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What should you see in Aix-en-Provence in one day? And is one day in this charming city even worth the stop? Yes!
France is, unfortunately, gorgeous. Because you don’t have the time to explore it all in one visit, I wish we could stay for at least five days in each location, but that was impossible. Aix-en-Provence lost to Montpellier, where we stayed for four days. So, what can you do in Aix-en-Provence in one day? Regardless of when you are visiting, Aix-en-Provence will offer you an excellent base for exploring the rest of Provence.
Aix-en-Provence will greet you with architecture in mystic baroque style. The streets and squares of the city are full of vibrant life, and the water fountains are full of secrets. Gardens and parks surround country homes in the town like they used to do centuries ago. Provence markets and gourmet French cuisine. Festivals, festivities, music, and art. A Cezanne country. One of Europe’s greatest opera festivals. Welcome to Aix-en-Provence!
Compared to Beaune in Burgundy, where we stayed for a night, Aix-en-Provence is much easier to explore for a day. Although, as I said, I wished we could stay here longer.
Things to do in Aix-en-Provence in one day
Aix-en-Provence is a city in Southern France in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. The town was founded in 122 BC and was a place for artists, lawyers, and nobles during the 15th century. Zola spent his youth in Aix as, more noticeably, Paul Cézanne, a local, did. The Mazarin district still has aristocratic townhouses. The modern city is not that big, and Aix has a population of approximately 140,000. It has a young vibe because it is a university city, and about 20% of Aix-en-Provence’s inhabitants are students.
Aix-en-Provence is a prime shopping destination. The top fashion is presented in Ols Aix, while major labels in the new area “Les Alles Provencales.” Also, there are various markets daily: food, flowers, textiles, and souvenirs. During summertime, Aix-en-Provence has a market on the main street where you can get different gifts.
Discover the city – walk
Aix-en-Provence has a few things to do, but my favorite will always be strolling around. Aix’s Baroque architecture is ranked as the third most excellent after Paris and the Palace of Versailles (you can read about both by clicking on the links). Take a stroll on Le Cours Mirabeau, one of the busiest and liveliest areas in the city. I love city walks – you get to see and feel the city’s vibe, and the best way to do this is to get “lost.”
Caumont art center
Caumont Art Center is one of the most beautiful mansions in Aix-en-Provence. The art center has been restored, and restoration works took 18 months. The Caumont Art Centre now welcomes you to the Hôtel de Caumont, an 18th-century town mansion in the Mazarin neighborhood, just a stone’s throw from the Le Cours Mirabeau (main street). The gallery houses fine arts, from old paintings to more modern works. Each year, the Caumont Art Center organizes two significant exhibitions: one in summer, devoted to a single artist, and the other in winter, presenting significant private collections.
Paul Cezanne was a well-known French artist and painter passionately attached to Aix-and-Provence. He summed his love up in a single sentence when he was away: “When you’re born there, it’s hopeless; nothing compares!”. While walking in the Aix countryside as a teenager with Émile Zola, he realized he was an artist. In Aix-en-Provence and the surrounding area, you can share Cezanne’s experience intensely. You can visit the streets, places, and landscapes that marked life, the outlook, and the work of the father of modern painting “The Father of us all,” Picasso said.
Another “plus” is visiting the most sumptuous mansion in Aix-en-Provence. The rooms have been remarkably reconstituted with their period furnishings and gorgeous French-style gardens (rare in the city center). To end your visit, you can stop at its tea room with a terrace leading to the gardens. In the evening, the tea room becomes a bar.
Cezanne atelier, Carrières de Bibémus
Visit the Cezanne Atelier and walk on the path of Cezanne’s heritage. See the “props” he used in many paintings preserved in the gallery. The Chemin de la Marguerite is close to the studio, a headland offering a breathtaking view of the Sainte Victoire mountain. Works painted at this spot have been reproduced and are displayed here. This will show you the link between the surrounding nature and Cezanne’s paintings.
Explore Carrières de Bibémus. With its beautiful tints and texture, the rock is the origin of Aix’s historical center – it lights up the forest with its flame-colored hues. Gold, amber, and red dance in the sun’s light still, and many years ago, they inspired many of Cezanne’s paintings.
The tour is an hour-long walk through the Mediterranean woodland deep into the Grand Site Sainte-Victoire. The guide takes you past huge rocks before stopping in front of the charming hut where the painter stored his equipment and ending on the Belvedere with views of Sainte-Victoire Mountain.
You can take a walking tour by yourself in Aix-en-Provence, following in the footsteps of Cezanne. Look out for nails stamped with a “C” on the footpath to explore the city in Cezanne’s footsteps… Visit his childhood home, places dear to him, and cafes where he met with friends and other artists.
Visit Musée Granet, ranked as one of France’s most beautiful museums. You will find Rembrandt, Cezanne, Ingres, and Meyer collections in this museum. Musée Granet houses the selections from the 14th to 20th centuries. There is also a restored Chapell 200m away from where you will find 300 paintings, drawings, and sculptures, from the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, and Degas, up to the major artists of the twentieth century, such as Bonnard, Rouault, Picasso, Braque, Dufy, Léger, Klee, de Staël, etc. For more information, check out the museum’s official site.
