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Aix en Provence Fountains Cézanne and Much More

Situated just 25 kilometres north of Marseille lies this, the former capital of Provence. Its original settlers were drawn to the site on account of its numerous natural springs, while nowadays it is a magnet for university students and tourists. This must-visit stopover on any Provence itinerary is a city best defined by the word “elegance”. Some have even ventured to compare it with Paris, albeit on a much smaller scale. Here, then, are some of the keys to discovering Aix-en-Provence.

Cours Mirabeau, the Old Quarter and the Quartier Mazarin

Sandwiched between the Old Quarter to the north, and the Quartier Mazarin to the south, Cours Mirabeau is Aix’s major landmark. This pleasant thoroughfare with its moss-lined fountains, canopy of plane-trees and magnificent Renaissance mansions invites visitors to stroll along and stop at any of the many cafés and terraces on the avenue, veritable vantage points for soaking up the amazing atmosphere. One of the most popular such cafés is Deux Garçons, once frequented by Paul Cézanne, Émile Zola and Albert Camus.

Wandering through Aix’s Old Quarter is another of the pleasures held out by this city. Here, you can stroll around the pedestrian precinct, enjoy the shopping areas and uncover half-concealed enclaves which are ideal for whiling away the time – the Place d’Albertas is a case in point.

Unlike the Old Quarter, the Quartier Mazarin is more neatly laid out. Here, you will come across its striking hôtels particuliers – the name given to large mansions that once belonged to the nobility and the haute bourgeoisie. This area was designed in the 17th century on the initiative of Archbishop Michel Mazarin. Among its leading landmarks is the Granet Museum, housed in a former Knights of Malta priory, featuring an exhibition of the paintings of François Granet, in addition to Italian, French and Flemish works, and an excellent collection of modern art.

On the Cézanne Trail

The other great icon of the city is the Post-Impressionist, Paul Cézanne, who was born and died here and who captured the landscapes of Provence in many of his works. We recommend you head for the Atelier Cézanne, on the north side of the old quarter, where you can see how the artist approached his work. You won’t however, see a single Cézanne original. If you’re feeling sprightly enough, you can walk up to the Terrain des Peintres (Painters’ Park), a small, quiet park which attracts a large number of artists and the spot where Cézanne painted his multiple versions of Mont Sainte-Victoire.

The Vasarely Foundation – Op-Art in its Pristine State

Located on the outskirts of Aix, the Vasarely Foundation is well worth the effort visiting for its highly original architecture, based on conjoined hexagonal cells, and the exhibition it houses of the pop-art oeuvre of Victor Vasarely. All the exhibits here are large-format. They draw the viewer into the unusual world of this genuine artist, featuring optical effects guaranteed to impress.

Book your Vueling to Marseille and discover Provence – one of France’s most beautiful regions – by visiting some of its most evocative towns, as Aix-en-Provence most certainly is.

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by vasse nicolas,antoine, Milena, Sjaak Kempe, Connie Ma, Andrea Schaffer