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Is there any need to introduce Aix, the historical capital of Provence? The charming town offers visitors a rich and fascinating architectural and cultural heritage. But beyond the homeland of Paul Cézanne and Emile Zola, there are many sites to explore. The Pays d’Aix, of course, but also natural sites, beautiful ruins, and typical Provençal localities on the border with the neighbouring département of Vaucluse. What are the ten places to see in the region around Aix-en-Provence? Follow the guide and let’s go on an excursion less than 30 km from the centre of Aix!
 

 

 

Around Aix-en-Provence

What does Aix-en-Provence mean to you?

The Cours Mirabeau and its mossy fountains?

Cours Mirabeau, Aix-en-Provence © French Moments
Cours Mirabeau, Aix-en-Provence © French Moments

The delightful Place d’Albertas?

Fountain of Albertas © French Moments
Fountain of Albertas © French Moments

The private mansions of the historic centre?

Aix-en-Provence Old Town - Ancien Archevêché © French Moments
Aix-en-Provence Old Town – Ancien Archevêché © French Moments

The delicious calissons of Aix?

Calissons of Aix © French Moments
Calissons of Aix © French Moments

The memory of Paul Cézanne or Emile Zola?

Cézanne - Montagne Sainte-Victoire from the Bibemus Quarry (1897)
Cézanne – Montagne Sainte-Victoire from the Bibemus Quarry (1897)

Aix-en-Provence is all this… and much more!

But for now, let’s leave the city walls to explore its surroundings…

 

Staying around Aix-en-Provence

You can choose from a great range of accommodation in Aix-en-Provence, from hotels to B&B and campings! My recommendation is to book your accommodation near the city centre. Although it’s a more pricey option, you’ll save time on transportation and can access most of the 10 things to see within walking distance.

Also, when possible, don’t wait until the last minute to book as finding hotel rooms can be a problem, especially on weekdays.

To book your accommodation in Aix, click on this affiliate link which will redirect you to our partner booking.com… or use the interactive map below:



Booking.com

 

What to see around Aix-en-Provence?

Aix-en-Provence the capital of the Aixois, a part of Provence which is very touristic. To avoid having to write an encyclopaedia on the subject (!), I have voluntarily limited myself to a small selection of 10 destinations within a maximum radius of 30 km.

Around Aix-en-Provence: La Tour d'Aigues © Yelkrokoyade - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Around Aix-en-Provence: La Tour d’Aigues © Yelkrokoyade – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

► Do you have any suggestions for visits to and around Aix-en-Provence? Write them in the comments at the bottom of the article!

Here are the ten main destinations we will discover around Aix-en-Provence:

  1. Montagne Sainte-Victoire
  2. Peyrolles-en-Provence
  3. Pertuis
  4. La Tour d’Aigues
  5. Ansouis
  6. La Roque d’Anthéron
  7. Lambesc et les sites de La Barben
  8. Ventabren
  9. Mimet et la Chaîne de l’Etoile
  10. Trets

 

Check the exact location of the 10 places on our Google Map.

Around Aix-en-Provence Map

 

To help you, I have included links to the corresponding tourist offices for most of the destinations around Aix-en-Provence. Don’t hesitate to go there to get personal information on natural or cultural sites to discover, hikes to find or the programme of upcoming events.

Let’s start this little trip around Aix-en-Provence with a highly symbolic site close to the city centre: the Sainte-Victoire!

 

Montagne Sainte-Victoire

Mountainous massif about ten km east of Aix

The Montagne Sainte-Victoire is an emblematic natural landmark of Provence, like other famous peaks such as the Mont Ventoux and the Sainte-Baume. The “Montagne d’Aix” extends over 18 kilometres east of Aix-en-Provence. Reaching 1,011 metres at the Pic des Mouches, the famous mountain owes its fame to the painter Paul Cézanne, who could see it from his home in Aix. The summit of the “Croix de Provence” offers spectacular views of the Sainte-Baume, the Luberon and Etoile ranges, the Durance valley and the Provencal Alps.

