City and spa in the département of Bouches-du-Rhône, southeast France, 29 km/18 mi north of Marseille; population (2005 est) 108,900. The town dates from Roman times and was the capital of the former province of Provence. The city still maintains some of its important traditional functions, namely the courts, university, and spas. These activities are now undergoing regeneration.
A new spa complex opened in the late 1990s, where the hot springs are still used for the treatment of rheumatic and vascular diseases. The court system and university are also being expanded and modernized. As well as being a tourist resort, the city trades in olives, almonds, and wines, and has manufacturing industries including textiles, leather, and processed foods. The city experienced economic development in the 1980s, with the development of a series of industrial parks. Service companies and high-profit activities have become the main components of the economy. The current Sextius-Mirabeau project in Aix is one of the largest city centre urban planning projects in Europe.
Features Aix-en-Provence was founded in 123 BC as a Roman spa, Aquae Sextiae. From the 8th until the 19th century it was the most important city in Provence, until it was overtaken by Marseille. During the 11th century it became a centre for music and literature, and many artists have been and still are attracted to the town. The international festival of lyrical art and music is held every year in the city. It was the birthplace and home of artist Paul Cézanne, whose work has been preserved in the Musée Granet, housed in the 17th-century Priory of the Knights of St John of Malta. The Atelier Cézanne, where the painter died in 1906, is both a memorial and a research centre. There are several other museums.
The town has many historic buildings, including an 11th–13th-century archiepiscopal Gothic cathedral, St Sauveur, and other old churches, a baroque town hall, and many 17th- and 18th-century houses. Its university, now comprising parts of the Universities of Aix-Marseille, was founded in 1409.