Where to stay: For budget-conscience travelers, I’d definitely recommend Airbnb for this one, because there aren’t any hostels in the city. When I went for a weekend, I was able to rent an entire studio flat for $67 per night. I do realize that this is pricier than a lot of hostels, but the flat was big enough for two people, so that would cut the price in half, which is the great part about Airbnb (you typically pay per room or per flat/house instead of per person). The most important thing with choosing a place is to be sure it’s in or near Centre Ville (centre city).
Where to eat: If you’re willing to go a little pricier for a dinner, I would definitely recommend Pasta Cosy. It’s down a side street in Centre Ville, and it’s the best restaurant I’ve been to in the city. The decor is super adorable, the wait staff is extremely friendly (and most speak English), and the food is FANTASTIC. I will admit that the selection isn’t the biggest, but the choices they do have are GREAT. For dessert, make sure to get the chocolat nams, they’re little chocolate spring rolls that are just an explosion of awesome. If you’re looking for a cheap take-away place for lunch (or dinner), try Pizza Capri- there are two locations, one right off the Cours Mirabeau and one in the square just before the Hotel de Ville. If you’re looking for something in between, try La Grange. It’s probably the best pizza restaurant in Aix (this has been confirmed by Aixiose friends of mine!). It’s down the side street to the right of Monoprix on the Cours Mirabeau.
What to do: There are a TON of things to do right in Aix, and it’s also super easy to get to nearby cities from Aix. My favorite thing to do is hiking Mont Sainte Victoire (note that you can’t hike it in the summer because of high risk of forest fires). Mont Sainte Victoire was said to be Cezanne’s favorite subject to paint, and it is absolutely breathtaking, but the view from the top is even better! If you can’t hike up the mountain, be sure to check out Pavillon Vendôme, which is just across Rue Sextius from Centre Ville, and down one of the streets a bit. It’s a really beautiful park with a gorgeous old building, the whole thing is very quintessentially French! There is also l’Atlier Cezanne (Cezanne’s studio), Musée Granet, and a whole host of beautiful parks to check out. Aix is the kind of place where sitting outside at a café with a glass of rosé is a perfectly acceptable way to spend the day, you won’t be wasting your time! Sit back, relax, and enjoy the true joie de vivre!
Overall Opinion: I truly think that Aix-en-Provence is one of the best hidden secrets in the world. No matter where you go in the city, there are new things to discover; new restaurants, hidden alleys, squares, and fountains. If you go in the summertime, you’ll see beautiful green trees spread throughout the medieval centre, plus beautiful fruits, vegetables, and flowers at all of the markets. And for all those history lovers out there, Aix has a little bit of everything for you! The city was originally a Roman bath city because of its natural hot springs, and has evolved beautifully through the ages, never letting go of its charm. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “I am now in the land of corn, wine, oil, and sunshine. If I should happen to die at Paris I will beg of you to send me here, and have me exposed to the sun. I am sure it will bring me to life again.”