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

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

Molène - Mickaël Féval 31 bis 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

Atelier de Cezanne 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

Carrières de Bibémus 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

Hôtel de 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

Hôtel de Gallifet 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

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

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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Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne

The forerunner of modern art, Cézanne is fittingly celebrated today in his home town of Aix-en-Provence, magnificently portrayed in his work. For the last 40 years, this illustrious painter has been setting the pace for the region's artistic life.

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