Aix-en-Provence

Travel Guide Europe France Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Aix-en-Provence

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Introduction

Aix en Provence

Aix en Provence

© JOSE_MARIA

Aix-en-Provence is a city in the southern French region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, located about 30 kilometres north of Marseille. It has almost 150,000 inhabitants. It is a small, classically Provençal town, famous for being home to Cézanne; the addition of the TGV (high-speed train) station has brought lots of vacationers from the north, and Aix has turned into a shopping town with high variety and representation considering its small size. Three universities and several French-language schools for international students produce a very strong student presence. Aix has always been a rich city. There is a high contrast between Marseille (only 30 km and half an hour away). Whereas Marseille is one the poorest French cities (but still a unique and not to be missed town), Aix is perhaps one of the richest. People seeking for budget or popular places should continue to Marseille. Still, Aix has a lot to offer. It is a quiet, clean and comfortable city. The city center is mostly pedestrian and, though it is quite small (you can cross the center in 15 minutes by foot), offers long hours of nice walks. As in all Provençal towns, the city center consists of narrow streets, lined with interesting buildings from 17th century hotels to paved plazas.

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Sights and Activities

Aix is famous for its fountains. The largest and the most popular one is on the Cours Mirabeau, the main avenue through town, as well as a moss-covered fountain which draws its water from a hot spring.

Along with searching out the dozens of fountains sprawled around the city, Aix is known for its architecture. The varied and often intricate doors are a key feature, as well as the bell towers. The bell towers throughout Aix-en-Provence, and Provence more generally, are made of wrought iron. This allows the strong winds of the Mistral to flow straight through them, since solid stone would be destroyed by the force of the winds.

The city market runs multiple days a week, but the largest and most colorful is the Saturday market which includes a flower market at the Place de l'Hotel de Ville and the main food market is at Place Richelme.

It has also become known as the home of Cézanne's later works. You can see his atelier with some of the original objects he painted into his still lives. The Bibémus Quarries allow you to see Mt. St. Victoire, the mountains he captured in many of his paintings. You can also visit the Manor of Jas de Bouffan which houses many of his masterpieces. To see all three, you need at least two days in Aix.

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Weather

Aix-enProvence has a Mediterranean climate with temperatures during the dry and warm summer (June-August) around 27-30 °C and averages lows around or just below 20 °C. Winters from December to February are mostly around 10-12 °C and nights around 2-3 °C. Most of the precipitation falls from October to March and the average annual amount is just under 600 mm.

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Getting There

By Plane

Marseille Provence Airport (MRS) is located 27 kilometres northwest of Marseille, but Aix-en Provence is also just about 30 kilometres away. It is one of the busiest airports in France with over 7 million passengers in 2009. The airport has direct service to almost every major city in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Currently the only flight to North America is to Montreal.

By Train

At Gare d'Aix-en-Provence TGV the line from Paris branches to Marseille and Nice; it takes about 3 hours to get from Paris to Aix by TGV. Aix also has a railway station near the centre, Gare d'Aix-en-Provence, with connections to Marseille, Pertuis and Briançon in the French Alps.

By Car

If you come from anywhere up north you will most likely use the A7 motorway (Route du Soleil) that runs from Lyon to Marseille (whether you come from Switzerland or from the UK via Paris). At exit 27, take A8 (La Provencale) to Aix. From Spain, you'll take A9 (La Languedocienne), then turn onto A54 through the city of Arles (you might consider stopping there), then turn onto A7 and A8 respectively, as described above. From Italy, just take A8 passing Nice and all the posh Côte d'Azur resorts.

Avoiding toll roads can be slow but highly pleasurable, many of the routes nationales offer wonderful scenery that motorways can't deliver (save maybe some parts of the A8 east of Nice).

By Bus

There is an express coach from Marseille (St Charles station) to Aix which takes 30-40 minutes. There are also regular shuttles to the TGV station and the airport.

