Aix-en-Provence is a popular tourist destination due to its slow-paced lifestyle and sultry Provençal charm. Aix-en-Provence, bathed in the sun of its southern climate, reveals its beauty in tree-lined streets and stately squares.
Summertime attractions include leafy parks or shaded pavement cafés, as well as balmy evenings that allow you to experience the art of living with leisurely meals on restaurant terraces.
Aix-en-Provence is known as the “City of Counts” because it was once home to the Counts of Provence. It has several impressive old aristocratic palaces. There are also hundreds of fountains: Aix-en-Provence is known as the “City of a Thousand Fountains.”
The city has two interesting historic districts: Vieil Aix and the Mazarin quarter, which are separated by the Cours Mirabeau, a lovely tree-lined avenue. Other cultural attractions include
1. Vieil Aix (Old Town)
Wandering the charming streets and squares of Vieil Aix is one of the best things to do while visiting Aix-en-Provence. Aix-en-public Provence’s squares feature elegant architecture and decorative fountains. On warm days, many squares are shaded by tall leafy trees, making these outdoor spaces inviting.
The Place de l’Hôtel de Ville is located in the heart of the Old Town. The 17th-century town hall building, with its beautiful Italian-style façade and ornately carved wooden doors, and the 16th-century Tour de l’Horloge, the old city belfry with an astronomical clock from 1661, can be seen from this square.
The Place de l’Hôtel de Ville is centred on the 17th-century Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), where outdoor café tables are scattered beneath shady trees on the square’s stone-paved terrace.
The famous flower market, Le Marché aux Fleurs, is a popular place to visit if you visit on the right day of the week. Every year on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings (8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.), it takes over the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville. The flower market has inspired many artists with its magnificent array of vibrantly colored blossoms.
Continue walking through the quiet streets and cobblestone lanes of the Old Town to the Place d’Albertas. This 18th-century square is surrounded by beautiful Baroque and Rococo structures. The square has a simple fountain that was built in 1862.
The Halle aux Grains (a former grain market that now houses a library) stands on the south side of the Place d’Albertas square, with a magnificent gable built in 1759-61 and embellished with sculptures by Jean Pancrace Chastel.
2. Cours Mirabeau
The Cours Mirabeau, perhaps Aix-en-liveliest Provence’s spot, is a graceful avenue shaded by giant plane trees and lined with cafés, restaurants, and boutiques.
This lovely promenade is ideal for a leisurely stroll, an alfresco lunch, or a coffee break on an outdoor terrace. Many locals gather here after work to enjoy the late-afternoon sun and unwind in the early evening.
The Cours Mirabeau connects the Old Town to the Mazarin neighbourhood. It’s worth pausing to admire the 17th- and 18th-century mansions, such as the Hôtel de Forbin (number 20), which was built in 1656, and the Hôtel de Maurel de Pontèves (number 38), which was built between 1647 and 1650.
Several fountains adorn the Cours Mirabeau, in keeping with Aix-en-penchant Provence’s for them. The Fontaine de la Rotonde, a massive fountain at the west end, features a statue of the Three Graces, bronze lions, and multiple tiers of splashy waterworks. The 19th-century Fontaine du Roi René stands at the east end, commemorating the beloved king who ruled over Provence in the 15th century.
3. Quartier Mazarin
The Quartier Mazarin neighbourhood in Aix-en-historic Provence’s centre was founded in 1646 by Michel Mazarin, archbishop of Aix and brother of the famous cardinal and politician.
The quarter’s perimeter can be traced back to the Old Town walls, along the Boulevard Carnot and Boulevard du Roi René, using rectangular lines typical of 17th-century town planning.
The Place des Quatre Dauphins, in the heart of the Mazarin district, is home to the Fountain des Quatre Dauphins, which was built in 1667. This whimsical fountain features four dolphin sculptures spouting water. Several private mansions line the square, including the Hôtel de Boisgelin, which has a beautiful coach yard decorated with monumental friezes.
4. Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur
The Saint-Savior Cathedral is a one-of-a-kind structure because it was constructed over a long period of time, from the fifth to the seventeenth centuries. The façade, which incorporates Roman, Romanesque, and Gothic elements, exemplifies the blend of architectural styles.
Visitors are struck by the serene beauty of the Baptistery Rotunda from the early Christian (Merovingian) era as they enter the Romanesque doorway. The cathedral has three distinct naves (Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque), which reflect the continuity of building construction over the centuries.
