Visiting Cézanne country? Here are the 17 must-see things to do in Aix-en-Provence.
Aix-en-Provence is located twenty-five kilometers from Marseille, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region. The sub-prefecture of the Bouches-du-Rhône département is a middle-class, young and dynamic city. It enjoys a remarkable amount of sunshine and an exceptional heritage. An ideal destination for a cultural and festive stay, bathed in light.
Aix-en-Provence was foundeda by the Romans in 122 B.C., at the heart of a natural heritage of outstanding beauty. Famous for its thermal baths, colorful alleyways, middle-class buildings and fountains, Aix-en-Provence attracts large numbers of tourists every year. The city center boasts 156 historic monuments, most of which date from the 17th and 18th centuries.
With its many museums, festivals, terroir, vineyards, shopping streets, architecture and art of living, you’re sure to fall under the spell of the beautiful city of Aix-en-Provence.
Ready to live to the rhythm of the cicadas? Here are 17 must-do things to do in Aix-en-Provence.
1. Stroll through the old town
It’s impossible to visit Aix-en-Provence without taking the time to stroll the cobbled streets of the old town. They’re brimming with buildings and structures dating from the Middle Ages to the 18th century. You’ll be delighted to discover a host of restaurants, cafés and pretty boutiques. Almost entirely pedestrianized, you’ll appreciate the atmosphere of this beautiful city of Aix-en-Provence.
2. Stroll along the Cours Mirabeau
A stroll along the city’s most famous street is a must in Aix-en-Provence. Built in the 17th century to enable high society to circulate the city by carriage, the Cours Mirabeau today is lined with cafés, restaurants and luxurious mansions, the oldest of which dates back to 1648. This is also where the city’s major events take place, such as the craftsmen’s market in summer, or the Christmas market in December.
3. Place de l’Hôtel de Ville
Dating from the 14th century, this handsome rectangular square is home to the town hall, inspired by Italian Renaissance palaces, and a beautiful astronomical clock. The square comes alive on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for the town’s famous flower market. Every first Sunday of the month, the square is also the site of a friendly book market.
4. Discover the Mazarin district
Just a stone’s throw from the Cours Mirabeau is the Mazarin district, built in the 17th century by the archbishop of the same name. With its luxurious mansions and sumptuous fountains, it was originally occupied by the city’s merchants and craftsmen.
5. Visit Cézanne’s studio
If you’ve only got one thing to do in Aix-en-Provence, it’s discover Paul Cézanne’s studio, now a museum. Bathed in light, this mythical place offers you the opportunity to discover the life of this genius painter, born in Aix-en-Provence. It was in this exceptional environment and its particular luminosity that he drew all his inspiration.
6. The Jas de Bouffan’s Bastide
To continue your stay in the footsteps of Paul Cézanne, visit the Bastide du Jas de Bouffan. This was the painter’s family home, and one of the places where he produced his finest watercolors. The bastide and its grounds are now listed historic monuments.
7. A stroll in the Parc Jourdan
An idea for something to do in Aix-en-Provence with your family? Plan a stroll through the city’s largest and most emblematic park, Parc Jourdan. Located to the south of Aix-en-Provence, this four-hectare park was inaugurated in 1935. Here, you can bask in the shade of the lime trees and admire the busts of Frédéric Mistral and Émile Zola. In summer, take advantage of the many festivities organized by the town.
8. Taste calissons
In Aix-en-Provence, treat yourself to calissons, those delicious, melt-in-your-mouth little sweet turnips typical of Aix. Made from candied melon, crushed almonds and candied orange peel, calissons have been one of Aix-en-Provence’s culinary classics since the 15th century. To discover the history of calisson and taste some of its finest confections, visit the Musée du Calisson (Confiserie du Roy René) located about 10 minutes from Aix. The museum explains the production process, from the flowering of the almond trees to the harvesting of the fruit, right up to the baking of the calissons!
9. Visit the Musée Granet
ust off the Cours Mirabeau, you’ll find one of the must-sees in Aix-en-Provence. The Musée Granet is located in the former Palais de Malte. It boasts a magnificent collection of paintings, ranging from the 14th to the 20th century. Here, Rembrandt, Ingres, Cézanne, Giacometti and Picasso take center stage.
10. Admire the Madeleine church
The Eglise de la Madeleine is one of the most sumptuous monuments to be seen in Aix-en-Provence. Built in the 18th century by Laurent Vallon, it is home to Michel Serre’s “Madeleine chez Simon” and the “Triptych of the Annunciation” by Flemish artist Barthélémy d’Eyck.
