Aix passed to the crown of France with the rest of Provence in 1487, and in 1501 Louis XII established there the parliament of Provence, which existed until 1789. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the town was the seat of the Intendance of Provence. Current archeological excavations in the Ville des Tours, a medievalsuburb of Aix, have unearthed the remains of a Romanamphitheatre. A deposit of fossil bones from the Upper Continental Miocene gave rise to a Christian dragon legend.
Geography and climate
Aix-en-Provence is situated in the south of France, in a plain overlooking the Arc river, about 1.5 kilometres (1 mi) from the right bank of the river. The city slopes gently from north to south and the Montagne Sainte-Victoire can easily be seen to the east. Aix's position in the south of France gives it a warm climate, though more extreme than Marseille due to the inland location. It has an average January temperature of 6 °C (43 °F) and a July average of 24 °C (75 °F). It has an average of 300 days of sunshine and only 91 days of rain. While it is partially protected from the Mistral, Aix still occasionally experiences the cooler and gusty conditions it brings.
The Cours Mirabeau is a wide thoroughfare, planted with double rows of plane trees, bordered by fine houses and decorated by fountains. It follows the line of the old city wall, and divides the town into two sections. The new town extends to the south and west; the old town, with its narrow, irregular streets, and its old mansions dating from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, lies to the north. Situated on this avenue, which is lined on one side with banks and on the other with cafés, is the Deux Garçons, the most famous brasserie in Aix. Built in 1792, it was frequented by the likes of Paul Cézanne, Émile Zola and Ernest Hemingway. On 01/12/2019 Les Deux Garçons was devastated by a fire that engulfed the entire building, leaving the much loved establishment just a shell.
The Cathedral of the Holy Saviour (Aix Cathedral) is situated to the north in the medieval part of Aix. Built on the site of a former Roman forum and an adjacent basilica, it contains a mixture of all styles from the 5th to the 17th century, including a richly decorated portal in the Gothic style with doors elaborately carved in walnut. The interior contains 16th-century tapestries, a 15th-century triptych depicting King René and his wife on the side panels, as well as a Merovingianbaptistery, its Renaissance dome supported by original Roman columns. The archbishop's palace (Palais de l'Archêveché) and a Romanesquecloister adjoin the cathedral on its south side. The Archbishopric of Aix is now shared with Arles.
Place de l'Hôtel de Ville
Among its other public institutions, Aix also has the second most important Appeal Court (Palais de Justice) outside of Paris, located near the site of the former Palace of the Counts (Palais des Comtes) of Provence.
The Aix-en-Provence Town Hall (Hôtel de Ville), a building in the classical style of the middle of the 17th century, looks onto a picturesque square (Place de l'Hôtel de Ville). It contains some fine woodwork and tapestries. At its side rises a handsome clock-tower, erected in 1510. Also on the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville is the former Corn Exchange (1759–1761) (Halle de Grains). This ornately decorated 18th-century building was designed by the Vallon brothers. Nearby are the remarkable thermal springs, containing lime and carbonic acid, that first drew the Romans to Aix and gave it the name Aquae Sextiae. A spa was built in 1705 near the remains of the ancient Romanbaths of Sextius.
Aix is often referred to as the city of a thousand fountains. Among the most notable are the 17th-century Fontaine des Quatre Dauphins (Fountain of the Four Dolphins) in the Quartier Mazarin, designed by Jean-Claude Rambot, and three of the fountains down the central Cours Mirabeau: at the top, a 19th-century fountain depicts the "good king" René holding the Muscat grapes that he introduced to Provence in the 15th century; halfway down is a natural hot water fountain (34 °C), covered in moss, dating back to the Romans; and at the bottom, at la Rotonde, the hub of modern Aix, stands a monumental fountain from 1860 beneath three giant statues representing art, justice and agriculture. In the older part of Aix, there are also fountains of note in the Place d'Albertas and the Place des Trois-Ormeaux.
The Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po)
Aix has long been a university town: Louis II of Anjou granted a royal charter for a university in 1409. Today Aix-en-Provence remains an important educational centre, with many teaching and research institutes:
Arts et Métiers ParisTech, an engineering graduate school that settled a campus in the city in 1843. This teaching and research center (CER) let the students attend courses focused on industrial and mechanical engineering.
The American College of the Merranean (ACM), an American-style degree-granting institution with programs in art, art history, business, communication, French language and culture, international relations, psychology and many others. ACM also includes a study abroad institute for undergraduates, IAU College.
Aix also has several training collèges, lycées, and a college of art and design. It has also become a centre for many international study programmes. Several lycées offer CPGE.
