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Cities of France - Aix-en-Provence

Aix-en-Provence

Aix-en-Provence

Aix-en-Provence

This sun drenched city in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur is often thought of as the Paris of the south. At the heart of Provence’s most graceful city is the fountain-studded avenue, Cours Mirabeau.  This elegant, wide thoroughfare is grandiose, graceful and spiced with civilised café life.  Framed by rows of plane trees with fine houses and elegant Renaissance hotels, it provides an impressive focal point with the magnificent Rotonde fountain at one end and many smaller fountains along its length. 

Join the “people watchers” and sit in the sun at one of the many cafes such as Les Deux Garcon, where painter, Paul Cézanne and his friend, writer Émile Zola famously hung out. 

Perhaps you’d prefer to wander through the narrow streets of the vieille ville that radiate from the Cours Mirabeau to discover the many picturesque squares, each with a personality of their own. And of course there are shops and cafes and churches and even more fountains!  Known as the city of a thousand fountains, you can discover them everywhere, small and large, ornate and simple, all bubbling away to create a calming, relaxed atmosphere. 

The other thing that seems to pop up everywhere in Aix are markets.  Food markets, flower markets, broncante markets, clothing markets and every other kind of market you can think of. Don’t miss the a daily fresh food and produce market held in the Place Richelme where there’s no shortage of marvelous Provençal vegetables, flowers, and specialty products to tempt your wallet and tantalize your taste buds.  Pick up a brochure from the tourist office to discover which square the markets will appear in and on which days.  Or just wander the pretty little streets and be surprised! Sometimes there are four or five markets on the one day, so no matter when you visit, you’ll never miss out on the fun. 

As dusk descends on the city, the cafes and bars come alive with tourists and locals filling the terraces to sip pastis or enjoy a local rosé before choosing from the many excellent restaurants serving Provençale cuisine.  

If you have a sweet tooth or are looking for a traditional gift to take home to make your friends jealous, Aix en Provence is famous for calissons.  These petal shaped sweets consist of a firm paste of ground almonds combined with candied fruit such as melon and tangerine, topped with white icing. 

But it’s not all about fountains, food and markets. If you have an interest in art, you might know that the celebrated post impressionist painter, Paul Cézanne was born and raised inAix-en-Provence. He also studied there, lived most of his life there and eventually died there. 

 Aix is well known for glorious weather as it enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate. Come in summer to enjoy endless days of sunshine. Winter is also much milder than other parts of France, but watch out for the Mistral, a fierce, cold, dry wind from the north or north-west which roars down theRhôneValleytowards the coast. It can last for days reaching speeds of over 90 km an hour and making temperatures plummet. 

Aix-en-Provence is also a wonderful base to explore nearby Marseille, Avignon and the hilltop villages of the Luberon, made famous by Peter Mayle in his many books starting with “A Year in Provence.”  However, there are so many interesting things to discover within the city itself, you may find it difficult to drag yourself away.