Wine and cheese aren’t the only things on offer in this sunny corner of Provence. Filled with age-old traditions and spectacular architecture, the region’s cities are jam-packed with hidden gems ready to satisfy your cultural appetite. From intricate art museums to hipster neighbourhoods and stunning scenery, Aix and Marseille are anything but ordinary. Here’s our ultimate culture vulture’s guide to Provence.
Spend hours getting lost down the graffiti covered streets of Marseille’s trendiest neighbourhood. Bursting with cool independent shops, street art to rival that of Berlin and countless eateries that waft mouth-watering smells across the square, morning, noon and night, this is the place to hang out in the city. A constant hive of activity, head off the beaten track and mingle with the locals in this up-and-coming haven of culture. Catch one of the many exhibitions going on in the area and pop into the soap factory, Savonnerie Marseillaise de la Licorne for a tour of the industrial heritage of Marseille.
A stone’s throw away from one another, the two museums: Musee Granet (Place Saint-Jean de Malte) and Granet XXe (Place Jean-Boyer), share parts of the Jean Planque collection boasting several works from famous artists such as Picasso and the city’s most famous resident, Paul Cezanne. Both set against the beautiful backdrop of renovated historical buildings, the museums are a real sight for sore eyes from the moment you step over the threshold. Featuring permanent and changeable exhibitions, these two locations are a dream come true for modern art enthusiasts.
One of the most visited attractions in Marseille, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations has been delighting tourists and locals alike since its opening in 2013. Sitting on the edge of the sea, the museum is devoted to explaining the cultures of the Mediterranean as they evolved over the centuries. Built next to the 17th century Fort Saint-Jean, cross the bridge and experience the interesting modern and ancient architectural contrast that characterises the site.
Nothing sums up Provencal culture more than a trip to the vineyards to sample some French wine. Specialising in rosé and crisp reds, watch the process from start to finish and find your perfect match among the rows of grapes at Aix’s best vineyard. Set against the backdrop of the iconic Sainte-Victoire mountain, Le Domaine de Saint Ser covers 33 hectares of idyllic hillside. Raise a glass to the cross holding the peak of the legendary white mountain and bask in the sunlight at one of the best cultural experiences in Provence.
See double when you look towards the sky at one of the quirkiest attractions in Marseille. Designed by Norman Foster, the steel canopy reflecting passers by is a fab photo spot and definitely one to add to your list of cultural places to see in Provence. Built as part of a competition held during the redevelopment of the Vieux Port, the 22 by 48 metre structure has been dominating the seaside landscape since 2010.
Tucked away down the picturesque cobbled side streets of Aix, the Caumont Centre d’Art is located in a renovated 18th century provencal manor. Restored to replicate the inside of a similar lodging during the bourgeoisie period, the interiors are comprised of grand staircases, gold leaf accents, huge chandeliers and floral wallpapers. Wander through the exhibition rooms and take some time to stroll through the small maze in the immaculately kept garden beside the terrace. Hosting numerous events and temporary installations, this place is always a hive of sophisticated activity no matter the season.
View the city from new heights and witness the architectural feast that is Notre Dame de la Garde. Sitting atop a hill of the same name, the basilica is the pinnacle of Marseillaise architecture, and no visit to the region is complete without a quick selfie on its steps. Wander inside the chapel and marvel at the golden ceilings and colourful tiles that adorn each wall. Enjoy the 360-degree view over the neighbourhoods of Marseille and take in the monumental structure that is no doubt one of the best places to see when visiting Provence.
Flights to Marseille