Here are our recommendations for the top 10 things to see and do in the city.
1. Visit the Atelier Cézanne
One of Aix en Provence’s top attractions is the preserved studio of Paul Cézanne, the post-impressionist painter who is widely regarded as one of France’s all-time best. Visitors can see the place that became his shelter and place of work, and from where he painted some of his finest pictures.
2. Take a stroll on the Cours Mirabeau
Walking along Aix en Provence’s Cours Mirabeau you’ll feel like you’re in one of Paris’ tree-lined boulevards. It’s located right in the centre of Aix and is full of bookshops, restaurants and cafes where you can watch the world go by.
3. Climb (or at least go and see!) Le Montagne Sainte Victoire
This mountain was a popular feature in Cezanne’s paintings, and also appeared in the works of Picasso and Kandinsky. Its highest point is the ‘Pic des mouches’ at 1,011 metres, although the Croix de Provence is perhaps a more notable feature of the mountain.
4. Visit the Cathedrale Saint Sauveur
Aix’s Cathedrale Saint Sauveur is a Roman Catholic cathedral and the seat of the Archbishop of Aix. It’s a beautiful cathedral that features a real mix of architectural styles and has been categorised by the French as a national treasure. The recently restored painting by Nicolas Fromen ‘The Burning Bush’ within it is a real masterpiece and worth a look in its own right.
5. Have a look around the Granet Museum
Reopened in 2007, the Granet Museum hosts an impressive collection of over 12.000 works of art. It includes paintings by the likes Granet, Cézanne, Ingres, Preti, Puget, Rembrandt, Rigaud and Rubens and also has an extensive collection of sculptures, works by local artists and archaeological objects. The Granet Museum was named “Musée de France” in 2002.
6. Browse Aix’s famous markets
One of Aix’s most famous features is its array of markets. The main market by the Palais de Justice sells fresh produce and food and bric-à-brac. There’s also an impressive flower market on the Place de Verdun and Place des Prêcheurs, a clothing market on the Cours Mirabeau and last but certainly not least, a sublime daily food market on the Place Richelme. All are well worth a visit and will indulge your image of Provence at its traditional best!
7. Take a day trip to nearby Cassis
Located 35km from Aix-en-Provence is the ancient fishing port of Cassis. It has pretty old village streets and some lovely old buildings, some of which date back to the 16th century. You can walk around the attractive harbour, take a look at the open air artists market, or head to one of the sandy beaches just outside the town.
8. Visit ‘Les Deux Garçons’ café
One of Aix-en-Provence’s best-loved and most iconic cafés, ‘Les Deux Garçons’ was where Cézanne enjoyed his coffee and newspaper. Founded in 1792, the café on Cours Mirabeau will transport you back in time and give you a good idea of how the Aix of centuries gone by would have looked. The gilt-and-muraled interior is original, so be sure to take a look.
9. Go to the Sextius Baths
Located in the northwest corner of the town, along the Bvd Jean Jaurès, the “Thermes Sextius” are 18th-century hot-water baths set in a large tree-shaded park, close to the site of the original Roman baths. Today the baths feature a modern spa, which is perfect for getting rid of the everyday stresses and strains of life.
10. Check out Aix’s beautiful fountains by night
Another of Aix’s most notable features is the range of decorative fountains found throughout the city. The Cours Mirabeau has some of the finest, including the great fountain (1860) at La Rotonde in the Place Général de Gaulle at the bottom end of the “cours” and le Fountain of 9 Cannons (1691), half way up. They are impressive at any time of day, but especially when they’re lit up after dark.
Cactus offers General, Intensive, Combined, Individual and Business French courses in Aix en Provence at a variety of levels. Also available are French & Painting, French & Oenology and French & Provençal cookery courses.