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Things to Do in Aix-en-Provence

The town of Aix-en-Provence is one of the jewels of the Provence region in the southern part of France. Roughly 19 miles (30 kilometers) north of Marseille, Aix-en-Provence (also known simply as Aix) is an ideal base for day tours to other popular destinations in the area. Surrounded by beautiful countryside, including rolling hills covered in lavender fields, Aix is an easy drive from Arles, Avignon, Gordes, Roussillon, and the Gorges du Verdon—home to an ancient Roman aqueduct, Pont du Gard. Although Aix-en-Provence serves as an easy launching point for discovering Provence's quaint villages, visitors would be remiss to cut short their time exploring the charming and historic town, where broad avenues lined with cafes stretch between pleasant squares. There is a strong tradition of arts and culture in Aix, including several museums (including the former studio of Paul Cezanne, who was born in the city) and annual festivals. Take in the sights and smells of the colorful local markets, or go on a private tour to dig into the city's history, which dates back to the Roman Empire. Once you've spent ample time in Aix, easy day trips make it simple to see the surrounding countryside without the hassle of navigating the roads on your own. Visit Camargue to see flamingos along the French coast; journey into the hills to visit vineyards and taste Provence wine; explore bustling Marseille, one of France's most important sea ports; and take in the cliffs and Mediterranean views of Cassis.
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Cours Mirabeau
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At the center of picturesque Aix-en-Provence is Cours Mirabeau, a plane tree–shaded avenue lined with chic stores, patisseries, and restaurants. Marked along its length by fountains, this street is the most popular place in town for a pre- or postlunch stroll and a must-visit stop on guided tours of the town.

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Lake of Sainte-Croix (Lac de Sainte-Croix)
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Set between the dramatic landscapes of the Verdon Gorge and the Valensole plateau, the man-madeLake of Sainte-Croix (Lac de Sainte-Croix) is among Provence’s most popular vacation spots. With sandy lakeside beaches, water temperatures rivaling those of the Mediterranean Sea, and fewer crowds than the French Riviera, it’s the ideal summer destination.

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Sainte-Victoire Mountain (Montagne Sainte-Victoire)
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Dominating the landscape around Aix-en-Provence, Sainte-Victoire Mountain (Montagne Sainte-Victoire) is a limestone ridge immortalized by Aix-en-Provence painter Paul Cézanne. Whether you bike or hike to the top or just admire the silhouette from afar, its angular profile can be seen for miles around.

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Camargue
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Located in southwest Provence, the Camargue is one of France’s wildest and most scenic landscapes. Protected as a regional natural park, the expanse of wetlands, beaches, salt pans, and rice paddies is known for its herds of white Camargue horses and Camargue bulls, all tended to by localgardians (cowboys).

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Lubéron
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Located in the heart of Provence, France’s mountainous Lubéron region is famous for its vibrant purple lavender fields, forested valleys, and ancient hilltop villages such as Saignon, Bonnieux, and Gordes. Walking trails wind through the largely uninhabited region, past hills, woodlands, and fields dusted with wildflowers.

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Aix Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint Sauveur)
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Built on the site of an ancient Roman forum, the Aix Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint Sauveur) is one of the oldest and best-loved buildings in Aix-en-Provence. It dates to the 12th century and, despite many modifications over the years, remains a particular draw for fans of Romanesque and Gothic architecture.

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Manosque
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Located on the limits of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department on the edge of the Luberon, Manosque is an old walled town filled with ancient doorways, fountains, meandering streets and charming squares like Place du Terreau, Place Marcel Pagnol and Place du Contrôle. Furthermore, Manosque has numerous historical buildings like Hôtel d’Herbès, the Town Hall, Hôtel de Gassaud, the Gothic-Romanesque Saint-Sauveur Church and, of course, the Notre-Dame-de-Romigier Church, which was built in the 10th century.

A “walled town” implies gates and fortifications, and Manosque has both, with two of its most popular attractions being the Porte de la Saunerie and Porte du Soubeyran, which both date from the 14th century.

