Aix-en-Provence: The Place to See French Culture and Young Vibrancy

published in November 2005 at Associated Content.com

by Nithin Coca, Content Producer.

It's hard to explain whats so captivating about Aix-en-Provence (known to locals only as “Aix”), a medium small town in the center of Southern France's famous Provence region. Paris has its amazing architecture, Cannes the exquisite hotels, St. Tropez's famous beaches. But Aix? To the naked eye it looks like a typical sun drenched southern French town. But in reality, it is anything but.

A sophisticated, ultra cool with French chic, Aix does not fit the general stereotype of a College town. In fact, if no one told you about the famous French universities that provide the town with its youthful exuberance, you might just think Aix has a strange preponderance of young people. The main universities here are the Université Aix Marseille I-III, Université de Provence, the Université de la Méditerranée, and the Université de Droit, d'Economie et des Sciences.

The centerpoint of any visit to Aix should be the world famous open air markets, the largest of which is at the Place de Verdun (pictured), opposite the town hall . This market, open tuesdays, thursdays, and saturdays has been running continuously for over 40 years, and is no ordinary open air market, even by French standards. Show me another open air market where you can get fresh Provencal style Paella, fresh from the ocean seafood, and an amazing array of local delicacies prepared by friendly people. You can also purchase the most wholesome baked goods, hearty sausages, and organically (biologique) fruits and vegetables. The best time to go is early in the morning, when the crowds are thinner and the food is fresher. If food isn't your thing, there is also the antique and second-hand book markets, held on the first Sunday of each month, also at the Place de Verdun.

The old town and the main thoroughfare, the Cours Mirabeau, are the best spots to start a tour of the city. The tourist office, located by the grand fountain and roundabout at the head of the Cours Mirabeau, is one of the best in France. If you go in, an english speaking assistant will help you plan out the perfect day or week tour of the many sites of Aix. I could name the sites, but its not the sites that makes Aix unique, its the people and the atmosphere.

As its names suggest, Aix is one of the best places to try some of the best food Provence has to offen, that's why! Provencal cuisine is a mix of French and Italian, with an emphasis on seafood. Some regional delicacies include Soupe au Pistou (basil soup), Daube Provençale (stew), Pieds-paquets Marseillais (cooked meat), and the famous Aïoli (garlic mayonnaise).

So after enjoying a three hour dinner, its time to check out Aix nightlife. With a young, college crowd and a beautiful central boulevard, its not surprise that the nightlife in Aix is some of the best this side of Spain. But don't expect the tourist style top-40 nightclubs of Barcelona and Paris – the nightlife here is trendy and low key. On the (central road) there are numerous bars, each with its own unique style. Many bars cater to the local crowd, but don't let that deter you, there is always a seat for tourists, and it isn't hard to strike up a conversation with locals, many of whom do speak English.

There is one thing about Aix that does make it unique in France – the friendliness of its people. Friendliness is one thing that can, at times, be rare in France, but is in abundance in Aix. And you can surely see why – if you lived in this town, it'd be pretty hard to get angry at anyone!

Official Aix Tourist Office -


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