France Travel

Guide to the Best things to do in Aix-en-Provence

In the heart of Provence lies a sunny yellow city loaded with charm and history around every corner. Strolling the streets of Aix-en-Provence, you feel transported into another world. The sunny yellow architecture is reminiscent of an Italian town and the residents dress as chicly as Parisians. Everywhere you look, there is a lovely detail to admire: a rustic fountain, a sunbathed square, a towering church.

Morning at the Place des Cardeurs

Aix-en-Provence has a rich history; like Nîmes, Narbonne, and Arles, this southern French city was once a part of the Roman empire. Later, it became a medieval center of arts and academics and the university of Aix-Marseille has been thriving since 1409. Aix is probably most well known for being the home and birthplace of Post-Impressionist Artist, Paul Cézanne. Surrounding Aix you’ll find plains of vineyards, lavender fields, and other vegetable crops. Northeast of the city sits la Montagne Sainte-Victoire, a limestone ridge that is heavily featured in Cézanne’s works.

La Montage Saint -Victoire

A trip to Provence is hardly complete without a trip to it’s historic capital. After finally visiting Aix after several trips to other cities in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, I realized I didn’t know what I was missing! If you’re dreaming of visiting the south of France someday, keep reading to discover my guide to the best things to do in Aix-en-Provence. As I visited during a time, when restaurants and museums were closed, I’ve included a few off the beaten path activities to try!

Farmers’ Markets of Aix-en-Provence

The best produce in France is without a doubt in the South. The mediterranean climate is perfect for producing all kinds of fruits and veggies, and not to mention, wines. This is why you have to visit the Farmers’ markets in Aix. You can also find souvenirs like jars of honey, savon de Marseille, and sachets de lavende to stuff in your suitcase and bring home. Another great thing about the markets is that often the vendors will offer you free samples! If they don’t automatically offer, you can always ask “Excusez-moi, c’est possible d’essayer…?” before you decide on which product to purchase.

Spring in Aix

Here are some of my favorite markets in Aix-en-Provence:

Place Richelme

Lined with rows of plane trees, Place Richleme is exactly what you picture a provençal square would look like. The Air Bnb where I stayed overlooked the square and early in the morning, I was able to see the producteurs set up their stalls. From my windows I spotted fish mongers, olive vendors, and vegetable stands galore.

What’s your favorite veggie?

Le grand marché Textile, artisant, brocante

Along the Cours Mirabeau, is a pedestrian street lined with fountains. The market along this path isn’t that of a food market, but one of textiles. Summery dresses, leather bags, straw baskets, and artisan jewelry are just a handful of the goods you’ll discover wandering around this market.

La Fontaine Mousse in the Cours Mirabeau

Marché aux fleurs

Wandering amongst the stalls in the flower market can’t help but bring a smile to your face. At the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville. Although I didn’t purchase a bouquet myself, the wide variety of flower pots made me dream of having my own garden someday.

One bouquet of each, please!

Monuments

As a cultural capital, Aix is filled with monuments and museums. Next time I find myself in Aix, the number one museum on my list to visit is Cézanne’s Atelier to see how the artist lived and painted. Unfortunately, museums were closed when I visited, but I was still able to pass by many beautiful monuments and fountains including:

L’Hôtel de ville 

City halls in France are in the most beautiful buildings.

L’Eglise Saint-Jean de Malte

Although it’s not the main Cathedral, this church was still very lovely and worth visiting.

La Place d’Albertas

One of the most picturesque fountains in Aix.

Calissons d’Aix

If there is just one specialty from Aix you try, it should be calissons! These candies are made from almond paste and candied melon and can be found everywhere around the city. Some shops and market stands will even offer free samples, so you can try before deciding where to buy. I ended up getting some as a souvenir from Léonard Parli, a fancy confiserie near the train station.

Have you ever tried calissons?

