AIX EN PROVENCE
Why Aix En Provence?
If Provence is the land of lavender fields, a coastline so crystal clear that they called it azure, and the palest rosé in all the world, Aix is one of its finest urban and urbane gems. The Father of Modern Art was born and raised in this town, guarded by Mont Sainte Victoire – the inspiration behind some of Cezanne’s finest work. His friend, Émile-Zola, often came down to visit and the two drank pastis over intellectual conversation in Les Deux Garçons, an iconic bistro on the main drag in town. A confluence of the Provençal elite and Erasmus students, Aix caters for everyone with overpriced sushi and late-night pizza slices good enough for Bradley Cooper, who spent a semester studying here. Read on for midnight hangouts, bootleg madeleines and a rather questionable drinking game.
The first thing you’ll see in Aix is the Cours Mirabeau, the tree lined avenue which marks the centre of town. Stretching from La Fontaine de la Rotonde to the Old Market in the north, Mirabeau is the perfect place to familiarise yourself with the café culture of France.
If you’re feeling adventurous, why stop there? Aix is well connected, with the Côte d’Azur just a stone’s throw, and a Flixbus, away. Take a 10-minute train to Marseille, from there you can reach anywhere – a popular day trip is the Calanques, a series of coves which offer stunning views and crystal-clear waters. The most convenient is Cassis, as it’s the easiest to reach.
Place de l’Hôtel de Ville
Place de l’Hôtel de Ville is a large piazza which sees a flower market on weekdays and is transformed into outdoor dining in the evenings. On the corner of the square is Christophe Madeleines, which serves bags of freshly baked madeleines. Stop at Le Petit Bistrot for some traditional aixois dining. Order an ardoise or a baked Camembert and a glass of wine.
Aix is no stranger to famous figures – alongside Zola and Cezanne, Picasso made Aix his home in his later years. Take the bus to Vauvenargues, just ten minutes outside of Aix, to visit Picasso’s chateau nestled in the Provençal countryside. Whilst there, take a hike up the iconic Mont Sainte-Victoire, the mountain which has become a symbol of Provence as Cezanne’s muse.
The Best of Aix en Provence
Destinations > France > Aix-En-Provence Our Top Bars & Clubs in …
The old town – which, in fact, makes up most of the city centre – is the best place to lay your head. Aix is so compact that, in order to make the most of your time here, it’s best to be in the thick of it. And as Uber does not yet exist here, you’ll be able to have a short walk (or stumble) home.
If you are studying at Aix-Marseille University, one affordable option is to go into student halls. In France, they are called ‘CROUS’ and are a great place for meeting new people, although you may find yourself with lots of other Erasmus students who come from the same place. It normally costs around €1300 for the semester, so it is an affordable option for a six-month stint. Remember to factor in the cost of buying your kitchen equipment, bed sheets or anything else for your new room. The residences are 15 minutes away from the centre, so it will feel like a weird student bubble. As for independent housing, the internet is your best friend. Using websites such as ‘Le Bon Coin’ or even just Erasmus pages on Facebook is a great way to find a room to rent in the centre of this bustling town. Moreover, your language is bound to benefit from having French housemates.
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If you’re in France for an extended period of time, you need a Carte Avantage Jeune from SNCF (national railway) in your wallet. It costs 49€ for the year, but you’ll make this back with rapid speed for it gets you 30% off every train journey across the country and 25% off international tickets, meaning you can hop across the border into Spain or Italy on your travels. All you need is a passport-style photo at the ready, and you’re good to go. If you have a habit of losing things, fear not: the card is available to add to your phone wallet, so you can never leave it at home.
In Aix, the ‘Carte Treize’ is essential and you can get it for free from the bus station. All you need is a passport and a passport photo. Available to young people aged up to 25, it works like an Oyster card: top it up and use it to pay for your bus ticket. It also makes travel much cheaper. For example, a 24 hour pass costs just 2€ and will get you to both Marseille and the airport, whereas it would set you back 8.60€ just to get you to the aéroport (not including getting back). The buses are well-connected and reliable, especially the airport line which runs every 30 minutes, but most people prefer to explore Aix on foot.
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