Marseille ! Town of sun and crimes. As you can read it almost everywhere when you start searching about it. As it is my mum’s town, I know it pretty well, and I can tell you that it is not true (well, for the sun, it is). I would rather say than Marseille’s people keep this reputation, other way the city would full of tourists all year long.
Because this city is simply amazing !
Oldest town of France, this place get it’s own vibes. Marseille is a city that mixes all kind of architecture in the same place. A kind of “Joyeux bordel” (happy mess), as we say it in french.
Perfect place if you want to mixe sightseeing, outside activities, go to the sea and hang out. It’s the second biggest town of the country, after Paris, but it works like small cities coexisting together. You can easily visit the city by bikes, you will find some Velib bicycle to borrow (1 euro for 7 days !) almost everywhere.
Let’s find out the best places of theses different neighborhood !
Center of the town. This is the most famous place in Marseille. If you come in the morning, you will see fishermen selling their catch. There is a big mirror suspendu above your head that gives nice pictures.
On the south, behind the first street, you will find La place aux huiles. A nice place with restaurants and coffees. But I recommend you to eat at La Passarelle, beautiful and delicious outside restaurant, in a big garden, just under the stairs that goes to ..
This neighborhood is the new spot for a drink at night. You will find there a lot of bars and restaurants. Le Café de l’Abbaye offers a large terrace. It’s one of my favorite views of the port. Just under it, you will find Le Four des Navettes, the oldest bakery of the town where the famous navette biscuits are made. It’s an orange flower biscuit that you’ll find pretty everywhere, but the real ones (and tasty ones) are only there !
If you want a funny experience, you should try the Carry Nation, a clandestin bar hiding behind a library somewhere in Marseille. Make a reservation on their website and they will give you the way to get in….But shhhh.
Other nice place to go out, Le cours Julien is a messy place behind the old port (stop “Notre Dame du Mont” , on subway). You will find there a lot of restaurants, nice coffees and graffitis everywhere around you. If you choose to go back to the old port by foot, you will have the feeling to cross Istanbul. Nice place if you want to buy spices or having a mint tea !
On the other side of the old port (north), you will find a brand new neighborhood. It is now possible to visit the Saint-Jean Fort. A beautiful old fort that will give you an amazing view of the old port. From there, yon can cross a bridge to go to the MUCEM, museum of civilisations and mediteranee sea. This building made in 2013 worth for it’s architectural.
From there, you can go to La Major, a famous néo-byzantin style cathedral from the end of the 19th. You are now very close from….
This is the oldest part of the town, with all there little streets, this place gets it’s own ambience. You will fond there nice shops as the 72% pétanque, a small shop that sells it’s own made Marseille’s soap.
La Canebière, big and famous street that start from the old port will bring you to the Palais Longchamp, a castle who contains a big garden and a museum. On your way up, stop to the Teavora coffee, you will have to ring to get in, and to take off your shoes to walk on a sand floor.
The most important building in Marseille ; the basilica Notre Dame. Not only you will have an amazing view of all the town, but this small building is incredibly beautiful. The golden interior has hanging wood boats. On the outside of the church, you will see bullet impacts from the resistance, during the second world war.
If you’re hungry. I recommend you to eat in the small restaurant that you will find just under the basilica. Establishment held by nuns, it’s tasty and very cheap. If you prefer to have a pizza, La Bonne Mère is the best place in town, and good news, it’s really close !
Just after this restaurant, you will find a leather shop, Création Sacs Mary, who makes beautiful and locals bags. Keep on going down to the old port and you will fall on Paradis street, full of biggest shops.
If you arrived by train, you already know this place and the view from here.
But have you heard about La friche la Belle de Mai ? This cultural place gets a lot of evenings, expos, theater mouvements and activities for young and children. Definitely a place you should know ! However, be careful when you came back late at night, this can be a less secure neighborhood.
Good, now that you did a lot of the inside city, let’s go see a little more the sea ! There is a big street, starting from the old port that goes south and that becomes the Corniche J-F Kennedy. This street will pass in front of the Pharo Palace and his garden and goes on to the Catalans and it’s beach. Keep on going and you will arrive at Le Vallon des Auffes, a bridge above an old small port. This place has amazing (but expensive) restaurants like Chez Fonfon and L’épuisette, best places to eat fish and seafood. I highly recommend you to make a reservation !
After this bridge, keep on walking a bit and look for a small street on your right with the Malmousque sign on it. This will bring you to the sea, a Marseillais’s favorite spot to swim and relax after a day of work. If this place is too crowded, you can also find a place under the next bridge, Le pont de la Fausse Monnaie.
I love to come here early in the morning and swim from there to the little fort on the Gaby island. You get an amazing view from the city. If you want to do more sport, you can also join locals people, jogging on the Corniche street. Following the road, you will pass a bigger beach, La Plage du Prophète, and will arrive in the Prado beach.
Now than you are here, If you are still running, you can finish your jogging it in the big Borely garden, fresh and green spot of the city. If you’re more on a cultural mood, cross the garden on go to the 280 Boulevard Michelet. You will find there La cité radieuse, building of the famous Swiss architect le Corbusier, World Heritage classified by UNESCO.
Outside of the town
If you got time, you can go to different beautiful places like Les calanques, amazing natural park where you can walk and taste a wild sea. Some spot are accessible by bus, but you will need to walk for an hour or two, so bring good shoes ! If you got a car, or that you made locals friends, you should go to Les goudes, a good start for les Calanques, where you can also find nice restaurants and bars. Les calanques can be forbidden during hot summer because of fire danger, look for the information at a tourist information center.
From the old port, you will find cruises to go to the Frioul island and the îf castle. Both islands are really beautiful. You can spend a day walking and swimming in the Frioul island and you can visit the famous îf castle where the count of Monte Cristo, from the novel of Alexandre Dumas, was imprisoned.
Ok, now you are ready to enjoy this beautiful city. Be careful, it’s really easy to fall in love with it !