Aix en Provence is a small town that feels like it is much bigger. Many people live outside of the city in nearby villages and commute in to go to work or attend school. It is a wealthier town, many older people retire here from Paris, so it is a little on the expensive side. City center is completely walkable and there are a ton of parks. It is a university town with several schools in the area (Bradley Cooper also studied abroad here). This means there are lots of young people, a youthful energy, and businesses aimed at young people. The town is filled with restaurants and cafes. You will never be out of options for a place to eat. Cours Mirabeau is the main drag just south of the city center. Walking along this wide open street you will pass many nice restaurants.
I have begun to pick some of my favorite places I have been to this semester. I hope if you study abroad in Aix you can put these places to good use.
Some of my favorite restaurants include the Mew Cat Cafe (for your furry friend fix, and a good pastry), Book in a Bar (the best bookstore in Aix, also serves coffee, scones and tea), La Table du Maroc (easily my favorite restaurant here. Delicious and authentic Moroccan food (try their mint tea!), SNF (Senegalese restaurant off the beaten path), Pizza Capri (late night slice of pizza to go).
On one of the many sunny days here you can grab a picnic and take it to the IAU art school campus, Marchutz, for a view of the city and some time in nature. Set yourself a scavenger hunt to find all the fountains in Aix, a city known for its many fountains. Parc de la Torse is another great spot for an afternoon lounge, or use their free gym equipment for a workout after a run along the trails. If you’re looking for a more challenging day, you must climb Mt. St. Victoire. Features a gorgeous view at the top and the public bus takes you right to the trail head. Of course with your student ID you get access to all sorts of events and free entrance into most museums.
If you’re looking for an easy day trip hop on a bus or train to a nearby day trip. Nice is great if you’re looking for a larger city with a great beach (perfect for a sunset promenade). Marseille is only a 30 minute bus ride away and is one of the coolest cities in France. It feels more urban and melting pot than other cities. Great museums and a port city. Known from the movie The French Connection. Cassis is one of my favorite coastal cities. Take a boat tour of the calanques, hike from one beach to another, and maybe take a dip in the Mediterranean sea. Going north if you’re looking for a historical trip, try Nimes or Avignon for that Roman feel. When you’re going to all these smaller French towns look out for some local festivals. Some festivals I enjoyed included the Citron, Mimosa and the Carnival de Nice.
Doing all this travel can be stressful. Downloading some of the following apps can help you plan your journeys and find good deals: Go Euro, Skyscanner, Flixbus, Ryanair, Hopper, and Rome2Rio.