Often overlooked by Marseille and other large southern cities, Aix-en-Provence (or Aix, as the locals call it) packs a huge punch with tons of history, art, and chic bistros.
Founded by the Romans in 122 BC, the town has been established over centuries by the Roman consul Sextius Calvinus (who gave his name to the thermal baths) as Aix was the first Roman settlement in the Gaul. Flawlessly merging history and modernity, you will discover why Parisians love residing in this provincial town. Aix-en-Provence has always had a significant place in French history and continues to be a major must-see destination for travelers.
HOW TO GET THERE
Located just north of Marseille, we recommend traveling by train from Paris. From Paris Gare de Lyon to Aix-en-Provence, it is under a 4-hour trip and the average ticket costs between 130 and 200 euros. By car, it is a minimum 7-hour drive as you have to cross the entirety of France, however, the scenery may be worth it. You can easily do Aix-en-Provence for a quick weekend, or include it in your Avignon itinerary.
Hot tip! If you decide to travel by train, you will not need to rent a car to visit Aix. But if you decide to visit surrounding areas, ie: lavender fields, it’s better to have a car.
SEE / DO
Paul Cezanne’s workshop
9 Av. Paul Cézanne, 13100 Aix-en-Provence, France
If you are in Aix for one day only, this workshop is the main site to visit. Birthplace of the famous Impressionist painter, the provincial town is home to Paul Cezanne’s former workplace, now converted into a museum. This mythical place abounds with the painter’s intensity and imprint, as it has been kept in its original condition. Plunge into his life and enter the doors of his creativity among his trinkets, designs, still-life, paintbrushes, and canvases. Built in 1901, Cezanne used this studio to paint his most famous works of art. The garden seems to have remained unchanged for the last century, rocked in a tranquil atmosphere. In the courtyard, iron furniture is laid out as if Cezanne had just left. In love with the landscape of Provence, you can easily tell where he drew his inspiration from. While there is no on-site restaurant, take a picnic and enjoy it in the garden while soaking in all the beauty.
55 Av. des Thermes, 13100 Aix-en-Provence, France
As previously mentioned, Aix-en-Provence was founded by Romans and quickly became a reputable thermal spa station. The Baths of Sextius – located in the beating heart of Aix – is the largest wellness center of the region. Hammam, traditional sauna, relaxation rooms, thermal showers, massages; this station is an exclusive experience, offering a variety of healing services dedicated to beauty and revitalization. Rich in magnesium, potassium, and other minerals; the spa uses natural spring water for its many virtues, including: a better circulation, eliminating soreness, reducing pain and other advantages. Built on top of a former Roman bath, the wellness center combines modern facilities with traditional architecture, unique in France. The Baths of Sextius isn’t a luxurious spa retreat but rather a cure center as the water is said to have restorative forces.
Le Musée de la Lavande
276 Rte de Gordes, 84220 Cabrières-d'Avignon, France
The region of Luberon is known for its iconic and lush lavender fields. The closest location to capture that perfect photo is at Lavender Museum, situated less than an hour east of central Avignon. Musée de la Lavande provides the technical, agricultural and historical information about the lavender. The establishment takes travelers from the planting, harvesting, to the distillery process of refining this signature minted plant. The best months to visit start from mid-June to mid-August, bearing in mind of climate and temperature changes.
Restaurant Le Art
3959 Rte des Pinchinats, 13100 Aix-en-Provence, France
One of the best parts about visiting Aix-en Provence is the indulgence in its natural herbs incorporated into meats and sauces that culminate to the signature “Provençal flavors.” Arguably the most decadent hotspot to dive into such aroma is at Restaurant Le Art inside Château de la Gaude (a luxurious option for lodging during your stay) where chef Matthieu Dupuis-Baumal delivers fusional dishes that combine Provençal ingredients with Japanese imprints. This Michelin-starred restaurant is also where pastry chef Maëlle Bruguera reimagines desserts with sweet creativity.
Château de la Pioline, Restaurant Gastronomique à Aix-En-Provence
260 Rue Guillaume Du Vair Pole, 13290 Aix-en-Provence, France
Devour an unforgettable meal in midst of a lime tree garden at Château de la Pioline’s delectable gastronomic restaurant led by Chef Pierre Reboul who optimizes locally grown, organic produce and seafood from the Mediterranean. Don’t miss his legendary flamby de foie gras – his modern take on a French iconic dish. The château is also an ideal stay if you’re looking for a 4-star quality at a 16th century residence.
Esp. Cézanne, 13770 Venelles, France
L’Atelier Gourmand is a great address for a quick lunch away from the bustle of the town. Located on the heights of Aix with a breathtaking panorama on the Saint Victoire mountain, this restaurant welcomes you either indoors or on the beautiful terrace. But, don’t worry if you are seated inside as sublime bay windows offer a magnificent view of the landscape. Inside, creativity and tradition are interwoven in the décor as well as in the kitchen. The chef creates the menu according to his daily inspiration and his market finds, but always using fresh and local produce. From cod with lemon crust and fresh herbs to lamb shoulder confit Provençal style, L’Atelier Gourmand has dishes for everyone and a large selection of wine to accompany it. This restaurant is a must, especially if you need a break from the town and an incredible vista of nature’s beauty.