Driving and parking in Provence

Thinking of renting a car and staying in one of the small towns in Provence. We want to tour Avignon and Arles along with everything else, but I hear driving in Avignon, and Arles to an extent, is challenging. Is it possible to park somewhere in the outskirts of town and take at train or bus to go into the center of town? Thanks for your advice.

Posted by Dale
Boston, MA, USA
224 posts

In Arles, I remember a fairly large public parking area just outside the old city gates on the north, near the river - by Place Lamartine. I thought Arles was very manageable by car, and easy to drive out of from that parking area, just heading north through the traffic circle at Place Lamartine toward Avignon, Les Baux, St.Remy, etc.

Posted by john
sumter, SC, United States
20 posts

I was in avignon a couple of years ago and I didn't find the driving to be a problem. Arles is even smaller and I should not think it would be a problem either. Follow the signs to the city center and then find public parking near the area you want to visit. Like any city, rush hours are to be avoided if possible. I have driven all over Europe (well north of the Arctic Circle to southern Greece) but I would no longer want to try it without a GPS, it just makes driving so much easier. I have been driving in Europe for 45 years and think a car is the only way to go.

Posted by Annie
Somewhere in California
79 posts

Thanks for your replies. I read in the book that driving in Avignon is challenging. Just trying to figure out how to tour it if we have a car. But you guys are saying it's not that bad to drive around Avignon and Arles.

Posted by Bev
Decorah, Iowa, USA
307 posts

If I remember correctly, streets seem to go in a circle around the old town in each city. We found Arles harder in which to park than Avignon. In Avignon, get on the street that circles the old town, go to the northwest corner area side beside the river. There is public parking under the Mercure hotel. The parking area itself is below the Palais des Papes. Unless things have changed, go into the parking ramp and park. Then look for the ticket machine to get the ticket. When you return, put the ticket in the machine and pay. Go find your car, drive down the ramp and then put the ticket receipt in the machine as you exit. Needless to say, this was a really learning experience for my driver husband. :) There may be some new information that other posters can add. Since we always have the car, we just usually just "yell" at each other and drive to as close as we can to where we want to be and then park. The yelling always adds such a fun dimension! :) I can't read the map fast enough to see the map and then the street names as we drive by them. Where are you staying in Provence? East or west of the A7?

Posted by Annie
Somewhere in California
79 posts

I'm trying to figure out if it's best to stay in Avignon with a car and drive out to the surrounding countryside. Or stay in the countryside outside of Avignon and drive into Avignon in order to tour it. I don't know if it's worse to drive into Avignon or out of Avignon. So glad to hear your driving adventures were fun. I think the "yelling" would stress me out. :p

Posted by Bev
Decorah, Iowa, USA
307 posts

Actually, we try NOT to yell! :) However, one year, we were given a Lancia car as the rental. We found out that the car was fairly expensive. Obviously, Ron was quite nervous and driving, especially in the hill towns and going in and out of the parking ramps. We have also had some A class Mercedes so again, nerves! Being the bigger person, I try not to yell back! :) Such is the "fun" of travel! Actually, he is a very good driver. I navigate and he drives. Plus, I try to remind him that if I don't see the sign for the town on the first time around the round-about, we can always go around again. However, I also remind him there is a limit of five times around the circle. JOKE!

Posted by Bets
3359 posts

Annie, In your threads you haven't said when you are going, but in case you are planning on the summer and driving in Avignon, you should be aware that there is a huge theater/art festival much of the summer which draws huge crowds.

Posted by Kim
1608 posts

Annie, I much prefer staying in a village and visiting Avignon for part of a day. I've stayed in Saignon a couple of times and loved it.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
6030 posts

I agree that staying in a smaller town and visiting Avignon and Arles for part of a day may be less stressful for you than having to drive in there every day. I did stay in Arles at the Hotel Regency, and there was free parking across the street. It is inside the wall, but next to it, so it was easy to get in and out of town. A GPS is VERY helpful. Driving in Provence isn't bad. If you live in Hayward, CA it is more of a challenge to drive in the Bay Area!

Posted by Ed
9110 posts

Are you sure that you don't have Aix and Avignon mixed up for driving difficulty?

Posted by Annie
Somewhere in California
79 posts

Thank you for all your helpful responses. We are going in August, and I think the festival is in July... I hope I'm right. This is the quote from Rick Steves' France book: "Avignon (pop. 110,000) is a headache for drivers. Arles (pop. 52,000) is easier but still challenging." Which made me wonder if I should find lodging in Avignon as I originally planned, or stay somewhere else. It is encouraging to read that some have not encountered difficulty driving in both towns. We will stay 4 nights in Provence. So now, after reading your responses, I'm thinking we could either stay 4 nights in a smaller town or stay 2 nights in Avignon and 2 nights in a smaller town. The challenge now for our family is to find a non-expensive place that has a quad room (accommodates 4).

Posted by Melissa
Naperville, IL, USA
12 posts

We stayed in Avignon a year ago and rented a car. The problem we faced was with the size of our car and the difficulties of manual in hill towns. There were 6 of us, so we needed a bigger vehicle (and by that I mean a large car). It was not always easy to navigate the narrow lanes. We didn't have any problems with parking though. We stayed in the old town and parked the car along the ramparts. We were there in the spring though and I can imagine the summer being crazy. Arles is a bit smaller and we paid for parking there. I'm not sure how much free parking is available. I hope you love Provence!

Posted by Mike
los angeles, california, usa
77 posts

Annie, we've had little or no problems with most of the towns in Provence. But Arles is a special situation depending on where you'll be staying. The streets that wander through the old city have traffic gates which require a special pass card to let you through. And they're one-way. As you WALK around the town, you'll see fellow tourists who've gotten themselves stuck at one of the gates, unable to go forward or back, with local drivers piling up behind them. Now that's Panic Time! There is a bridge across the Rhone in the old section, and that street is the only one I know of that doesn't have the gates and that's the one you'll want to make sure you're on. An alternative for crossing the river is the major highway bridge below the town. Google Earth shows both quite clearly. We stay in Arles (actually, right across the river) and take the train to Avignon, Orange, etc. We save the car-driving for the Cotes, the Luberon, Nimes, etc. BTW, the roads in the area are terrific and other than the peculiar French custom of riding the bumper of the car ahead of you on an otherwise lonesome stretch of road, the French are good and quite polite drivers. Hope this helps.

Posted by Denny
Columbus, OH, USA
1079 posts

We stayed in Arles, took trains to Avignon and Isle sur la Sorgue, and had a car for the last couple of days to drive around the Luberon and other places. The municipal garage that I think Dale refers to is the one we used...on the Blvd Des Lices (??). Convenient for Arles sites. We would never have driven in Arles, nor Avignon for that matter. But we enjoy walking and are chickens when it somes to driving streets designed in the middle ages. Our strategy when we have a car is to use it to get to town A, park, walk, drive on to town B, rinse and repeat.