Aix en Provence
Aix en Provence is Marseille's better-behaved, slightly younger brother. Founded in 123 BC by the Romans, Aix (pronounced "X") is today a lively university town with elegant, aristocratic old quarters, squares lined with cafes and cooled by fountains and a very vibrant arts scene.
"Its good taste comes so naturally that not even the students can disturb it," observed the travel writer Marcel Renébon. "It was the last city in France to give up its sedan chairs."
Our gallery previews some of Aix's exquisite pleasures. Scroll down the page to read more about them. Picture credits: Jean-Claude Carbone for the Aix Tourist Office, except nos. 6, 7 and 13 (Wikimedia Commons).
And, if you would like a phone app guide, Edible Heritage offers a unique audio walking tour of historical Aix, plus tips on the best places to eat and drink in the city and little-known facts about local customs and tasty traditional specialities of Provence. Available here for iPhones and here for Androids.
Click here to book a hotel in Aix en Provence
Aix en Provence is a compact city and many major sights around the Cours Mirabeau, Mazarin Quarter and Old Town can easily be visited on foot. But, if you want to rest your feet or venture further afield, there are various alternatives.
It's a pleasure to go shopping in Aix en Provence with its varied street markets and quality stores, all within an easy stroll round the elegant city centre.
Aix's Old Town is perfectly poised to seduce the visitor with its winding streets, craft shops, boutiques, restaurants, elegant squares, refreshing fountains, markets - and all steeped in centuries, if not millenia, of history.
Hidden in a pine forest high on a sandstone plateau, the brooding Bibémus Quarries are a majestic location and Paul Cézanne mined them for inspiration at the peak of his career.
It's no accident that Aix en Provence is full of sundials. The city has over 300 days of sunshine a year and, in July, temperatures can quite easily reach 30 degrees Celsius or 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
Created in 1976 by the father of Op Art, the Fondation Vasarely has been eroded for decades by a family dispute. But a major restoration programme is well underway and this visionary centre remains a key destination for anyone interested in modern art.
A lively university town with a large expatriate community, Aix has good resources for English-speakers. Here's a checklist plus the nearest embassies, consulates, doctors, lawyers and emergency phone numbers.
Once a sleepy provincial gallery, the Granet Museum has, thanks to some important loans and bequests, built up a fine collection of modern art over the last decade and now stages several major exhibitions a year.