Travel Guide to Aix en Provence France
Aix en Provence is a sophisticated city, known for its graceful boulevards, elegant mansions and eighteenth century fountains.
Aix was founded in 123 BC by the romans, and is built on the site of thermal springs (the word Aix derives from the Latin Aquae = waters).
The Elegant City of Aix
Aix en Provence is a popular tourist destination and can get very busy in summer, especially July and August.
If you can, come in May or June – the poppies will be out (they tend to disappear by July), and the weather isn’t too hot.
Cours Mirabeau is the main avenue of the city, fringed with tall plane trees, private mansions and lively cafés.
The old town is north of Cours Mirabeau – a maze of medieval streets and fountains; most of it is traffic-free.
Aix en Provence France:
Markets and Shopping
Aix has some of the best markets in Provence:
- a daily fruit and veg market on place Richelme;
- on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays there’s another one on place des Prêcheurs;
- a flower market on Place des Prêcheurs (Sunday mornings) and on Place de Hôtel de Ville (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings); and
- an antique market on place des Prêcheurs on Saturday mornings.
Other good streets for shopping are Rue Marius Reynaud and Rue Fabrot; you’ll find art galleries, antique shops and elegant boutiques in the Quartier Mazarin.
Aix en Provence France: Art and Culture
Visit the Musée Granet for 16th-19th century Italian, Flemish, Dutch and French paintings (including Cézanne), as well as Roman artefacts.
Cézanne was born in Aix en Provence and lived and painted in and around the city for many years. You can go on a self-guided walk, the ‘circuit de Cézanne’, which will take you through important landmarks in the city. Cézanne’s studio, Atelier Cézanne is on 9 avenue Paul Cézanne and is much as he left it 1906.
Aix has lots of wonderful festivals – one of the most popular being the Festival International d’Art Lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence in July – with classical music, opera and ballet performances. You can check out their festival website for more details.
If you’re interested in architecture, visit the Cathédrale St-Sauveur on Rue Gaston de Saporta, which dates from the 4th century. If you’re lucky, you might hear gregorian chanting on Sunday afternoons!
Aix en Provence France:
Eating and Relaxing
For the ultimate indulgence, you can treat yourself to a spa experience at Thermes Sextius, 55 cours Sextius. The spa is in the centre of the old town on the site of ancient roman baths.
Aix’s most famous café is Les Deux Garçons, a favourite hangout of Cézanne and the writer Émile Zola, dating from 1792. The inside has period decor resembling a paris bistro – painted ceilings and mirrors; it’s the ‘in’ place to see and be seen. Food can be pricey but is generally quite good. The café is on cours Mirabeau (#53), the main boulevard.
For eating out, you’ll find cheap asian and italian food on Rue Van Loo; Rue de la Verrerie, Rue Marseillais and Rue Felibre Gaut have a good choice of cuisine. You’ll also find plenty of cafés, brasseries and restaurants on place des Cardeurs and place de l’Hôtel de Ville.
Out and About
If you’d like to base yourself outside of Aix en Provence France and explore the surrounding countryside, there are plenty of pretty, typically ‘provencal’ villages worth exploring – such as Le Tholonet (at the foot of Mont St Victoire), Lambesc, Peynier, and Trets. We’d suggest staying around the area to the east and northwest of Aix.
To the east of Aix is Mont St Victoire, which was painted by Cézanne over 60 times.