A famous 15th-century Burning Bush triptych painted by Nicolas Froment, which is only on display during scheduled dates, is located to the right of the main nave. Further exploration through the left wing reveals a portrait of Good King René created between 1434 and 1480. There are exceptional Flemish tapestries in the nave and south aisle, and the Chapelle de Saint-Mitre, dedicated to the patron of the town, is located behind the High Altar.
Make a point of visiting the cathedral’s Romanesque cloister. This exquisite space provides a sense of calm to encourage spiritual reflection.
Aix-en-Provence, 34 Place des Martyrs-de-la-Résistance
5. Musée Granet
The Granet Museum, located in the former Prieuré de Malte (Priory of Malta) just off Rue d’Italie near the Cours Mirabeau, is regarded as one of the best art museums in France. The museum has a large collection of paintings ranging from the 14th to the 20th centuries, including works by Géricault, Ingres, and Rubens.
The museum has an exceptional collection of Impressionist art, particularly Cézanne’s paintings, as well as works by Degas, Monet, and Van Gogh. Pieces by Bonnard, Braque, Dubuffet, and Picasso are also included in the Post-Impressionist and Modern art movements.
Address: Place Saint-Jean de Malte, Aix-en-Provence
6. Musée des Tapisseries
This exceptional museum houses tapestries from the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as contemporary textile art. A series of nine tapestries from the Manufacture Royale de Beauvais (Royal Manufactory of Beauvais) featuring scenes from Cervantes’ Don Quixote de la Mancha are among the museum’s highlights.
The museum is located near the cathedral in the Palais de l’Ancien Archevêché (former Archbishop’s Palace).
The courtyard of the palace is used as an outdoor theatre for the internationally renowned Festival d’Art Lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence during the summer (Opera Festival).
Address: 28 Place des Martyrs-de-la-Résistance, Aix-en-Provence
7. Atelier de Cézanne
Paul Cézanne admirers enjoy visiting this atelier to see where the artist’s creativity took shape.
Throughout the year, Cézanne worked tirelessly in this studio. He painted en plein air on sunny days (outdoors). Cézanne would stay inside his atelier on rainy days and paint everyday objects for still life paintings, such as bottles, pottery, vases, flowers, and fruit.
The Atelier de Cézanne is one of the best places in Aix-en-Provence to see the environment that inspired the “Father of Modern Painting.”
Audio guides (in several languages) and guided tours (in English or French) are available for those interested in learning more about Cézanne and his artwork.
The site also has a free garden that is open to the public. Admission to the Atelier de Cézanne requires a ticket, with additional fees for audio guides and guided tours.
Aix-en-Provence, 9 Avenue Paul Cézanne
8. Fondation Vasarely
Fondation Vasarely was founded in 1976, and the building itself is a stunning work of modern optical art that complements the pieces on display. Visitors to this unusual building can see 44 massive wall paintings, “integrations murales,” and hundreds of studies by Hungarian-French artist Victor Vasarely, a member of the Abstract Constructivist school of painting.
Throughout the year, the foundation also hosts temporary exhibitions, conferences, and cultural events (such as dance and music performances).
The Vasarely Foundation is located outside of the center of Aix-en-Provence on the Avenue Marcel Pagnol in the Jas de Bouffan district.
Address: 1 Avenue Marcel Pagnol, Aix-en-Provence
9. Pavillon de Vendôme
This elegant 18th-century residence was built for Louis de Mercoeur, Duke of Vendôme, and is nestled in a verdant setting not far from the city’s historic centre.
The duke’s magnificent mansion is a lovely Grand Siècle aristocratic country house (the 17th century). The Pavillon de Vendôme is a peaceful and beautiful place that reflects the grandeur of a bygone era.
The Pavillon de Vendôme, which is open to the public as a museum, hosts contemporary art exhibitions. The opulent mansion also houses everyday objects, paintings, and furniture from the late 17th and early 18th centuries, allowing visitors to imagine the lives of those who once lived there.
Address: 13 Rue de la Molle, Aix-en-Provence
10. Terrain des Peintres (Painters’ Park)
Outside of the historic city center, about a ten-minute walk from the Atelier Cézanne, this beautiful hillside site was popular among Impressionist painters. Cézanne would set up his easel here on the Chemin de la Marguerite, where he would paint the Sainte-Victoire Mountain and surrounding landscape.
Within this public park, the Chemin de la Marguerite is a scenic walking path through the unspoiled countryside that Cézanne loved (now called the “Terrain des Peintres”). The Terrain des Peintres exemplifies the Provençal landscape with its rows of cypress trees, an exceptional view of the Montagne Sainte-Victoire, and typical vegetation of the sun-drenched Mediterranean region.
