Aix (pronounced like the letter X) was once a Roman spa and then the capital of the region of Provence. Today, this city about 20 mi/30 km north of Marseille is known for romantic streets, stately houses and Art with a capital A.
Impressionist painter Paul Cezanne was born there, and artists still fall in love with the place and never leave. It is also a university town, and this combination gives Aix a young, upbeat, energetic feel.
With its tree-lined cobblestoned streets, Aix is also one of the most charming towns you can visit. Stroll through the Quartier Mazarin, the Cours Mirabeau and the Bourg St. Sauveur to see vestiges of Roman and medieval architecture, as well as wonderful 16th- and 17th-century fountains and facades.
One of the highlights of Aix is a "Cezanne Walk," which takes you by the painter's atelier (it has been renovated to look the way it did when he was alive), and the Hotel de Maurel de Ponteves, where he grew up. Other sights include the town hall and its 17th-century balcony, the cathedral and the Tapestry Museum (housing some Beauvais tapestries). The Vasarely Foundation exhibits works by Victor Vasarely and contemporary artists.
Not to be missed is the Musee Granet, housed in a 17th-century priory of the Knights of Malta. In addition to Provencal painter Francois Granet's donation of a large number of his works, the museum's collections include works by Picasso, Leger, Matisse, Monet, Klee and Van Gogh, as well as nine treasured Cezannne works.
Aix-en-Provence can be seen as a day trip from Marseille or a stopover en route from Paris to the Riviera.
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