Feel our top 5 sensory experiences in Aix-en-Provence…
See the art of post-Impressionist Paul Cézanne. You can take a ‘Cézanne tour’ of Aix: explore the house where he began painting, with a walk around the grounds and the family property of Jas de Bouffan. Also see his works in the Musée Granet’s dedicated exhibition space, and catch a specially-commissioned film about Cézanne screened throughout the day at the Caumont Centre d’Art.
Hear the chirping cicadas in the garden of L’Atelier de Cézanne. According to Provençal myth, the cicada was sent by God to disrupt the peasants’ endless siestas and stop them from growing too lazy. There are about 2,500 species of cicada – around 15 of which live in the south of France – and it’s one of the world's loudest insects, recording sounds of up to 120 decibels. Also hear a concert at the Grand Théâtre de Provence, inaugurated by the Aix Festival in 2007 with a performance of Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre.
Smell coffee and croissants in a café on the Cours Mirabeau. Once a street for horse-drawn carriages, this is now one of the liveliest areas in town, with numerous sun-drenched terraces to choose from. Pull up a chair, order an espresso and watch the world go by.
Taste the delicious local calissons. This traditional diamond-shaped sweet made with candied melon and ground almonds is taken so seriously by local confectioners that a ‘calisson blessing ceremony’ has been held in the St-Jean-de-Malte church every year since 1995. A chocolate and sweets fair is held in nearby Les Pennes Mirabeau in October.
Touch local produce and antiques at the markets. Markets are a daily occurrence in Aix, selling everything from fruit and vegetables to books and flowers, and filling the town with sound and colour. A textile market sets up its stalls on the Cours Mirabeau – and bargain hunters should check out the craftsmen’s wares in front of the Tourist Office and the bric-a-brac dealers atthe top of Avenue Victor Hugo.
Stylish Aix-en-Provence is the south of France’s answer to Paris: a network of grand leafy boulevards and elegant 17th-century Baroque architecture, all basking in the unstinting Provençal sunshine. The old centre of Aix is steeped in history and partly pedestrianised – but Aix is also a city of the modern age, with a thriving student population and a casino, three cinemas and numerous clubs and bars.
Getting to Aix-en-Provence
By air: 25 minutes from Marseille International Airport
By train: The TGV Mediterranée links Aix-en-Provence with the whole of France as well as Europe (direct lines to Brussels and Geneva, and connections to London, Amsterdam, Cologne and Milan)
By car: Motorways A7, A46 and A8, A54 and A9
Further information: Aix-en-Provence Tourist Office
300 avenue Giuseppe Verdi
*Tel: +33 (0)4 42 16 11 61*http://travel.aixenprovencetourism.com/en/