Avignon, or the ode to the theater in the open air

Created in 1947, the Avignon Festival is now one of the essential summer events in France. Place of consecration - in the Palace of the Popes and of discovery, on the off stage, it welcomes every year a growing number of actors, authors, directors and spectators from all over the world. In a sumptuous setting, hearts beat and spirits soar, thanks to the theater, this year from July 5 to 27. Silence ... The curtain rises!

An institution

The beautiful story of the Festival d'Avignon began in 1947, thanks to Jean Vilar, surrounded by René Char and other intellectuals. He played that year in the main courtyard of the Palais des Papes, three rooms in addition to a prestigious contemporary art exhibition. Then he joins a troupe of actors who come every year in July to feast on emotions and good words an increasingly numerous public. Among these young talents, Michel Bouquet, Gérard Philipe and Alain Cuny. Over the years, this cultural meeting takes on more importance. It is not only holidaymakers on leave in the region who "take advantage" of the festival to cultivate themselves in the sun, but soon theater lovers from all over the world who flock to the gates of the city ... The Avignon Festival, with what this name infuses from magic and tradition, was born. The goal: "to bring to the greatest number, and to the least well endowed first of all, the bread and salt of knowledge".
Vilar died in 1971, but her work survived her, and as if pushed by her breath, she grew richer. Other places than the Palais des Papes are occupied by artists, we open shouts, where authors are invited to come and present their texts ... And in parallel is developing the festival off, where the troops who have not been invited by the management are still able to reach the festival audience. Because in addition to being the meeting place for amateurs, it is also that of professionals.

Victim of his own success

For a long time, the festival remains very convivial. Everyone gets their hands dirty: the actors help set up the decor and the stands, and the whole event has something accessible and festive. But the more it becomes known and recognized, the more elitist it becomes. It is true that what we sometimes see from the public looks more like a Cannes theater than a theatrical festival with greasy hair and threadbare jacket.
Backpackers will however be able to enjoy themselves, even without a Sunday costume. If they have not managed to get tickets for the festival in, there is always the off, that of the still virgin troops, where the pearls (of sweat) adorn the foreheads of the actors more than the sequins. However, at in or off, when the three knocks have sounded, when the lights are out, only the spectator and the actors remain; magic can work.

Ask for the program!

The Avignon Festival, which brings together an in and an off, presents nearly six hundred shows of all styles and all countries, from morning to dawn. This year, the big star of the official festival will be Chekhov's Platonov, with the staging of Eric Lacascade, eagerly awaited ... in good and bad sense. Because the Avignon Festival is also the place of all daring, and theater critics often have, it is known, the sharp pen. The great Michel Bouquet will play for his part in Minetti by Thomas Bernhard. Jean-Louis Benoit will present his staging of the excellent Trilogie de la Villégiature, with an impressive cast.
The off festival brings together hundreds of artists this year. It is therefore very difficult to choose ... It is the bohemian side of the festival, open to all companies wishing to participate. It plays pieces by little-known authors, but which sometimes benefit from being discovered, or great classics. Anything goes, in short, in this theater festival, populated by strollers of all stripes.

Useful information

Avignon Festival
Booking service
20, rue du Portail Boquier
84000 Avignon
Tél. : 04-90-14-14-14.
Reservations by phone (to be paid by credit card) or on site for shows on the same day.
The price of seats depends on the show chosen, between € 12 and € 33.
A special rate for young people and job seekers is granted from July 5, subject to availability, at the counters of Espace Saint-Louis and Place du Palais, as well as at the counters on site. of shows, 45 minutes before the performance.
Internet sites: the "in":, the "off":

To find out what to do outside the festival, see our report: Avignon outside the walls.

Or sleep ?

You might as well tell you right away: reservations - if they are still possible - are essential!
- Festival Youth and Stay Centers: contact them by phone at 01-53-26-24-24 or on their website.
- Municipal campsite of Pont d'Avignon. Phone. : 04-90-80-63-50.
Pitch package for two with ente and car from 10 to 20 €. Well shaded, with large places for tents.
- Center de Rencontres internationales du pont d'Avignon YMCA: 7 bis, chemin de la Justice, 30400 Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. Phone. : 04-90-25-46-20. Mail:
The prices per room are decreasing according to the number of beds occupied in the dormitory. Count 22 to 40 € for a double room. Very nice foyer, where the atmosphere becomes crazy during the festival.

Where to eat ?

Le Bercail: Île de la Berthelasse in Avignon. Phone. : 04-90-82-20-22. We fell in love with this friendly restaurant on the Île de la Barthelasse, just across the Rhône, which, at nightfall, offers from its huge terrace a devilishly romantic view of the ramparts and the bridge. 'Avignon. The cuisine is correct, not typically Provencal, but rather Italian (wood-fired pizzas), as is the atmosphere! All this, almost with your feet in the water: a pleasant stopover after a show.

Audio Video Avignon, or the ode to the theater in the open air
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