The footpath leads to an esplanade where an open-air gallery displays reproductions of paintings by Cézanne. The paintings depicting the iconic Montagne Sainte-Victoire are the result of many hours that Cézanne spent working at his easel here.
In many of Cézanne’s paintings of this site, it is easy to recognize the pathways, shrubs, and red-roofed houses that are still visible today. The Terrain des Peintres is a wonderful place to take a leisurely walk and to soak up the inspiration of Impressionist artists.
Address: Avenue Paul Cézanne, Aix-en-Provence
11. Cézanne Trail: Self-Guided Walking Tour
For art lovers, one of the most rewarding things to do while visiting Aix-en-Provence is to explore the city in the footsteps of Cézanne.
A pedestrian route known as the Cézanne Trail begins at the bronze statue of Paul Cézanne at the Cours Mirabeau, continues with landmarks such as the school that the artist attended as a child, the building where he was born, the houses of his friends, the cafés where he met other artists, and the church where he married his wife Hortense Fiquet.
The city of Aix-en-Provence has indicated the most important Cézanne locations with a trail of studs (nails shaped like the initial “C”) on the pavement, allowing visitors to take a self-guided walking tour to see the places once frequented by Cézanne and appreciate how he experienced the world.
At the Atelier de Cézanne or the Aix-en-Provence Tourist Office, visitors can pick up brochures that indicate the “In the Steps of Cézanne” trail (for a self-guided walking tour). It is also possible to take a guided tour of the Cézanne Trail, offered by the Tourist Office.
Where to Stay in Aix-en-Provence for Sightseeing
We recommend these hotels in Aix-en-Provence that are located near top attractions like the Old Town and Cours Mirabeau:
- La Maison d’Aix: This four-star boutique hotel in the Quartier Mazarin, near the Cours Mirabeau, features a spa with a hammam and pool. The hotel also offers concierge services and free breakfast.
- Adagio Aix-en-Provence Centre: Near the Cours Mirabeau, this four-star hotel provides apartment-style accommodations featuring chic décor and kitchenettes. A breakfast buffet is available.
- Boutique Hôtel Cézanne: Decorated in trendy modern style, this four-star boutique hotel is a short walk from the Old Town. Amenities include concierge services and a breakfast buffet.
- ibis Aix-en-Provence: This budget-friendly hotel is a 10-minute drive from the Centre Ville where the tourist attractions are located. The three-star hotel features sleek décor, as well as an outdoor swimming pool and sundeck. A breakfast buffet is available.
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Aix-en-Provence
To discover charming villages, nature sites, and glamorous resorts around Aix-en-Provence, the easiest option is to take organized day trips led by knowledgeable guides. The travel arrangements are by luxury minivan, so tourists can relax and enjoy the scenery during the ride.
- Visit the Luberon’s Charming Villages: Spend an entire day exploring quaint villages of the Luberon region in Provence. The Luberon Villages Day Trip from Aix-en-Provence is a nine-hour guided driving tour that stops at some of the area’s prettiest villages, including Lourmarin and Gordes. Each village has its unique charm; many villages have traditional Provençal markets and inviting boutiques that sell artisanal products.Explore the Gorges du Verdon Nature Site: Travelers seeking a refreshing change of environment will enjoy the Verdon Gorge and Moustiers Sainte-Marie Tour from Aix-en-Provence. This nine-hour driving tour takes tourists through the breathtaking Gorges du Verdon, one of Provence’s most stunning natural wonders, with stops at the nearby L’Occitane cosmetics factory and the beautiful village of Moustiers Sainte-Marie.
Day Trips from Aix-en-Provence
A symbol of Provence, the Sainte-Victoire Mountain is known as Cézanne’s muse. Located about 25 kilometers from Aix-en-Provence, the mountain reaches an altitude of 1,011 meters and dominates the surrounding scenery.
The area has pleasant paths that are designed for nature walks and gentle rambles. Along the way are several sites of religious heritage: the 17th-century Sainte-Victoire Prior; the Saint-Ser Hermitage, a tiny chapel in a cave (named after a 5th-century hermit who sought refuge in this place); and the Cross of Provence, perched on the western tip of the massif.
From the Pic des Mouches, the highest point, the perspective stretches out over the rolling plains of the Aix region. On a clear day, the vista affords glimpses of the Mediterranean Sea and the French Alps.
