What's So Special About Aix?
It is the little things I am relishing the most while living in Aix this fall: the sounds of the markets, cathedral bells and street musicians; the smells of lavender soaps, burned leaves, and freshly roasted chestnuts; the centuries-old apartment we are renting in the historic center; the taste of freshly-baked madeleines and Provençal olives; the sight of thousands of black crows roosting noisily on tall plane trees; the fresh crispy air; café crèmes and hot wines at town plazas, the beautiful sunsets bathing the town in golden colors.
To me, it is not the museums, cathedrals, or Cezanne’s workshop that make this place special, but the general look and feel of this town. Like many towns in Europe, Aix is a charming blend of history and modernity, with trendy boutiques embedded in 17th century buildings, bubble-tea shops hidden in narrow passages and chic cafes set up at the footsteps of ancient cathedrals. Unlike many towns, it is vibrant and cosmopolitan all year round, largely due to its sizable student community making up a quarter of Aix’ population. Young, artistic and trendy, historic Aix is a fun place to live in and to visit.
Here are some of my favorite things in Aix…
Cours Mirabeau; Pl. des Prêcheurs; Pl.de la Madeleine: Tue, Thu, Sat
Pl. Richelme: Every Day
Hôtel de Ville: Tue, Thu, Sat; Pl. des Prêcheurs: Mo, Wed, Fri, Sun
ANTIQUES & FLEA MARKET
Cours Mirabeau; Pl. de Verdun: Tue, Thu, Sat
Aix’ Grand Marché is one of my favorite places in town. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, it spreads in all directions from La Rotonde and stays open until about 1pm. The produce market is absolutely spectacular with the freshest fruit and vegetables, great variety of cheeses and saucissons, fresh meets, fish, eggs, breads and all types of olives. Although much smaller, the artisanal market also sells some nice Provencal souvenirs such as traditional knives and kitchenware.
Brass “C” Tiles
Pay attention to the ground, and you’ll notice small brass tiles with letter “C” all over town. Aix is a hometown of famous painter Paul Cézanne, and “C”s mark the route to the most significant places in his life. Following the studs is a fun way to get to know the town and to discover Granet Museum, Cézanne’s Studio, brasserie Les Deux Garçons, Saint-Sauveur Cathedral and other hallmarks. Stop by the Tourist Office on the Rotonde to grab maps and brochures.
OFFICE DE TOURISME
Les Allées Provençales
300 Ave Giuseppe Verdi
04 42 161 161
11 Rue Espariat
Aix’ beautiful sunlit plazas are perfect for observing daily life while sipping coffee or hot wine in outdoors cafés. Hôtel de Ville and the adjacent Place des Cardeurs are my personal favorites.
Even though Bibliothèque Méjanes is tucked away in a small back street, you won’t miss it once you see it. Three giant books adorning the facade announce the entrance to the municipal library. In operation since 1989, Méjanes is part of the Cité du Livre cultural complex set up in a former match factory. It is a beautiful recently renovated space with reading halls, Internet stations, and conference rooms. The library is only one block away from the central bus station, so if you have time to kill, drop by and check it out.
8-10, rue des Allumettes
04 42 91 98 88
LES MADELEINES DE CHRISTOPHE
4 Rue Gaston de Saporta
06 33 78 90 22
Best Madeleines in Town
If you head in the direction of Saint Saveur from Hôtel de Ville, you will smell the delicious aroma of freshly baked pastries before you spot a line in front of a small kiosk. Congratulations! You have just discovered the best madeleines in town! Les Madeleines de Christophe specializes only in one type of pastry, but it does it so well, it makes you forget about all the others.
Best Coffee in Town
People-watching and sipping a café-crème on one of Aix’ pretty plaza’s is a lot of fun, but if you are a coffee snob like me, the best place to get your drink is at Mana Espresso. Tucked away on one of the smaller streets, this cozy coffee shop slash student lounge serves great espresso drinks, smoothies, kombucha and other healthy beverages and snacks.
12 Rue des Bernardines
+33 7 82 69 27 23
PIZZA DU PONT DES 3 SAUTES
Paking Relais Malacrida
Ave Henry Malacrida & Cours Gambetta
Val St. Andres
06 98 15 52 95
Best Pizza in Town
When it comes to pizza, Aix offers a variety of options, but the incontestable winner is Pizza du Pont des 3 Sautets! This thin-crust delicious pizza is cooked to perfection every single time and served with a smile by Pizza Master Philippe. You can find Philippe Tuesday through Sunday stationed in a white van with a specialty wooden oven in Val St. Andres just off Cours Gambetta in front of Gendarmerie. You can call in advance to place your order.
Best Crêpes in Town
Crêpes à GoGo serves 80 different crepes, and that’s not even the most extraordinary thing about it! What’s quite remarkable (and almost shocking once you’ve relented to the leisurely service in French establishments) is the speed and efficiency with which the orders are filled in this tiny crêperie in the underground Passage of the Rotonde. Tasty, inexpensive and quick – this is my favorite crêperie in town.
CRÊPES À GOGO
Crêpes à GoGo
2 Avenue Victor Hugo
04 42 27 64 11