11. Relax at the Thermes Sextius
Aix-en-Provence has been a renowned spa since Roman times. With its hammam, traditional sauna, relaxation rooms, spa and thermal showers, the Thermes Sextius offers you everything you need to relax after a day of sightseeing.
12. The Vasarely Foundation
This architectural center was conceived, designed and financed by Victor Vasarely himself. Listed as a historic monument, the Vasarely Foundation plunges you into the fascinating world of optical art. You’ll also discover the artist’s geometric abstract works and temporary exhibitions of contemporary art.
13. Admire the city’s fountains
Aix-en-Provence is renowned for the magnificent fountains that adorn its streets and squares. The most famous of these, the Rotonde fountain, dates back to 1860. It stands at the bottom of the Cours Mirabeau.
14. Hôtel Caumont
A must-see in Aix-en-Provence if you’re an art lover! The old hotel, completely renovated, is one of the city’s architectural marvels. It regularly hosts superb temporary exhibitions, dedicated to the greatest artists. A snack in the tearoom and a detour to the boutique will round off your visit perfectly.
15. Saint-Sauveur Cathedral
This Romanesque and Gothic cathedral was built between the 12th and 15th centuries. It contains the sarcophagus of Saint-Mitre, a canonized martyr, and Nicolas Froment’s “Burning Bush”.
16. Climb the mountain
Familiar to the general public thanks to the stories of Marcel Pagnol and the paintings of Paul Cézanne, Mont Saint-Victoire is a must-see in Aix-en-Provence. While its southern slope boasts typically Mediterranean vegetation, the northern slope boasts alpine flora, typical of the southern Alps. During your ascent (), you’re likely to come across a large number of animals.
At the heart of the site, on a seven-hectare plateau, you’ll discover the Bibémus quarries, where Cézanne came to find his inspiration. It was here that he produced some of his finest paintings.
17. Enjoy the nightlife of Aix-en-Provence
Student and festive, the city is sure to delight night owls. Bars, restaurants, clubs, Aix-en-Provence knows how to party and make the most of balmy summer evenings.
How to get to Aix-en-Provence
Marseille Marignane airport is just twenty-five kilometers from Aix-en-Provence, and several airlines offer daily flights from major French cities. To book your trip and get the best rates, use the .
Once at Marignane airport, between 5:30 a.m. and midnight, a shuttle bus will take you to the center of Aix-en-Provence in just 30 minutes. It’s free for children under six, and costs six euros per journey for other passengers.
To Aix-en-Provence TGV :
It’s easy to reach Aix-en-Provence by TGV from Lille, Paris, Lyon or Brussels. Allow around three hours and twenty minutes for the journey from the capital. Once you’ve arrived at the Aix-en-Provence TGV station, cabs and a shuttle bus are available to take you into the city center.
To Aix-en-Provence TER station :
Many regional trains serve the SNCF station, located near the city center.
Please note: from July 1 to November 3, 2019, no trains will be running in Aix-en-Provence station due to network works.
To Marseille station :
Numerous trains and TGVs serve the huge Gare de Marseille. Once you’ve disembarked in the Cité Phocéenne, you can take buses 50 and 51 or a cab to Aix-en-Provence, in less than 30 minutes.
Aix-en-Provence has a bus station with excellent bus connections. Contact FLIXBUS, OUIBUS, EUROLINES and ISILINES to book your journey.
Welcome to the Autoroute du Soleil! Aix-en-Provence lies at the crossroads of the freeways linking northern France, Spain and Italy. And for a more environmentally-friendly journey, consider car-sharing!
By boat from Marseille
Aix-en-Provence is perfectly accessible by sea, thanks to the proximity of the port of Marseille, just forty minutes from the city center. Once disembarked, you can take a cab directly to Aix-en-Provence. A shuttle service to the Gare SNCF and the Marseille bus station is also available just outside the cruise port.
Where to stay in Aix-en-Provence?
Aix-en-Provence is a middle-class town, where accommodation is expensive. It’s not for nothing that Aix-en-Provence is often nicknamed .
The city center is ideal for taking full advantage of the city’s atmosphere and charms, and you can do most of your sightseeing on foot. But be careful where you put your suitcases. Particularly in summer, the old town comes alive late into the evening, and some streets can be very noisy.
If you’re looking for a quiet place to stay, the eastern part of the city is best. If you’re on a tight budget, the south of the city should offer more affordable accommodation. A large number of people offer . To find out where to stay in Aix-en-Provence at the best price, compare prices on this .
Enjoy your stay in the land of cicadas! And if you know Aix-en-Provence too, tell us about your must-sees in the comments section.