Outside of Aix-en-Provence about 15 kilometers, Ventabren is a picturesque hilltop village with remnants of an ancient castle. In its unique situation, high above the Valley of the Arc, this little village perfectly portrays what is meant by the term village perché: like a bird perched high up in a tree.
There is a magnificent 180-degree view from the castle ruins over the idyllic landscape to the north of the Etang de Berre and the town of Martigues, on the southern bank of the river. The village also has a noteworthy 11th- to 12th-century parish church dedicated to Saint Denis.
A few kilometers south of Ventabren, along the Valley of the Arc, is the Roquefavour Aqueduct. The world’s largest stone aqueduct, this imposing three-story structure conveys water from the Durance River over the valley towards Marseilles. The aqueduct was built between 1841 and 1847 and is listed as a Historic Monument. Visitors are dazzled by the impressive architecture; its Classical-style construction offers a powerful visual effect.
The upper level of the aqueduct is accessible from the D64 highway coming from Ventabren, taking the first left turn towards Petit Rigoués just before reaching the D65 highway, and then a right turn at the watchman’s house.
There are two hiking routes from Ventabren to the Roquefavour Aqueduct. One route takes 45 minutes, while the other takes one hour and 30 minutes. Both afford spectacular views of the Provençal landscape.
Just a 30-kilometer drive from Aix-en-Provence, the Château d’Ansouis gives visitors the sense of being transported back in time. This ancient château (dating back to the 10th century) was an important medieval military fortress, standing in its glorious location overlooking the Aygues Valley.
Rare for a castle in France, the Château d’Ansouis is fully furnished with authentic period pieces from various historic eras. The ornately embellished interior offers a realistic impression of what it was like to live here throughout the centuries.
The grounds around the château are also spectacular. Fitted along terraces below the château are a series of lush gardens that feature superb panoramas of the Alps in the distance. Immaculately landscaped and maintained, the gardens are designed in perfect harmony with the scenery.
The Château d’Ansouis is a private residence but is open to the public Thursday through Sunday in June, July, and August and on weekends during the month of September through mid-October. Tourists may see the château only on guided visits (available once or twice a day). The guided tours are led by the château owners.
The hilltop village of Ansouis is also worth visiting. This quiet country town is listed as one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France. Dating back to the medieval era, Ansouis enchants visitors with its old stone buildings, cobblestone streets, narrow alleyways, and 13th-century church.
Address: Rue du Cartel, 84240 Ansouis
Built up along the banks of the Durance River in a lovely natural setting, this medieval town (100 kilometers north of Aix-en-Provence) has a rich cultural heritage. The history is evident in the atmospheric ancient streets, ornate 16th- and 17th-century houses, and a fortified medieval cathedral built between 1160 and 1220.
Sisteron also has an extraordinary citadel, perched high on a rocky promontory and surrounded by ramparts. Classified as a Historic Monument, the citadel is open for visits daily (from the end of March through mid-November). Visiting the citadel requires climbing some steps.
In July and August, the citadel’s open-air theater becomes a venue for “Les Nuits de la Citadelle.” Held in July and August, this annual festival includes a program of musical concerts, theater, and dance performances.
During summertime, the area around Sisteron is popular for camping and outdoor activities. Things to do include swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and river rafting. In season, the tributaries and lakes around Sisteron provide opportunities to catch salmon as well as other fish.
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Exploring the South of France: Aix-en-Provence is at the heart of Provence, a region brimming with fascinating historic towns and quaint medieval villages. It’s also close to many other top tourist destinations in southern France, including the glamorous resorts of the French Riviera.
Highlights of Provence: Most first-time visitors to the area travel to Avignon to see the UNESCO-listed Palais de Papes and to Arles, a lovely town with a captivating Provençal ambience, landmarks painted by Vincent van Gogh, and classical-era monuments. Nîmes is also renowned for its ancient Roman buildings.
Mediterranean Port Towns: For a taste of Provençal urban life, Marseilles (only 30 kilometers south of Aix-en-Provence) offers the buzzing atmosphere and cosmopolitan culture of a Mediterranean port town. Another typical port town, Toulon has an attractive harbor and waterfront along with a rich Provençal heritage.
Pastoral Charms of the Haut-Vaucluse Region: To journey away from the cities into the charming Provençal countryside, the Haut-Vaucluse is an ideal destination. This sleepy pastoral region delights visitors with its sensational sun-drenched landscape, undiscovered rural towns, and the picture-perfect hilltop villages of the Luberon, a natural regional park in the Haut-Vaucluse.