Aix holds two significant musical events each year. These are:
An important opera festival, the Festival international d'Art Lyrique, founded in 1948, now ranks with those in Bayreuth, Salzburg and Glyndebourne. The director until 2018 was Bernard Foccroulle, organist and director of la Monnaie in Brussels. The festival takes place in late June and July each year. The main venues in Aix itself are the outdoor Théâtre de l'Archévêché in the former garden of the archbishop's palace, the recently restored 18th-century Théâtre du Jeu de Paume, and the newly built Grand Théâtre de Provence; operas are also staged in the outdoor Théâtre du Grand Saint-Jean outside Aix. Linked to the festival is the Académie européenne de musique, a summer school for young musicians with master classes by celebrated artists. Over the four-year period from 2006 until 2009, Sir Simon Rattle's version of Wagner's Ring Cycle with the Berlin Philharmonic was performed at the Aix festival. The current director of the festival is Pierre Audi.
Musique dans la Rue
This takes place each year in June to coincide with the national 'Fête de la Musique.' There is a week of classical, jazz, and popular concerts held in different street venues and courtyards in the city. Some of these events are held in the Conservatoire Darius Milhaud, named in honour of the French composer, a native of Aix.
The dance company Ballet Preljocaj of the French dancer and choreographer Angelin Preljocaj has been located in Aix since 1996. In 2007 it took up residence in the Pavillon Noir, a centre for dance performance, designed in 1999 by the architect Rudy Ricciotti. The centre is one of nineteen of its kind in France, designated Centre chorégraphique national.
European Capital of Culture
Aix-en-Provence was part of Marseille-Provence 2013, the year-long cultural festival when the region served as the European Capital of Culture. Aix hosted several major cultural events including one half of the Grand Atelier du Midi gala exhibition and an episode of the Révélations pyrotechnical performance. The city also unveiled major new cultural infrastructure to coincide with Marseille-Provence 2013, including the Darius Milhaud Conservatory designed by Kengo Kuma.
Le Musée de Tapisseries (Tapestry Museum), housed in the Archbishop's Palace and with a collection of tapestries and furniture from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Le Musée Paul Arbaud (Faïence/Pottery).
Le Musée Granet, a museum devoted to painting, sculpture and the archeology of Aix. It recently underwent significant restoration and reorganization, prior to the international exhibition in 2006 marking the centenary of Cézanne's death. Due to lack of space, the large archeological collection, including many recent discoveries, will be displayed in a new museum, still in the planning stages. The museum contains major paintings by Jean-Dominique Ingres (among which the monumental "Jupiter and Thetis"), an authentic self-portrait by Rembrandt, and works by Anthony van Dyck, Paul Cézanne, Alberto Giacometti and Nicolas de Staël. In June 2011, the first part of the collection of the Fondation Jean et Suzanne Planque opened at the Musée Granet, containing over 180 artworks. This legacy of the Swiss painter, dealer and art collector Jean Planque, a personal friend of Pablo Picasso, has been donated to the city for an initial period of 15 years. The collection contains over 300 works of art, including paintings and drawings by Degas, Renoir. Gauguin, Monet, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Picasso, Pierre Bonnard, Paul Klee, Fernand Léger, Giacometti and Dubuffet. The full collection will be housed in a specially constructed annex in the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs, situated nearby: the expected opening is in 2013.
Le Pavillon de Vendôme, a 17th-century mansion housing permanent and touring art exhibitions.
L'atelier Cézanne, the former studio of Paul Cézanne, now a museum, located in the northern outskirts of Aix. It has been preserved as it was at the time of the painter's death and contains many of his personal items and props used in his paintings.
Jas de Bouffan, the house and grounds of Cézanne's father, now partially open to the public.
Prior to 1989 Aix had several libraries, for example in the Parc Jourdan and the Town Hall. In 1989, many of these were moved to the Méjanes, an old match factory.
In 1993, the "Cité du Livre" was opened around the library. This has media spaces for dance, cinema and music, and a training facility for librarians. Adjacent to the Cité du Livre are the Grand Théâtre de Provence and the Pavillon Noir (see above).
To the east of Aix rises Montagne Sainte-Victoire (1,011 metres or 3,317 feet), one of the landmarks of the Pays d'Aix. It is accessible from the centre of Aix by road or on foot, taking the wooded footpath of Escrachou Pevou to the plateau of Bibemus. It dramatically overshadows the small dam built by Émile Zola's father and was a favourite subject and haunt of Paul Cézanne throughout his lifetime. In the village of Le Tholonet on the precipitous southern side of Mont Sainte-Victoire, there is a windmill that he used, and beyond that a mountain hut, the refuge Cézanne, where he liked to paint.
