Summery, southern and sultry, the town of Aix-en-Provence was made for leisurely long weekends in the sun, with a glass of the best French wine around.
An easy 26km (16mi) drive north from Marseille, Aix-en-Provence is famous for its elegant boulevard, the Cours Mirabeau. Lined with shady plane trees and cafes, it’s evocative of Paris’s raffish Rive Gauche, and from it you’re easily absorbed into the Old Town behind. Whatever your budget – and your bar preference – we’ve got the best places in Aix-en-Provence for local wine, beers of the world, and some delicious, decidedly far-flung cocktails.
Céleste opened in 2018 after its young Parisian owners realised Aix-en-Provence would welcome a sophisticated cocktail bar. Injecting capital chic into a tranquil corner of the old town, the bar serves just a few painstakingly curated cocktails, each made with their own crafted syrups and a wide variety of spirits – the favourite Ma Benz contains black sesame syrup, walnut liqueur and mezcal infused with cacao nibs.
This charming wine bar, set on a quiet crossroad in the old town, is run by two brothers – Amine and Hamza Saidi – who have created an intriguing wine list sourced from passionate producers, farmers and artisans. Their wines, along with a simple menu of moreish dishes (from croque monsieur to camembert croquettes), are served in their bright space: home to window seats, a wood-panelled bar, colourful window art and shelves heaving with bottles.
Bières Paul Jack
In a region known for rosé wines and pastis, beer can come lower on the pecking order in local bars. This is not the case, however, at La Bière Paul Jack – purveyor of more than 250 craft beers – which seeks out others from breweries all over France, as well as from abroad: the UK, Denmark, Canada and the USA. Whet your appetite with their recommendations and tuck into tapas, sharing plates and bruschetta when hunger strikes in their bright orange and yellow bar.
La Cocina Negra
In a corner of town busy with Irish bars and Asian restaurants is La Cocina Negra, with a speakeasy vibe: expect DJ sets, bands, theme nights and drinks promotions in its cosy, cellar-like space. Sip on cocktails including twists on the classics – think daiquiris, pina coladas, margaritas, and moscow mules – as well as their own creations. The lists of rum, whisky and gin are impressively long and a menu presents tapas and sharing plates to fuel you until closing time at 1am.
Pop Pop Le Bistrot
This colourful bar on the edge of the old town is open all week, serving an enticing array of cocktails, mocktails, artisan beers and juices until midnight. Top tip: the French mojito made with elderflower liqueur is delicious. Expect a menu of snacks, tapas and sharing plates, too – the small-scale restaurant serves rotisserie chicken, ribs and burgers for bigger, meatier appetites. The main attractions include live-music sets of jazz and pop.
Au P’tit Quart d’Heure
Despite the name, you’ll want to spend more than 15 minutes in this welcoming little wine bar with a terrace on the lively square, Place des Cardeurs. Owner, Guillaume, is keen to democratise wine and showcase the regional successes – ask for recommendations, especially from the vineyards around Aix. With cool décor that enlists wine barrels and a maze of wooden shelves, it’s a pleasant place to sip – whether you’re inside or out. Do explore the menu for charcuterie sharing plates, terrines and tapenades with fresh baguette slices.
Le Petit Baron
In the corner of Place des Cardeurs – full of bars for every pocket – Le Petit Baron is an atmospheric little spot with a generous food menu, including sharing plates and bistro classics, such as salads and burgers. Take a seat on the leafy terrace – or inside with its cool décor – and study the wine list that presents vintages according to how far away they were made. There’s a small selection of beers, too, if that’s more to your liking.
Au Goût du Monde
For a tour of the best drinks in the world – cocktails, beers and wines – head to cheerful Au Goût du Monde, steps from the cafe-lined Cours Mirabeau. Doors are flung open to the street and you sit on vintage furniture. The menu takes you to Mexico with a Mangolerito cocktail – tequila, mango juice, lime and strawberry syrup – or the Czech Republic with a bottle of Budvar. Wines come from Australia all the way to Argentina and there’s a good selection of rum. With generous tapas and sharing plates, it’s a friendly place for lunch or a whole evening.
If you’re looking for local flair, Le Grillon is your best bet for a classic French bar. It’s loved by holidaying weekenders for good reason – there’s no better way to savour the Cours Mirabeau than on a terrace seat sipping chilled white wine, watching the world go by. Inside, chandeliers, ornate mirrors and panelling up the ambience. Food is pure French brasserie – think croque monsieur and salade niçoise.
Le Vieux Tonneau
In the shade of the imposing Palais de Justice, Le Vieux Tonneau makes for a good place to start an evening with an apéritif, as well-booted professionals join from the offices around. In summer, the terrace is the place to sit, while in cooler seasons you can head down into the vaulted cellar. There’s a good wine list – highlighting some carefully selected vintages – to work your way through while you nibble on platters of charcuterie or cheese made to share.
This is an updated rewrite of an article originally by Alex Ledsom.
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