Aix-En-Provence, with its old streets and nice cafés with terraces, its beautiful gardens and historical monuments, is the perfect destination to go in France during summer.
Spend 7 days in Aix-en-Provence
If you decide to come visit Aix-en-Provence (You can also call it Aix, pronounced –X), the best way to enjoy fully your time is to stay at least a week. Take your time to visit, don’t rush, in conclusion, live like southern French would live!
Day of you arrival :
On your first day, a good way to discover the city is to visit it by foot. A beautiful spot to begin your itinerary is Cours Mirabeau. Indeed, this main avenue with bordering trees has four fountains you can see. Begin by Fountain “La Rotonde”, a massive fountain from where the 3 main avenues in Aix begin, Cours Mirabeau, Avenue des Belges and Avenue Napoleon Bonaparte. At the top of the monument, you will see three statues, each of them sculpted by a different artist, one represents justice, the second represents trade and agriculture and the last one stands for arts. On your way up the Cours Mirabeau, you will see the fountain “des Neufs Canons”, the Fontaine Moussue, a big fountain covered in moss and finally the King Rene Fountain.
Not far away, you can keep exploring the old part of the town, towards Albertas Place, which contains another fountain. In the same area, going down the streets, you can see the Saint-Esprit church. Former hospital in the 13th century, it then became a chapel, to become a church in the 18th century, It has an outside look very soft compared to other churches you could visit in France, due the architect will.
For eating lunch or dinner, or just take a drink, you will have no problem in Aix, there are a lot of restaurants you can find, for different tastes and prices. Furthermore, finding a restaurant is good way to explore the streets you didn’t go before.
Flowers, flowers, and more flowers… On town hall square, every morning the flowers’ market redecorates the spot. Go around and enjoy a colorful morning and sweet fragrances!
The other side of Cours Mirabeau is still to discover. Go to Eglise and Paroissse Saint Jean de Malte, the first gothic church built in the region, Provence. The monument is very sober but inside it surprises by the paintings it keeps, the luminosity and its modern organ. The tower rises up to 67 meters which makes it the highest point in Aix-en-Provence.
You can then head to Granet Museum, you will find archeology, Paul Cezanne’s work, a sculpture gallery, French, Nordic, and Italian paintings… The museum is actually made of two parts, Granet museum is one, and the other one is Granet XXe, located Place Jean-Boyer. This second part offers the visitors different types of painting of the 20th century.
For the afternoon, you could rent bikes and explore the city, several shops offer to rent bikes: Aixprit Velo, Cyclo Planet, Electric cycles for example. But if you have a car, you can go bike in the region and enjoy the beautiful landscapes of Provence. There are three cities you can begin your ride from: Rognes (at place des Ecoles), Coudoux (at the Town Hall) and Charleval (at the Town Hall). The loops of Coudoux and Rognes are 20km long and are for all the family, while Charleval loop is an intermediary level, with 31km.
After a day under southern France heat, enjoy the soft weather on Cours Mirabeau at night, when the night market is out. (From 10th of July to 31st of August). The markets hosts numerous artisans and merchants here to expose and sell their works or their productions, most of the time from the local region.
3 days with the Aix-en-Provence city pass:
The city pass is a card you can buy at the tourism office that offers many advantages. Thanks to it you will be able to go visit many museums and have guided tours for free, it includes discount in partners’ restaurants, discount for hikes and bike renting, but it also provides free transportation during the validity of the pass in Aix and around. A pass for 72 hours cost 43 Euros for adults and 26 for children. 48h and 24h passes also exist.
On your third day it’s time to go in excursion! Every day in summer, you can go visit “Carrieres de Bibemus” with a guide, (unfortunately the tour is only available in French during summer time) It begins at 9:45 am; A shuttle picks you up at the car park “Les 3 Bons Dieux” for free as you have the pass. Reach the car park will also be easy thanks to your free transportation access. For this tour, you must register at the tourism office before you can go; the best is to register when you buy your pass. Located in the heart of Sainte-Victoire site, discover during an hour one of the place of inspiration of the painter Paul Cezanne.
On the afternoon, enjoy the touristic train tour; it has an audio guide available in 8 languages: English, French, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Italian and German. It makes you discover the most known places in town. Departures are at 12:00pm, 2:15pm 3:15pm, and at 4:15pm.
