Aix fountain at La RotondeAix en Provence is often called the City of a Thousand Fountains - and they come in all shapes and sizes. This picture gallery offers up a small sample for you to enjoy. logoClick here to book a hotel in Aix en Provence

Fontaine de la Rotonde (1860).

Aix en Provence was known by the Romans as Aquae Sextiae, "The Waters of Sextius", and it has always been a lush and leafy city. The Romans used aqueducts to feed the town's water supply - and the thermal baths that the ancients loved.

When they moved out, Aix fell back on its natural springs and, in the 19th century, big irrigation projects such as the canal du Verdon and the Zola and Bimont dams.

Its fountains date from every century. We've never quite managed to find a full thousand of them (in fact the number is closer to 130), but you will see lovely examples at every turn during a stroll through the centre of town. Click here to view our gallery.

The fountains are functional as well as beautiful. Some of them were once used as watering stages for herds moving through the area on the transhumance (the passage of animals between their summer and winter pastures).

Wine chilling in fountain in Aix en ProvenceThe locals came to others - especially the warm-water Fontaine Mossue - to do their washing. Today some terrace restaurants in Aix use the fountains to chill their bottles of rosé wine, pictured!

The Cours Mirabeau is an excellent starting-point for an exploratory walk, with its four contrasting fountains. At the bottom of the boulevard, on the great Rotonde roundabout, is the city's most grandiose one, dating back to 1860 and loaded with allegorical figures (slides 1 and 2).

A little way up the Cours is the Fontaine des Neuf Canons, where those sheep stopped for a drink (slide 19). Then comes a moss fountain (the Fontaine Mossue), the natural hot water fountain (slide 13). Both of these date back to the 17th century.

At the top of the Cours is a 19th century fountain representing Good King René (slide 18). It somewhat idealises the benevolent ruler (1409-1480) who made Aix famed throughout Europe as a centre of learning and culture - in fact he was rather pudgy! Click here to read more about the fountains of the Cours Mirabeau.

Off the Cours Mirabeau, the star fountains are the gorgeous baroque Fontaine des Quatre Dauphins (Fountain of the Four Dolphins, 1667) designed by Jean-Claude Rambot in the Mazarin Quarter. It's supposedly the first free-standing fountain in Aix (slides 10 and 11).

cezanne and meAnd over on the other side of the Cours, in the Old Town, there's an emblematic cast-iron fountain on the place d'Albertas (1912). Pictured: this fountain recently featured in Cézanne and I, a new film about Paul Cézanne in Aix en Provence.

Jean-Baptiste d'Albertas was one of the most powerful men in the city and also built magnificent gardens in his name just outside Aix in Bouc Bel Air (slides 6 and 20).

The famous fountains of Aix aren't just about elegant 17th, 18th and 19th century sculptures. The city continues to expand its treasury and in 2014 got its biggest fountain yet: a massive, ultra-modern wall of water that claims to be the largest in Europe (slide 8).

Unlike Aix's classic fountains, it's not in the Old Town or Mazarin Quarter. Instead it spans the avenue Juvenal, one of the main traffic thoroughfares leading into the city. Jokers have been describing it as Aix's biggest ever free car-wash.

The mur d'eau, as it's called in French, spreads over 700 square metres / 7534 square feet and cascades down through 17 metres / 56 feet.

And of course it doesn't flood the cars passing underneath (in theory, at least): a cunning technical device channels the water around the arch.

Designed by Christian Ghion, it's on the edge of (though not easily visible from) Aix's Forum culturel, the cultural district where you can already find a grand cluster of starchitect-designed buildings.

Also here: the Pavillon Noir, the Conservatoire de Musique, the Grand Théâtre de Provence and the Hotel Renaissance, on which Ghion worked as part of the design team.

On the other side of the bridge is the vegetable wall which stretches right to Aix's new bus station. The mur d'eau runs on a closed circuit of recycled water and is illuminated by night. It operates for 300 days a year (the downtime is for cleaning and maintenance).


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