There’s a word in French that sadly – but understandably – lacks an equivalent in English: le flâneur. This quintessentially French character strolls the streets with deliberate aimlessness, savouring the surroundings, always observing and observed.
Though traditionally associated with Paris, you’ll find plenty of flâneurs down in Aix-en-Provence. This southern city blends Provençal warmth with an urbane sophistication and self-regard – and has more than its fair share of unhurried amblers and people watchers.
Back in the 15th century, Aix was the capital of the region, and over the next two hundred years, came to be defined by its riches – both cultural and material. That stateliness remains today, visible in the Mazarin district’s mansions, in the regalia of the yearly opera festival, and in the swish of satin scarves as Aix’s flâneurs stroll down Cours Mirabeau.
On this grand provincial boulevard, leafy rows of plane trees shade the café terraces where locals sit and chatter as they watch the world go by. It’s the perfect place to take the pulse of Aix. Make sure to stop awhile at Deux Garçons, a favourite haunt of Provençal artist Paul Cézanne.
Aix is a city that’s best enjoyed at a flâneur’s pace. So cock your hat, slow your step and soak it all in – just as the locals do.
When to go?
All of Provence is at its best during summer, when the long, warm days invite you to enjoy the open air. For opera buffs, July’s Festival d’Aix-en-Provence combines high art with high temperatures. And if it’s rolling lavender fields you’re after, June is the time to go.
Where to stay?
Hôtel de France
Hôtel de France – Aix-en-Provence, France
Booking.com guests love Hôtel de France’s central location, right next to the Fontaine de la Rotonde fountain near Cours Mirabeau. Some rooms have a comfy king bed and balcony overlooking a gently bustling street.
Villa Gallici Hôtel & Spa
Villa Gallici Hôtel & Spa – Aix-en-Provence, France
If you want to do Aix-en-Provence in style, Villa Gallici is the place to come. This luxury hotel may cost a pretty penny, but the villa’s stately suites, relaxing spa and attentive round-the-clock service mean it’s worth every last centime.
Grand Hôtel Roi René Aix en Provence Centre - MGallery by Sofitel
Grand Hôtel Roi René Aix en Provence Centre - MGallery by Sofitel – Aix-en-Provence, France
This smart hotel gets great reviews from Booking.com guests, many of whom highlight its continental breakfast. You can start your day sipping fresh coffee and juice by the serene pool area, which is peppered with ornamental olive and cypress trees. Another hit with guests is the high-quality L’Occitane toiletries in the bathrooms.