If you go off the train early, you may have time to go to Musee des Tapisseries, Palais de L’Archeveche. (Open everyday except on Tuesdays until 6:00 pm) This museum exposes tapestries from the 17th and 18th centuries in an old palace, it has a collection of lyric art and temporary exhibitions, sometimes concerts. You can also visit Musee du Vieil Aix if you don’t want to do the other one. (Or if you want to visit both!) It’s open on the same days as Musee des Tapisseries and exposes furniture, paintings, artisan’s works, and instruments, objects that testify of the local and regional past of Provence.
You did a lot of the city, how about taking this morning to relax? Ten minutes away from Fountain La Rotonde, you can go to Parc Jourdan, a great place to have a walk and picnic.
On the afternoon, enjoy having you city pass to have 15% discount on a hike at Sainte-Victoire Mountain, with a guide. You will walk for approximately 2 hours and a half.
On day five, take the opportunity to do a guided tour in Aix-en-Provence. On fridays, the tourism office proposes the tour of Hidden heritage in old Aix from 10am to 12pm.
After lunch, you can go further away from the city in bus or car (10 minutes drive) to go to Camp des Milles or Vasarely foundation.
Camp des milles is a former internment center from world war II. It was first a place for the political opponents between 1939 and 1942, and in 1942 became an antechamber of Auschwitz camp. The particularity of this camp is the number of artistic works made by the prisoners between 1939 and 1942. Indeed, many of them were artists, they made paintings, drawings, music, theater acts, literature, sculpture… 350 artistic works are at Camp des Milles.
The Vasarely foundation is an architectonic museum gathering the works of Victor Vasarely, known for producing optical art.
In morning, you can go around the city and visit the Cathedral Saint Sauveur d’Aix-en-Provence. This Roman Catholic church stands in a previous forum from ancient times. And according to the legend, on a former temple dedicated to Apollo.
If you go up the church, two minutes after, you will find Joseph Sec Mausoleum. Remant of a scarce revolutionary and Masonic art, Joseph Sec took his inspiration in the old and new testament, and from revolutionary and Masonic symbols.
Half day wine tour in coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence and Luberon: Visit 2 wineries and taste a selection of wine, you will have an expert guide during the tour. It starts from Aix-en-Provence's tourism office at 13:45 and the guide takes you in car to the wineries. You will have to register before in their website "provence wine tours".
Day of departure:
Terrain des peintres is a public space where you can have a beautiful look at Sainte-Victoire Mountain. This is a place Paul Cezanne used to come to paint. it has in fact now reproductions of the artist’s work.
If you continue going up, you will find the archaeological site of Oppidum d’Entremont, where people lived from 180 BC but when Romans took this site in 123 BC, it was abandoned and the population went to live in Aix-en-Provence (called Aquae Sextiae at the time)
To finish your jouney in Aix, the city of Paul Cezanne, going to visit his workshop is a must-do (Atelier de Cezanne). The visit in English are everyday at 5:00pm and the booking must be done before at the tourism office. Discover his world, how he worked and his personal belongings.
Festivals and Animations in Aix this summer:
From 28th June to 30th August: Les jeudi d’Albertas. Every Thursday on Alberta Place, artist from all ages and different nationalities, professional or amateurs, reunite to promote music from various registers: Jazz, Classique, Blues, French music. In this festive atmosphere, come to see the work of passionates people, discover more about their artistic world.
From 4th to 24th July: Aix-en-Provence International Lyric festival (70th edition).
14th July: Bal on cours Mirabeau on the national day occasion, with an orchestra in front of the Hotel du Poet, and a DJ higher in the cours.
13th, 14th and 15th July: Yoga Festival
20th and 21st of July: Festival Vinomusic in the Terre des Mistral Domain. Enjoy Jazz, blues, pop and salsa music after the wines tasting. It is possible to eat all evening at the domain's restaurant or at the partners food trucks.
Sunday 29th July: 23rd Festival of Aix-en-Provence wines. On cours Mirabeau let you seduce by local wine degustation on this special day.
From 14th September to 23rd of September: Circus festival, day and nights. The festival mix between contemporaneous style and traditional circus, and gathers local companies with nationals and internationals ones.
On 15th and 16th September: Heritage Days, which means most of the museums and monuments will be free to visit on this period.
Author: Hélène Marchandise
Photos' copyrights: Sophie Spiterie, Nina Mercurio, P.Biolatto