Just across the Rhône from Avignon, this medieval town glowers at its powerful neighbor to the east. In the 14th century, Villeneuve benefited enormously from the migration of the popes into Avignon, as an accompanying flood of wealthy and influential cardinals poured over the river. No fewer than 15 of the status-seeking princes of the church built magnificent homes on this neighboring hilltop—in truth, some simply requisitioned mansions from other owners, giving these "freed" town palaces the unfortunate moniker livrées cardinalices. In addition, kings Philip the Fair and Louis VIII built up formidable defenses on the site to keep an eye on the papal territories.
Nowadays its abbey, fortress, and quiet streets offer a pleasant contrast to Avignon’s bustle.