Bars and Cafés: Aix en Provence

placedescardeursAs a university town, Aix en Provence unsurprisingly has a very lively bar scene. One spot to head to for this is the place Richelme in the Old Town, which has a cluster of busy cafés, all with outdoor terraces, including the Bar de l'Horloge, L'Unic Bar and Happy Days.

Another is the Forum des Cardeurs, pictured, a large open square lined with bars and restaurants. It, like many other parts of the Old Town, is a buzzing hive of activity in the evenings, especially at weekends.

Les Deux Garçons (reviewed below) on the Cours Mirabeau is the classic place for tourists to linger, though you'll pay a fair bit more here for your wine or coffee. Many Aixois prefer Le Grillon a few doors away - and, like a number of other bars in Aix, it offers free tapas with its drinks in the early evening.

News for bars in Aix en ProvenceIn summer 2016, there was bad news for nighthawks in Aix en Provence. Until then bars were allowed to stay open until 2am, creating the city's reputation for fantastic nightlife.

But, following complaints from local residents, closing time was put forward to 12.30am.

A few months later the original 2am curfew was reinstated after bar-owners, officals and residents signed a "night-life charter" - though the earlier deadlne might well reappear again if tensions erupt.

Here we survey some of the best bars, cafés and brasseries in Aix. The line in France between bistros and restaurants is a fluid one and many of these addresses also serve light food, sometimes very good food too, though they're famed for their atmosphere more for their cuisine.

It's also worth exploring places which aren't primarily bars. Book in Bar, at 4 rue Joseph Cabassol, is just that: a bookshop (with an excellent English-language section) which has tables dotted around between the shelves where you can relax over a good read, tea and a light snack.

Just opposite it in the same street, the Caumont Centre d'Art has an elegant, 18th century style salon. By day it serves tea to museum visitors only. But, once the gallery has closed, it turns into a cocktail lounge which is open to all.

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Les Deux Garcons, Aix en ProvenceNo visit to Aix is complete without a trip to Les Deux Garçons, the city's legendary brasserie known informally as the 2Gs.

Le Cintra, Aix en ProvenceA long-established local institution, this simple brasserie just off La Rotonde is remarkably cheap by Aix standards, has a vast menu and serves hot food 24/7, 365 days a year.

Au Pet't Quart d'Heure logoIf you want to avoid the overpriced bars on the Cours Mirabeau: take a tour into the Old Town to this friendly little spot which serves local wines at bargain prices.

aix cave dyves exteriorIf you're going out for a drink, a super way to enjoy fine but affordable wine is to visit one of France's numerous wine shops (caves à vins) which also double as brasseries.

aix segond facadeYou'd expect a city like Aix to be jam-packed with tasty pâtisseries and salons de thé. Not so. You can buy cakes to take away easily enough. But somewhere to sit and chat over coffee and pastries: that's not so easy to find.

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