My favorite walks in Aix-en-Provence: Aix and surrounds
The obvious way to come to Aix-en-Provence is to wander from La Fontaine de la Rotonde and head straight for Le Cours Mirabeau to do some shopping. There are many restaurants and bars and it’s very easy to spend your whole day there. I love it too but there’s so much more to see. I’d advise making a point to venture into the neighborhoods on either side of the Cours Mirabeau.
You will not be disappointed.
Here are some of my favorite walks and they’ll get you into the heart of the city.
Aix-en-Provence: Old Town
This is where I live and I’ve gotten to know it very well. The easiest way to start your walk into this area is to walk up Cours Sextius or the street just parallel.
Facing La Fontaine de la Rotonde, with Le Cours Mirabeau to your back, you want to walk straight ahead. On your right, you will see the restaurant La Rotonde. You will then pass a flower kiosk, and a carousel and eventually you will be in front of ‘La Cintra’ which is the big cafe/bistro on the corner. At that corner, take a right onto Rue Lisse des Cordeliers (this runs parallel to Cours Sextius which is the next right). Walk straight up to the top until you reach the first street where you must choose right or left.
This is Rue des Cordeliers.
I would say go right here and have a look at the many interesting shops along this street. In my opinion, Rue des Cordeliers is the coolest street in Aix. The shops are edgier. It’s here that you can get a tattoo or a piercing, find an Asian supermarket, fill your senses with medicinal oils, and my favorite….the record store! Everything you need is on this street and If nothing else, it’s fun to browse.
A nice place to stop for a drink is the 36.15 Cafe. There’s a nice vibe and drinks are cheaper here than anywhere else I’ve been.
Once you’ve enjoyed Rue des Cordeliers and have reached the top you’ll find yourself in the Place de l’Hotel de Ville. If you happen to be here on Market day you will stumble upon the Flower Market. This is a beautiful square and I’d take a minute to admire the beauty of the buildings. The Post Office will be on your right, the Hotel de Ville on your left and just beyond, you’ll see the arch and the beautiful clock tower.
When you go left, you’ll want to walk through the arch and keep going straight. Yes, you will see Place des Cardeurs to your left and many restaurants will beckon you to go that way. It is nice there but I think that you should keep walking straight.
You will find yourself on Rue Gaston de Saporta where there are lots of little local shops. It looks a bit touristy but it’s here that you’ll find everything from lavender sachets, postcards, soaps, Callison d’Aix, etc. It’s quite cute, actually. If you’re a fan of the famous French Madeleines (cake) you will be just in front of the well-known ‘Madeleines de Christophe‘ where there is sometimes a line all the way up the street.
So, if there’s not a line, give it a try!
Aix: Place des Martyrs de la Resistance
Once you’ve reached the top of this street, you are now in one of my favorite spots. Place des Martyrs de la Resistance.
This is a beautiful square where you’ll be right next to the Paroisse Cathedral Saint Sauver, The Musée des Tapisseries and the Fontaine Espeluque, which is the oldest fountain in Aix. This square was recently used for a movie shoot. It’s that beautiful!
Take a break here.
You can grab a drink or a quick bite. This restaurant will be right in front of you as it sits on the square. The terrace is covered with trees where there’s always a breeze.
Aix: Le Gaulois (drink)
A favorite in the summer as it is a tiny cafe that is covered by an enormous tree and is nestled into a corner just outside of the Cathedral Saint Sauveur. There is always a breeze and it is in the shade so it’s a perfect respite from the summer heat. I love grabbing a drink here and sitting for a while. There are lots of locals here.
A favorite in the summer as it is a tiny cafe that is covered by an enormous tree and is nestled into a corner just outside of the Cathedral Saint Sauveur.
There is always a breeze and it is in the shade so it’s a perfect respite from the summer heat.
I love grabbing a drink here and sitting for a while.
There are lots of locals here.
