If you’re a theater lover then the Festival d’Avignon is definitely the place to be this summer! One of the oldest surviving festivals in the world, the theater festival transforms the entire city of Avignon to one big culture fest for three whole weeks. Avignon Festival will take place from July 7th to July 28th in one of the most beautiful historic cities in the South of France. In this article we’ll highlight both the official Festival d’Avignon and the fringe theater festival “Off” that takes place alongside the Avignon Festival. Together, these two festivals will hold over a 1000 shows in less than one month this year. July will be a busy month in Avignon!
The city of Avignon in Provence has an incredibly rich history, which was acknowledged when the historic city center became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. There are two world-famous landmarks in Avignon. The first is a bridge called Pont Saint-Bénezet, which is better known for its second name Pont d’Avignon. While the medieval bridge only has four surviving arches and no longer crosses the Rhône River, it will be forever immortalized through the children’s song “Sur le pont d’Avignon”. The second famous landmark of the city is the Palais des Papes, or Palace of the Popes. This medieval palace is one of the largest Gothic buildings in Europe and was named after the Popes who started building it in 1252 AD.
The Palais des Papes is also where the official Festival d’Avignon started in 1947, when the founder of the festival, Jean Vilar, staged a theater play in the courtyard of the palace. Vilar remained creative director of the festival for over 20 years until his death in 1971. Over the years, the festival has spread from just one venue to over 20 often historic or outdoor venues in the city. The prestigious festival presents around 40 different shows each year, produced by both French and foreign companies. Nowadays, the shows are no longer only theater performances: music, dance and opera shows have also joined the ranks.
Each year, more than 100,000 tickets are sold for the shows. If you buy a ticket for one of the performances, be sure to hold on to it, as with it you can get a discount at most of the main heritage sites and museums in Avignon. For more information about this year’s performances and ticket prices, there is an English-language website for the festival.
Also taking place in Avignon between July 7th and July 28th is the so-called “Off Festival”. This theater festival takes place alongside the official “In” Festival d’Avignon, and the Off Festival’s shows greatly outnumber the shows of the official festival. This year, more than a 1000 unique shows will be held by performers from all over the world. This makes the Off one of the biggest festivals in the world for independent theater companies. The Off Festival is different from the In Festival in that there’s no official selection for the Off: anyone who wants to can come to Avignon and perform.
While for the In Festival we recommend you buy tickets well in advance, for the Off you can often find tickets for a show on the day of the performance. In fact, there are so many shows being performed in churches, schools and public buildings all over the city that there’s really something for everyone. This abundance of shows is also why you’ll see many flyers, posters and promoters all over Avignon trying to get you to come see their performance. Even the actors take to the streets to promote their show! These spontaneous instances of street theater together with the musicians and dancers in the streets make it an absolute joy to experience Avignon in the month of July.
Summer Holiday in Avignon
If you’re going to be in Avignon for the July festivals, it’s great to stay somewhere close to the main festival locations. This way, you can see as many different plays as you want and be able to go back and forth to your apartment quickly.
Conveniently located, we have a 2-bedroom penthouse in the historic city center of Avignon available for this period! The 2-bedroom duplex apartment is on the top two floors of a renovated 16th Century building, and has spectacular views. In fact, you can see the Palace of the Popes right from the windows in your living room! The apartment also features a lovely balcony where you can enjoy sunny breakfasts or late-night dinners at the outdoor dining table. As for the location, the apartment is just 200 meter away from the Palais des Papes, which means it’s right in the middle of all the festivities!
Whether you’re coming to Avignon in July to see as many plays as you can or simply want to soak up the vibrant atmosphere in the historic city, there’s no doubt Avignon will have you hooked. Don’t forget to see the sights, party with the locals and have fun!
What’s your favorite theater festival?
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