Day Trips from Aix

Although Aix is lovely, it’s a smaller city so if you’re visiting for more than a day, you’ll want to take advantage of all that Provence has to offer! If you’re thinking about taking a day trip or two while staying in Aix, I would recommend:

Exploring the Lavender Fields in Summer

One of my favorite memories in France was visiting the lavender fields in Sault last summer. If you visit Aix in the summer, you must make time to see the lavender! If you don’t have a car you can easily book a tour your guide will pick you up in the city.

Lavender Fields Forever

Visiting the Barrage de Bimont and Hiking Montagne Sainte-Victoire

An enchanting turquoise lake and an emblematic mountain in one place? Yes, please! For just around 2€ you can hop on a bus in Aix and head to the provençal countryside to see the Bimont lake and climb the mountain Cézanne painted over and over again.

Le lac de Bimont seen from the Sentier Imoucha

Taking a Big City Break in Marseille

If you’re itching for a little excitement amongst the slow pace of the south, why not hop on a train to Marseille? This sunny city is one of the coolest I’ve ever been too in France and the views of the sea are simply breathtaking.

The views in Marseille are unbeatable!

Wandering the Calanques in Cassis

Want to see the Mediterranean, but the idea of visiting a big city isn’t your vibe? Head on down to the coastal town of Cassis for some wicked good ice cream and rocky seaside walks. I’m already dreaming of going back when it’s warm enough to swim!

Hiking to the Calanque de Port Pin

Getting Your History Nerd on in Avignon

When I was planning last year’s trip to Provence I put Avignon on my list to see the historical Palais de Papes and Pont d’Avignon. I wasn’t expecting much, but this city really surprised me! From the medieval sites to the sun-kissed stone streets, Avignon was full of delight.

“Sur le pont d’Avignon, on y danse.”

Things to Know Before You Go

A few words of advice before planning your trip Aix-en-Provence.

Trains and Buses

There are two train stations in Aix, the center station and the TGV station. If you are taking a high speed train, you will probably arrive at the TGV station, which is outside the city. However there are shuttle busses aka navettes available that will take you to the center. If you are taking a regional train (TER) you will likely arrive at the Gare Aix-en-Provence Centre, which is about a 10 minute walk from the heart of the city. The bus station, la gare routière is also close to the center train station. If you plan on taking a bus outside the city, make sure you arrive at the station at least 10 minutes in advance so you can find your bus. The one my friend and I took to go to the Barrage de Bimont left from a separate lot than the main one and we barely made it in time!

Enjoying a café à emporter before heading on my next adventure.

Where to Stay

I would recommend staying in central Aix for the ambiance, but if you are planning on taking multiple day trips, it might be better to stay closer to the train station. My friend and I were able to find some affordable Air BnBs around 60€ per night. (30€ each).

Can’t get enough of Aix? Check out my mini-vlog from the trip and see Provence through my lens:

Thank you so much for reading my guide to the best things to do in Aix-en-Provence and stay tuned for my next adventure in the South of France!

À la prochaine,

Camden

4 comments

  1. I only had an afternoon in Aix-en-Provence, as it was a “correspondance” on my way to Marseille. I didn’t do much except stroll the Cours Mirabeau, visited two museums, and bought some calissons for the road. It happened to be a rare, overcast day when I went, so I didn’t get to experience the usual sunshine that this Provençal city has to offer. Looks like you went on a relatively-cloudless day! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a little cloudy when I arrived, but thankfully the sun came out for the rest of the trip! Sounds like you were able to fit in a decent amount of activities for just an afternoon.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I stayed 2 days in Aix-en-Provence and it was one of my highlight towns on my trip. So pretty and I stayed in a place that overlooked some rooftops. I remember that square with the flower market (and where i got the most delicious almond croissant)!. I can’t believe I didn’t come across Calissons d’Aix although I probably didn’t know to pay attention to it. I also really liked Avignon too- something about that walled town.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. An almond croissant sounds just as delightful! I had some calisson flavored ice cream while in Avignon that was even better then the calissons them selves! If you find yourself back in Provence, you’ll have to keep an eye out for them!

      Liked by 1 person

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