Rich in historic and architectural heritage, this city in the heart of Provence is not to be missed. We have yet to meet someone who doesn’t fall in love with Aix for its tree-lined boulevards, museums, ancient fountains, cafés and winding, narrow cobblestone streets.
Protected by the Montagne Ste Victoire which rises to 1,011meters, Aix (pronounced “X”) is surrounded by a countryside full of authentic Provencal houses, gardens, wineries and olive groves. The name Aix comes from the source discovered when the city was founded in 123 BC by the Romans. Aix was the capital of Provence in the 15th century–wealthy merchants and local dignitaries helped turn this city into the “Florence of Provence” as we know it today.
Aix was the inspiration of many great writers and painters–Piccaso, Guigou, Stendhal, Mistral, Zola, and Paul Cézanne who was born there. Aix is also well known for its musical heritage – it boasts one of the best conservatoires in the country and has a thriving music and festival scene.
What to do in Aix-En-Provence
One could happily wander the beautiful cobblestone streets, meandering in and out of boutiques, stopping for a coffee or rosé. Much of the old town can be covered on foot in one day, making Aix a wonderful pedestrian experience. Here are some of our our top things to do while in Aix.
Wander the Cours Mirabeau – The Cours is a large tree-lined road that divides the old town from the Quartier Mazarin. There are lots of scenic places to eat, plus shops and boutiques. During holiday and festival times, the Cours Mirabeau fills with festive market stands, selling local products. Don’t miss the stunning Rotonde Fountain built in 1860, with three female statues that represent Justice, Agriculture and Fine Arts.
In the Footsteps of Cezanne: A 1.5 hour self-guided walking tour with maps available at the tourist information center (located right on the Rotonde). You can also visit his atelier where he spent his last days on the outskirts of town.
Outdoor Markets: Monday to Saturday – Aix is absolutely known for its outdoor markets, some of the best ones take place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday in the center of Aix. You can find just about anything in these markets that sprawl the old city, from flowers to vintage clothing, fruits, vegetables, jewelry and all sorts of local artisan products.
Cathedrale Saint Sauveur d’Aix-en-Provence: This has fantastic architecture, bell tower, and beautiful stained glass windows.
Musée Granet -houses a fantastic collection of art from the 15th-19th centuries.
Nearby village of Vauvenargues : Go for a hike at the foot of Mt. Saint Victoire (or for the super sporty, right to the top!), then stop for lunch overlooking Picasso’s castle.
Where to Eat
Aix is a place where you can let serendipity lead the way as you wander–there are truly endless choices to find but here are a few recommendations to get you started. Of course, Aix has a fantastic spread of typical French cafe’s and brasseries, but it also has a fare share of other unique and international fare.
Les Deux Garcons The most famous brasserie by far is the iconic Les Deux Garçons Café right on the Cours Mirabeau, where Zola and Cezanne were known to frequent. It’s a great place to take in the scenic vibe in Aix but many claim it’s over-rated.
Patisserie Béchard A favorite bakery in Aix. Don’t forget to try the local specialty “calissons” made from a sweet almond paste.
Les 3 Ormeau Simple casual place with pizzas and salads under the shade of a tree with the sounds of a trickling fountain.
Niro by Le GambettaCreative fusion cuisine dishes, fine dining and reasonable prices.
Le Jardin de Mazarin – Elegant dining experience with an attentive staff.
Where to Stay
There are loads of small hotels and Air B&Bs in this great town. If you would like to immerse yourself in both charm and splash out for a bit of luxury, we recommend the following hotels.
Rooms are spread across five 18th-century bastide-style cottages, decorated in the style of an Aix-en-Provence town house.
Elegantly decorated rooms in the heart of Aix.
Just ten minutes from the city center of Aix-en-Provence, the estate complete with its own winery offers a breath-taking view of Montagne Sainte-Victoire, the ultimate symbol of Provence.
Luxury Villa Rentals in Provence
As the luxury property rental market has exploded worldwide, renting a luxury villa near Aix has become the preferred choice for accommodations in Provence. Only Provence has the largest selection of luxury properties in the region. Many visitors rent their villas in the countryside surrounding Aix-En-Provence, in either the popular Luberon or Alpilles areas, and then take a day to explore the city center, returning later to the comfort of their rented properties.
One of the many benefits of renting a luxury villa in or near Aix (or its surrounding villages) is having a genuinely private yet authentic experience in Provence, complete with in-home chef services. Some of Only Provence’s villas are within the village itself. Browse luxury villas near Aix here.
Below are some of the few great benefits of a luxury villa over other traditional accommodation options.
- Personalized experiences such as private chefs and organized tours and activities;
- Privacy and exclusivity;
- A dedicated villa manager and staff;
- A sense of feeling at home while staying in a private luxury villa;
How to get to Aix-en Provence
Flying: The closest airport is in Marseille (MRS), which is only 20 miles from Aix-en-Provence.
Train: Fast TGV trains are ideal for those who want to visit Paris on the front or back end of visiting Inland Provence. It takes under 3 hours to get to Aix from Paris on a direct train, which runs several times a day.