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Getting Around

By Car

Parking in Aix can be quite difficult. There is at least one free car park but allow plenty of time to find a space (and the spaces can be quite tight to get into).

By Public Transport

The bus system is very efficient and has numerous stops within the city as well as connecting Aix with nearby villages, towns, and Marseille. The city bus also runs to Carrefour Les Milles, a large shopping center. Discounted tickets for frequent bus users can be purchased at the main bus station, as well as bus schedules. The ticket office also sells discounted multi-pack tickets for the bus from Aix to Marseille and the new TGV station (located between the two cities).

By Foot

Aix is a fairly small city and can be easily navigated by foot.

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Eat

Aix has an incredible number of restaurants compared to its small size. Most of them are gathered in a small area in the old city, between Place des Cardeurs and the Rotonde (Cours Mirabeau). Restaurants and bars on the Cours Mirabeau tend to be more expensive though, while some might be considered tourist traps, others are among the best places to eat in the city.

Emile Bec, which has five locations in Aix-en-Provence, is an excellent bakery.

You can also try Calissons, a specialty of the region consisting of a smooth, pale yellow, homogeneous paste of candied fruit (especially melons and oranges) and ground almonds topped with a thin layer of royal icing. Calissons have a texture not unlike that of marzipan, but with a fruitier, distinctly melon-like flavor. Calissons are often almond-shaped and are typically about two inches in length.

If you really want to eat like a local and save a couple of euros, a great place to eat is the many corner restaurants that offer Doner Kebabs. For four euros you get a "sandwich," wrapped in a gallette or pita, that includes lettuce, tomatoes, onion, meat, French fries and be sure to ask for sauce blanche. This is very delicious and cheap. There are many restaurants that do their Kebabs differently so be sure to try a few!

Aix en Provence is home to the Erasmus students' food of choice. Pizza capri located at the top of the Cours Mirabeau is perhaps the best pizza you will ever eat. Pizza Capri is simply well located and cheap. It's not bad but it's nothing to visit the city for so don't buy the hype and you'll enjoy it more.

In combination with patisseries and bakeries, convenience stores also offer good opportunities for economical self-catering, even for day visitors.

House cookies & co, 40 rue bourgeon, ☏ +33 6 50 22 63 92. American food with high quality local products. A small establishment in the American style located in the city center of Aix-en-Provence.
Le Comté d'Aix, 17 Rue de la Couronne, ☏ +33 4 42 26 79 26. prix fixe menu.
L'alcôve, 19 Rue Constantin, ☏ +33 4 42 96 47 29. quality cuisine with an occasional twist.
La Maison des Fondues, 11-13 rue de la Verrerie, ☏ +33 4 42 63 07 78. offers a wide range of delicious fondues. The Normande, made with apple cider instead of kirsch, is lovely, and the Provençale is sublime.
Chez Laurette, 6 Forum des Cardeurs. The food is quite modest, but they server all the day long.
Vintrépide, 48 Rue du Puits Neuf, ☏ +33 9 83 88 96 59.
Le Poivre d'Ane, 40 Place Forum des Cardeurs, ☏ +33 4 42 21 32 66. modern and experimental cuisine, 2 set menus, and a la carte at a higher price.
La Chimère Café, 15 Rue Bruyès, ☏ +33 4 42 38 30 00. a lovely place for a romantic meal and Provençal-styled fare, though somewhat pricey.
Le Zinc d'Hugo, 22 Rue Lieutaud, ☏ +33 4 42 27 69 69. This small place has a charming atmosphere, the service is kind, and the food both exquisite and innovatively, quintessentially, Provençal. Mixed reviews by visitors.

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Drink

Like restaurants there are plenty of bars, pubs, night-clubs, etc... in Aix. A nice and relatively cheap place to have a drink is the Bar de La Mairie on Place de la Mairie.

For those who would like to meet with the local student population, the bar Le Brigand might be a good choice. The prices are reasonable, and the ambiance is convivial : most of the regular customers are either tourists, or students. But be sure not to arrive too late, for the place may quickly be overcrowded, and you may have to drink your pint outside, without any chair or table!

