Aix-en-Provence and its painters

Culture

Over two days, this tour will take you on a journey around Aix-en-Provence, a major source of inspiration for artists from Cézanne to Vasarely. By exploring the city that gave birth and to and spearheaded Cubism, you'll get to know the artists by visiting the places they lived in and cherished. Also discover up and coming new talent at Gallifet Art Center. Not forgetting a chance to learn all about architectonics at the Fondation Vasarely!

Day 1 – Aix-en-Provence and Cézanne: a guided tour

Begin your first day by getting to know Aix-en-Provence through the eyes of the artist Cézanne. By following the small plaques stamped with the letter C, you'll be led through the landmarks of his lifetime, from his childhood home to St Pierre cemetery where he's buried. Available from April to October, the guided tours last two hours. Of course, you're also free to explore the old centre at your own pace. See sumptuous town houses and pretty fountains before finding a sunny terrace along the Cours Mirabeau

Day 1 – Aix-en-Provence and Cézanne: the Musée Granet

Place Saint Jean de Malte 13100 Aix en Provence

To get better acquainted with Aix-en-Provence, head to the Granet Museum (inside the Palais de Malte) where an entire room is devoted to the father of modern art and native of Aix. The artworks on display include a painting prefiguring the monumental-in-scale versions of Bathers, a still life he painted at a young age and portraits of Madame Cézanne and the author Zola. There are also some 600 works ranging from primitive art to modern art on display. The audio guide costs €3.

Day 1 – Aix & Cézanne: lunch at Ze Bistro

31 rue Manuel 13100 Aix en Provence

Awarded the Assiette Michelin for its excellent cuisine, Ze Bistro is a restaurant close to Cours Mirabeau that is well worth a detour. The chef Olivier Scola cooks with fresh produce (earning himself the title Master Restaurateur) and has devised a generous menu of 'home made' dishes. The cuisine is inventive and seasonal and looks as sublime as it tastes. Inside, the warm and welcoming colours will make you feel right at home.

Day 1 – Aix-en-Provence and Cézanne: in the artist's studio

9 avenue Paul Cézanne 13090 Aix en Provence

Continue the afternoon by visiting Paul Cézanne's studio on Avenue Cézanne where the artist spent the last four years of his life in retirement but still painting. It is here that he produced his iconic Bathers. Once surrounded by fields, the studio, which still evokes the intimacy of his former work space, contains a large collection of his everyday objects.

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Day 1 – Aix & Cézanne: Bibemus Quarries

3090 chemin De Bibémus 13100 Aix en Provence

Conclude day one with a trip to the quarries in Bibemus that supplied stone during the 17th and 18th centuries used to construct many of the town's buildings. The once popular ochre stone was later replaced by stone from Rognes. Yet it's this colour, one of the shades which features heavily in Cubist works, that radiates from many of Cézanne's paintings. The artist also painted from a hut in Bibemus. There is a handy bus which takes visitors from the city center to the Trois Bons Dieux car park, the departure point of the special shuttle.

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Day 2 – Aix and its painters: Caumont centre d'art

3 rue Joseph Cabassol 13100 Aix en Provence

Begin your second day in the Mazarin quarter, specifically at the Caumont Art Centre set in a stunning town house dating from the 17th century. The property still has many features intact, including the carriage gate, the wrought-iron balcony railing and the handrail which are all protected by the government's historic heritage programme. You can also take a tour of the interior and watch the film about Cézanne's life in Aix, not to mention visit any of the exhibitions on show. End your tour by having a coffee on the terrace overlooking the French formal garden.

Day 2 – Aix and its painters: Gallifet Art Center

52 rue Cardinale 13100 Aix en Provence

There is another magnificent example of a town house just moments from the Caumont Art Centre. Built in the 18th century from stone excavated from the Bibemus Quarries, Gallifet is dedicated to contemporary art. Legend has it that Cézanne was influenced by the sun shining on the stone. Through the year, this atypical venue with its rows of sky-blue shutters hosts exhibitions, festivals and screenings. At tea time, head to Monsieur Chou patisserie for one of their choux pastry specialities.

