Palais des Papes (Popes’ Palace) in Avignon
In the words of Froissart, a 14th-century historian, the Palais des Papes is “the strongest and most beautiful house in the World”. It took fewer than 20 years to build, principally by order of two popes, Benoit XII and Clement VI. There are 25 rooms and areas open to visitors: great ceremonial halls that once hosted ceremonies and banquets, treasure rooms, terraces with breathtaking views, as well as chapels and private apartments decorated with frescoes of inestimable value, a testament to the innovativeness of the French and Italian schools of painting. The painted decorations of Saint Jean and Saint Martial chapels are attributed to the great Italian painter Matteo Giovannetti. The new Histopad multimedia tablet, an interactive, fun and user-friendly tool, offers you an enhanced experience of the palace, recreating the rooms in augmented reality so you can see them as they were at the time of the popes, complete with the decor and furniture of the time.
Château du Roi Renée in Tarascon
Built between 1400 and 1435, this castle served both military and residential functions. It’s an imposing symbol of the considerable power held by the Dukes of Anjou, counts of Provence and cousins of the King of France. The castle’s heyday came in the 15th century when the famous “artist prince”, King Renée (King of Naples, Sicily and Jerusalem), moved in and set himself up in full comfort, attracting the most cultured elites to his court: writers, painters, collectors and wealthy art dealers from all over Europe rubbed shoulders here in those days. There are more than 30 areas open to visitors, including the ceremonial halls, the former bedrooms of the princes and the remarkable collection in the apothecary house of the old hospital. The stunning panoramic view over the Rhone brings to mind a fantastic legend linked to the river, the story of Tarasque: Tarasque was a monster whose lair lay under the very rock the castle stands on.
Château des Baux de Provence
Now in ruins, this castle was once a Medieval stronghold built at the top of a rocky outcrop (“bau” means spur of rock in Provençal). Towering over its surroundings, Château des Baux offers fantastic views over Les Alpilles and La Camargue. Visitors can see full-scale replicas of huge siege engines, along with many other points of interest: the Tour de Brau with its equipped guard room, displaying a model of the castle as it would have looked in the 13th century, and a Medieval shop; the Saint-Blaise chapel that plays a spectacular film, “Provence vue du ciel” (“Provence from above”); the keep, with its decorative vestiges and Roman headstone; not to mention the Quiqueran hospital, the old windmill, the Sarrasine tower, the castle chapel, etc. An audioguide in 10 languages is available to help visitors navigate the castle, and there’s also an app to download on your mobile phone or tablet. The castle also puts on a multitude of events throughout the year, such as the launching of the siege engines, “All about Eggs” and “Summer at the Castle”.