Aix-en-Provence – An Active Holiday Guide
Aix-en-Provence is one of the most attractive cities in the south of France. Its public squares, pavement cafés, shaded avenues and fountains lends it a sophisticated feel and it’s a very nice place to be. Aix-en-Provence is a University town and the atmosphere is youthful and upbeat thanks to the 30,000 plus students, including many international students. The city is surrounded by gorgeous countryside and makes a great base for an active holiday. To the east you can hike, climb and mountain bike in the Grand Site Sainte-Victoire. To the north, in the Parc Naturel Régional du Luberon you can explore hill-top Provencal villages, canoe on the Durance and mountain bike through the vibrant orange-red landscapes of the Colorado Provencal. And, head south-west to the Etang du Berre for watersports including kitesurfing.
HIGHLIGHTS | PRACTICAL INFO | ACTIVITIES | ACCOMMODATION
Vieil Aix Markets
Aix-en-Provence has the best markets in Provence. A mass of fruit and vegetable, meats and cheese stands are set up each morning on Place Richelme, just as they have been for centuries. Depending on the season, you can buy locally produced olives, honey, goat’s cheese, garlic, lavender, peaches – the list goes on and on. There’s another market at Place des Prêcheurs on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings. Also on these days, a flea market (marché aux puces) is held at Place de Verdun which is in front of the Palais de Justice.
There’s no better way to experience life in Aix than by taking a stroll under the plane trees of Cours Mirabeau. The wide thoroughfare is mainly pedestrianised, decorated with fountains and lined with cafés, restaurants and Baroque mansions. Opposite the Hotel d’Espargnet is Aix’s most famous café, Les Deux Garçons, which harks back to before the Second World War when the artist Paul Cézanne was a customer. Branch off from the main drag to discover some of the best eateries, boutique shops and other treasures.
Marseille Provence (32 min)
Pharmacie Sextius, 1 Cours Sextius, 13100 Aix-en-Provence.
La Poste, 68 Boulevard du Roi René, 13100 Aix-en-Provence.
AlloCab, 13100 Aix-en-Provence.
Office de Tourisme de Aix-en-Provence
300 Av. Giuseppe Verdi
Phone: +33 (0)4 42 16 11 61
ParkingThere are nearly 10,000 carpark spaces in Aix city centre, but in July and August you'll be lucky to find one. Less stressful is to use the park and ride carparks (Parc Relais) located the main entrances to the city.
Museums, restaurants, shopping, outdoor activities – Aix-en-Provence is a compact city and everything is easily accessible. You can explore the heart of Aix on foot or by bike while the public transport network is great for travelling around greater Aix and the surrounding area. You can buy a single-trip ticket but there are reduced rates available if you buy a daily, weekly or monthly pass. For information and tickets for travel around the Bouches du Rhone department, visit the lepilote.com website.
Active things to do around Aix-en-Provence
Kitesurfing at Le Jaï, Etang de Berre
Just 30 minutes drive south-west of Aix you have L’Etang de Berre, a Mediterranean lagoon that’s perfect for windsports. You’re almost guaranteed a good kitesurfing session here because unlike the coast, you can kite whatever the wind direction. The lagoon is shallow, so it’s popular with beginners and it’s the spot to head to if the Med gets too rough. You’ll find kitesurf schools and equipment rental in nearby Marignane.
Climbing Mont Sainte-Victoire
Half an hour east of Aix is the 1011 m Montagne Sainte-Victoire. If you want to hike to the top, you’ll find the northern side much easier than the nearly sheer southern face. A few hiking trails ascend from the north to the Pic des Mouches, which is the summit. Walking the ridge itself is reserved for serious hikers as the trail is extremely exposed in places. You can get advice on routes and a free map from Maison Sainte Victoire off the D17 in the village of Saint-Antonin-sur-Bayon on the south side of the mountain.
Mountain Biking the Colorado Provencal
1 h 20 min north of Aix-en-Provence is some of the best freeride mountain biking in southern France. Head to a place called Rustrel in the heart of the Parc natural régional du Luberon and there you’ll find a stunning and unique landscape of red-ochre rock known as the Colorado Provençal. This, the birthplace of freeriding in France, is famous for its dry dusty trails interspersed with jumps, drop-offs and berms. Ride through mini canyons complete with weird towering rock formations and fast, technical forested runs. This place will put a big smile on your face and is well worth the trip from Aix.
Mountain Biking in Le Grand Site Sainte-Victoire
East of Aix-en-Provence, between the Vallée de la Durance to the north and the Vallée de l’Arc to the south, Le Grand Site Sainte-Victoire has 34,000 hectares of dry, mountainous terrain. You can pick up FFC waymarked mountain bike loops from Saint-Marc-Jaumegarde, La Sinne, Roques Hautes and Vauvenargues. With 24 graded trails, all abilities are catered for but there’s an abundance of technical rocky descents and fast singletrack. Take plenty of water, it’s roasting hot here in the summer. Camping Sainte Victoire in Beaurecueil is close to the trails.
Paragliding near Aix-en-Provence
There are 2 FFVL approved pragliding sites on Mont Sainte-Victoire. On the east side of the mounain, the take-off site is signposted from the Saint-Ser car park (Puyloubier) to the Pic des Mouches take-off area. On the west side, from the Pont de l’Anchois car park (St Antonin s/Bayon), follow the trail to the Cézanne refuge, then follow the red markers to the peak. You can organise tandem flights with the Club FFVL Parapentes de Sainte-Victoire. If you’re going it alone, talk to local pilots about the conditions and bear in mind that Sainte-Victoire is a site for advanced pilots only.
Rock Climbing near Aix-en-Provence
There are 4 rock climbing sites just to the east of Aix. The closest, Les Carrières de Bibémus, is just 12 km outside the city centre. It’s bouldering and single pitch on limestone slabs up to 5 m high and there’s more than 100 routes graded from 3a to 7a (French). 3 more locations are dotted along the south side of Mont Sainte-Victoire – La Paroi du Rouge, Les Dessous de la Vierge and the largest area, Les Deux Aiguilles. Here there are more than 100 south facing routes from 6a to 7c on limestone pitches up to 40 m.
Please leave a comment below if you need specific advice for your trip to Aix-en-Provence, or if you have any recommendations to help us improve this guide. Happy holidays!