laid-back ambience, as well as its fresh dishes, with an Italian edge. Choose from fresh fish, risotto or pasta, with tempting desserts that include tiramisu and semi-freddo, savouring the ingredients supplied by small local producers.
The restaurant of the five-star hotel La Mirande is the jewel in Avignon’s culinary crown – it’s worth the splurge for chef Florent Pietravalle’s six- or nine-course tasting menus. His fresh, balanced dishes draw on local ingredients, so local in fact that his cuisine has gained him Michelin’s green sustainability award as well as a Michelin star. You’ll be dining amid the same hallowed walls as the cardinals and popes did back in the 14th century, surrounded by tapestries, chandeliers and an open fire.
Just a few minutes from Avignon’s main attraction, the Palais des Papes, La Fourchette has been an institution in the city since 1982. Run by a friendly family of food-lovers led by chef Philippe Hiély, menus include classic French dishes and bistro favourites – think snails in herb butter and beef daube – served in a dining room adorned with arty posters, knick-knacks and white linens.