I lived in Aix-en-Provence for an entire year, teaching English in a couple of local high schools. I learnt a lot about the city and it’s people, and I discovered the Provençal beauty of France.
Aix-en-Provence is a génial city to visit for many reasons. Firstly, with 300 days of sunshine a year, Aix is almost always pretty in the sunshine. Secondly, it’s a road less travelled – although tourists come regularly, it’s less well known than other French cities. Thirdly, there’s an abundance of incredible restaurants and bars to prendre un verre at. Fourth, you’ll just have to visit because I could keep going all day.
Where to Stay
Honestly, I think hotels are pretty overpriced across the city. Also, the only youth hostel (auberge de jeunesse) is a bus ride away from the city and isn’t worth staying at. In order to get the full experience for the lowest price, I’d suggest getting an Airbnb bang in the centre of town. There isn’t a huge price difference staying in the old town and on the outskirts of it, so you may as well stay as close as possible to all the amenities.
Here’s what I recommend doing for two full days in the beautiful city.
9am: have a croissant and a coffee looking on to the Rotonde at La Rotonde Café.
10:30am: wander along the Cours Mirabeau and have a look in to the shops along the way – on numerous days there are markets, you can find information about all the markets here.
11:30am: head up towards La Mairie (the town hall – every town in France has one) and look at the shops along the way.
2pm: head a ten minute walk just North of the old city to Paul Cézanne’s workshop.
4pm: get some afternoon work done – or play boardgames -, drink tea and some shisha at Coco Boheme tea room. Students are always in getting their tea fix.
7pm: in Summer, there are festivals and markets all the time, so take a wander around the streets and see if anything’s on. If not, and in colder months, head to a bar in the Place de La Mairie for un apéro before dinner.
8pm: try Tahitian food from a Tahitian family at Le Petit Tahiti.
10pm: fancy going out? Head to O’Shannons, a lively Irish bar. Or, head to one of the few clubs in Aix, such as Le Mistral or Le Scat.
10am: grab a croissant and enjoy the morning sun in Parc Jourdan (not nice weather? head to one of the many libraries, or book stores, around the city. My favourite English book store is Book In Bar).
12pm: have a kebab at the notorious kebab shop on the Rue des Marseillais. Or grab the best baguette in the city from one of the Jacob’s stores, some wine and cheese from Monoprix (on Cours Mirabeau) and head to one of the parks.
1pm: do one of the tours offered by the Tourism Office. Alternatively, take the train around the city, which leaves from La Rotonde.
3pm: go to Musée granet.
7pm: have an apéro at one of the bars in Place des Cardeurs before dinner.
8pm: eat a typical French gourmand resto l’Epicurien in Place des Cardeurs. The food is incredible.
If you’re lucky enough to have longer in the city, I’d recommend visiting some of the towns and cities in the area;
- Marseille: the second largest city in France. It has lots to do, including shopping and beaches.
- Martigues: a beautiful Seaside town. Known as the ‘Venice’ of France for it’s canals.
- Saint-Rémy: a very beautiful, bourgeoisie town. Lots of art galleries and boutiques.
- Carry-Le-Rouet: a beach town full of (mainly Northern French) tourists in the summer.
- Sausset-Les-Pins: same as above.
- Montagne Sainte-Victoire: a mountain just outside Aix which takes around two hours to climb and gives beautiful views over Provence.
Don’t pass up the opportunity to visit this incredible city (and the one’s surrounding it if you have time), which is full of little surprises. I spent one of the best years of my life in the city and I know I’ll be returning very soon to experience la vie française once more.