Montagne Sainte-Victoire. Photo by bbsferrari via Envato Elements
Montagne Sainte-Victoire. Photo by bbsferrari via Envato Elements

I advise you to drive around the massif from Aix-en-Provence. The 60 km long circuit follows the D17, DD57D, D24, and D10 roads. You will enjoy magnificent views of the Sainte-Victoire. The route passes through picturesque villages such as Le Tholonet, Puyloubier and Vauvenargues, where the painter Picasso is buried.

Castle of Vauvenargues © Mathieu BROSSAIS - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Castle of Vauvenargues © Mathieu BROSSAIS – licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Find out more about Montagne Sainte-Victoire on the blog

Tourist Board Website to find out more…

 

Peyrolles-en-Provence

Village 21 km north of Aix

On the road to Sisteron and Grenoble, Peyrolles-en-Provence is a small village which has preserved its medieval past with a belfry and a wrought-iron bell tower.

Tour de l'Horloge in Peyrolles-en-Provence © Mathieu BROSSAIS - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Tour de l’Horloge in Peyrolles-en-Provence © Mathieu BROSSAIS – licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

King René’s castle dates from the 17th century and now houses the town hall.

Around Aix-en-Provence - Peyrolles-en-Provence © Mathieu BROSSAIS - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons
The castle of king René in Peyrolles-en-Provence © Mathieu BROSSAIS – licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The church of Saint-Pierre is of Romanesque origin (12th century) but has undergone several alterations since. The church is adjacent to a ruined round tower.

Don’t miss the unusual chapel of the Holy Sepulchre on its rocky spur overlooking the town. The old sanctuary dates back to the 12th century and has a Greek cross plan. The walls are covered with frescoes depicting the creation of Adam and Eve.

Around Aix-en-Provence - Peyrolles-en-Provence © Georges Seguin - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Chapelle du Saint-Sépulcre – Peyrolles-en-Provence © Georges Seguin – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Tourist Board Website to find out more…

 

Pertuis

Town 22 km north of Aix

Pertuis is the capital of the Pays d’Aigues, a charming rural area in the heart of Provence, bordering the Durance valley and at the gateway to the Luberon.

To see: the 13th-century clock tower, the 14th-century machicolated Saint-Jacques tower and the 15th-16th century Saint-Nicolas church, which combines Romanesque and Gothic styles.

Around Aix-en-Provence - Tour Saint-Jacques in Pertuis © Georges Seguin - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Tour Saint-Jacques in Pertuis © Georges Seguin – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Around Aix-en-Provence - Eglise Saint-Nicolas, Pertuis © René Hourdry - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Eglise Saint-Nicolas, Pertuis © René Hourdry – licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

You should stroll through its old streets to discover some of the 130 buildings listed as historical monuments or in the general inventory of cultural heritage.

Tourist Board Website to find out more…

 

La Tour d’Aigues

Village 29 km north of Aix

La Tour d’Aigues is famous for its castle which houses the Musée des Faïences. The Renaissance-style monument (1555-1575) suffered a fire in 1780 and was ransacked by the Revolutionaries a decade later.

Illustration of the castle of La Tour d'Aigues before the great fire
Illustration of the castle of La Tour d’Aigues before the great fire

The château de la Tour d’Aigues still looks impressive with its two imposing pavilions framing a monumental entrance gate.

Around Aix-en-Provence - Castle of La Tour d'Aigues © Véronique PAGNIER - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Castle of La Tour d’Aigues © Véronique PAGNIER – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

In the village, the church of Notre-Dame de Romégas dates from the 13th to 18th centuries.

Around Aix-en-Provence - La Tour d'Aigues - Eglise Notre-Dame de Roumegas © Zil - licence [CC BY 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
La Tour d’Aigues – Eglise Notre-Dame de Roumegas © Zil – licence [CC BY 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Tourist Board Website to find out more…

 

Ansouis

Village 31 km north of Aix

The perched village of Ansouis is located in the heart of the Pays d’Aigues. It is one of the most beautiful villages in France, renowned for its castle, one of the most beautiful in the Luberon.

Around Aix-en-Provence - Ansouis © French Moments
Around Aix-en-Provence – Ansouis © French Moments

This former residence of the Sabran family was originally a fortress that was modified several times over the centuries to serve as a residence.

