There was a settlement here even before the Romans but Carpentras did not come into its own until the Pope moved to Avignon in 1309.
As the capital of the Comtat Venaissin from 1320 the town expanded. It was fortified with towers and gates of which only the Porte d’Orange remains. Just outside the old ramparts, at the south end of town, is the imposing Hôtel-Dieu. Founded in 1745 as a hospital by Bishop d’Inguimbert and in use till 2002. The Bishop, who also studied science, created the famous Bibliothèque Inguimbertine.
Don’t miss the 1st Century Arc de Triomphe with its carvings – all that is left of that period. Also check out the southern Gothic Cathedral of St. Siffrein, started by the Avignon anti-pope Benedict XIII.
Today Carpentras is a pleasant small town with a good Friday market and makes an excellent base for touring both the Comtat and the Côtes-du-Rhône vineyards.
Market day: Friday morning