Aix-en-Provence: Le Petit Bistro
If you’d like something fancier for lunch or dinner, this is a nice spot. It is small and very French.
To get here, cross the square with L’Archeveche on your left. At the top of the square go right onto Rue Adanson and follow it to the end. Turn left onto rue de Littera where you’ll follow it along until it becomes Rue Campra as you walk left. Le Bistro will be right there. It’s about 5 minutes from the Square.
This is a nice little wander if nothing else.
(Be sure to reserve as this restaurant is popular and small)
If you’re not ready for a pause, have a wander through the streets on either side. There are some very cute boutiques and it’s quiet and cool.
Aix-en-Provence: Quartier Mazarin
Sometimes when I want to get off of Le Cours Mirabeau, I escape into Quartier Mazarin. This is a very beautiful and chic neighborhood. Here you can quietly wander and admire the beauty of the 17th-century mansions that line the street.
I begin my walk on Rue Joseph Cabassol. This street is the first right after Patisserie Bechard (If you like Callison D’Aix, this is your place).
When I’m in the mood for a quiet coffee, I will stop at Book in Bar which is a small English book shop where you can not only buy books but you can sit in their cozy coffee corner and drink coffee, read and enjoy freshly baked cakes.
It’s very casual and is a popular spot here in Aix.
Alternatively, if you have time, I’d pop into Hotel de Caumont. There’s a beautiful terrace where you can have lunch in their peaceful gardens and free entry.
If you feel like visiting the museum, you can enjoy a 30-minute film about Cezanne’s life, along with visiting whatever exhibit is currently on display. The museum itself is worth a visit as it was once a former home, which in modern years changed hands between various organizations such as the post office and a music school. It’s beautiful.
Next, I would walk towards College Mignet (middle school) which is straight ahead at the end of the street.
If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the kids during their break. They’re always huddled together on the steps or sitting in a pack on the sidewalk. I enjoy watching these innocent souls as they laugh and scream out in French.
I have always found that seeing local children and hearing them speak the local language makes the experience feel more authentic.
At College Mignet you must turn right or left. Go left. Just ahead you will see a beautiful fountain which is called ‘Les quatre dauphins’. It’s well known and one of the most photographed fountains in Aix.
As you walk straight along you will see Musee Granet, which you can’t miss as you look up the street.
It is the beautiful building in the distance with its big red doors and enormous steeples. It once belonged to the Knights of Malta. I would suggest a visit here as there’s an impressive collection of both Cezanne and Rembrandt on display.
When you exit Le Granet, you’ll be on Rue D’Italie where you can make your way back into town, stop for a bite to eat or do some shopping.
I often choose to turn around and wind my way back through this neighborhood. If it’s the end of the day you might get a sneak peek behind the gate as people make their way home for the night. Just yesterday I walked by a huge double gate that was open wide enough for me to see. PInch!
Inside, there was the biggest garden I’d seen yet.
There was an elderly couple in the distance watering flowers. As I poked my head inside for a look, an old dog looked up and slowly made its way to the door, and stared at me. I guess he was their form of protection. I kept my distance and decided to walk on but boy would I have loved to have hung out in that garden. It was huge and looked almost like a country home.
Wow! Right in the middle of the city.
Walking through this neighborhood always feels so peaceful. There is usually a warm breeze and thanks to the narrow streets, you are protected from the sun.
If you’re in Aix for the day, do have a wander on this side of town. It’s a charming neighborhood and I’ve noticed recently while talking to some travelers that they hadn’t considered this part of town and had missed it entirely. It won’t take long and afterward, you can walk over to the busier squares or Cours Mirabeau for drinks or dinner.
How well do you know Aix-en-Provence? Do you have any favourite walks to share in the comments below?
Aix and Surrounds
a mini-series of insider tips, tours, and magic.
1. A Walk near Puyricard
2. Aix-en-Provence market tour
3. Evenings in the vineyards
4. Train to Paris & beyond
5. My favorite walks in Aix-en-Provence