If you plan on visiting several museums and going on guided tours, I recommend you check the Aix-en-Provence city pass; it might save you some money. You can find more information about the price of the pass and what it includes on the Aix-en-Provence Tourism Board official site.
Day trips from Aix-en-Provence – if you make more time
Aix-en-Provence is also a perfect base for your day trips to explore Provence.
Did you know that Provence is the oldest wine region in the whole of France?
Red, rosé, or white, the Aix Region alone has 5 Appellations d’Origine Protégées (registered designations of origin). This prestigious designation guarantees the quality of three elements in making wine: soil, grape varieties used for production, and know-how in growing and processing. The 5 AOPs (Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, Côtes de Provence, and Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire, Palette, and Côtes du Luberon) are divided into 70 sectors. This is something for a wine lover like me. You won’t get around in one day, but there are wine-tasting trips you can take to different areas that will last half a day or a whole day.
“Viator” arranges wine-tasting tours. I have used the company several times and can’t complain about anything. The day tour lasts somewhere between 7 to 10 hours. Wine-tasting activities will vary with the season, but you WILL taste wine whatever season. You can cancel your booking 24 hours before your tour and get a full refund.
Viator provides several options, but the most popular is the Villages of Luberon, which offers wine tasting. This is also a 10-11-hour tour with time to visit two wineries and explore Luberon. The difference between this tour and the tour with Get Your Guide is the wine you will taste. In Cassis, you will taste Róse and White, while in Luberon, you will taste Róse and Red wine. For a full refund on the cancelation, cancel it 24 hours before your tour. Get your tour with Viator to Luboren and wine-tasting
There is no going to Provence without visiting the lavender fields. But be aware of the season and forget everything you have seen in the photoshopped Instagram photos. Although it was fun to see the fields, it was nothing as expected.
I would love to do it again but under different circumstances. When visiting lavender fields, you have two choices: do a self-drive tour or go on a guided tour. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. If you go on a self-drive tour, you need to know exactly where to find the best fields, but you can go at your own pace and stop and visit any village on your way. If you go on a guided tour, you will follow the schedule and take places predefined by the tour operator. On the other side, you will be taken to the beautiful fields and get a certain amount of history about lavender and maybe Provence.
If you decide to go alone, I have a map of the fields on my post about the Valensole Plateau. Remember to check the blossom season for lavender fields before taking your tour. If you decide to go on a guided tour, both companies offer half-a-day and full-day trips.
Visit lavender fields in Valensole with Viator or book the tour with “Get your Guide” below.
Other day trip options are visiting Gorges du Verdon, the French answer to the Grand Canyon. A day trip to the Verdon Canyon with Viator offers a visit to Georges du Verdon, Lake of Ste-Croix, and Notre Dame de Lorette. AND a stop by a local producer in Valensole. Although you can go on a guided tour to Gorges du Verdon, I recommend taking a self-drive with a sleepover somewhere closer, for example, Moustiers Sainte Marie or Castellane. This way, you will have a short drive to the most exciting places in the Gorges du Verdon National Park. You can do several things while exploring it, like kayaking, climbing, hiking, etc. If you do a self-drive tour, you can rent a car with Booking.com.
Where to stay in Aix-en-Provence
We were on a road trip and had a low accommodation budget for the stay in Aix-en-Provence. We stayed in the Appart’hôtel Odalys Atrium – an apartment hotel with a bedroom, a living room with a foldout couch, and a kitchenette. The hotel was located about 180 yards (200 m) from the entrance to the old city. We didn’t have breakfast at the hotel as plenty of small coffee shops and restaurants were within a very short walking distance. The hotel had its parking space, although not big, and wifi was included in the room fare. It was a perfect place for a one- or two-night stay for two adults and a child (11 years old) at approximately 100 EUR a night.
Restaurants in Aix-en-Provence – where to eat
We arrived from Valensole in the early afternoon, which was too late for lunch and early for dinner. It seemed that the city had some siesta. We could get drinks but not food until later in the afternoon. But we got to explore a little bit of the town. Eventually, we found Le Petit Bistrot at the corner of the main street, Le Cours Mirabeau, and finally, we could have an early dinner at 6 pm. The Bistrot didn’t look touristy and had terrific burgers, desserts, and wine. The rest of the restaurants seemed like any restaurant on any main street in any touristy city. We came off the street, but if you stay in Aix-en-Provence for several nights, you should try booking a table at Le Petit Bistrot. I am unsure if they accept reservations, but you can check if they do and read their reviews on TripAdvisor. We were super happy! If you are into food, you should read about the French food you must try before leaving France.
Aix-en-Provence is a great place to explore for a few days and a perfect base for day trips to Provence. If you are interested in music, dance, and art, Aix-en-Provence has several museums and libraries. The city hosts two significant musical events yearly – Festival d’Aix-en-Provence (opera festival) and Musique dans la Rue. The events consist of a week of classical, jazz, and popular concerts held in different street venues and courtyards in the city.
There are many more museums, markets, events, and day trips that you can do in and out of Aix-en-Provence. Check out the Aix-en-Provence tourism board’s official site for suggestions and tips.
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