This hotel was the private house of the Cardinal of Avignon

Historical wonders fill every corner of the palatial La Mirande in Avignon in the south of France.

August 12, 2016

Walking through the historic La Mirande hotel in Avignon is like walking through time. The bar is from the 17th century; the restaurant goes back to the 16th century; the Chinese room – or Cabinet Chinois to give it its full name – dates from the 18th century, as does the Garden Room where a decadent breakfast is served. If you were a student of historical interior design you could write a whole PhD on this place. 

The building itself was built in the 14th century and was the private house of the Cardinal of Avignon. With that kind of VIP in residence, it’s no surprise to see that the place is pretty grand. Tucked away on a hushed cobbled street in the centre of Avignon, La Mirande stands opposite the city’s most notable landmark: the Pope’s Palace. It is a tribute to La Mirande that it doesn’t look out of place next to the magnificence of the Palais des Papes. The hotel is a sand colour– catch it at the right time of day as the sun sets and the colour intensifies beautifully.

Inside are dozens of signposts to the past. Lithographs of Cardinal Richelieu and Cardinal Mazarin in the Napoleon III Salon for example; hand-painted wallpaper that has remained intact for more than 200 years; or a tapestry typical of the Renaissance in the 16th century casually hanging in the bar. History drips from every stone and floor tile. In 1990 it was renovated and remains privately owned.

The 27 double rooms are compact but beautifully styled with wooden floorboards, antiques and fabrics in keeping with the hotel’s style, coupled with just the right amount of modernity in the form of a TV set in the wall mirror. The marble bathroom is beautiful with taps and soap dish from another era. One cute touch was the toilet, hidden away behind a secret door set into the wall – thank goodness our bellboy showed us the door or we may never have found it. Larger suites and apartments are aristocratic and grand. 

Set in Provence in the south of France, Avignon is just two and a half hours from Nice, which Emirates serves direct from Dubai. It’s a walking city so a good breakfast is essential. Standing in the centre of the Mirande’s Garden Room is a banquet table laden with stewed fruits, homemade jams and breads, cold meats, granola, fresh juices and pastries, served in antique glass dishes or rugged Provencal stone jars.

After a day of sightseeing, Le Salon Rouge just off the main hall of the hotel will welcome you with plump armchairs and sofas – and blissful silence. Curl up here with a book and a glass of something and we’d say there is a 95 per cent chance you will nod off. When you wake up and gaze up at the wooden panelled ceiling from the 18th century you might think you’ve travelled back in time. But, no, that’s just how it is at the magical Mirande.