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Studying Abroad

A guide to student life in Aix-en-Provence

April 29, 2024
Jemima

A confluence of the Provençal elite and Erasmus students, Aix caters for everyone with overpriced sushi and late-night pizza slices good enough for Bradley Cooper, who spent a semester studying here. Read on for midnight hangouts, bootleg madeleines and a rather questionable drinking game. All sounds pretty good for a year abroad student, right? Here is your guide to student life in Aix-en-Provence.

Choosing where to live in Aix-en-Provence

"The old town – which, in fact, makes up most of the city centre – is the best place to lay your head. Aix is so compact that, in order to make the most of your time here, it’s best to be in the thick of it. And as Uber does not yet exist here, you’ll be able to have a short walk (or stumble) home. 

If you are studying at Aix-Marseille University, one affordable option is to go into student halls. In France, they are called ‘CROUS’ and are a great place for meeting new people, although you may find yourself with lots of other Erasmus students who come from the same place. It normally costs around €1300 for the semester, so it is an affordable option for a six-month stint. Remember to factor in the cost of buying your kitchen equipment, bed sheets or anything else for your new room. The residences are 15 minutes away from the centre, so it will feel like a weird student bubble.  As for independent housing, the internet is your best friend. Using websites such as ‘Le Bon Coin’ or even just Erasmus pages on Facebook is a great way to find a room to rent in the centre of this bustling town. Moreover, your language is bound to benefit from having French housemates."

The Best Things to Do in Aix-en-Provence

Cours Mirabeau

The first thing you’ll see in Aix is the Cours Mirabeau, the tree lined avenue which marks the centre of town. Considered Aix’s must-see street, it does not disappoint. Stretching from La Fontaine de la Rotonde to the Old Market in the north, Mirabeau is the perfect place to familiarise yourself with the café culture of France. Stop by Les Deux Garçons – which sadly burnt down last year but is being rebuilt currently – and see where Emile Zola used to hang out with his buddy Cezanne. 

Vauvenargues

Aix is no stranger to famous figures – alongside Zola and Cezanne, Picasso made Aix his home in his later years. Take the bus to Vauvenargues, just ten minutes outside of Aix, to visit Picasso’s chateau nestled in the Provençal countryside. Whilst there, take a hike up the iconic Mont Sainte-Victoire, the mountain which has become a symbol of Provence as Cezanne’s muse. 

Côte d’Azur

If you’re feeling adventurous, why stop there? Aix is well connected, with the Côte d’Azur just a stone’s throw, and a Flixbus, away. Take a 10-minute train to Marseille, from there you can reach anywhere – a popular day trip is the Calanques, a series of coves which offer stunning views and crystal-clear waters. The most convenient is Cassis, as it’s the easiest to reach.

Place l’Hôtel de Ville

In Aix, the best days are spent wandering through the winding streets of the old town, stopping at picturesque fountains for a coffee or an Aperol spritz. A favourite is Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, a large piazza which sees a flower market on weekdays and is transformed into outdoor dining in the evenings. On the corner of the square is Christophe Madeleines, a boutique-cum-hole-in-the-wall, which serves bags of freshly baked madeleines, a traditional and equally delicious Provençal treat. Or, stop at Le Petit Bistrot for some traditional aixois dining. Order an ardoise – a slate which is topped with French hams and cheeses, or a baked Camembert and a glass of wine.

How much does it cost to be a student in Aix-en-Provence

Accommodation costs may vary but they will cost approximately 450-700 euros per month in Aix-en-Provence. Living in Crous residence could cost less, between 350-550 euros per month. There are also travel passes available for students costing around 30 euros per month. It is an affordable city compared to other popular cities in France such as Paris & Lyon.

Choosing modules at Aix Marseille University

There are some interesting modules but I'd recommend trying to do exclusively Erasmus/international modules as they are much more accessible. Definitely also do only Licence 1 or 2 as any higher than that will be really difficult to follow and unnecessary amounts of work. The maximum is 30 credits but I did 25 and there were no issues with that.

Studying means you have lots of free time so go on as many trips as possible! Be prepared that French universities are incredibly different to English universities - they are very unorganised which stressed me out at the start. You have to sign up for classes, sort out your own timetable, make sure you have enough credits and sign up for the exams.

Safety in Aix-en-Provence

Also, as a girl I would definitely say stick together as the amount of times we were heckled, beeped at, etc, and a few of my friends were followed home etc. Also, on a general note, it is best to dress more conservatively there as it is a traditional town despite the student population. 

Food & Drink

Food

The best nights end in food, and Aix is really a winner in this department. Dotted around the city are pizza stands (Pizza Capri, Pizza Lumberjack, the list goes on) which sell large slices of pizza for 2.50€ until they run out at about 2 am. They sell all sorts of toppings and really are delicious, the perfect drunk food.

Bars

Whilst Aix has plenty of cafés and restaurants, it is not known for its buzzing nightlife. You will never struggle to find an apéro here, but if late night clubbing is your thing, you might stand to be disappointed. There are one or two clubs which can cost upwards of 20€ entry, so it’s no surprise these aren’t popular with the students. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t have a fun night out in Aix! You can always find a drink in Rue de la Verrerie – pronounced Verrie by locals – a street tucked away in the old town which is lined with Irish bars that spill out onto the street offering cheap drinks and shooters (shots). For a weekday drink, try Place des Cardeurs. This square has lots of outdoor seating for all the bars and so it is a great place to meet new people. You can even get 2€ glasses of wine from Woods, which doubles as a tattoo parlour late at night…so don’t get too carried away with the wine!

Clubs

You can definitely have a good nightlife, especially if you're willing to pay club entry for about 10€ (however it's sometimes free for ladies/erasmus students). Aix is perfect for a chilled evening wine, you can get a glass for as cheap as 2€ although average is about 4€. Especially when it's warmer the little cafes are great for an evening Aperol.

How to get around in Aix-en-Provence

If you’re in France for an extended period of time, you need a Carte Avantage Jeune from SNCF (national railway) in your wallet. It costs 49€ for the year, but you’ll make this back with rapid speed for it gets you 30% off every  train journey across the country and 25% off international tickets, meaning you can hop across the border into Spain or Italy on your travels. All you need is a passport-style photo at the ready, and you’re good to go. If you have a habit of losing things, fear not: the card is available to add to your phone wallet, so you can never leave it at home.

In Aix, the 'Carte Treize' is essential and you can get it for free from the bus station. All you need is a passport and a passport photo. Available to young people aged up to 25, it works like an Oyster card: top it up and use it to pay for your bus ticket. It also makes travel much cheaper. For example, a 24 hour pass costs just 2€ and will get you to both Marseille and the airport, whereas it would set you back 8.60€ just to get you to the aéroport (not including getting back). The buses are well-connected and reliable, especially the airport line which runs every 30 minutes, but most people prefer to explore Aix on foot. 

Day Trips from Aix-en-Provence

We did a few trips to Antibes and Cannes, to Arles and to Marseille many times. Aix is well connected and to be so near Marseille airport is such a bonus! Everywhere in the south of France is so beautiful but pretty similar so I would recommend getting yourself to Lyon, Toulouse or Bordeaux- there is a TGV station just outside of town

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Written by

Jemima
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