Enrich Experience: Explore Avignon's Palais-des-Papes

Exclusive encounters, wonderful locations and immersive experiences; that’s the joy of Scenic Enrich. Wherever you journey on the rivers of Europe, we provide unique moments of complete cultural enrichment, nourishing your appetite for travel, discovery and wonder.

To demonstrate the extraordinary experiences included in our Enrich programme, we’ve taken the time to showcase some of our favourite Enrich experiences for you to enjoy.

So far in the Enrich Experience series, we’ve scaled the mighty ramparts of Marksburg Castle for an evening of medieval food and fun; gained exclusive access to a classical concert in the palatial halls of Vienna’s Palais Liechtenstein; and savoured a select wine tasting at the prestigious Château Giscours, one of France’s most esteemed vineyards.

Today, we’re lifting the lid on our exclusive Palais-des-Papes Enrich encounter, which is available on select cruises atop the beautiful Rhône.

Find out more about our Palais-des-Papes Enrich excursion below.

Palais-des-Papes — A Magnificent History to Treasure

Striking, beautiful and of massive historical significance; the Palais-des-Papes is an extraordinary landmark whichever way you look at it. Looming above the exquisite city of Avignon in the Provence region of France, this magnificent and imposing building belies its origins as the seat of Western Christianity — appearing more like a siege-prone fortress than the former papal residence.

palais des papes avignon

During the 14th century, the Palais-des-Papes served as the home to three consecutive Popes, including Pope Clement V, Pope John XXII and Pope Benedict XII. It was Pope Clement who made the decision to move the Papal Curia to the Avignon Papacy, after witnessing the violent chaos of Rome. Palais-des-Papes, whose construction began in 1252, was seen as the perfect seat for the Roman Curia, offering protection, space and good access to the Mediterranean Sea.

During their tenure as residents in the Palais-des-Papes, the Popes each contributed a number of design changes to the building. By the time of its completion in 1364, the building had grown to an enormous size, stretching across a vast rocky outcrop to the very banks of the Rhône. At the time, the building was considered one of the largest and most opulent in Europe, and was complete with sumptuous interior design flourishes, including tapestries, frescos, sculptures and paintings — a few of which still survive to this day.

In 1377, the Popes departed Avignon, returning to Rome where some political stability had been restored. At this time, the Palais-des-Papes entered a long period of decline, in which it was besieged on multiple occasions by invading forces.

Although it remained in the care of the Avignon Papacy for some three centuries, the building suffered near total neglect and had completely deteriorated by the time of the French Revolution of 1789. The palace was later seized and sacked by revolutionary forces, and became the scene of a massacre of counter-revolutionaries, whose bodies were thrown into the deep latrines of the Palais Vieux.

At the close of the revolution, Palais-des-Papes was claimed by the Napoleonic French state, and was used as a prison and army barracks. The building was finally vacated in 1906, and was declared a national museum soon after. Since then, the building has seen near-constant renovation, and was granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1995 due to its indelible cultural significance.

The Palais-de-Papes Enrich Experience

While access to the Palais-de-Papes is restricted to the public, Scenic guests are invited to enter this magnificent historic structure for an unforgettable evening of classical music, fine food and exquisite local wine.

enrich avignon

After a day spent exploring the historic, cobblestone streets of Avignon, you’ll be transported to this ancient monument for an evening of magical entertainment and exquisite gourmet dining.

Expect the works of Mozart, Strauss, Vivaldi and Beethoven as you take your seat in the Grand Tinel Room for an evening of beautiful classical music. The small orchestra comprises virtuoso musicians from the local area, keen to showcase their skills amid the spectacular wonder and enchantment of the Palais-des-Papes.

With its domed roof, vast tapestries and original 13th-century stonework walls, the Tinel Room makes a truly majestic setting for this extraordinary evening of classical music and fine dining. You’ll enjoy a delicious meal in the heart of this incredible venue, all the while serenaded by the magical tones of the palace’s resident music troupe.

If this sounds like the perfect way to while away another evening on a Scenic river cruise, take a look at our collection of river cruises on the Rhône or call us today on 0808 159 8834. 

Dominic Keely
Dominic Keely
Dominic is Scenic's Marketing Exec. His favourite river is the Seine, because of the rich history of the region. Dom's a huge football and Manchester United fan, and plays on a team himself.