Aix-en-Provence, France is a wealthy town of 140,000 in the south of the country. Many people combine a trip to Aix with other towns in Provence, France. While there weren’t a lot of kid-specific activities there, we were able to find several awesome things to do in Aix-en-Provence with kids and it is still one of the best places to visit in Provence.
What is Aix?
In short, Aix is a hot spot or hot spring. Aix was founded by the Roman consul Sextius Calvinus in 123 BC. Sexitus named the spring after himself: Aquae Sextiae (Sextus’ spring). It is home to three universities and several French-language schools for international students, so there is a very strong university presence and lots of young people (I feel old just writing that!).
Read more about Provence’s Roman history in The Roman Provence Guide.
Aix is also famous as Paul Cézanne’s town and they play it up, hard. As you may know, Cézanne was a post-impressionist painter and the father of Cubism. We did many Cézanne-related activities, but I am going to put most of those in another post about what to do in Provence.
Read more about Cézanne in Provence.
We visited for almost two weeks in May. Since my mom and friend were with us for half the time, we wanted to find multi-generational activities in Provence that would meet everyone’s needs and wants. My mom had come in from Lyon where they had been on a river cruise and now wanted to explore more of southern France.
Awesome Things To Do in Aix-en-Provence with Kids
Go Round and Round on the Carousel
Aix-en-Provence is home to a very cute merry-go-round, called the Paul Cézanne Carousel. The Carousel is decorated with paintings by Cézanne. Even more impressive, in our opinion, is that it is a double decker carousel. We’ve never seen that before (although we did see another in Marseille later that week, so maybe it’s a thing). As for a Aix-en-Provence things to do, this is a must for younger kids and their grandmas.
Paul Cézanne Carousel, next to the Rotonde at the end of Cours Mirabeau, €2/1 ride €5/3 rides.
Parks in Aix-en-provence
There are a lot of parks in Aix-en-Provence and what could be more French than picnicking in a park? We packed baguettes (of course), cheese, fruit, olives, and wine (for the adults). There are all kinds of markets in Aix and specialty shops to pick up picnic supplies.
Most parks have small playgrounds. My kids thought they were made for younger children, maybe 6-years-old and under.
Parc Jourdan is close to Cours Mirabeau and where we had our French picnic. There is a large grassy area and fenced in children’s play area. Avenue Anatole France, 13100 Aix-en-Provence
Parc de la Torse was located right behind the apartment we stayed in on the east end of Aix, so we used it a lot. The long promenade follows a small stream with footbridges to cross. There are two small playgrounds, large grassy areas, a physical fitness course, ponds, and a futbal (soccer) field. It may be the best place to run in Aix, based on the number of people we saw. Avenue des Ecoles Militaires, 13100 Aix-en-Provence
Parc Rambot is a little farther afield and lined with trees, shrubs, and flowers. There are large grassy areas and play areas with sandpits, swings, slides and a paddling pool. Avenue du Docteur Aurientis, 13100 Aix en Provence
To the west of Aix, the Parc Saint Mitre boasts a rose garden, an arboretum, plenty of shady trees and a number of play and picnic areas. There is a permanent puppet theatre which holds shows on some weekend afternoons. Check with the Aix-en-Provence Tourist Office for the schedule. Avenue Jean Monnet, 13090 Aix-en-Provence
Chasing Bubbles on Cours Mirabeau
It seems that every European city worth its weight has someone making bubbles in the town plaza. It’s one of our favorite things about family travel. Cours Mirabeau is the main street in Aix-en-Provence and that’s where you will find the bubble guy. Pop some bubbles and don’t forget to throw a coin or two into the hat.
Gelato, Pastries, and Calissons, oh my!
There are a lot of sweet goodies for sale and our kids had to try a few. Calissons d’Aix are an iced marzipan candy that the town is famous for. The kids liked the calissons candy; the adults did not, but we were all glad we tried them.
Fortunately, there are plenty of places to get gelato, ice cream, and pastries.
Visit Cézanne’s Workshop
Atelier de Cézanne was the artist’s workshop from 1902 until his death in 1906. Here in Cézanne’s studio, he would work every morning and it looks like he just stepped out to paint his beloved mountain, Sainte Victoire. His easels, skulls, and props are (basically) just where he left them. While our kids got a little bored looking at Cézanne’s paintings at the Garnet Museum, they enjoyed this bit of living history.
Cézanne’s studio, or Lauves Studio, closes for lunch and we got there about 30 minutes before it reopened – whoops! It’s in a residential neighborhood, without any restaurants around. We ended up walking about 10 minutes up the hill to Terrain des Paintres, or Painter’s Land, where he often painted. There are many reproductions of his paintings in this open air museum, all of them featuring Montagne Sainte Victoire, which he painted more than 40 times.
This was a beautiful spot and I am glad we messed up the opening times for the Atelier and ended up here.
The studio is quite small and fills up quickly. The day we went, we had to wait about 15 minutes for people to leave so we could go in. There is a lovely garden to wait in, so that was no problem. There is a restroom, but no café or food sales.
Terrain des Paintres, Grand Place Sainte-Victoire, 49 Avenue Paul Cézanne, 13100 Aix-en-Provence
Atelier de Cézanne, Grand Place Sainte-Victoire, 9 Avenue Paul Cézanne, 13100 Aix-en-Provence, 6 €/adults, 2,50 €/13-25 years, free/under 13 or use the Aix-en-Provence City Pass if you will be visiting a few attractions in a short time.
Ride the Little Tourist Train
The Le petit train touristique d’Aix-en-Provence gives you a guided tour of the city. Headphones are included with the fee and you can choose the language you listen to the tour in. This was a good introduction to Aix, but the best part was how the train got through the narrow streets. People would hug the buildings when we passed. There were places I was sure we wouldn’t fit, but the driver is an expert. The ride lasted 40 minutes.
