Here is an itinerary and some useful addresses for a weekend at the heart of Aix-en-Provence, to really make the most of life in Aix.
The town of Aix-en-Provence deserves at least a two-day visit! But where do you start? Which places in Aix cannot be missed? From accommodation to bars, through to its museums, discover an itinerary with a touch of culture that will allow you to make the absolute most of Aix.
Before all else, your hotel!
First step, your hotel! I have chosen the 4-star Grand Hôtel du Roi René, with many attractive features. It is ideally located for wandering around Aix-en-Provence’s streets and back alleys, discovering the Rotonde and the famous Cours Mirabeau, which is only 5 minutes away on foot. The building is cosy and refined, with a terrace where you can enjoy a pleasant meal overlooking the swimming pool, which is heated all year round (good for both children and their parents), before diving in for a refreshing dip.
As for meals, Thomas Roret, the Table du Roy chef, offers local cuisine made from seasonal products that he selects from the Aix-en-Provence market or from local producers. It’s an added bonus if you get the sardine with tomatoes and little Simiane-Collongue onions, or even the Sisteron lamb served with little vegetables. Another benefit of this hotel: It is just 500 metres from the station.
With our suitcases dropped off, we are ready to go and discover this Provençal town - where the art of living has been forged in over 2000 years of history - following a path orientated towards culture. Not to mention, there’s plenty to do in this town of water, art and history!
In the heart of Aix-en-Provence is the Cours Mirabeau.
Armed with the free map from the tourist office, we go towards the Rotonde, a great fountain erected in 1860, topped with three statues representing justice, agriculture and the fine arts. From there, the Cours Mirabeau presents itself to us. This ancient avenue for horse drawn coaches dating back to 1649 brings together the Mazarin district with the old business centre.
It is also the most popular place in Aix with its terraces, such as the ‘2 G’ (‘les deux garçons’ - the two boys), where Cézanne used to go, ‘la Belle Epoque’, or even ‘le Grillon’, which looks out onto the hot water fountain locally named ‘la fontaine moussue’ (the mossy fountain), as well as some very beautiful hotels.
In the search for some nice little restaurants, and there’s quite a choice, we follow the Agard passage, the old Carmes convent, which leads to the Palace of Justice. Our choice falls on the very colourful ‘Bistrot Petit Pierre’, with good food by Pierre Reboul at low prices and a special area for children.
A pretty palette of museums.
Museum new-comers have a lot to keep them happy. The Granet Museum always puts on very beautiful exhibitions and a variety of collections that change with the seasons.
On our tour, we press on to the Chapelle des Pénitants blancs, which has been magnificently renovated and serves as the backdrop for some very beautiful pieces of art. Our stroll continues to the Hotel de Caumont, a new place dedicated to fine art, to discover this unique hotel classified as a historical monument. Also, here, the exhibitions are top quality and the building will really blow you away. In order to regain our composure, we make a little stop at the Café de Caumont terrace for some patisserie tasting.
After a good night’s sleep, we take some time moseying about the picturesque Provençal markets on Place Richelme and Preachers Place, before quenching our thirst at La Petite Curieuse on Place des Cardeurs (behind the town hall), before going into Cézanne’s workshop.
Here we are, in the place where the Aix painter created dozens of works of art, such as ‘Les Grandes Baigneuses’ (the ‘Large Bathers’), which as always, is kept in the world’s great museums. His presence is still felt and you get the impression that time has stopped, and the local boy will soon be here.
Grand Hotel de Roi René, 24 Boulevard du Roi René, 13100 Aix-en-Provence.
Tel: +33 4 42 37 61 00
Bistrot Petit Pierre, 11 Petite Rue Saint-Jean, 13100 Aix-en-Provence.
Tel: +33 4 42 52 30 42
La Curieuse, 23 Place Forum de Cardeurs, 13100 Aix-en-Provence.
Tel: +33 6 06 66 77 01