Characterised by winding, ochre coloured streets crossed with leafy boulevards, Aix-en-Provence is the region’s best-kept secret. Oozing old town elegance and authentic charm, the trés chic town has surprises around every corner. People watch at one of the many cafés lining the pedestrianised Cours Mirabeau or while away the afternoon retracing the footsteps of the post-impressionist painter Paul Cezanne. A haven for artsy types and foodies alike, here’s how to spend 48 hours in the city of a thousand fountains.
A boutique hotel embodying the spirit of the ultra chic, relaxed provencal way of life, Grand Hotel du Roi René should be your first port of call when looking for accommodation in Aix-en-Provence. Ideally located right in the heart of the city, at this four star hotel you have the Cours Mirabeau and its labyrinth of picturesque adjoining streets right on your doorstep. Wake up to the smell of freshly baked croissants wafting through your window and have your morning coffee on the balcony overlooking the heated outdoor pool. With its modern interiors and 134 homely rooms, the hotel aims to serve you a slice of Provence from the moment you step through the door. Unwind after a day of sightseeing over a cool glass of local rosé in the hotel bar before tucking into some authentic cuisine in the ground floor restaurant.
Grand Hotel du Roi René – 24 Boulevard du Roi René
1. Old Aix Town
Take a self-guided walking tour through the old streets of the city centre and get lost in a maze of perfectly polished cobbled passageways. Famed for its many fountains, Aix is a postcard waiting to happen. Stumble across shady squares such as Albertas and Precheurs and marvel at the 17th century Baroque architecture. Rest your feet over an espresso and relax in the sunny south’s answer to Paris.
2. Cezanne’s Workshop – 9 Avenue Paul Cezanne
Time travel back to the 20th century and pay a visit to the workshop of the city’s claim to fame, Paul Cezanne. Located on the Lauves’ Hill, the house has been preserved to replicate the late impressionist’s studio where he created iconic works such as Mont Saint-Victorie and The Bathers.
3. Musee Granet – Place Saint-Jean de Malte
Indulge your inner art critic and visit the must-see Musee Granet. Located in the quartier Mazarin, spend the afternoon strolling through halls of Picasso, Cezanne, Monet and Van Gogh, as you discover the works of the Jean Planque Collection, donated to the city in 2011. Exhibiting archaeology, sculptures and paintings, the museum first opened in 1838 and has been a key part of Aix ever since.
4. Granet XXe – Place Jean-Boyer
Housed in the stunning setting of a renovated 17th century chapel, Granet XXe is another museum not to be missed when visiting Aix-en-Provence. A real sight for sore eyes, the museum displays additional works from the Planque Collection and boasts an impressive number of Picassos alongside many other great artists, across three levels.
5. Vineyards via Side-Car
Try something completely new and hop into the basket of one of La Belle Echappee’s sidecars. Look on in awe as the peaks of the famous Sainte Victoire mountains come into view and stop off at the award winning Le Domaine de Saint Ser winery for some critically acclaimed reds and rosés straight from the nearby vineyards.
6. Le Cours Mirabeau
Lined with cafes, shops and a whole lot of bars and restaurants, the pedestrianised main street, Le Cours Mirabeau is the place to be as the sun sets over Aix. Flanked by the Fontaine de la Rotonde, this street is a great starting point when beginning your exploration of the French city. Stretching out for 440 metres, the famous walkway links old with new and is undoubtedly one of the best attractions in the city.
7. Caumont Centre d’Art – 3 Rue Joseph Cabassol
Located a few steps from Le Cours Mirabeau and set against the backdrop of an 18th century mansion, Caumont Centre d’Art is one of the city’s hidden gems. Featuring manicured gardens, historical rooms, an impressive courtyard and numerous temporary exhibitions, the museum is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the busy main street. Sample a slice of cake in the restaurant and bask in the midday sun on one of the seats spread across the terrace.
8. Lavender Fields
A symbol of the region, visiting the lavender fields is an absolute must when staying in Aix-en-Provence. Hire a car, or take local transport and find yourself knee deep in rows of the purple flowering plants in under an hour – your nose will thank you later!
Weibel – 2 Rue Chabrier
Ready made for your morning Instagram breakfast post, Aix’s most visited bakery, Weibel is the only place to go in search of a buttery French croissant. Serving the city since 1954, the lilac interiors will have you oo-ing and ahh-ing before you’ve even tasted the cakes.
Café Caumont – 3 Rue Joseph Cabassol
Part of the museum by the same name, the gourmet food at Café Caumont will have your mouth watering the second the plate hits the table. With each room interior decorated to match an era in history, the experience at this restaurant feeds your eyes and imagination as much as it satisfies your stomach. If you visit on a sunny day be sure to have your lunch on the beautifully kept terrace overlooking the garden and its maze.
Les Baratineurs – 41 Place Forum des Cardeurs
Making its home in the bustling Place des Cardeurs, this family-friendly restaurant is the perfect option if you’re looking for somewhere to eat out in Aix. Offering a diverse menu featuring everything from carefully selected tapas to burgers and pasta, there will be something to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, the welcoming staff and eclectic menu make this a must when in Aix.
Le Cambarou – 13 Cours Mirabeau
Embodying the essence of Provence’s chic city, Le Cambarou and its sophisticated cocktail menu sit right on the end of Le Cours Mirabeau. A contemporary brassiere and cocktail lounge, the inside of this place will take you back to the glory days of Aix in all its glitz and glamour. Featuring a menu geared towards products of the sea and a drinks list that’ll rival the best of them, this spot is definitely one to add to the list of what to do in Aix-en-Provence.
- Lucy Norris