What to visit in Aix-en-Provence ?
Aix-en-provence © easyvoyage.com
Aix-en-Provence is a charming colorful and sunny town of Provence, located at 25 kilometers north from Marseille and 2 hours by car from Nice. By train, it will take you 45 minutes to reach the city from Marseille and about 2 hours from Cassis. If you’re wondering why you should visit Aix-en-Provence and when is the best time to visit this city, you should know that this dynamic and lively city will satisfy all your expectations. Indeed, the old town can easily be visited on foot, and activities to do with friends, family or couples are available throughout the year (from January to December): art museums, exhibitions, festivals, markets … Moreover, Aix has a remarkable architectural and cultural heritage, with a large number of places to visit (historic buildings, mansions, fountains …).
If you’re planning a road trip to Aix-en-Provence, you can also visit its vineyard, famous for its rosé wines in the Coteaux d’Aix en Provence appellation. Many wineries will be happy to welcome you and help you taste their wines.
Discover here our selection of points of interest and what to do in Aix en Provence during a day trip, a week-end (1, 2, 3 days) or a longer stay there.
Old town and Cours Mirabeau
Enjoy a trip back in time in this city, which is ranked as the third set of Baroque architecture in France, after Paris and Versailles. The old town is a very pleasant pedestrian zone for a walking tour, shopping, and of course to discover the architectural and cultural heritage of Aix. You will be able to see the City Hall, or the Courthouse in this district.
City Hall square © aix-presso-restaurant.com
The Cours Mirabeau constitutes the heart of the city. Built from the late 17th century, this is one of the most popular places. Along this magnificent and bustling avenue, you will find fountains, cafes, restaurants, shops and mansions.
Its central location is perfect to host many cultural events throughout the year. This is where the Carnival of Aix takes place at the beginning of April, as well as the Côteaux of Aix-en-Provence festival which brings together about fourty winegrowers in July or the Christmas market in December.
Cours Mirabeau © helenesf.fr
At the end of the Cours Mirabeau is the Rotunda square with its majestic fountain. Built in 1860, it is fed by the waters of the Verdon, where lions, swans, dolphins and other creatures bathe. It is surmounted by three statues of different sculptors each directed towards a particular direction. One of them symbolizes justice, the other, fine arts and the third, trade and agriculture.
Aix has now about 1000 fountains, which are the symbol of the city. Indeed, “Aquae Sextia”, which means “The waters of Sextius”, is the ancient name of Aix.
Rotunda fountain © fatimasaysell.wordpress.com/p>
In the north part of the old town, you can visit the Saint-Sauveur Cathedral and its cloister, which are jewels of religious architecture. Redesigned several times, the Cathedral harmoniously gathers several architectural styles from different eras (Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque). The triptych of Nicolas Froment showing Moses receiving the word of God from an angel is the most remarkable element of the cathedral. The baptistery of the adjacent cathedral has also very ancient origins: it dates from the 5th century and incorporates the columns of an even older church of the 2nd century.
Saint-Sauveur cathedral © thefrenchtourist.fr
If you are in Aix-en-Provence, you must absolutely taste the famous Calisson. Since the 15th century, it is the great culinary specialty of Aix, named the “Capital of Calisson”. This gourmet confectionery is made from a paste of almond, melon and orange, placed on a sheet of unleavened bread and covered with a glaze.
You can taste this treat in a shop, confectionery or craft factory. You can also go to famous Calisson makers such as Léonard Parli, 5 minutes’ walk from the old town, one of the oldest confectioneries of Aix founded in 1874.
In the heart of the old town, near the Cathedral, Roy René’s confiserie also offers traditional Calissons of good quality. This confectionery with a strong international reputation, founded in 1920, has preserved the Provençal tradition of production from generation to generation.
The Calissons © entrepriseetdecouverte.fr
Located in the south of the city, this district was the residence of the great bourgeois in the 17th century and houses today museums, historical monuments, and a large number of mansions built between the 17th and 18th centuries. At the heart of the Mazarin district lies the “Quatre-Dauphins fountain” (fountain of the four dolphins), sculpted by Jean-Claude Rambot in the 17th century and that has become one of the emblems of the city.
