Visiting Avignon on a hot summer’s day can be challenging, especially if you’re with a bunch of teenagers. Time for a refreshing break! And, surprisingly enough, my family and I found it in the famous Palais des Papes. As the largest Gothic palace in Europe and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it has towered over the Place du Palais since the 14th century. Since 1309, Avignon has been the residence of nine popes in total, and it took less than 20 years to construct their decadent residence.
Back in time
Nowadays, the Palais des Papes is amongst the ten most visited monuments in France. And not only during the summer, as every day of the year you can visit more than 25 rooms in the palace. We paid 12 euros for an adult ticket and 10 euros per child for two of our kids, as the third one gets in free (all children under 8 years and any third child). It is possible to attend a guided tour (French only). However, we opted for the interactive tablet, included in the entrance fee, called Histopad. With this clever gadget, we travelled back to the time of the Sovereign Pontiffs using augmented reality and 3D technology. On top of that, it’s available in seven languages.
While I had some trouble using the Histopad, the kids rapidly figured it out. As soon as they entered a room, they started looking for a pillar with a scannable logo. Scanning this time portal was possible in nine rooms. It showed us how the chamber was decorated in the early days of the palace. By holding the tablet in front of us, the image would adjust itself to the angle we were looking at, very cool! It made us travel back eight centuries and gave a great impression of the elaborate decoration of that time. The children even managed to find treasures in these virtual reality interiors, which increased the fun of our visit. I have rarely visited a cultural place without one (or more…) moaning kid. At the Palais des Papes though, they stayed behind us, even returning to where we had been before! A surreal experience…
In the meantime, Chéri and I used our Histopad as a guide and learned a lot about the history of the Palais des Papes. The palace has a surface area of 15,000m2 and can easily fit four Gothic cathedrals. We wandered through the Consistory Hall, the Papal Chamberlain’s room, the Treasuries, the banquet hall, just to name a few. The last room we entered was the impressive ‘Grande Chapelle’. With its dimensions of 52 by 16 meters and a height of 20 meters, it served as backdrop for many lavish ceremonies. Going through the beautiful Magna Porta, the Great Chapel’s portal, brought us back to the present time. We all agreed that this interactive visit was a great way to bring the Palais des Papes alive!