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Located in the south of France, Aix-en-Provence is one of the most beautiful French cities to visit, a quintessential Provencal city filled with beautiful architecture, little squares, and a creative spirit that’s hard to deny. After just one day in Aix-en-Provence, you’ll find yourself falling in love with this college town in the heart of Provence.
Aix-en-Provence was the birthplace and home of famous painter Paul Cézanne, and the entire city contains memories of his life, from his grave to his artwork and the landscapes that inspired them.
Experiencing this genius for yourself is just one of the essential things to do in Aix-en-Provence, but of course, there’s more! Whether you visit the city on a day trip or as part of a Provence Road Trip, here’s the full list of best things to do in Aix-en-Provence, France.
1. A Stroll Through Cours Mirabeau
A walk through the lively Cours Mirabeau is a must-do on any trip to Aix-en-Provence. This tree-lined street is beautiful and appealingly relaxing and showcases some of the best restaurants, cafés, and boutiques in the city.
Popular among locals and tourists alike, this pedestrian street is nonetheless the best place for a stroll and for basking in the sun in a local café. There are also several lovely fountains along the street, like the Fontaine de la Rotonde, which only adds to the refined, elegant atmosphere.
When we visited Aix, we also found some stands selling traditional sweets and handicrafts on one side of the street, the perfect place to find a souvenir from Provence.
2. Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur
This unique cathedral took twelve centuries to build and was under construction from the 5th century to the 17th. That’s why when you visit, you’ll notice how it blends architectural styles from Roman to Renaissance and everything in between during your visit to Aix-en-Provence France.
Inside, you’ll find beautiful works of art, but the cathedral is still surprisingly simple compared to similar buildings. Make sure that you visit the main nave, where you’ll find artwork by Nicolas Froment, as well as the cloister, bell tower, and Baptistery. The Baptistery was built in the 6th century, and it is the oldest baptistery still working in all of France.
For a special treat, attend a service in the cathedral to hear the graceful organ music in real life.
Address: 34, Place des Martyrs de la Résistance.
3. Atelier Cézanne
Most Aix-en-Provence tours explore the life and works of the city’s most famous resident, painter Paul Cézanne. The Atelier Cézanne is the studio where he created most of his amazing works.
The studio has been left mostly untouched, so you can see the objects that the artist used in some of his works. You can also visit the gift shop with books to learn more about his life and other souvenirs. There’s also a café in the building for a drink and a snack under the shade of a tree when you’re finished enjoying the art.
Address: 9 Avenue Paul Cézanne; Opens from Tuesday to Saturday.
4. Explore the Markets of Aix-en-Provence
There’s no better place than a market for mingling with the locals, trying local produce, and picking up souvenirs. And the visit to any of the city’s markets (different locations) has to be on any list of what to do in Aix-en-Provence.
Lively, crowded, and popular among tourists and locals, the markets of Aix-en-Provence offer everything from farm fresh fruit and vegetables to artisan goods. The most fun of all is to wander among the stalls, chat with the shopkeepers, and keep your eyes open for something amazing. Because in these markets, you’ll never know what you might find.
5. Apéritif and People Watching in a Café-Terrasse
Aix-en-Provence gets uncomfortably hot during the day, which is why the locals and visitors have an afternoon ritual that you should enjoy as well. After a hot day, head outside for some fresh air and pre-dinner drinks (French apéritif) along with a session of socializing and people-watching.
You’ll find people indulging in this ritual all over the city. Usually, they’re set up in the old town where you’ll find small squares that have café terraces that are perfect for this practice (click here for the most popular French drinks to try). For a bonus, try to choose a seat where you can hear the tinkling of a nearby fountain from where you sit.
6. Take a Food Tour
Traditional Provençal cuisine is exquisitely simple and known for its bright flavors and fresh, seasonal ingredients. It’s all about preserving the tastes and textures of perfectly ripe ingredients and enjoying it with good company. That’s why some of the best Aix-en-Provence tours are food tours.
Getting to know the cuisine of a new city can be difficult. That’s why you should let the experts show you where and what to eat. Try this Historical & Gourmet Walking Tour for a taste of the best cheese and wine that this part of the world has to offer.
7. Thermes Sextius
While you’re relaxing and indulging your senses in Provence, a visit to Thermes Sextius should be on your list of what to do in Aix-en-Provence. Built atop an ancient Roman Bath with fresh spring water, this spa offers sumptuous treatments that have thrilled past guests like Winston Churchill.
The thermal springs are said to contain minerals and trace elements that have curative powers and boost circulation. And while you’re there, you can take a look into the past at the excavated remains of the original spa through the lobby’s glass floor.
A visit to these baths can be the perfect finale for your trip to Aix-en-Provence. The prices at this spa are a bit high, but it’s a small price to pay for treatments in an incredible historical monument that make you look and feel absolutely divine.
Address: 55, Avenue des Thermes; Opens from Monday to Saturday.
8. Mont Sainte Victoire
A visit to Mont Sainte Victoire must be on your list when you’re planning a weekend trip to Aix-en-Provence. This mountain is the symbol of Provence and one of Cézanne’s biggest muses and artistic challenges.
The mountain is located just a few kilometers from the city. It is dotted with historical sites like the 17th century Sainte-Victoire Priory, the Cross of Provence, and the Saint-Ser Hermitage, a chapel built to remember a 5th-century hermit who was tried to find sanctuary in the area but was executed.
The mountain also offers astonishing views and a variety of outdoor activities like climbing, mountain biking, and paragliding. For a really fun way to explore the mountain and the surrounding areas, why not take this e-bike tour with a local, knowledgeable local guide so you can make sure you see all the best areas.