The parish church of Saint-Martin dates back to the 13th century and was once attached to the village walls.

Around Aix-en-Provence - Ansouis © French Moments
The church of Ansouis © French Moments

It is pleasant to stroll through the shady streets of the village, discovering covered passages. Look up to see the 17th-century belfry with its beautiful wrought iron bell tower.

Around Aix-en-Provence - Ansouis © French Moments
In the village of Ansouis © French Moments

Do you have a little more time and want to go further? Stop off in the tourist village of Cucuron, 5 km from Ansouis!

The countryside of Cucuron, Provence © French Moments
The countryside of Cucuron, Provence © French Moments

Tourist Board Website to find out more…

 

La Roque d’Anthéron

Village 29 km north-west of Aix

La Roque d’Anthéron, bathed by the Durance River, is a small village with a Provencal character. In the centre of the village, the 17th-century Château de Florans houses a clinic and its park hosts the prestigious international music festival every year.

Château de Florans, La Roque d'Anthéron © French Moments
Château de Florans, La Roque d’Anthéron © French Moments

But it is certainly the Silvacane Abbey that attracts tourists to La Roque d’Anthéron! It was the monks of Morimond Abbey (in Haute-Marne) who founded the abbey in 1144. Along with Sénanque and Thoronet, Silvacane is one of the three Cistercian abbeys of Provence. These “three Provençal sisters” bear witness to the great influence of the Cistercian order in Provence.

Around Aix-en-Provence - Silvacane Abbey © [Unknown Author] - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Silvacane Abbey © [Unknown Author] – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Tourist Board Website to find out more…

 

Lambesc and the sites of La Barben

Town, castle and zoo 24 and 26 km west of Aix

On the road from Aix to Avignon, Lambesc has a rich historical and cultural heritage.

Strolling along the streets of the old town centre, you will discover private mansions from the 16th and 17th centuries, fountains built between the 16th and 18th centuries, a 16th-century wash house (rue de la République), as well as a beautiful town gate (Jacquemard tower, 16th century).

Around Aix-en-Provence - Tour Jacquemard in Lambesc. Photo: Véronique PAGNIER (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
Tour Jacquemard in Lambesc. Photo: Véronique PAGNIER (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Around Aix-en-Provence - Saint Michel chapel in Lambesc. Photo: Véronique PAGNIER (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
Saint Michel chapel in Lambesc. Photo: Véronique PAGNIER (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
Old wash house in Lambesc. Photo: Véronique PAGNIER (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
Old wash house in Lambesc. Photo: Véronique PAGNIER (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

To the south of the old town is the picturesque Bertoire windmill. It is one of the few windmills preserved in its original 18th-century state.

Around Aix-en-Provence - Bertoire Windmill, Lambesc © Mathieu BROSSAIS - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Bertoire Windmill, Lambesc © Mathieu BROSSAIS – licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

A few kilometres north of Lambesc, on the Manivert plateau, stands the 11th century Romanesque chapel of Sainte-Anne de Goiron.

8 km southwest of Lambesc is the site of the castle and zoo of La Barben. These are major tourist sites in the Aix-Marseille region.

Tourist Board Website to find out more…

 

Castle of La Barben

With its resolutely medieval look, La Barben is one of the most impressive castles in Provence.

Around Aix-en-Provence - Chateau de la Barben © Georges Simone - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Chateau de la Barben © Georges Simone – licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Its origins date back to the 11th century, but it was remodelled several times in the 16th and 20th centuries. It belonged to the good King René and then to Jean II de Forbin, brother of the famous Palamède de Forbin (known as the Great). The latter was responsible for negotiating the attachment of Provence to France in 1482. It houses the Rocher Mistral, a park on the theme of Provence.

Around Aix-en-Provence - Château de la Barben © Guillaume Piolle - licence [CC BY 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Château de la Barben © Guillaume Piolle – licence [CC BY 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

It is assumed that the gardens of the castle are the work of Le Nôtre.

