Aix-en-Provence, situated in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southern France is known as a university town and “The City of a Thousand Fountains.” Founded by the Romans in 103 BC, Aix-en-Provence was built upon a thermal water source. Its name “Aix” is the Latin word for water, “aquae.” You will often hear Aix-en-Provence referred to as Aix (pronounced “ex”).
No South of France itinerary would be complete without spending some time in Aix-en-Provence. With all its elegance, Aix-en-Provence is immediately charming. Its historic quartiers, gurgling fountains, quaint streets, amazing markets, and traces of Paul Cézanne, the famed local painter, will have you wanting to stay longer than planned.
Things To Do In Aix-En-Provence, France
1. Things To Do In Aix-en-Provence: Flâner
Aix-en-Provence is the perfect city to practice the art of being a flâneur/ flâneuse. Wander. Sit at a café. Observe the locals. Wander some more. Discover another fountain. Turn left down a quiet cobbled street. It’s the most leisurely way to explore a new place. Start your strolling in the old town of Aix-en-Provence and the Mazarin quarter.
Not sure how to embrace the notion of observing locals as a flâneur? This post will give you some handy tips.
2. Discover Fountain After Fountain
Aix-en-Provence lives up to its nickname “The City of One Thousand Fountains.” I can’t guarantee that you will see one thousand fountains during your visit to Aix France but you will definitely see your fair share.
My favourite time to see the fountains was early in the morning. The streets are quiet and the trickle of the fountains creates a background melody to your morning walk.
3. Things To Do In Aix-en-Provence: Browse The Markets
The Big Saturday Market in Aix-en-Provence:
Aix-en-Provence’s Saturday market has to be the most amazing French market I have ever encountered. Lavender soaps, flowers of all kinds, produce enticing you to stay awhile and cook up a French feast are sure to please. Le Cours Mirabeau is lined with stalls selling clothing, textiles of all sorts, purses, jewellery and unique Provençal goodies. Allow yourself plenty of browsing time and be sure to leave some extra space in your suitcase for your treasures.
Farmer’s Market In Aix France:
This daily market in Aix Provence takes place at Place Richelme. It is also held Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at Place des Prêcheurs and Place Verdun 8:30 – 1
If you are staying in an Air Bnb and want to cook up a storm, head over to the fruit and vegetable market, find some honey, goat cheese and fresh eggs and you’ll be living your best French life!
The Flower Market of Aix-en-Provence:
If you love colourful blooms and the subtle fragrance of sweet floral scents head on over to the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville. The flower market is held every day except for the first Sunday of the month.
The Summer Night Market:
During the height of the summer season, artisan stalls line Le Cours Mirabeau. Stroll along on a beautiful evening and see what the local artisans and merchants are selling.
The Christmas Market:
Travelling around this festive time of the year? Be sure to stop by the Christmas market in Aix-en-Provence. Stroll past the little chalets brimming with gastronomic and handcrafted gifts with some mulled wine in hand.
4. What To Do In Aix-en-Provence: Follow In Cezanne’s Footsteps
If you love art, one of the best things to do in Aix Provence is follow the footsteps of Paul Cézanne.
Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) is known as the son of Aix-en-Provence and the father of modern painting. He was born and died in Aix-en-Provence and the city honours their master with great pride.
Atelier Cézanne In Aix-en-Provence:
Paul Cezanne lived in Aix-en-Provence but worked every day, during the last four years of his life, in this Atelier on Chemin des Lauves. His famous hat, easels, sketches and subjects for his still life paintings remain as he left them when he died in 1906.
If you wish to visit his Atelier be sure to book your ticket in advance. It is a small studio that allows a limited number of visitors at a time. In peak season, you definitely need to book in advance.
The View of Mont Sainte-Victoire – “Le Terrain des Peintres:”
A short fifteen-minute walk uphill from Cézanne’s Atelier is the viewpoint of his beloved Mont Sainte-Victoire. Between 1902 and 1906, Cézanne painted 17 watercolours and eleven oil painting from this exact spot. Nine reproductions of his paintings are displayed on glazed lava stone giving “Le Terrain des Peintres” the feel of an open-air gallery.
Surrounded by cypress, olive and fig trees, it is easy to imagine Cézanne standing right there before his easel. In fact, you might be inspired to pick up a paintbrush yourself.
The Footsteps of Cézanne:
Walk in the footsteps of Cézanne and see the city as he saw it. This pedestrian route through Aix-en-Provence is marked with the letter “C” embedded in the sidewalks and is easily followed. Highlights include passing by Cézannne’s schools and the homes where he lived.
5. Things To Do In Aix-en-Provence: Stroll Along Le Cours Mirabeau
La Fontaine de La Rotonde, topped by statues of the “Three Graces” is at the heart of Aix-en-Provence. It serves as a central meeting locale, a spot to be dropped off by taxi and a place to sit and cool by the fountain. It is also a marker for the end, or the start, of Le Cours Mirabeau. Le Cours Mirabeau is a leafy wide boulevard filled with the liveliness of Provençal charm. Cafés, fountains and markets keep this boulevard bustling.
As you stroll along Le Cours Mirabeau, keep your eyes open for three fountains. The Nine Canon Fountain, the Hot Water Fountain (nicknamed the Mossy Fountain as it is covered in moss) and at the top of Le Cours Mirabeau The “Good King René” awaits you!
6. Be Charmed By Place d’Albertas
The Albertas family, originally from Italy, was one of the most influential families in Aix-en-Provence in the 18th century. The square they created from 1735 to 1741 still charms today.
Place d’Albertas, with its Baroque façades and a beautiful fountain, is a show stopper. It is a favourite with both tourists, locals and street musicians.
7. Visit Saint Jean de Malte Church In Aix, France
Located in the Mazarin district, is Saint Jean de Malte Church, the first Gothic Church in Provence built in the 13th century. It is neatly tucked beside the Granet Museum which houses many of Cézanne works and in true Aix-en-Provence style has a fountain in front of it!
8. Things To Do In Aix-en-Provence: Attend The Festivals
If your travel plans take you to Provence in the summer and you are figuring out what to do in Aix-en-Provence, try taking in a music festival. The Night of the Pianists is an annual festival that takes place from the end of July to mid-August. And, from July 4 – 24, 2023 runs the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence with a program of fabulous operas and classical concerts.
What to do in Aix-en-Provence? There’s something for everyone in this magical city.