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Day 2 – Aix and its painters: fancy dining at Côté Cour

19 cours Mirabeau 13100 Aix en Provence

Close to Cours Mirabeau, book a table at Côté Cour, the Baroque-modern style restaurant run by chef Ronan Kernen, once a contestant on the TV cooking competition Top Chef. A natural performer, he strives to create surprisingly original dishes such as his sword fish served with a garlic yoghurt sauce. Gault&Millau, Assiette Michelin and Table13... this confidently creative fine dining restaurant already has a number of impressive accolades under its belt.

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Day 2 – Aix and its painters: the Fondation Vasarely

CS 50490 1 avenue Marcel Pagnol 13096 Aix en Provence

Now your tour of Aix is coming to a close end on a high note by taking an after-dinner stroll to the Fondation Vasarely, a mind-blowing sequence of interconnected metallic cubes housing an art museum. The lumino-kinetic building designed by the artist Victor Vasarely himself is a sight to behold. Resembling a collection of building blocks, the modular structure is made of steel, ceramic and even silk-screen printed vitreous enamel. A feat of architecture and Historic Monument that needs to be seen to be believed!

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Can't-miss experiences

  • Following in the footsteps of Cézanne by taking a guided tour around the town
  • Browsing the vibrant stalls at the daily markets
  • Tasting calisson sweets, delicious morsels made from marzipan and orange blossom

We love

  • Seeing the amazing contrast between the classical architecture using Bibemus stone and the contemporary Fondation Vasarely building
  • Visiting the places where Cézanne expressed his creative genius

The best time to visit

  • In April-May to attend the Rencontres du 9e Art, Aix's comic book festival
  • In summer to attend the Thursday evening jazz concerts at Gallifet Art Center and the opera festival
  • In December to experience the magic of one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Provence
  • Theme

    Culture

  • Duration

    Weekend

  • Transport means

    By public transport, Personal vehicle

  • Visited cities

    Aix en Provence

  • Ideal for

    All year round

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The essentials, 3 flagship cities

Welcome to the three major cities of Provence: Marseille, Aix-en-Provence and Arles. Vibrant and cosmopolitan, Marseille is a modern metropolis and a cultural melting pot. Less than 30 km away, Aix-en-Provence displays the typical décor of the region, a mix of Baroque architecture, art de vivre and terroir. Your tour ends in Camargue and Arles, home to a rich anthology of ancient and Roman monuments, classed as world heritage sites. Follow the guide!

Arles, cultural city break ancient and modern

Arles is an oasis of antiquity with its archaeology museum, Roman amphitheatre and the long-condemned ancient cryptoporticus. You'll travel back to the Middle Ages with a visit to the Church of St. Trophime and Montmajour Abbey that affords fantastic views all around. At the Fondation Van Gogh, learn about the painter's work and his influence on the art world, while the Réattu gives you an insight into 19th and 20th century art history. Don't forget to stop for lunch (we recommend J.L Rabanel) and follow that with more culture at the Actes Sud centre.

Camargue, countryside and coast

Begin your trip at Pont de Gau Park in Saintes-Maries set within the Camargue Nature Reserve. By foot, on horse-back or by canoe, you can birdwatch to your heart's content in this unspoilt and well-preserved nature area. Invigorated, take a breather on the beautiful sand at Crin Blanc beach. For your second day, head to Arles for a spot of recreational fishing or a nature walk at La Capelière. After being totally immersed in the lives of the 'gardians' (Camargue herdsmen) at the Jacques Bon stud farm, watch the splendid sunset on the horizon in Arles.

Inspirations

La pétanque

La pétanque

This sport (yes, Pétanque is a sport, but we'll talk about that later) is an intrinsic part of life in Marseille and has been from generation to generation!

Every quarter has its own boules court and/or boules association, including, of course, a watering hole...

Sardines

Sardines

Terroir

This summer fish is the stuff both legends and dishes are made of

The Three Kings Cake

The Three Kings Cake

Tradition

Epiphany in Provence is like nowhere else!

Lavender

Lavender

Tradition

Happiness is in the lavender field!