City Breaks

Staycation or Abroad: Bath or Aix-en-Provence

The beautiful sister of Bath is great for a staycation, but try sister city Aix-en-Provence in France for a just as fabulous getaway.

Many are drawn to Bath for its architecture, history, and the many places to enjoy shopping and dining out. It is, after all, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a university city. However, its sister city in France, Aix-en-Provence has many similarities and is a wonderful alternative to a staycation. Here we will show you the highlights that make both these wonderful cities perfect for a break and share some of the must-see sights.

Driving from Calais to Aix-en-Provence

Aix-en-Provence is in the sunny South of France, less than 35 km from Marseilles. To reach the city from Calais takes around 9 and a half hours, via the A26 and A7, but it’s the perfect journey to plan some stops en route. You could easily stop in Reims or Lyon on the most direct route, or, if time allows, divert west and enjoy some time in Paris. The beauty of driving is you can set your own pace.

Comparisons with driving to Bath

Bath is in the southwest of the UK, with an attractive drive from the M4 or M5 motorways as Bath is set in the Avon Valley. As you sweep down the rolling hills you get some lovely views of both countryside, dotted with farms and sheep, or glimpses of the Georgian architecture awaiting you in the city itself. Bath is close to the North Wessex Downs, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, as well as Glastonbury and Stonehenge (less than an hour away). Both destinations allow for stops of your choosing.

Similarities between Bath & Aix-en-Provence

These two beautiful cities have plenty in common, from attractive architecture to their student populations. It’s no surprise they are twinned.

Widely regarded as the cultural and artistic capital of the Provençal region, Aix-en-Provence holds festivals of music and art each year and its university, founded in the 15th Century, is considered to be one of the most important in France. Aix means ‘watering place’, and it is a spa town, also famous for its many fountains.

Bath is also a university and spa town, with beautiful ancient Roman baths that draw hundreds of thousands of visitors per year. The Christmas market held in Bath is considered one of the best in the country and the Georgian architecture is just one of the many reasons it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Cathedrals & Abbeys

The Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur d’Aix-en-Provence is an important French national monument, sitting on the site where an ancient Roman forum once stood. What makes it such an interesting place is its Gothic, Baroque, and Roman influences, its three naves are connected to one another but clearly distinguishable in each of these architectural styles. You can visit to soak up the peaceful atmosphere, as long as mass isn’t being held.

Bath Abbey is at the heart of the city, founded in 1499 and a true symbol of resilience as it has been damaged and rebuilt numerous times in its long history. Tours take you to the top of this Gothic wonder, although it is 212 steps! Once at the top you can see across the city and learn stories of how the tower was built. You may even be treated to the peal of the abbey’s 10 bells.

Architecture

Both Bath and Aix-en-Provence are celebrations of architecture. Most of Bath's buildings are made from the local, golden-coloured, Bath Stone, with a dominant Georgian architectural style. Aix-en-Provence is full of stunning baroque buildings and there’s a definite passion for fountains. Indeed, it is often called the ‘city of 1,000 fountains.’

In Bath, the Circus, a circle of Georgian town houses with three entrances shows stonework detailed with emblems, such as serpents, acorns, and nautical symbols. The architect was inspired by the druids, the creators of prehistoric stone circles. In contrast, classic French architecture is perhaps best seen in Aix-en-Provence’s Caumont Centre d’Art, an art museum that sits between a courtyard and a garden, all open to visitors year-round.

Markets

Le Grand Marché is the largest open-air market in Aix. Set up in the Cours Mirabeau area three days a week, it is a fantastic shopping experience, selling everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to flowers, clothing, and other artisanal goods from local businesses.

Bath is also known for its numerous markets, all selling local produce. Guildhall market is one of the most popular, open Monday to Saturday for browsing. However, it is Bath’s famous Christmas market which really draws the crowds. Over 150 twinkling chalets spread out across Bath’s picturesque Georgian streets, filled with local makers and designers showcasing their artisan gifts, so you can tick off everything on your Christmas list all in one.

Other things to see in Aix-en-Provence

The Musée Granet

You could easily lose a whole afternoon here, with over 12,000 works on display, including pop art and original pieces from Paul Cézanne and Picasso. It’s an intimate space, but rarely overcrowded or with long queues. Close to the centre of the city you can easily head to dinner after you’ve had your fill of culture.

The Le Cours Mirabeau

This picturesque boulevard is perfect for a memorable day out. Lined by towering trees, you can stroll along visiting cafes, restaurants, and shops, or sampling treats from the weekly market. In the evening this is a lively area, and often the trees are lined in fairy lights making it even more magical looking.

The Atelier Cézanne

The 19th century post-impressionist painter Paul Cézanne lived and worked in Aix-en-Provence, so this studio where he created a lot of his works is a real treasure. A cross between museum and pure celebration of an artist, the Atelier Cézanne is a studio that has more or less been left untouched, so you get a true-to-life sense of what his working life was like before he died.

Aix-en-Provence alternatives to Bath staycations

Travelling as a family or group can be tricky, but these cities offer something for everyone.

Aix-en-Provence or Bath for families

If you are worried about the little ones, there’s plenty to entertain in both cities.

Aix-en-Provence

The Hôtel de Caumont offers a treasure hunt especially for children to allow them to explore the 18th century mansion turned art centre and uncover its history. Or why not stop for something to eat at Les Fils A Maman (transating to Mama’s Boys) which is set in an old church with an extremely child friendly menu and great décor? Treat them to artisanal ice cream at Philippe Faur for the ultimate sugar-rush and stop by Fontaine des Augustins to throw coins into the fountain and make wishes.

Bath

For children, The Roman Baths offer handheld guides that tell the stories of the past and are sure to keep the kids captivated. Or the Jane Austen Museum entices bookworms and history-enthusiasts alike with an interactive experience guaranteed (you may even meet characters from Austen’s stories). For active children there’s the nearby Avon river cruises or mountain bike trails, although this takes you out of the city a little, towards Bristol.

Aix-en-Provence or Bath for groups

Aix-en-Provence

Many of the popular sights in Aix-en-Provence offer group discounts on ticket prices and dining out is always a treat as there are so many lovely restaurants to choose from, including along Le Cours Mirabeau. Markets and unique shops sit comfortably alongside student-life and historical architecture here, making it suitable for the most eclectic of groups.

Bath

Bath is popular with groups thanks to its great mix of heritage and nightlife. Those that love history are spoiled for choice, while others who may prefer to soak up a city’s atmosphere are sure to be impressed at Bath’s range of entertainment, from high-end restaurants to boutique shopping.

If you are considering a staycation in Bath, why not try Aix-en-Provence for your next holiday.

If you love Bath, we’re sure you can’t wait to see what Aix-en-Provence can also offer, and Eurotunnel can help you get there with ease. It’s just 35 minutes from Folkestone to Calais, and from there your adventure begins.

Open a My Eurotunnel account to stay up to date with travel information, holiday inspiration and special offers.

Staycation in Bath or Aix en Provence with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

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