Essential Aubagne – a city built from clay

Art of living - Cruise

Aubagne is your destination for this tour. During the course of the day, you'll get to meet the crafts men and women who transform the local clay into iconic objects. Indeed, Aubagne is renowned for its santons (figurines) and pottery. After a lunch at Le 3 Farfalle, take a tour of the potters and 'santonniers', makers of the region's famous figurines. Aubagne's charming old town is awash with heritage (the clock tower) and Art Deco features. If you're in the museum mood, you have a couple to choose from: Cité de l’Art Santonnier dedicated to figurines and the Foreign Legion Museum. Just 30 minutes from the cruise terminal.

Art and history at the Foreign Legion Museum

Musée de la Légion Etrangère Chemin De la Thuillière 13400 Aubagne

Before entering the town proper, make a detour via the Musée de la Légion Étrangère, which opened in 1966. There you'll learn all about the everyday lives of the soldiers in this special branch of the French army established in 1831 through displays of military objects and memorabilia. There's even a document centre for military history enthusiasts. This cultural centre, one of a kind in France, also holds temporary art exhibitions. Forward, march!

Distance from cruise terminal : 30 min

The historic centre: city walls, Pagnol and Art Deco

Centre historique d'Aubagne 13400 Aubagne

Continue your exploration of Aubagne's town centre with a visit to 16 Cours Barthélémy, the house where Marcel Pagnol was born. For anyone interested in Art Nouveau, make a detour to the old indoor market, with its magnificent enamel tiles, and admire the town hall's façade. Across from the parish church that dominates the city is the Cité de l'Art Santonnier Thérèse Neveu, a well-known local figurine manufacturer. And don't leave without seeing the Porte Gachiou, part of the city's former defence walls before heading to Cours Foch, the vibrant heart of the city.

Distance from cruise terminal : 30 min

The clock tower and compass dial

Tour de l'Horloge Tour de l'Horloge 13400 Aubagne

Thread your way through the meandering lanes in Aubagne old town in the direction of Square Arnaud Mathieu to find the Tour de l'Horloge. Built in 1900, the clock tower is an example of typical Provençal architecture. Look up to admire its four dials, each facing towards one of the cardinal points.

Distance from cruise terminal : 30 min

Lunch all'italiano Le 3 Farfalle

Le 3 Farfalle 8 rue Marius Pascau 13390 Auriol

Can you hear the clock striking 12? Then it's time to head to one of the finest Italian eateries in town. Le 3 Farfalle serves fresh pasta dishes and home-made fougasse, flat, round bread associated with Provence. The chef is known for his surprising but successful combinations of ingredients! There are also tables on the terrace on a pretty little pedestrian square.

Distance from cruise terminal : 30 min

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A tour of the santon makers

Still on the theme of santons, your tour will take you to meet the various santon makers in Aubagne, passionate crafts folk who hand make these traditional figurines. Start by visiting the 'santonniers' on Rue Rastègue and venture out into the neighbouring streets to see other workshops, some of which have created a museum space.

Distance from cruise terminal : 30 min

Shopping at local potteries

Conclude your art and craft tour by going out to meet Aubagne's potters who transform clay into household objects, gifts and souvenirs. Try Ravel (a manufacturer established in 1837) and the Barbotine factory and shop. Both have brought the tradition of pottery into the modern age with their timeless designs. Also worth a visit are the Bernex studio with its stylish but functional ceramics, Art-Terra which produces ceramic jewellery (they can even design to order), Les Deux Provençales famed for their original cicada creations and the Argilla showroom where they have all their talent and know-how on show.

Distance from cruise terminal : 30 min

Can't-miss experiences

  • Setting off to climb the Piémont du Garlaban, a tower of blue rock appreciated by Pagnol (for seasoned cyclists)
  • Pottering around the typically Provençal lanes in the old town
  • Experiencing the sights, tastes and scents of Aubagne's Sunday markets

We love

  • Watching potters and santonniers shaping the Aubagne clay
  • Walking in the footsteps of the legendary Marcel Pagnol (the author's childhood home and the 'Petit Monde de Pagnol' with 200 santons (figurines) on display) by taking the themed trail the last Sunday of the every month

The best time to visit

  • Early August for Argilla, a huge pottery and ceramics market that takes over Aubagne's town centre (held on odd years)
  • Early December for the international Art Santonnier biennial (Cours Foch and Cours Barthélemy, free admission) (odd years)
  • At Christmas when the city is packed with santons and nativity scenes
  • Theme

    Art of living, Cruise

  • Duration

    1 day

  • Transport means

    On foot

  • Visited cities

    Aubagne

  • Ideal for

    All year round

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