Aix-en-Provence is famous in Provence for its history, art, architecture, and shopping. In this photo-essay, we’ll show you some of the beautiful memories we had while strolling the ancient streets of Le Vieil Aix, Aix’s old city center.
The tree-lined boulevard called the Cours Mirabeau is the central attraction. The Cours Mirabeau and Aix-en-Provence are home to many beautiful and ancient fountains. The large fountain called La Rotonde sits at the head of boulevard.
A busy circular street surrounds La Rotonde. Many consider this circle to be the center of old Aix.
Tall Plane Trees (we’d call them sycamore trees) border the Cours Mirabeau on each side of the street. The trees watch over numerous shops and outdoor markets in all seasons of the year.
Several moss-covered fountains are located on the Cours Mirabeau. Some of these fountains are hundreds of years old.
Some of these fountains are works of art that have become jewels of the neighborhood.
Art and Architecture
Cours Mirabeau is home to some very interesting architecture. I especially like the doors of many of the building. I’m sure there’s a story behind the creation of every one of them.
The Hotel D’Arbaud has a very interesting entrance. Jean Claude Rambot built this private mansion built in 1670. He framed the doors with two Atlas sculptures, one looking forward and one mindful of the past. Although this is a private residence, you can find apartment rentals if you search for them.
The Tribunal de Commerce, located on the Cours Mirabeau, also features Atlas sculptures guarding its entrance.
This is an Atlas motif with a street-art twist. The face is that of Pierre DAC, a French humorist who had a radio show during the French Occupation in WWII.
The Pavillon Vendôme, built in 1666, is a home for temporary art exhibitions. In the past, it was the home of Duke Vendôme and later a boarding school for girls.
The classic art at the entrance of the Pavillon Vendôme. Apparently, Atlas holds up many buildings in Aix.
One of the most famous artists from Aix-en-Provence is Paul Cezanne. This fountain commemorates him. There’s also a Cezanne museum (located in Cezanne’s former studio) that should not be missed if you like art history.
Aix-en-Provence is also home to some impressive modern art. This swimmer, created by Senegalese artist Diadji Diop, is one example. This and other works of contemporary art are located at the Hôtel de Gallifet in Aix’s Quartier Mazarin.
The Foundation Vasarely houses the op art (optical art) of Victor Vasarely. Even the build itself is a work of art.
Vasarely specialized in creating large works of art that highlighted optical illusions and playful use of color. I found myself wondering how much I could trust my senses after viewing his exhibits.
The Thermes Sextius is part of Aix’s historic legacy. The Roman consul, Sextius Calvinus, founded Aix, in 123 BC and gave the city its name. However, now this is a luxury spa integrated into the ancient Roman ruins. I’ve stayed there and I highly recommend it.
We’ve covered art, architecture, and history. Now we move on to shopping. Aix has countless shops and boutiques. It’s a shopping paradise, according to my wife. This specific shopping area is called Passage Agard. It’s a lovely connecting street between the Cours Mirabeau and the Palace de Justice.
If you are in Aix, be sure to explore the side streets in the old city. There are many charming sights to behold there.
Even this otherwise plain street has so much depth, character and warmth compared to back streets in many other cities.
Christmas in Aix-en-Provence
Aix-en-Provence is an all-season city. The Christmas market is especially popular. I visited the Christmas market at night to enjoy the lights.
Traffic is heavy during the Christmas market, but the beautiful carousel at the end of the boulevard is worth the wait.
There’s a wide range of products available in the market. This booth is a Marché de Nöel and offers food products like foie gras and charcuterie (sausage and ham).
This is one of the beautiful moss-covered fountains on the Cours Mirabeau. This time at Christmas.
Looking for a Christmas gift. This booth offers perfumes and bath salts.
All that shopping will require you to recharge with a glass of wine and some good food. Les Deux Garçons is just one of many restaurants on the Cours Mirabeau that can provide a wonderful dining experience.
The Aix-en-Provence town hall is a little quieter than the Cours Mirabeau but still infused with romance and charm.
If you haven’t visited Aix-en-Provence, we highly recommend it. There so much to see and do and there’s something for everyone to enjoy.