In charming, lively Aix-en-Provence, lodgings abound for every taste and budget. This civilized, cultured, fountain-filled city in southern France has been a popular tourist destination for a very long time. Here are five hospitable choices in the historic center, close to the famous main boulevard, Cours Mirabeau:
Hotel Cezanne 4-Star
Hotel Cezanne, named for Aix’s most famous artist, is a contemporary delight. The décor is splashy and playful, with vivid colors, modern art, and touches of humor, yet it’s not too much, or jarring; the 2008 renovation was done with a fine sense of design and balance. Walls are a soft gray and the atmosphere is quiet in this 4-star boutique hotel, which has 55 unique rooms on five floors. The guest rooms and bathrooms are on the small side, so if you need space, opt for a suite.
The staff is unfailingly courteous and helpful, happy to suggest restaurants and must-sees. There’s no restaurant in the Cezanne, but breakfast is available, either buffet or a la carte. Some nice touches: complimentary drinks from room minibars, coffee (Nespresso) on each floor, and coffee and fruit in the stylish lobby. Parking is free, though it’s off the property.
Aquabella Hotel 3-Star
Aquabella Hotel is a striking contrast of old and new, with modern rooms in a historic setting. Ancient stone ramparts edge the property, a short walk from the center of town. The 3-star hotel has a pretty garden, a summer-only swimming pool, a spa, restaurants, and meeting rooms. Of the 110 rooms, 23 have terraces with views of the spires and tile roofs of Aix’s old town. L’Orangerie restaurant provides lunch and dinner menus that change daily, while La Terrasse de la Tour is a tree-shaded terrace serving lunches, most with a Mediterranean theme—assorted salads, grilled meats and fish, side dishes, and desserts.
Then there’s the wonderfully tempting spa, mostly free to hotel guests and with numerous options to keep you in shape for sightseeing and relaxing afterward: gym classes and cardio-training machines, hydrotherapy treatments, a Finnish sauna, two Turkish baths, jacuzzi, and massage. Another big plus is that the Aquabella’s rooms are quiet, especially those facing the garden and pool. What’s not to love about this place? I plan to take advantage of everything the spa offers when I return. And I’ll wear my bathrobe to the breakfast buffet, as many contented guests do.
Hotel St. Christophe 3-Star
Hotel St. Christophe is a 67-room, 3-star hotel in the busy heart of town. It’s around the corner from the excellent tourist information center, a children’s carousel spins across
the street, and the tree-shaded Cours Mirabeau is a few steps away. To enter the hotel lobby, you pass by an inviting terrace café and then the Leopold Bar and Brasserie Leopold. Tourists and Aix residents alike swarm to the brasserie, which has a well-deserved reputation for good food. I come here not for fine dining but for well-prepared, tasty dishes and for the festive atmosphere. Art Deco is the theme, and jazz plays regularly. The bar is a fine spot for a fast, simple meal – a croque monsieur, perhaps, with a cool glass of Provence rosé. Rooms in the St. Christophe are smallish but not cramped. They’re quiet unless the bar down the street is going strong, and then it’s noisy into the night. I’d suggest an upper level room, preferably with a balcony. This hotel is pleasant, reasonably priced, and in a great location.
Hotel des Augustins 3-Star
Hotel des Augustins has more history than most. Built in the 15th century, it stands within the walls of the 13thcentury convent of the Grands Augustins religious order.
Martin Luther stayed here some 350 years ago, after the pope excommunicated him from the Church. The place has changed quite a bit since Luther’s time, but the sense of historic importance remains in its stone walls and vaulted archways, a space that was once a chapel for the convent. There’s no hint of austerity in this 3-star hotel, with its air-conditioning, elevator, wi-fi, and comfortably furnished rooms. Some have terraces. A breakfast buffet is available, though no restaurant. The location is perfect, on a quiet street just off the Cours Mirabeau.
Hotel du Globe 2-Star
Hotel du Globe is a good choice in Aix-en-Provence for visitors in search of a nice lodging place that’s easy on the wallet. This one fits the bill. Built in 1970 and recently renovated, including the addition of attractive fabric on the walls and painted wainscoting, the Globe has 46 rooms and a rooftop terrace with a view.
It feels a bit like European hotels the way they used to be, with an unpretentious old-timey charm. Room doors open with real keys, rather than plastic cards; the inexpensive breakfast is simple. Still, that’s nostalgia talking. It’s an up-to-date hotel with free wi-fi and air-conditioning in summer. The location is fine, within easy walking distance to most of Aix’s main attractions. Best of all, the staff is friendly and eager to help with any assistance needed.
Written by Marilyn McFarlane for EuropeUpClose.com