Often referred to as the ‘city of a thousand fountains’ thanks to its abundance of waterworks, the sunny city of Aix-en-Provence in the South of France is a sheer delight to visit and is a must-see on any visit to the region. But, in spite of its popularity, the French settlement still has plenty of hidden gems to discover. Here’s your guide to the best of secret spots in Aix-en-Provence.
Invader street art
If you’ve ever been to Paris, then no doubt you’ve probably spotted a fair amount of street art. Well, one of the most prevalent artists in the city (who also covers plenty of other spots across the world) is that of Invader, an anonymous artist who is famed for his street side mosaics.
In Paris, over 1400 of his works can be found in varying shapes and sizes. From full sized mosaics that cover an entire block to smaller pieces the size of your hand that can only be spied by those with the most eagle of eyes, there’s even a Pokemon-style app called ‘Flash Invaders’ where you can take photos of the mosaics you find and keep a record of how many you’ve found. In Provence, there are 10 Invaders to find, largely dotted around the historic city centre.
Rue Pavillon free bookshelf
One of the cutest hidden gems of Aix-en-Provence that bibliophiles simply can’t miss is that of the little bookshelf of Rue Pavillon. Locally labelld as the ‘Bibliothèque Nomade’ (the nomadic library) the idea of the little outdoor bookshelf is that you can take a book to read for free but are strongly encouraged to leave another one that you loved in return.
Hôtel de Montauron
Throughout Aix, visitors will soon discover that there are plenty of ancient ‘hôtels’. These are not hotels that we are accustomed to in that you can book to stay in them but are instead former mansion houses, dotted across the South of France city.
As its name would suggest, Hôtel de Montauron was constructed at the behest of the Montauron family during the 17th-century. Though the interior of the building is privately owned and closed to the public, the exterior can be admired from along the Cours Mirabeau.
Located just off of the Cours Mirabeau, i.e. the main thoroughfare which runs all the way through Aix-en-Provence, Passage Agard is a narrow pedestrian only passage that is partially covered.
The passage was created in 1846 by Félicien Agard and is today the quickest route between the Cours Miarbeau and la place du Palais de Justice. As such, if you’re looking for an off the beaten path place to visit in Aix, then this is the destination to head to…
Though a little way out of the heart of the city, one of the cooler places that bookworms will love is that of the Mejanes Library. After all, the library’s front façade is quite literally made up of three giant books.
When the public library was first founded in 1810, it was actually housed within part of the town hall. However, as demand grew, so too did the need for space and so in 1989 the library was moved to the Cite du Livre centre, which is actually set against the backdrop of a former match factory.
Today, the exterior of the bibliothèque is striking in that it is formed from three building sized books. These are Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince, Albert Camus’ L’Etranger, and Molière’s writings.
Clock on belfry
Though not so much of a hidden gem as some of the other spots in this guide, one of the best clocks in France, let alone in Aix-en-Provence, can be found on the side of the belfry which is on Place de l’Hôtel de Ville.
While the tower dates back to 1510, the astronomic clock was added to the tower in 1661. Close by, you’ll find plenty of pedestrianised streets, eateries, and bars which are perfect for sitting and watching the world go by.
Take a day trip to La Ciotat
Though admittedly a little less off the beaten path than even just a few years ago, one of the best hidden gems in Provence can be found in the form of the charming fishing port of La Ciotat, which is an easy day trip from Aix-en-Provence.
Best visited just before or just after peak season when everything is still open but you’ll have the place completely to yourself, La Ciotat is even rumoured to be where the French game of ‘Pétanque’ (a ball game similar to Boules) first started.
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