Nestling amongst tree-lined hills that are filled with terracotta-roofed villas, Aix-en-Provence is an elegant, measured town that’s full of character. Aix – pronounced “Ex” – is filled with Parisian chic, beautiful architecture and the most strollable boulevards in France. The heart of the Provençal region is here in Aix, with roots back to Celtic times before the Romans made it a ‘Province of Rome’ – hence the name. The ornate carvings, precise buildings and fine lines make Aix a quintessentially French town. You can wallow in culture at the annual festival, visit local museums or wander the town’s surrounds to discover the places that inspired Cezanne.
Areas & Neighbourhoods in Aix-en-Provence
Old Town — Among the narrow lanes and neighbourhood squares of the old town are some of Aix-en-Provence’s most picturesque sights. The old Roman city lies beneath the cobblestones and the grand Hôtel de Ville rises from them. Here you can find the old market known as the Ancienne Halle aux Grains, the Cathédrale St. Sauveur and the old court the Palais de Justice.
Villeneuve and Mazarin — The ‘new town’ was constructed in the 16th century and features row upon row of well-kept townhouses arranged on a grid plan that would have been familiar to the old French kings and queens.
Cours Mirabeau — This wide boulevard is the main draw for residents and visitors alike, with its double rows of trees, and large fountain La Rotonde. At night, the cafés are thronged with people and you’ll see everyone who wants to be seen.
Things to See in Aix-en-Provence
The old town, known as Vieil Aix, is full of charm and atmosphere, and even when the sun isn’t shining it emanates warmth and tranquillity. The Cathédrale St. Sauveur, dating back to the 13th century, is a wonderful sight, while there are several squares including the Place des Quatre Dauphins to drink in the period charm and a quick café au lait. For a more poignant example of more recent history, visit the Camp des Milles, a former brick factory that was turned into a concentration camp in World War Two.
Things to Do in Aix-en-Provence
Cezanne is writ large in Aix – even on the pavement, where studs marked ‘C’ show you a self-guided tour of the great artist. Follow his footsteps from the house where he began painting to the Granet museum where some of this best art is housed. Take a day trip to Provence’s famous lavender fields and vineyards, and find a trail in the St Victoire mountain. Many cafés have pétanque sets, and you can also play in the Parc Jourdan. Don’t forget the plethora of museums and of course Aix has some delightful restaurants where you can try the best of Provencal cuisine.