The sun-kissed city of Aix-En-Provence is a welcoming paradise offering stunning vistas, arts and culture.
My favourite place The Atelier Cézanne, the studio where Paul Cézanne painted many of his most famous works. So many of the objects depicted in his paintings are actually here, such as a giant window, as well as his (well-used) tools, brushes, palates and painting smocks. Although the artist didn’t live here, it’s still wonderfully authentic and atmospheric. You feel like you’ve stepped back 120 years in time and don’t wish to disturb anything in case the taciturn artist could walk in anytime. The studio is about a 1.6km walk uphill from the town (it is well sign-posted), and you will be rewarded with a splendid view from the studio, and can relax in its delightful garden area.
Highlights The Old Town and the Cours Mirabeau form the nucleus of this wonderful and walkable city. You could start your walk through the Old Town at the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville. The town square boasts the 17th-century town hall building as well as the 16th-century Tour de l’Horloge, an old city belfry with an astronomical clock that dates from 1661. The city’s main artery is the Cours Mirabeau, which is the perfect place to shop, relax, or simply hang out. As a thoroughfare, it was originally a drive-through for the horse-drawn carriages of the 17th and 18th century. Take time to appreciate some of the magnificent mansions of that age that are still standing and deserve your respect, and wonder.
In this city known for its fountains, don’t forget to get a sprinkle in your hair from the Fontaine de la Rotunde. It is at the end of Cours Mirabeau in the Place du General de Gaulle and
is a refreshing fusion of the neo-classical sculpture The Three Graces, bronze lions and multiple tiers of waterworks. Don’t forget a visit to the Musée Granet, a tremendous showcase of more than 300 works from the Renaissance
era to the 20th century. It’s worth going for the collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings
alone. The Musée Des Tapisseries is also worth a look, and offers a sumptuous collection of 17th and 18th century tapestries.
Lowlights Petty theft can be a problem, so keep a sharp eye on your valuables.
Souvenirs Avoid the shops on the Cours Mirabeau and head to the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville where you will usually find a market for flowers, books, fruit, and lavender. Any of the city’s markets are teeming with local produce such as sausages, garlic and herbs but the Sunday morning market at Place Richelme oozes with olive oil, fresh goat’s cheese, foie gras and honey. Alternatively, spend your Sunday morning at the Place des Precheurs for clothing and flowers. Unless you’re on a diet don’t forget to try some calissons; small almond-shaped pastries that are something of a local delicacy.
Getting there Aix-en-Provence can be reached by high-speed trains from the Gare de Lyon in Paris (usually three a day), that take about three hours. Oman Air offers one flight per day to Paris from Muscat, which takes seven-and-a-half hours.
Where to stay It’s up to you whether you want to choose a well-known chain (all here) or try out one of the more traditional 18th-century options, which offer a little more character. Some have courtyards and rooms filled antique furniture. Don’t overlook some of the options at two or three-star, either, as some of them are excellent value for money. I stayed in the four-star Aquabella Hotel & Spa, which had a (most welcoming) outdoor pool and lovely gardens.