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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is an updated rewrite of an article originally by Alex Ledsom.