Villa Saint-Ange channels the splendour of Aix-en-Provence’s honey-toned hôtel particuliers, reviving their 18th-century looks and salon-esque atmosphere. The hotel is minutes from the city’s central boulevard, the Cours Mirabeau, but its sun-soaked terraces, Mediterranean gardens and 28-metre pool will soon have you questioning whether you’re in a city at all. The elegant rooms are an ode to the 18th century, dressed with chevron parquet floors, Persian rugs, silk curtains and a hand-picked selection of art and antiques. Downstairs, you can sip fine tea in the salon, sample artist-inspired cocktails at the bar and discover the true taste of Provence in the restaurant, a light-flooded conservatory with glass walls and a soaring Second Empire ceiling.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £414.44 (€468), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €3.30 per person per night on check-out.
Rates usually include breakfast, an inviting array of American and Mediterranean options, including flaky pastries, fresh Provençal fruits, cold cuts and regional cheeses.
A selection of spa treatments can be carried out in the privacy of your own room.
At the hotel
Mediterranean gardens, free WiFi throughout, laundry. In rooms: flatscreen TV, minibar, free bottled water and bespoke bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Every room has a unique collection of art, objets and antiques, mirroring the interiors of the 18th-century townhouses that line the streets surrounding the Cours Mirabeau. Floors are clad in chevron parquet, windows are screened with silk curtains and the walls are covered in murals in the style of 18th-century landscape paintings. The finest of them all is the suite, which has a grand, light-flooded bedroom with an ornamental dressing screen and a living room with a scarlet Persian rug.
At 28 metres long, the heated outdoor pool is prodigiously sized for a hotel in the city centre. There’s a shallow section running along one side and plenty of sunloungers around the edge, plus a separate Jacuzzi off to the side.
Shaded from the sun by a chinoiserie screen and perfumed by fresh flowers, the hotel’s lone treatment room is tinged with old-world glamour. The therapists offer a range of treatments, including Swedish, Californian, ayurvedic and shiatsu massages, deep-cleansing facials and reflexology sessions. The spa products are by German beauty brand Dr Hauschka. There’s a small, wood-panelled gym with an exercise bike, free weights and a rowing machine.
Leave space for a few purchases picked up at the city’s markets, where traders hawk all manner of Provençal goods. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, local crafts are sold on the Espace Cézanne and antiques can be bartered for over on Avenue Victor Hugo.
The common areas are all accessible for wheelchair users, and two of the guest rooms have been adapted.
On sunny days or balmy nights, request a table on the terrace.
There’s no need to stand on ceremony, but the decor does lend itself to a dressier silhouette.
The restaurant is inside a Second Empire conservatory, arguably the most impressive room in the hotel. The high, decorative ceiling and vast windows flood the room with light and showcase the Mediterranean gardens in all their lush, green glory. Potted palms, painted screens and green cabriolet armchairs echo the colours outside, and the tables are topped with white cloths, polished silverware and gleaming glasses, adding a decadent finish. Head chef Nadège Serret is one of the region’s rising stars, and has created a seasonal menu that captures the soul of Provence and southern Italy, featuring plenty of fresh fish, sun-ripened vegetables, fresh herbs and fragrant flowers, all coming from tried-and-trusted local suppliers.
The wood-panelled, zinc-topped bar is overseen by head barman Joën Saint-Requier, who has created a list of signature cocktails inspired by the city and some of the famous figures associated with it, including artists Pablo Picasso and Victor Vasarely.
Breakfast is available from 7am to 11am; lunch from noon to 2pm; and dinner from 7pm to 9pm. Drinks flow at the bar from 11am to 11pm.
A selection of salads, club sandwiches and heartier mains can be ordered to your room from 11am to 11pm. Smoked salmon, cheese plates and the dessert of the day are available around the clock.
Villa Saint-Ange is spread across two stone houses in the centre of Aix-en- Provence. The Cours Mirabeau, the city’s central boulevard, is within a 10-minute walk.
The best place to touch down is Marseille, which can be reached directly from all over Europe, including London Heathrow, Manchester and Edinburgh airports.
