If you have fallen in love with Paris and want to discover more about France, Aix-En-Provence, located in the sunny south, is the perfect place to find a more authentic, rustic vision of the country of romance.
This university town has also been named “The City of a Thousand Fountains” and is exceptionally beautiful because of it. Many of the buildings date between the 16-1800s, and the town’s stunning architecture and bohemian atmosphere inspired its two famous sons: the painter Paul Cezanne and the novelist Emile Zola. Aix also serves as a brilliant base for those wanting to visit the countryside and abundant vineyards of the South of France.
This thoroughfare is the best place the start when exploring the town, as it follows the line of the city wall between the charming old town and the new town. This walk is perfect for a sunny day, as the avenue is lined with trees, restaurants and cafes. Pop into the 200 year old Deux Garcons brasserie, which was a favourite of Ernest Hemingway whenever he was in Aix. A stroll down the Cours will help a new visitor take in not only the geography but the way of life of the city, with many locals sitting outside the cafes and taking their time over their coffee and a book.
Things To Do
Visitors of Aix who want a taste of culture should start in this brilliant art gallery. Housed in a grand 17th century home, the gallery has an impressive collection, including French art from the 16th century right up to the 20th century. Its crowning glory is a healthy selection of pieces by Paul Cezanne, who spent most of his life in Aix and worked in the peace of the countryside surrounding the town. Other blockbuster artists include Picasso, Van Gogh and Monet. Though the museum leans towards French art, there is a range of art from across Europe in this exceptional collection.
On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, Aix turns into a giant market, with seemingly every street filled with stands selling everything from the textile market on Cours Mirabeau (Tues, Thurs) to the local cheeses and vegetables at the farmer’s market at Place Richelme (every day). The town is now famous for its university, but has many locals would argue Aix is a market town who takes pride in the quality and freshness of its local wares.
Where to Stay
The colourful Cezanne hotel is a delightful four star spot right in the centre of town. This is also one of the hippest hotels in Aix, with a design-led decor that anyone will fall in love with.
The five star option is Le Pigonnet, a grand palace set in private landscaped gardens right in the centre of Old Town. The hotel provides a spa and pool and a charming courtyard for when you need a time out from your stay.
There are few hostels in the town, but the Hotel Des Arts Aix is a pleasant yet reasonably priced hotel in a charming 18th century building.