Au pet't Quart d'Heure, 21 Place Forum des Cardeurs, ☏ +33 9 82 41 83 69. Wine bar.

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Sleep

L'Atelier Monclar **** 4 stars appartement in the city center. Calm, design and full equipped, the hostes will do their best to make your stay unforgettable.
Grand Hotel Mercure du Roi René.
Novotel Beau Manoir les Trois Sautets.
Novotel Pont de l'Arc Fenouillères.
AquaBella. Nice three star hotel with pool, garden and hammam. Breakfast included normally, served on terrace looking into gardens and pool area. Drinks fairly expensive. Nice flat easy walk to town centre.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

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Keep Connected

Internet

France is one of the best connected countries in the world, with data speed for upload/download ranked among the top 5 in the world. Most hotels and hostels would have in-house facilities to provide free internet access. Many major cities also have initiatives put in place to provide free wi-fi connection in public spaces. Alternatively there are internet cafés available in most cities/towns at a reasonable rate. Some private businesses, such as local cafés (or even the Starbuck's chain), may also provide wi-fi connectivity - keep an eye out for the signs by the shop windows/doors. Also look for the @ symbol prominently displayed, which indicates internet availability. However, with most homes now wired for the internet, cyber cafés are increasingly hard to find, especially outside the major cities.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

To dial an international number from France, the IDD is 00, followed by the country code that you wish to dial, the area code and the phone number.
To call France from abroad, start with the international direct dialing (IDD) code from the country you're in, followed by French country code 33, the area code (drop the first zero in front of the area code), and the phone number. French telephone numbers are rarely given without the area code. The telephone number, including the area code, is made up of 10 digits. They are written in a set of 5 pairs of digits (i.e. 01 xx xx xx xx xx).
In France, the area code designations are: 01 - Paris Area ("Région Ile-de-France"), 02 - northwest, 03 - northeast, 04 - southeast, 05 - southwest, 06 - mobile phone providers. From 2010 onwards, 07 will also be assigned to mobile phone providers in order to cater for the surging demands for mobile phones.

Emergency numbers are 15 (medical aid), 17 (police station) and 18 (fire/rescue). You can also use the European emergency number 112 (perhaps a better choice if you don't speak French). These calls are free and accessible from virtually any phone, including locked cellphones.

France uses the GSM standard of cellular phones (900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands) used in most of the world outside of the U.S. There are several companies (Orange, SFR, Free, Bouygues Télécom and some others MVNOs like Virgin Mobile) offering wireless service. The country is almost totally covered but you may have difficulties using your mobile phone in rural or mountainous areas. If you stay for some time, it may be advisable to buy a pre-paid cell phone card that you can use in any phone that supports the GSM standard on the 900/1800 MHz bands. Then incoming calls and SMSes are free.

Post

La Poste in France is also referred to as the PTT (short for postes, télégraphes et téléphones). The mailboxes are painted bright yellow and often there is a slot for local city mail and another slot for "outside mail". Normally there is a queue in the post office, but most of the post offices have the self service machine installed which is quite easy to operate. Nowadays many of the tabac and even some of the souvenir shops also sell postage stamps. Normally an overseas postcard costs almost as much as sending a letter. Mails sent in France also have a zip code. The first two numbers represent the administrative department (e.g. in Paris' case that would be 75).

Post offices are generally open from 8:00am to 7:00pm Monday through Friday, and 8:00am to noon on Saturdays. Apart from the basic job of mailing letters, most of the post offices do some banking activities also and some even have photocopy machines and cyber cafes for internet access.

For international package services, you might also check options with companies like DHL, UPS or TNT, which have competitive services and prices and might be faster in most cases.

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Accommodation in Aix-en-Provence

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This is version 14. Last edited at 8:42 on Sep 16, 19 by Utrecht. 4 articles link to this page.

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