Aix-en-Provence is a pretty town in Provence, the southern part of France that gets drenched in the sun-kissed rays of the Mediterranean. You might have heard of it, thanks to the international cosmetic giant L’occitane, whose headquarters are located here. Much like other Provencal towns, this one too is adorned with cobbles streets flanked by pastel colored homes, lots of cute places to shop and eat and is famous for it’s fountains. Home to the famous French post-impressionist painter Paul Cézanne, Aix-en-Provence is photogenic to it’s core and makes for leisurely travel when in Provence. Here is a three day itinerary for Aix.
3 Days in Aix-en-Provence
Start your day at Aix-en-Provence by exploring Cours Mirabeau, the main artery of this town and it’s the busiest street. Bustling with farmers markets thrice a week and antique sellers peddling their wares, this stretch is definitely worth a stroll to quickly get a feel of this town. Restaurants here can be touristy and crowded, but if you must have a bite to eat then stop by Bechard, Aix’s most famous patisserie and get some Calissons, the slender oblong shaped French candy that this town is famous for. Savory tarts can be picked up from here as well or simply get croissants from Paul’s Bakery (a local bakery chain) and have breakfast by one of the many fountains in the city.
Aix is famous for it’s fountains and many squares in the city have these water spouting beauties as their central attraction. Two of these are a must visit: a) The Fontaine d’Albertas, which was deemed a national monument that stands in the center of an ornate, baroque square and b) Fontaine des Quatre Dauphins (Square of the four dolphins) built in 1667 and was the first fountain built for public viewing. Once you are done making the rounds of these fountains, stop by Le Table Morrocan, a fuss free Moroccan restaurant in a quiet alley in Aix, and be sure to order their vegetarian tagine and couscous for lunch.
There are several grand palaces, churches and public buildings with stunning architecture to enjoy in Aix, which are in the vicinity of these fountains. Palais des Justice is a heritage building to admire while Place de l’Hôtel de Ville is a bustling square with the gorgeous town hall, corn exchange hall and clock tower around it. The most famous church of Aix is undoubtedly the Cathedral St. Sauveur, a Roman Catholic cathedral serving as the seat of the Archbishop of Aix and Arles. It is also a designated national monument of France and boasts of a beautiful interior and frescos. End you day by dining in style at either L’Esprit de la Violette, a Michelin starred restaurant where you can have a lovely meal in the adjoining garden in summer or Mitch, a French American brassiere for a three course meal of appetizer, entree and dessert.
Kickstart Day two by savouring some croissants for breakfast at Lavarenne, considered to be one of the best bakeries in town. Then reserve the day for some art hopping since Aix used to be home to the Famous French post-Impressionist painter Paul Cezanne. His studio, Atelier Cezanne, is open to public tours and is a must visit for all art lovers. Besides, you can also can catch art exhibits in one of the several museums in the city, such as the Granet museum or attend a special exhibit at the art center of Hotel de Caumont.
Lunch at Crêperie Crepes Cidre Et Compagnie and dinner at Le Poivre D’Ane is a good idea to wrap up the day. If you are visiting Aix-en-Provence in summer, it is always good to have a few back up restaurants on your list since many dining establishments take short summer breaks too and might be closed when you arrive.
For those of you who are vegetarian, dining in Provence can be challenging due to their love for meat and fish. In our experience, you will almost always find at least one vegetarian option in appetizers and entrees. If not, you can always make a polite request for a meat free modification; my husband did this a few times and was always obliged
Aix is such a small town that you definitely see all of it within 2 days. Being close to the Luberon valley, short day trips to French villages like Ansouis, Cucuron and Lourmarin are a great way to explore the beautiful Provencal villages on your last day at Aix. The “most extraordinary” museum in Ansouis, a private Marseille diver’s collection of fossilized sea life is one delightful museum that you should visit in this tiny village. Lourmarin is famous for its boutiques and the views from Cucuron are definitely a sight for sore eyes.
For some more information about Aix-en-Provence’s beautiful surroundings, check out this post about seventeen pretty villages in Provence and this guide to Marseille and its street art.
I hope this itinerary of Aix-en-Provence has ignited your wanderlust enough to push it to the very top of your south of France itinerary. Aix is an extremely beautiful town in Provence and is a must visit for its culture, food and beauty. Once you visit, you will leave behind a piece of your heart there as well.
This is a guest post by Paroma Chakravarty, owner of Year of the Monkey blog. Paroma is a scientist living in San Francisco with her husband and four legged kid. She loves good food, travel and is an amateur photographer. She blogs at Year of the Monkey about travel guides, good food, pet friendly destinations and insider info on her home city San Francisco. Follow her adventures by checking out her Instagram or Facebook.