10 largest cities in France




Aix-en-Provence is a French city, located in the Bouches-du-Rhône department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region. Aix-en-Provence (more simply called Aix) is a medium-sized town in Provence (around 140,000 inhabitants), famous for its many fountains, and for having once hosted Cézanne and Émile Zola. It is a very pleasant place, especially in summer when you can have a drink outside, in its sunny climate. It is also a city where there is a very high student population. In fact, 40,000 students attend the university and renowned establishments such as the Institut d'Études Politiques or the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts et Métiers.

Aix has long been a bourgeois city, and the traveler looking for a cheap hotel would do well to stop further away (Marseille, 30 km away, is much cheaper). It is however a place to stop between two stages. The old, narrow streets of the city center are very pleasant to walk (but a nightmare in the car). Aix also contains a number of architectural gems, from its 17th century hotels to its cobbled squares. Place d'Albertas near Cours Mirabeau is one of the most beautiful in the city.



The Cathedral of Saint Savior is the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Aix-en-Provence. Construction began in the 12th century and continued until the beginning of the 16th century. The cathedral forms a single complex with the buildings of the canons and the inner cloister. The triptych "The Burning Bush" (15th century, author - Nicolas Froman) stands out in the interior of the cathedral.
Boulevard Mirabeau (French Cours Mirabeau): built in the 18th century on the site of the fortress wall. At one end of it there is the majestic Rotunda fountain (fr. La Rotonde), at the other - the creation of the famous French sculptor David d'Anger (19th century): King Rene holding a bunch of grapes. Boulevard Mirabeau is the main street of the city.
Tapestry Museum (French Musée des Tapisseries): collection of the old archbishopric. Here are the tapestries created in Beauvais in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Church of Saint-Jean-de-Malte (fr. Saint-Jean-de-Malte): the first Gothic church in Provence. Belonged to the Order of the Hospitallers. Today Saint-Jean-de-Malta is an active parish church where services are held. The church is notable for its special shade of stone, restraint of style, an abundance of light inside, a modern organ and numerous canvases, among which the Crucifixion of Delacroix, which attracts numerous visitors to the church, is especially distinguished. Several stained glass windows can be seen inside. The stained glass apse, dating from 1854, depicts a scene of the Baptism of Jesus Christ. The bell tower of the church rises 67 m above the ground. This is the highest point in the city.
Musée Granet: the abbot's house, built in 1671, converted into a museum in 1838. François Granet donated a large collection of paintings to the museum, after which, in 1949, the museum received his name.
Fountain in the Place d'Albertas (fr. Fontaine de la Place d'Albertas): one of the most attractive tourist places in the city, which has almost no history of its own. His metal jewelry, cast by students of the School of Crafts, dates back only to 1912. In fact, the attractive architectural ensemble of the square itself gives value to the round fountain. It was built in six years (1735-1741) at the direction of Jean-Baptiste d'Albert, on rue Espariat, opposite the mansion where he lived. The square is surrounded on three sides by small mansions, illustrating the nobleman's intention to free up space in front of the entrance to his own mansion and bring the ensemble to a kind of unity. The beauty of this place is given by the amazing harmony of lines: horizontal lines of the walls with notches of false seams on the first floor and lines of stucco ornament on the upper floors, vertical lines of pilasters bordering the second and third floors. J.-B. d'Albert, chairman of the Accounts Chamber, was killed in 1790 by Anise Martel, who was then sentenced to the wheel and executed on the palace square. His skeleton was placed in one of the halls of the Masonic lodge.
Atelier Cézanne: At 9 Avenue Paul Cesanne, the artist's studio can be found. In this place, he created many of his famous works.



In the 4th century BC, Basse-Provence was occupied by the Celto-Ligurian tribe of Salyens or Salluviens, whose capital, the oppidum known as d'Entremont, is located north of Aix-en-Provence, on the road to Puyricard. In 123 BC, following the call of the Greeks of Massalia (Marseilles), in permanent conflict with the Ligurian and Gallic tribes of the neighborhood, the consul Gaius Sextius Calvinus takes and destroys this city-oppidum. He then set up there, near the thermal springs, a camp which quickly became a town, called Aquae Sextiae (“Waters of Sextius”), in order to ensure the safety of commercial transport between Rome and the Phocaean city of Massalia. Thus Aix-en-Provence had been created to hold in respect the Salyan people who could worry Marseilles, the ally of Rome. In 102 BC, at the time of the battle of Aquae Sextiae, Gaius Marius stood up, at the foot of Sainte-Victoire, to the hordes of Ambrons and Teutons whom he defeated. Aquae Sextiae was growing and braught together a large population composed mainly of descendants of the Salyan populations submitted by Rome. The city has ramparts as well as a theater which make it an important city in the region, ideally located to protect Roman interests in Marseille.


In the centuries that followed, several areas of the city were neglected. The ancient theater is dismantled. This state does not signify a decline in Aix-en-Provence, but simply a new territorial organization of inhabited spaces. In the 4th century, the city became the capital of the second Narbonnaise and had a diocese of which Lazarus became the bishop. It was then occupied by the Visigoths in 477. In the following century, it was invaded in turn by the Franks and Lombards, then in 731 by the Saracens.

While the city of Aix-en-Provence is ​​emerging from a long period of economic and demographic slowdown, the Counts of Provence (houses of Anjou and Aragon) decide to make it their new residence in 1189, to the detriment of the towns of Arles and Avignon, from where they once ruled. This strong position will not only give Aix-en-Provence the status of capital of Provence, but above all will allow an unprecedented development of the city. As such, the installation of King René, Duke of Anjou, Count of Provence, titular king of Sicily, in the fifteenth century, marks the golden age of the city, which will forever retain the title of "city of king René ”. This monarch, surrounded by a refined and literate court, will make Aix-en-Provence, from 1409, a famous renowned cultural and university center, endow the city with a court of justice and contribute to its embellishment, after centuries marked by a economic stagnation. King René was, in reality, a deplorable politician whom the Provençals have decked out in a mask of good nature.


From 1486 and the attachment of Provence to France, the governor resides there. Long-haunted, the union of Provence with France was a fait accompli, but it had been united "not as an accessory to its principal, but as a principal to another principal, and separately from the rest of the kingdom" and the city of Aix, like Provence, intended to keep its franchises. In 1501, Louis XII established the Parliament of Provence there, which lasted until the Revolution. Most often, the States of Provence meet there to vote the tax.

At the beginning of July 1608, the suburbs of Aix-en-Provence were covered with a shower of blood. Some monks explained this event by satanic influences. Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc recorded this rain by collecting a few drops on the wall of the cathedral cemetery. He discovered that it was the butterfly droppings that had been seen recently. As the city center had not been invaded, it was spared. This scientific explanation did not calm popular terror.

Aix-en-Provence is the city where Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) spent his life and Émile Zola his first eighteen years. It was at Bourbon College (now Mignet College) that the deep friendship that united them was forged.

Aix hosts the Aix-en-Provence TGV station, the Arbois and Rousset technopoles. Aix also has many universities (letters, law, economics, political science, arts and crafts, fine arts).

The city celebrated the centenary of the death of Cézanne with in particular the international exhibition at the Granet museum: "Cézanne in Provence" from June 9, 2006 to September 17, 2006 which brought together nearly 120 works by the master on the theme of his "dear Provence ”.