We will not organize a social program for you but we would like to share some places we like to visit, tips for restaurants and bars and things to do in the surroundings in case you stay a bit longer. It is a personal choice and not exhaustive, of course, but we hope it will help you to get an impression of the city and the beautiful landscape around.
Visiting the city center
On a stroll in the pedestrian area you will see many fountains: Aix-en-Provence is a site of thermal water sources that give the city and the many places a particular aspect. Many historical buildings from the XVII and XVIII century are present and some of them house museums and galleries and can be visited from inside. On Saturdays a farmers market takes part on two of the main squares. Many restaurants and coffee shops invite you for a break and the relative wealth of the habitants attracted a wide variety of fashion shops and art galleries.
The second bus goes to the southern side of the mountain and ends in the village of Puyloubier. It has stops in Le Tholonet and at the information center of Montagne Sainte-Victoire . This journey will offer you a view on the spectacular limestone rocks of this geological curiosity.
Many hiking paths allow exploring the impressive mountain but they may be closed in summer time if the risk of bush fires is high. To know whether hiking is safe please go to the official web site. The site is in French but it informs you from 18h on for the next day by a colour code about the risks: red means closed and orange means open. Please stick strictly to the recommendations and avoid anything that could light a bush fire such as cigarettes. The risk is serious.
The area around Aix-en Provence is also known for its vineyards. The tourist office offers some guided tours to visit the caves and taste the wine, especially the ‘rosé’.
The region SUD officially welcomes you to this beautiful part of France and invites you to “make the most of your stay to discover the South of France (watch the video) and its wealth of tourist attractions: unique scenery between sea and mountain, exceptional experiences and must-see sights from your wish list. We offer a vast panel of tours and leisure activities to enjoy during your stay in the South of France – the region SUD overflows with surprises and is ready and waiting to share them with you! Provence, French Côte d’Azur and Alps: 3 must-see destinations promising unexpected and sublime experiences, crowned with a breath of pure air…”
Visiting the surroundings
From the central bus station adjacent to the city center, two buses leave every hour to take you to Montagne Sainte-Victoire: One goes to the North side and has its terminus at Vauvenargues, a picturesque village with a nice view on the mountain and on the castle that Picasso owned. It is still a property of the family and not open to visitors but the view is worth the journey. A restaurant and two bars make this village a nice place to spend a few hours.
40 km south of Aix-en-Provence, Marseille is worth a visit. It is in many aspects in contrast to Aix: a harbour town with an international flair situated in a wide bay and surrounded by a chain of hills. Around 800 000 people live there and shaped the neighbourhoods according to their habits: markets as you may find them south of the Mediterranean sea, student quarters with bars and craftsmen shops, modern business quarters and the old harbour and its immediate surroundings that attract more and more tourists. From there you can take a boat to go to the northernmost part of the city, a fisherman village named Estaque, where some of the early 20th century painters lived for a while with a popular beach and local street food. Another ferry will take you to the south of the city to a small harbour with a sandy beach in a residential area. Both boat trips give you a magnificent view on the city from the sea. Two islands, “Le Frioul” and “Chateau d’If” where Alexandre Dumas situated its Count of Monte Cristo, can be visited by boat as a day trip. South of the city, between Marseille and Cassis the famous Calanques offer spectacular white limestone bays with green pine trees above the blue sea. You can book a boat trip to Cassis to admire them from the sea.
The gala dinner will take place in Marseille in the garden of the Pharo Palace, constructed by Napoleon III for his wife, the Empress Eugénie de Montijo, in the XIXth century. It is set in a privileged position overlooking the old harbor and the old part of the town.