For unobstructed views of the pear-shaped village, its burnished rooftops and the surrounding countryside filled with orchards and olive groves, visitors should consider trekking to Mont d’Or, a feat easily done thanks to a bucolic setting and the town’s typically sunny weather (over 300 days out of the year). Less than a mile away from Manosque’s center, Mont d’Or is also home to the remains of a 10th-century castle and lookout post erected by Guillaume the Liberator, which offer 360-degree views of the vast horizons stretching over the Luberon, including the southernmost peaks of the Alps on clear days.

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Cézanne's Studio (Atelier Cézanne)
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The landscape around Aix-en-Provence was a constant inspiration to artist Paul Cézanne (1839–1906), who was born and raised in the southern French town. Located just outside, Cézanne's Studio (Atelier Cézanne)—the studio where the artist painted some of his most famous works—offers visitors fascinating insight into the life of the postimpressionist artist.

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Les Saintes Maries de la Mer
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Surrounded by golden beaches in the spot where the Rhône River meets the Mediterranean Sea sits the whitewashed town of Saintes Maries de la Mer. As the capital of the Camargue region in the south of France, Saintes-Maries is a popular summertime destination made famous by the imposing Church of the Saintes Maries de la Mer. Built as both fortress and refuge between the ninth and 12th century, its grand Romanesque steeple can be seen from miles away.

A 20th-century literary and artistic haven beloved by the likes of Hemingway and Picasso, Saintes-Maries has seen everyone from the Romans to the Vikings, Van Gogh to Bob Dylan. Today its narrow, winding streets and lively French restaurants bustle with summertime action.

Saintes-Maries is also a popular visit among pilgrims. Why? It’s all in the name. French for “Saint Maries of the Sea,” this is said to be where the Virgin Mary’s sister, Marie-Jacobe, and John the Baptist’s mother, Marie-Salone, washed up with their servant Sarah when they all fled from the Holy Land in a rudderless boat. In celebration, every May there is a lively Roma procession dedicated to Sarah, patron saint of the gypsies, and in October the two Maries get their own parade.

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Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
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With extensive Roman ruins and a lively café scene, the southern French town of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence has both historical importance and modern appeal. Nostradamus was born here, and Van Gogh spent one of his most productive periods in Saint-Rémy, so there’s plenty to do for art lovers and visitors interested in the region’s history.

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More Things to Do in Aix-en-Provence

Aix-en-Provence Old Town (Vieil Aix)

Aix-en-Provence Old Town (Vieil Aix)

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Aix-en-Provence Old Town (Vieil Aix) is the city’s ancient heart, where people have lived and worked since Roman times. The area is home to some of the city’s grandest buildings, as well as reminders of previous eras. It’s one of the city’s most vibrant quarters home to shops, restaurants, and museums.

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Aigues-Mortes

Aigues-Mortes

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In the Petite Camargue region in southern France, the best way to see the medieval town of Aigues-Mortes is from its medieval ramparts. On a wander atop the city walls, you can see right across the ancient town, once filled with knights and crusaders during the 12th-century reign of Louis IX. Saint Louis ordered the ramparts so that his French kingdom could have a Mediterranean marina that would give them passage to the Middle East. Make sure to check out the famous Constance Tower while you’re in town. Built under the orders of Louis in 1242, it’s the most impressive of the 20 imposing towers dotted around the city walls.

Down at street level, a stroll along Aigues-Mortes' lively medieval streets is a popular pastime. While you’re here, try the local Fougasse pastry, which can be savory or sweetened with sugar and orange blossom. If you walk 15 minutes away from town, you'll run into the local salt works, a major part of the town's history, and their pink salt lakes.

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Valensole Plateau (Plateau De Valensole)

Valensole Plateau (Plateau De Valensole)

The Valensole Plateau (Plateau De Valensole) embodies the quintessential image of Provencal summer, with vibrant purple lavender fields, sunflower-filled valleys, and peaceful hilltop villages. Photo-worthy vistas extend in all directions, and the village of Valensole houses shops selling flowers, perfumes, oils, and other lavender-derived products.

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La Barben Zoo (Zoo de la Barben)

La Barben Zoo (Zoo de la Barben)

One of France’s largest and most popular zoos, La Barben Zoo (Zoo de la Barben), located in Provence, has been a popular attraction for families since it opened in the early 1970s. Learn about the more than 650 animals who live at the zoo, from the lions, rhinos, elephants, and giraffes to hundreds of rare species.

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