Official Website to find out more…

 

Parc animalier of La Barben

Nearby, the zoological park of La Barben is home to more than 700 animals of 130 species, including lions, tigers, bears, leopards, wolves, elephants, giraffes, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, monkeys, zebras, as well as reptiles in vivaria. La Barben is the closest zoo to Marseille.

Around Aix-en-Provence - A lioness at the Zoo of La Barben © Georges Seguin - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons
A lioness at the Zoo of La Barben © Georges Seguin – licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Official Website to find out more…

 

Still a little time to spare? On your way back to Aix, stop in the Provencal village of Rognes!

Around Aix-en-Provence - Rognes © René Hourdry - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons
The church of Rognes © René Hourdry – licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

 

Ventabren

Village 16 km west of Aix

Not far from the Etang de Berre, Ventabren is a typical Provencal hilltop village.

Around Aix-en-Provence - Ventabren © Allie Caulfield - licence [CC BY 2.0] from Wikimedia Commons
The village of Ventabren © Allie Caulfield – licence [CC BY 2.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The cobbled and flowery streets of the old village are lined with beautiful stone houses that the inhabitants have carefully restored.

The stairways (calades) add to the authentic charm of the site.

Ventabren © Georges Seguin - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons
The village centre of Ventabren © Georges Seguin – licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

At the top of the hill, the ruins of Queen Jeanne’s castle dominate the surrounding countryside, offering magnificent views of the Etang de Berre, Vitrolles and the Etoile mountain range.

Tourist Board Website to find out more…

 

The Roquefavour Aqueduct

Like a Pont du Gard in the Aix region, the Roquefavour aqueduct can boast of being the largest stone structure in the world!

Around Aix-en-Provence - Roquefavour aqueduct © Allie Caulfield - licence [CC BY 2.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Roquefavour aqueduct © Allie Caulfield – licence [CC BY 2.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The aqueduct is the work of a young 26-year-old engineer, Jean François Mayor de Montricher, who built it from 1842 to 1847 to bring water from the Durance to Marseille.

The structure has three rows of arches and is 400 metres long and 83 metres high. In comparison, the Pont du Gard (built 18 centuries earlier) is 266 m long and 47 m high.

 

Mimet and the Etoile mountain range

Village and natural site 21 km south of Aix

Located in the canton of Gardanne, Mimet has the distinction of being the highest village in the Bouches-du-Rhône département, at an altitude of 491 metres.

Around Aix-en-Provence © Mimet © Clavida - licence [CC BY-SA 1.0] from Wikimedia Commons
The village of Mimet and Montagne Sainte-Victoire in the distance © Clavida – licence [CC BY-SA 1.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The old village is home to the church of the Transfiguration-du-Seigneur (12th century but since altered). There is also a 17th-century ice house which supplied the city of Marseille with ice.

The château-bas (lower castle), owned by the Pays d’Aix, is said to have welcomed Charles V when he visited Provence.

Mimet lies on the northern slopes of the Etoile mountain range, which faces the long rocky bar of the Sainte-Victoire mountain.

The territory of the commune includes the summits of the Etoile range with access by the Col Sainte-Anne trail. The hikes can continue along the ridge line in the territory of the commune of Saint-Savournin with breathtaking views of :

Around Aix-en-Provence - Grand Puech © Fr.Latreille - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Grand Puech: the view to Montagne Sainte-Victoire © Fr.Latreille – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Around Aix-en-Provence - Grand Puech © Fr.Latreille - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Grand Puech: the view to Marseille and the sea © Fr.Latreille – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
 

Tourist Board Website to find out more…

 

Trets

Town 24 km east of Aix

As its name suggests, Trets means “Three” or “Trois”, in the image of its coat of arms representing three three-lobed clovers. This plant, formerly used to cure diseases of the liver, grows in abundance around the Hermitage of Saint-Jean-du-Puy.

Around Aix-en-Provence - Trets. Photo: Google Street View
Trets and Montagne Sainte-Victoire. Photo: Google Street View

The old medieval centre was surrounded by ramparts, which have now been replaced by the Avenue Mirabeau, the Boulevard Boyer and the Boulevard Vauban. Two city gates remain: the Porte de Pourrières and the Porte de Saint-Jean.