To the north, the mountain slopes gently down through woodland to the village of Vauvenargues. The Château of Vauvenargues overlooking the village was formerly occupied by the counts of Provence (including René of Anjou) and the Archbishops of Aix before it became the family home of the marquis de Vauvenargues. It was acquired by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso in 1958, who was resident there from 1959 until 1962, when he moved to Mougins. He and his wife Jacqueline are buried in its grounds, which are not usually open to the public. From 2009 onwards, the château, which now belongs to Jacqueline's daughter Catherine Hutin, has been open to the public from June to September.
Mont Sainte-Victoire has a complex network of paths, leading to the priory and Croix de Provence at the summit, to the large man-made reservoir of Bimont and to the Romanviaduct above le Tholonet.
Association football is represented in the city by Pays d'Aix Football Club, until 2014 known as AS Aix-en-Provence. Their best result was playing in French Division 1 in the 1967–68 season, but recent years see the team playing in amateur levels of the French football league system.
Rugby union club Provence Rugby (previously known as Aix Rugby Club and Pays d'Aix Rugby Club) is based in the city. As of 2021[update], they play in Rugby Pro D2, the second-tier French league.
The city holds a junior fencing World Cup event for men's foil in January of each year. Local fencer Erwann Le Péchoux was part of the team that won the gold medal in men's team foil at the 2020 Summer Olympics.
The manufacture of calissons, a lozenge-shaped confection made from almonds, orange peel, sugar, and crystallized melon. Each year in early September, there is a mass in French and Provençal in the medieval church of St Jean de Malte to bless the calissons – la bénédiction des calissons. This ceremony has been held since the 17th century to mark the deliverance of Aix from the plague. It is currently accompanied by a colourful provencalpageant, involving most of the local calisson manufacturers and their wares. About calissons, Provençal novelist Marcel Pagnol wrote that, to make true calissons "'You need one-third almonds, one-third fruit confits, one-third sugar, and a quarter savoir faire.''
A set of ancient roads radiate out from Aix to the surrounding countryside, the Pays d'Aix. There are also a large number of modern autoroutes connecting Aix to nearby towns. There are autoroutes northwards to Avignon and to the Luberon; southwards to Marseille; and eastwards to Aubagne and the Merranean coast of Provence; and to Nice and other towns on the French Riviera. Aix and Marseille are equidistant from the Marseille Provence Airport (MRS) at Marignane on the Etang de Berre which features domestic and international scheduled passenger service. There is another airport at Les Milles, which is mostly used by general aviation. There is a frequent bus shuttle service from the main bus station in Aix which also serves the nearby TGV station at l'Arbois, in the middle of the countryside about 16 kilometres (10 mi) from Aix.
At Aix, the line from Paris branches to Marseille and Nice; it takes about 3 hours to get from Paris to Aix by TGV. Aix also has a railway station near the centre, Gare d'Aix-en-Provence, with connections to Marseille, Pertuis and Briançon in the French Alps. A frequent and rapid shuttle bus service for commuters operates between the bus station in Aix and Marseille. There are many other long distance and local buses from the bus station. The city also offers a "city pass" available in 24, 48, and 72-hour packages for visiting tourists. The "pass tourisitque" is offered at the Aix-en-Provence Tourist Office, the Atelier de Cézanne, and the official Aix tourism website.
In the town itself, there is an inexpensive municipal bus service, including a dial-a-bus service ("proxibus"), a park-and-ride service and tiny electrified buses for those with mobility problems – these are six-seater vehicles that circulate at a speed of 16 km/h (10 mph). The central old town of Aix is for the most part pedestrianised. There are large underground and overground parking structures placed at regular intervals on the "boulevard exterieur", the predominantly one-wayring road that encircles the old town. Access to the old town is by a series of often narrow one-way streets that can be confusing to navigate for the uninitiated.
As in many other French cities, a short-term bicycle hire scheme nicknamed V'Hello, free for trips of less than half an hour, has recently been put in place by the town council: and has been popular with tourists. As well as overland routes, two "rivers" flow through Aix, the Arc and the Torse, but neither of which can remotely be described as navigable.
The local Aix dialect, rarely used and spoken by a rapidly decreasing number of people, is part of the provencal dialect of the Occitan language. The provencal for "Aix-en-Provence" is "Ais de Prouvènço" [ˈaj de pʀuˈvɛ̃sɔ]. Most of the older streets in Aix have names in both Provençal and French.
Italian electroacoustic artist Giuseppe Ielasi's album Aix was produced in Aix-en-Provence, hence the title.
This is also the site of an alleged sighting and landing of a UFO in 1981 that is taken seriously by GEIPAN, the department within the French Space Agency responsible for investigating aerospace phenomena.
^Jessula, Georges (2003). "Darius Milhaud, Compositeur de Musique". Revue Juive: 140–144. Since their marriage in 1892, Milhaud's parents lived in the Bras d'Or in Aix-en-Provence, where their son grew up; however he was delivered at the home of his maternal grandparents in Marseille.