Paris may be recognised as the style capital of the world but Aix-en-Provence is pure class. Walking down the flower lined streets the people ooze sophistication and refinement. It is hard to believe that this little piece of tranquillity is only 25km from the hustle and bustle of Marseille.
Public squares are the place to do a spot of people watching. Grand mansions dating back from the 17th and 18th centuries provide cool shade from the hot French sun. Coupled with the moss-covered fountain statues as the water gently flows, this is a place where travellers can enjoy a true historic and cultured atmosphere.
Aix-en-Provence has some wonderful tourist attractions and endless things to do. One of the most popular tour stops is the famous artist Cezanne’s last studio, Atelier Paul Cézanne. Located around 1.5km north of the city the studio displays some of the artist’s possessions to give tourists the sense that he still works there.
Cezanne used the surrounding region for inspiration and the locals take great pride in his legacy. Nowhere more so apparent is the Muse Granet. This museum has undergone a complete refurbishment, almost tripling in size. The building is a 17th century priory which belonged to the Knights of Malta and deserves a look just for itself. Inside, there are wonderful collections of paintings by French, Italian and Flemish artists, eight of which were painted by the great Cezanne himself.
For other exceptional buildings to visit, the Cathédrale St-Sauveur is well worthwhile. Also located in the north of the city, the cathedral was mainly built between 1285 and 1350 but has been added to over the centuries, giving it a truly unique style. There is a sarcophagus dating from the 5th century in the apse, a nave from the 12th century and chapels dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries. Come here at 16:30 on a Sunday to hear the Georgian chants, sending you on a spiritual and mesmerizing journey.
France has produced some truly exceptional artists and visitors flock to this part of the world to learn more and pay their respects to these artists. 4km west of the city is Fondation Vasarely, a house-cum-museum established by the Hungarian artist Victor Vasarely, the 'father of Optical Art'. For those who appreciate modern art and photography, a trip to the Galérie d'Art du Conseil Général des Bouches du Rhône should be next on the list.
A culinary taste of Aix-en-Provence is not to be missed out upon. The region has produced many great culinary traditions and the local chefs take great pride in both the presentation and taste of each one. There are friendly bustling cafes that produce delicious yet simple home-cooked cuisine or travellers can opt for high class French dishes that will cost the same price as a week’s hotel stay. Either way, the taste is unforgettable.
Hotels can be found in both the city centre and outside of town and will range from typical French guesthouses to historic grand buildings to bright modern structures. Prices will vary depending on what you are looking for.
If you are visiting the city in July then you might consider the periods when Aix-en-Provence Festival is taking place.
Aix-en-Provence is a truly unique destination; it provides both history and art lovers with everything they could possibly desire and the exceptional food makes this the place to visit just on its own. Nowhere else in France could a place rival the beauty and style of Paris, but Aix-en-Provence stands out as a classical beauty.