Avignon is an alluring French city surrounded by medieval walls and set on the banks of the Rhône River. Steeped in history and rich in culture, Avignon is also adjacent to one of my favorite wine regions in the world – the Southern Rhône Valley. I traveled to Avignon for the wine, but was pleasantly surprised to find that a city I knew so little about ended up being one of the most memorable stops of the trip. The cobblestone streets of Avignon lined with Autumn-hued towering trees, old churches, charming shops, and enticing bakeries are immediately captivating. Little did I know prior to visiting that seven popes had resided in Avignon in the 14th century in the glorious medieval gothic Palias des Papes. Avignon is filled with lovely people, tons of prime shopping opportunities, and distinctive cuisine along with extensive wine lists at every turn. Now that there’s a quick 3 hour high speed train from Paris to Avignon, you too can easily make this a stop on your next French getaway.
As you might guess, this being the South of France and all, there are countless delectable restaurants to choose from in Avignon. In order to help narrow down your options a bit, here are a few superb Avignon restaurants and eateries I can’t stop thinking about.46 Rue de la Balance, 84000 Avignon, France
If you love food and wine, you will live for Le 46. You can find this restaurant and wine bar just a short walk from Place du Palais along Rue Pente Rapide and to the left on Rue de la Balance. Le 46 boasts a 200 plus bottle wine list and exquisite cuisine emphasizing fresh, Provençal ingredients with plates as beautiful as the city you’re eating in and impeccable service to match. We came for lunch and sat outside as the sun was shining on Avignon that day. We watched businessmen, elderly couples dressed to the nines, and even families walk into the restaurant to dine. If you plan on visiting for dinner, I would recommend making a reservation in advance.
I had a luscious glass of Pays du Gard Viognier from Roudil Jouffret which was unbelievably fragrant and bursting with floral and citrus notes. At this moment, I was overcome with joy because I was sipping a Viognier from the Rhône Valley while basically in the Rhône Valley!! A surreal moment for sure. My friend had a glass of Provençal Rosé called Glamour that was light, crisp, tart and refreshing. A perfect rosé.
We shared three dishes off the daily menu. An hors d’oeuvres of zucchini cannelloni with goat cheese, friseé and garlic croutons. Light, fresh, and gorgeously presented.
For main dishes we had the chicken salad with fresh sun dried tomatoes, feta, roasted bell pepper, and balsamic. The lettuce was crisp, the feta salty, the roasted bell peppers tangy, and the sun dried tomatoes were full of delicious natural sugars. I’d never tasted a sun dried tomato quite this good and I don’t think I can emphasize the freshness of the ingredients enough. We also had the dish of the day which was a poached fresh white fish with mussels, potato, carrots, and zucchini along with a house made garlic aioli that was so thick and creamy you had to work to pull the spoon out of it. This aioli is what dreams are made of. In fact, I still dream about this aioli.
L’Essential is a restaurant serving up Michelin Star quality food in an elegant yet inviting setting. Visit for dinner and be sure to make a reservation in advance. We were only able to book the first seating and the restaurant was completely packed by the time we were heading out. Rightfully so because the food was phenomenal! Though you can order dishes a la carte, L’Essential has affordable pre fix menus for three courses set at 36 Euros and an elevated option at 48 Euros. Plus you have two options to choose from for each course.
My friend and I both started with the salmon tartare with orange peel and ginger on cucumber fromage-blanc panacotta. The tartare was served alongside sucrine lettuce with onion vinaigrette. The salmon tartare was packed with flavor and the panacotta was rich and creamy, yet had a refreshing element from the cucumber. The gem lettuce had both fresh green onion and fried green onion, which offered an interesting depth of flavors. The crisp bite of the salad with bold onion flavor was a perfect complement to the richness of the salmon tartare and panacotta.
For my main course, I chose the cod loin roasted with shallots along with an orange emulsion, fennel-pepper and olive oil. The dish came with a side of polenta drenched in butter. I have since decided this is the only way I will eat polenta from here on out! The cod loin was perfectly cooked, extremely tender and moist with a crispy skin. The orange emulsion was bright and tangy. Then the fennel pepper made everything pop.
My friend ordered the chicken breast roasted with butter and slowly braised in barigoule artichoke bouillon. The chicken was so tender, it could be enjoyed with just a fork. Carrots shaved into spheres melted in the mouth and olives garnishing the dish provided the right amount of salt. The whole dish was drenched in a buttery heaven.
For dessert, I opted for the deconstructed speculoos tiramisu which I savored to the last drop. My friend ordered the Raspberry Trilogy. The trio included pistachio and chocolate mouse with candied raspberries, raspberry and lemon crumble, and blancmange with raspberry coulis and kampot pepper. Each was scrumptious and L’Essential even managed to make beautiful cotton candy out of fresh raspberries for this dish.
Everything was beyond delicious and the service was impeccable. I would return to L’Essential in a heartbeat!
Les Halles – Food Market
You’ll know you’ve reached Les Halles when you come across a giant, gorgeous, green living wall. This food market is packed with everything your culinary heart might desire – handcrafted chocolates, fresh seafood, handmade pastas, olives by the ton, meats, cheeses, wine bars, you name it! The wine bars were especially full of boisterous (and handsome) Frenchmen. I was tempted to buy everything I saw…if only I had a kitchen. Instead, I opted for two bags of seasoned olives, one green and one black, which my friend and I took down to the banks of the Rhône with a bottle of Beaujolais for an afternoon picnic. I would highly recommend doing the same!
For a quick croissant, pan au chocolat, baguette sandwich or macaroon…or 10, head to Edgar! You’ll likely pass by anyway along Rue de République, the main street from the train station in Avignon. Allow yourself to be enticed by Edgar’s tantalizing glass case display of baked goods and colorful macaroons. We grabbed breakfast and dessert there every day and were never disappointed!
If you’re craving a strong drink or a draught beer and want to be amongst the Avignon locals, head over to The Red Sky. They offer a full bar, some cute bartenders, and outdoor seating located right across from Les Halles. Apparently they have a decent happy hour and it’s a great place to watch a football game too!