Around Aix-en-Provence - City-gate in Trets. Photo: Google Street View
City-gate in Trets. Photo: Google Street View

In the centre of the village, the Place Pailheret is the former market square of Trets. It is bordered by a corbelled house. 

Strolling through the narrow streets, you will discover other houses built on arches thrown over the streets. These vaulted passages can be seen in rue Veyrier, rue Félix Pyat and rue Grande Pujade.

Around Aix-en-Provence - Trets. Photo: Google Street View
In the old town of Trets. Photo: Google Street View

The parish church of Notre-Dame-de-Nazareth dates back to the 11th or 12th century. It has a Romanesque nave and a curious polygonal chevet decorated with a Lombard frieze. Admire the high altar made of polychrome marble.

The feudal castle (château des Remparts) probably dates from the early 13th century. It still has machicolations and loopholes. The interior is decorated with painted ceilings and a baroque fireplace.

Around Aix-en-Provence - Trets. Photo: Google Street View
The medieval castle of Trets. Photo: Google Street View

Tourist Board Website to find out more…

 

Saint-Jean-du-Puy

The village is situated at the foot of the Regagnas mountain range, which includes Mount Olympe and Mount Aurelien.

Mont Olympe © Henri Michelon - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Mont Olympe © Henri Michelon – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Ten kilometres from the town centre, the D12 road climbs to the Hermitage of Saint-Jean-du-Puy, which rises to 658 metres. Local tradition attributes its foundation to Saint Jean Cassien in 412.

In the Middle Ages, the priory belonged to the abbey of Saint-Victor de Marseille. At the top of the hill stands a bell tower that looks like a watchtower. There is a magnificent view of two emblematic mountains of Provence: Sainte-Victoire and Sainte-Baume.

 

Marseille

City 33 km south of Aix

It would be difficult to close this article on destinations around 30 km of Aix-en-Provence without mentioning… Marseille! Even if it is true that we are exceeding our distance rule by three small kilometres!

Largest cities of France - Marseille QXE325V by Sam741002 via Envato Elements
The old harbour of Marseille. Photo by Sam741002 via Envato Elements

A 2600-year-old Greek and Roman city, Marseille is like a magnet. Its Vieux-Port, its Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde basilica, its Canebière, its Panier district… it is certain that France’s third-largest city will never leave you indifferent.

Around Aix-en-Provence - Marseille and château d'If. Photo: f9photos via Envato Elements
Marseille and château d’If. Photo: f9photos via Envato Elements
Marseille. Photo: Grigory_bruev via Envato Elements
Marseille. Photo: Grigory_bruev via Envato Elements

Tourist Board Website to find out more…

 

Practical information

Some practical advice to discover the sites around Aix-en-Provence:

  • You can avoid the traffic jams to and from Aix-en-Provence by driving outside of rush hour, especially if you use the motorways and expressways that border the city to the west and south.
  • These 10 places inspire you to discover the region around Aix-en-Provence (less than 30 km by road). Let yourself be surprised by other discoveries during your escapades, and stay curious! There is so much to discover, especially if you are a lover of small heritage.
  • Don’t hesitate to enter the tourist office centres. During my French travels, the receptionists I met know the area and will be happy to help you discover their beautiful region.
  • Click here to get ideas about accommodation in the area around Aix-en-Provence
  • Visiting the region around Aix-en-Provence? Think of the following hashtags: #provenceaixperience – #visitsouthoffrance – #enfranceaussi – #frenchmoments
May Poppies in Sainte-Victoire © Paul Oublon - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons
May Poppies in Sainte-Victoire © Paul Oublon – licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

 

Other blog posts that might interest you

All our pages about Aix-en-Provence on the blog:

 

More info about Aix-en-Provence:

 

Things to do in and around Aix-en-Provence

Looking for activities and things to do in and around Aix-en-Provence? Check out the offers from our partner Get Your Guide:

 

 

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Around Aix-en-Provence Pinterest © French Moments

Aix-en-Provence Pinterest © French Moments

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About the author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of the Discovery Course on the Secrets of the Eiffel Tower and the Christmas book "Voyage au Pays de Noël".

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