Everything You Need to Know About Honeymooning in the Fairytale French City of Aix-en-Provence
Aix-ex-Provenceâ€”or just Aix, as itâ€™s known by the cool kidsâ€”is quite possibly one of the most charming towns in the south of France. The ProvenĂ§al city-commune is an inevitable destination for honeymooners making their way through the Provence region or those seeking a more relaxed weekend away from the City of Lights. Birthplace of Paul CĂ©zanne, the father of modern art, youâ€™ll find art galleries, quaint markets, and beautiful gardens in this historic town. Itâ€™s somehow relaxed, but also buzzing with energy at night thanks to the local student population.
Newlyweds can start their day with a coffee and a croissant at one of the townâ€™s many terrace cafĂ©s before taking a slow stroll through the sunlit narrow stone streets. Afternoons, in our opinion, are best spent relaxing in one of Aixâ€™s glorious spas before ending the day with a lovely meal and a glass of CĂ´tes de Provence vino.
How to Get There
Aix is 20 miles north of Marseille and the Marseille Provence Airport. A 30-minute shuttle bus ride will set you back a little less than 9â‚¬ each way. About a dozen trains also make the trip from Paris to Aix daily with the high-speed option taking less than three hours. Book in advance as the route tends to book up quickly and gets increasingly expensive, especially in the summer.
What to Do
Aixâ€™s natural hot spring baths date back centuries. Thermes Sextius is a modern spa built above an ancient Roman bath downtown at the HĂ´tel Aquabella. The â€śThey Love Each Otherâ€ť package, which includes a massage, a scrub, and all-day spa access, can fill a whole day when you and bae are just looking to relax.
Spend the rest of your time together in Aix exploring the MusĂ©e Granet, an impressive museumâ€”and one of Franceâ€™s firstâ€”which houses works from Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, Matisse, and, of course, local celebrity CĂ©zanne. The post-impressionist painterâ€™s studio is small but also worth a visit. Afterwards, make your way past the bustling shops of the Vieille Ville, or Old Town, until you reach BrĂ»lerie Richelme, a one-of-a-kind spot that any coffee lover will admire. Here, you can watch the roasting process and take in the cafĂ© culture of France at its best by sitting outside and trying one of their 20+ excellent coffee varieties.
If youâ€™re feeling adventurous, rent a car to explore the nearby countryside andâ€”if youâ€™re lucky enough to be there in Juneâ€”to get a coveted shot of one of the regionâ€™s many lavender fields. One of our favorites is at the front of the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Senanque, a 12th century abbey, which is worth budgeting in time to tour as well.
Where to Stay
Housed in an 18-century country estate, Le Pigonnet has been a hotel for 90 years. Youâ€™ll love the locationâ€”walking distance from central Aixâ€”and the gorgeous grounds. Itâ€™s like a French fairytale has come to life here, being built on four acres of floral gardens, blooming arches, chestnut trees, pergolas, and fountains. The romantic property boasts 49 rooms and suites of various styles and sizes. Priced from around $168 a night, guests rave about the service and the mix of modern luxury and old-fashioned charm. Warning: you may not want to leave the property.
Named for Aixâ€™s most famous son, the boutique HĂ´tel CĂ©zanne is a less pricey option, with rooms starting at about $130 a night. Smack in the middle of central Aix, the CĂ©zanneâ€™s location is the hotelâ€™s main draw. Some of the hotelâ€™s 55 rooms are a little on the small side (itâ€™s Europe after all) but the price and top-notch service make up for what the rooms lack in size.
Where to Eat
Chef Ronan Kernan uses the best ingredients that Aixâ€™s local markets have to offer for the creative and spirited cuisine found at CĂ´tĂ© Cour. Fresh, seasonable dishes are paired with a large selection of wines in a modern setting, complete with an intimate courtyard. Think: foie gras, crepes (of course), lamb in a walnut crust, and sea bass fillet.
Without sounding too clichĂ©, the words â€śhiddenâ€ť and â€śgemâ€ť certainly come to mind when thinking of how to describe Les Caves Henri IV by le Formal. Jean-Luc Le Formalâ€™s secluded eatery is tucked away in a 15th-century cellar on Rue Espariat in the center of town. Our advice: opt for the seven-course tasting menu.