In the late spring, when my four children and I were staying in France’s Jura Mountains and it seemed that summer would never arrive, we jumped in the car and headed to the south of France. I desperately needed to soak up some sun.
Our destination: Aix-en-Provence.
Aix-en-Provence, (Pronounced “EX”), is a small French city in Southern France about thirty miles north of Marseille and the Mediterranean Sea. Aix-en-Provence gets a whooping 300+ days of sunshine a year.
Where we stayed
I found a great centrally located and kid-friendly place for our three nights in Aix-en-Provence. Casa Appart, a self-catering apartment style rental is about a 2-3 minute walk from the center of the old town.
Our apartment in Casa Appart was lovely. I booked it through Booking.com, which is the site I use for most of my European travel (other than AirBnBs) because I can easily input my total guest count (me + 4 children) to find suitable room options. Our Aix-en-Provence rental featured two levels, a balcony, a small kitchen, and enough sleeping space for the five of us.
Casa Appart was super clean and cozy. While staying there, I felt like I was actually living in Aix, not just visiting the city as a hotel guest. I loved the shower and my bed was really comfy. I will note my only complaint with this location: a child unfriendly feature – an unbarred window in the lower level bedroom, which could pose a fall danger to a small child (it opens to an interior courtyard in the front of the apartment). Please keep in mind, this may not seem of concern to Europeans or anyone else traveling from other parts of the world, but to my American wired brain, this seems like an issue, though not enough to detract from this awesome rental pick.
Another plus. The staff at Casa Appart went out of their way to leave birthday balloons and treats for my child who was celebrating a birthday during our stay. Unfortunately, I think I messed up the review I left after staying there and I couldn’t figure out how to go back and change it. I intended to give it a 10/10, but think I must have skipped over a field because a lower rating was displayed. Additionally, there is a washer/dryer available for use ($) in the secured front apartment courtyard, which is always a plus when you’re traveling with kids or travel slow and light.
I found street parking ($) near our rental for the first day, but were advised that there were less expensive parking options that didn’t require constant meter feeding. I later moved the car to Parking Kypton, a cool round shaped parking garage not too far away in the city. Hands down the cleanest and most lit (with natural sun lighting) parking garage I’ve ever parked in. With your parking ticket in hand, we went to the parking desk near the buses and received free bus transfer vouchers back into the old downtown. The kids liked watching the “bus monitor” which showed the stops. French buses seem high-tech compared to the ones we know in the US.
Things to Do in Aix-en-Provence
We kept things simple in Aix. We strolled through the streets of the old town, ate burgers and crepes, drank coffee, shopped at the Farmer’s market, rode the carousel, went to a park, and also hiked Montagne Sainte-Victoire. Aix is a place you can simply enjoy as is, although the tourist office in the center of the old town has tons of information to offer about more “touristy” things to do.
1. The Carousel. If you’re in Aix with children, you can’t miss the Carousel Paul Cezanne. It’s located near the Rotonde.
2. The Markets. The Farmer’s Market practically overtakes the center of the old town, with vendors selling everything from fruit to scarves to Made in Provence soap. Keep your eyes open for other markets, such as street flea markets. We strolled along one street, enjoying displays of French antiques, furniture, and household goods up for sale.
3. The Parks. There are some nice green spaces in Aix. We spent a couple of hours lounging on a grassy hill in one of them and the kids enjoyed playing tag and games in the park.
4. The shops. There are so many great shops in Aix-en-Provence, from funky clothing boutiques to sweet patisseries. You can stroll the streets, window shop and/or shop, shop for hours.
5. The Mountain. By mountain, I’m talking about “the” mountain: Montagne Sainte-Victoire. It’s the famous view painted by artists Paul Cezanne and Pablo Picasso. There is great hiking to be had here. The kids and I enjoyed a great hike to the top, although on the day we went it was so W-I-N-D-Y!
I think Aix-en-Provence is a great place to visit for a day, short-trip, or even for use as a travel base, given its proximity to the mountains and the sea. I loved the city’s energy. My teenagers appreciated the young/youthful teenage and university town vibe. If you’re in southern France or looking to add a French destination to your travels, Aix-en-Provence is definitely worth considering.