The relaxed elegant city of Aix-en-Provence in the South of France is all about l'art de vivre (“the art of living”). You will not find many monuments or archaeological sites here, only spacious squares, lush gardens, many fountains, art museums and galleries.
The grandiose Cours Mirabeau, a wide avenue lined by large trees, graceful fountains and dignified buildings, separates the old historic centre from modern districts. The centre of the city’s café life, the avenue is dotted with myriads of cafes where you can sip pastis or local wine and indulge in people watching.
Provence's finest market takes place the historic centre every Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The ancient squares fill up with sellers of the most exquisite food in the world: cheeses, charcuterie, olive oil, fresh fruit, oysters, fish and wine, - here you will find the best produce that France is famous for.
Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne was born in Aix-en-Provence and there are several museums dedicated to the venerable citizen: his childhood home, Jas de Bouffan, and his last studio Atelier Cézanne. His works are also displayed at the Musée Granet, which has an excellent fine art collection that includes masterpieces by Rembrandt, Anthony van Dyck, Degas, Renoir, Gauguin, Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso and many others.
Make sure you make time for being pampered in one the city’s celebrated spas with natural hot springs built on the old Roman baths.
In the evening join the locals for a long indulgent dinner at one of the city’s excellent restaurants to devour pan-fried foie gras, hearty veal chops or slow-cooked daube de boeuf Provençale. The elegant L'Esprit de la Violette serves exquisite thyme smoked veal and braised veal. In La Cave d'Yves you will find classic brasserie food and fine local wines.
Aix-en-Provence is the city for a hedonistic traveller who wants to unwind and luxuriate in douceur de vie.
Photos via Flickr by: Henrik Berger Jørgensen, Ivan Herman, Luis Montanez.