The Aix-en-Provence station, where high-speed TGV services arrive, is a 15-minute drive from the centre of town. Trains from Lyon take an hour; from Paris, it’s three hours. If you’re coming from London, you can take the Eurostar as far as Marseille, where you can catch a connection to Aix-en-Provence’s regular SNCF station, which is right in the centre of town.
There’s little call for a car if you’re planning on sticking within the city limits, as the main attractions are within walking distance. That said, Aix is surrounded by countryside that has inspired generations of artists and featured in some of their most famous work – a solid case for a day trip if ever we heard one. If you have brought wheels, the hotel has valet parking for €30 a night.
Worth getting out of bed for
With the hotel so close to the action, you’ll likely spend most of your time wandering Aix’s historic centre, admiring its grand, honey-toned townhouses, sipping café au lait on tree-lined avenues and tracing Cézanne’s legacy through its galleries. When you’re in need of a breather, the hotel’s placid pool and tree-lined terraces are within easy reach.
Cézanne might be Aix’s most famous resident, but his hillside home in Les Lauves isn’t the only interesting house in town. Equally individual is the hôtel particulier that belonged to Paul Arbaud, a scholar who devoted his life to collecting books and covetable objects, all of which are now displayed at the Musée Paul Arbaud in the Mazarin quarter. The Hôtel de Caumont is another prime example of Aix’s 18th-century architecture, and hosts regular art exhibitions. In summer, the gallery is given over to the work of a single artist; in winter, touring collections adorn the walls. A true taste of Provence can be found at the Musée du Calisson, devoted to the history of the calisson, a Provençal sweet made with candied fruit and almond paste. The museum shares the same almond-tree-studded grounds as the Le Roy René factory, where the classic candy has been made since 1920. Alongside calissons of every sort, the factory shop is stocked with a selection of regional sweets, including nougat, biscuits, sugar-coated almonds and jams. If you’re up for a day trip, consider the town of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, a long-time favourite of the Parisian artistic set. Charming in its own right, Saint-Rémy is associated with Van Gogh, who was a patient at the town’s psychiatric hospital for a year, producing some 150 canvases during his time there.
If you’re looking to lunch in the historic centre, try Licando Le Bistro, a casual (and pint-sized) bistro near the Fontaine de la Rotonde. The dishes are typically Provençal in flavour and the lunch menu tends to offer great bang for buck. Tables are very limited, so book ahead. Le Petit Ferme on Avenue Victor Hugo is best known for its meat – particularly the beef and chicken, which are sourced from some of the best farms in the region. That’s not to say the vegetables aren’t first rate too – nor the desserts, for that matter… Fine-dining restaurant L’incontournable may be spartan in looks but the food and warm-hearted service are anything but. The chefs use the finest sun-ripened produce and free-range meat they can get their hands on. Request one of the tables on the terrace, which circle an old stone fountain. If you’re willing to travel, atmospheric alfresco dining can be had at La Terrasse, one of the restaurants at winery Château La Coste. The Provençal menu includes dishes made with produce plucked straight from the château’s kitchen garden. As the name suggests, the seating is all outside, centred around a fountain and bordered by the manicured gardens.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this traditional Provençal townhouse and unpacked their almond biscuits from local factory Le Roy René, a full account of their city break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Villa Saint-Ange in Aix-en-Provence…
The long-time cultural capital of the south, Aix-en-Provence has more than its fair share of honey-coloured mansions, some of which conceal gardens that almost make you question whether you’re really in the city at all. Even among these, few can lay claim to a 28-metre pool, a vast Second Empire-style conservatory and 8,000 square metres of tree-studded gardens, all of which can be found at Villa Saint-Ange. The designation of ‘inner city oasis’ rarely rings true, but in this case, the hotel’s owners have just about pulled it off. The café-lined Cours Mirabeau and Fontaine de la Rotonde are minutes away, but you’d hardly know it as you sip one of the hotel’s Picasso-inspired cocktails among the 400-year-old olive trees on the terrace. The interiors are no less impressive, not least the light-flooded conservatory that was added during the reign of Napoleon III and is now home to the glass-walled restaurant, where rising star Nadège Serret has been turning heads with her refined Mediterranean cuisine.