The slow-paced lifestyle of France’s beloved Provence region can be experienced year-round. Bathed in sunshine all year long, Provence is one of the prettiest regions in one of the prettiest countries in the world, so it’s no wonder why the locals are always so happy. One of the most charming Provençal towns you can visit is Aix-en-Provence, or simply known as Aix. A visit to this beautiful French town will certainly entail drinking delicious wine and tasting mouthwatering local cuisine, catching whiffs of lavender in the air and taking leisurely strolls down shaded boulevards. In short, you will find your own little slice of heaven in Aix.
During a recent trip to France, I decided to get out of Paris and explore some of France’s more provincial towns. I chose to visit Aix based on glowing recommendations from both French locals and fellow travelers, so I didn’t hesitate to plan my impromptu trip to Provence. I simply pulled up my HotelTonight app on my phone and booked a great last-minute hotel in Aix-en-Provence, and just like that I was ready to immerse myself in the easygoing lifestyle of Provence.
Since I can’t resist beautiful old buildings or neighborhoods steeped in history, I started my tour of Aix in its Old Town, also known as Vieil Aix. The buildings, squares, and monuments in this historic quarter date back centuries, and you’ll find Old World charm around every corner. As I wandered through the old, peaceful streets of Old Aix and passed through lovely squares like Place d’Albertas, I felt completely at east. There’s something about the energy and the culture of Aix that will make you feel calm and content, and by the end of my walk through Old Aix I was already planning on extending my stay.
In the very heart of Old Aix is the beautiful Place de l’Hotel de Ville. While you can find plenty of spots in Aix that are calm and peaceful, this square is not one of them. Instead, it’s a bustling square filled with charming outdoor cafes, live entertainment and locals meeting up to socialize. The Hotel de Ville was built in the 15th century, and the clock tower next to it was built in the 14th century, so this square is full of history and stunning architecture. There are old Roman fountains and ornate buildings, so simply standing in the middle of this square is a treat for the eyes.
As the most picturesque boulevard in all of Aix (which is saying something!), Le Cours Mirabeau is a street you’ll want to walk up and down over and over again. Lined with giant plane trees, the Cours Mirabeau provides plenty of shade and aesthetic appeal. Along this wide avenue, you’ll find great restaurants, cafes and shops, and it’s a popular place for locals to meet for a rendezvous after work or school. This beautiful street links the Old Town with the Mazarin district, and it’s the prettiest route to take when you’re touring the city.
Another one of Aix’s most charming, historic districts is the Quartier Mazarin, which was built in the 17th century. Similar to Old Aix, this district features cobble-stoned lanes, charming squares, and beautiful old water features, such as the famous Fountain des Quatre-Dauphins, or the fountain of four dolphins. In addition to the private mansions and ornate homes you’ll find in the Mazarin district, you will see historic churches like the Church of Saint Jean de Malte, which was built in the 12th century, as well as great art museums and cafes.
If you want to experience “la vie belle” like Aix locals, you definitely need to shop at Le Grand Marche. This expansive open-air market takes place three days a week, and it will provide you with the quintessential Provençal experience. As you wander through this market, you’ll find fresh produce, delicious local cheeses, vibrant flowers and various other artisan goods. Since this is Provence, of course, you’ll also find plenty of lavender goods, which make great souvenirs or gifts for friends and family back home.
Aix-en-Provence stole my heart as soon as I smelled the lavender in the air and felt the warm Provençal sunshine on my skin. I was surprised at how quickly I fell into the slow pace of life in Aix-en-Provence, especially since I had just traveled from the bustling metropolis of Paris. But there’s something infectious and irresistible about Aix’s lifestyle, so don’t be surprised when you fall in love with this Provençal town at first sight. As I packed up, I thought about how lucky I was to be able to make this spur-of-the-moment trip a reality. It’s all thanks to HotelTonight, which I always know I can rely on to find great last-minute deals in Aix-en-Provence as well as other cities all over the world.