Pick up in front of the Aix en Provence tourism office on Mon/Wed/Fri/Sun and buy tickets from the driver. On Tues/Thurs/Sat (market days) meet in front of the Apple Store.
Aix-en-Provence is called the City of a Thousand Fountains, though there are more like 20 of them in the city center. We enjoyed strolling around town looking for them. Start at the big one—the Rotonde fountain—and work your way up Cours Mirabeau and then through the narrow the streets that lead to courtyards and plazas.
Our favorites were the moss-covered rocks spouting water from the top. The Fountain of the Nine Cannons was originally a fountain where herds would drink while migrating. The Fountain of Hot Water (a moss-covered fountain nicknamed Moussue) spurts hot water of Bagniers Spring.
Cours Mirabeau Fountains, Fontaine de la Rotonde, Place de la Rotonde, 13100 Aix-en-Provence
Shop Aix-en-Provence Markets
In Aix there are as many markets as days in the week. From fruit and vegetables to antiquarian books to the flower markets, they fill the city with sound and color.
Held in the city’s many squares and in other districts, they are places to meet people, taste regional foods, and take in the sights.
Find out the wheres and whens of the Provence markets at the Aix-en-Provence Tourist Center.
Forest Museum in Provence
Explore the forest at the Institut Pour la Foret five minutes south of Aix. This is a little eco-museum with a walkway designed to bring children into contact with all aspects of the forest. You’ll solve puzzles, answer questions, and follow clues to learn more about the landscape around Aix. Drive or take the bus.
Institut Pour la Foret, CD7 Chemin de Roman,13120 Gardanne, 6,50 €/13 years and older, 4,20 €/4-12 years, free parking, restaurant, restrooms
Day Trips from Aix-en-Provence
During your family trip to Aix-en-Provence you may want to get beyond the city limits and see the famous lavender fields, the Pont du Gard, the French Riveria, or other Provence villages.
Get Wild at Zoos in Provence
The Zoo de la Barben is home to more than 700 animals, representing 130 species, from all over the planet. There is a little tourist train (1€/person/direction) or you can walk the 10 km of pathways. It is 20 km south of Aix and has a playground for younger children. Drive or take the bus during school holidays.
Explore Other Provencal Towns
The Tourist Office arranges a selection of excursions departing from Aix every day of the week. The commentaries on board the air-conditioned buses are given in French and English, and for some excursions in Spanish, Italian, Chinese, or Japanese.
If you want to explore on your own, here are six other beautiful Provence towns.
What to Pack for a Trip to Provence
What time of year you travel to Provence will determine what you pack, but there are a few items that you’ll want year round.
Whether it’s raining or sunny (it does both in Aix!) this double layer, wind proof, UV proof, reverse folding travel umbrella will protect you from the elements. I know that’s a mouthful, but this thing is awesome. And it comes in lots of colors.
I use the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV camera to take photos and videos. It’s an investment, but this camera does it all, including sending photos to my phone so I can post them on Instagram. The screen flips up so you can film or photograph in selfie mode and it has high resolution 4K movie recording with direct pixel readout and no pixel binning and super slow-motion movie3 HFR (High frame rate) up to 960 fps (40x).
I’ve grown very fond of Rick Steves since we’ve been in Europe and really like his guidebook to Provence & the French Riviera. Not only does he share what to do in Aix-en-Provence and where to go in Provence at large, but he tells you the best restaurants in Aix-en-Provence and where to stay in Aix-en-Provence.
Best Time to Visit Provence With Kids
With mild weather year round, it’s almost always a good time to visit Aix-en-Provence. It just depends on what you are looking for.
Summer: long sunny days, sunflowers in July and lavender from end June to August, restaurants and activities are open, festivals (including the Festival d’Aix)…bigger crowds, reservations required for everything.
Fall: Hot, sunny days with a nip in the air during morning and night, grape harvest, fewer crowds, rates drop.
Winter: Christmas markets, rental rates at their lowest, crowds at their lowest …cool to cold weather, some restaurants and activities closed.
Spring: Wildflowers (the red poppies!), markets opening up, fewer crowds than summer …Mistral winds and occasional rain.
How To Get To Aix-en-Provence
Fly into Marseille or Nice. Marseille is closer (just south). There is a navette (shuttle bus) that can take you from the airport to the bus station near the center of town. There are also taxis waiting at the airport.
Aix has both a TGV and a regular station and is well connected both to the Paris – Marseille line and (via Marseille) to the Genoa – Nice – Barcelona line. The same shuttle that runs from the airport to Aix also services the Aix TGV station. The regular train station is at Place Victor Hugo, a five minute walk from the center of town.
It’s an easy drive from all directions. Avoiding toll roads can be slow but enjoyable as they offer wonderful scenery that quicker routes do not.
Parking in Aix can be quite difficult. There is at least one free car park but allow plenty of time to find a space (and the spaces can be quite tight to get into!). If possible, leave your car at your lodging and get around town on foot or bus—many of the streets in the old part of town are pedestrian only.
There is an express coach from Marseille (St Charles station) to Aix, which takes 30-40 min.
How To Get Around Aix-en-Provence
Aix is a fairly small city and can be easily navigated by foot. The bus system is also very efficient and has numerous stops within the city as well as connecting Aix with nearby villages, towns, and Marseille. Discounted tickets for frequent bus users can be purchased at the main bus station. The ticket office also sells discounted multi-pack tickets for the bus from Aix to Marseille and the new TGV station (located between the two cities). Otherwise, buy your ticket on the bus (with exact change).
Would you like to visit Provence, France, with or without kids?