The fountain of the four dolphins © lexpress.fr
If you love art and culture, go meet Cezanne, painter considered as the father of modern painting. This world-famous artist is present in many parts of the city. Start your cultural discovery by going to the Hotel of Caumont and its art center, located close to Cours Mirabeau.
This former private mansion is a jewel of the 18th century. Completely restored, it will surprise you with its splendour, its rich interior decorations and its vast and peaceful gardens. You can visit its Art Center which has important temporary exhibitions. The works exhibited here are of very varied natures and periods, from ancient art to the present day. A space is dedicated to Cezane where are exposed some of his works, and where you can learn about his experience, his passion for Aix-en-Provence and the region through the movie « Cézanne in Aix-en-Provence » projected every day in the auditorium of the hotel.
Caumont Hotel © latruffenoire.com
Another cultural site that is worth a visit is the Granet Museum. This imposing museum with more than 12,000 works is also close to Cours Mirabeau. Collections from the 14th to the 20th century are on display. You will find works by great Nordic masters such as Rubens, Rembrandt and Ingres. Of course, you will find here again masterpieces of the master of Aix: Cézanne. In addition, the donation of Cezanne to Giacometti is an extraordinary collection of modern art of the 20th century, which brings together famous artists such as Alberto Giacometti or Auguste Renoir. The museum also houses a sculpture gallery and archaeology rooms.
Granet Museum © aixenprovencetourism.com
Aix surroundings and vineyard
The surroundings of Aix en Provence include a subtle blend of nature, heritage and gastronomy that will appeal to fans of all kinds. Many Provencal villages and postcard landscapes are easily accessible. At 30 minutes from Aix by car, the Saint-Victoire mountain is one of the must-sees of the region. Many works of Cézanne represent it and it attracts many visitors from the region. Various hiking trails will also allow you to enjoy these beautiful landscapes.
Saint Victoire mountain © la-provence-verte.net
Gastronomy and wine lovers will also be delighted to visit some of the most beautiful wineries of Aix-en-Provence region.
Vineyards close to Aix-en-Provence
At 25 minutes north from Aix by car (about 15 kilometers), the Domaine de Beaulieu is a very beautiful winery that offers both a wide range of wines (white, red and rosé) but also different types of activity: from the simple tasting to walks in the vineyard on foot… Its geographical situation is very particular, since it is located at the heart of the crater of an extinct volcano, at a 400 meters altitude.
Chateau Beaulieu, Beaulieu winery, Rognes
The Chateau Paradis is another winery of good quality in the region of Aix. Also located at 25 minutes’ drive (15 km) from the city, this winery has set up a wine trail of 1.5 to 3 kilometers long, allowing to discover whether alone (signage on site) or with a guide, the specificities of the local vineyard. You can also visit the production cellar and taste their range of wines (white, red and rosé).
Let’s go back to the city of Aix-en-Provence with the Vendome pavilion. Located at 5 minutes’ walk from the Cathedral, this place is surrounded by a sumptuous French garden. It houses furniture from Provence, art objects from the late 17th and early 18th centuries and paintings including many portraits of personalities who lived there. The pavilion and its garden are registered as historical monuments. Since 1990, it offers numerous exhibitions of modern and contemporary art.
Vendome pavilion © handivert.wordpress.com
Located at 20 Minutes on foot from the city center, the Cezanne workshop is definitely worth a detour. This is where Cezanne worked for the last four years of his life. Once inside this intimate place, you will feel the strong presence of the artist. This place exposes many personal objects of the painter, his furniture, his work equipment, as well as his last models.
A pedestrian circuit, where you can follow all the stages of his life including passing through his birthplace, his school, his studio, his statue… is offered by the tourist office.
Cezanne workshop © pinterest.com
Complete your museum visits by discovering the atypical and enigmatic works of the plastic artist Victor Vasarely. This precursor of optical and kinetic art had the objective to create an art for everyone, without cultural or social discriminations.
The Vasarely Foundation, located at 10-minutes’ drive from the Old Town, is an architectural center, mixing art and architecture, called the “Polychrome City of Happiness”. The center offers interactive and varied activities, especially for children: playful courses, guided tours and workshops, mediations … It also hosts temporary exhibitions and cultural events. This center is classified as historical monument and receives around 40,000 visitors a year.
Vasarely Foundation © aixenprovencetourism.com
We wish you a pleasant discovery of Aix-en-Provence and its region!