Updated: Jun 12, 2020
The local fish market, a frenetic port, narrow quaint streets in the ancient part of the city, a pleasing marine breeze, the tradition of 'Petanque' common game in the South of France, a refreshing Pastis, a relevant architectural contrast between Middle Age and modernity.
Welcome to Marseille!
We chose Marseille for our city break, this fascinating old fisherman village which is now considered a European Capital of Culture.
First, take 4 girls after an intense exam week with a lot of energy to release, put them into a OuiGo train from Paris to Marseille, don't forget to book an additional ticket for a crazy Mexican which is always late, mix with a sunny weekend in the South of France and fun is guaranteed !
I didn't really know what to expect from Marseille because of the common stereotypes related to port cities and the high criminality level. To be honest, I have to say that as a group of girls it wasn't so easy to go out during the night, the boys comments and persistent looks didn't make us totally at ease and this is why I wouldn't recommend to go out alone during the night.
Apart from that, well, I discovered a different city! A city that conserves its old fisherman identity and was built all around the main port, heart of a vibrant commercial capital for a long time.
Our visit started with a walk in the oldest part of the city, characterised by quaint boutiques and narrow streets, Le Panier. This picturesque neighbourhood inspired the famous French series ''Plus belle la vie''. Today, you can admire several colourful graffiti that celebrate the urban life and attract artists from all over the world. For our lunch break we stopped in a bohemian jewellery shop that served simple homemade dishes cooked by the owners themselves, Le Galoppin. I recommend you to reach Rue des Pistoles for a great choice of typical terraces where to eat.
After lunch, little stop to admire the Cathedral Major, one of the most emblematic religious building of the city right in front of the sea. Then head to the MuCEM, the modern complex that hosts the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations. You will be fascinated by the original architectural style and the contrast with the surrounding landscape that creates a sort of modern window on a historic side of the city. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to visit the museum, so we just walked up to the terrace to reach the Fort Saint-Jean and the ancient lighthouse. Walking through the external tunnels of the museum is like being immersed in another dimensions : the inner darkness is interrupted by rays of sun that penetrate thanks to the holes of the structure. What an amazing view from here!
A greedy sweet crêpe on the port is what we needed to walk uphill to Notre Dame de la Garde, one of the main symbol of Marseille, also called by locals La Bonne Mère. There are buses from the city center, but the 30-minute walk is absolutely worthy once you reach the summit! The perfect time of the day to visit this majestic building is the early morning or late in the afternoon. We had the chance to enjoy the spectacular 360 degree view of the city with the warm colours of a stunning sunset, such an amazing moment!
For our night in Marseille we booked a table at La Tasca, a tapas bar with delicious food and great cocktails. The deco is made of vintage furniture and various melted candles that create a special atmosphere. There's also an external garden which seems perfect during summer! We loved this place and the cool service so much that we spend the entire night here drinking and dancing.
Already time to leave the Grand Tonic Hotel**** and its beautiful view right on Marseille port. We started our day with a quick French breakfast at Brasserie Le Soleil just before exploring the typical fish market of the Vieux-Port, a vital part of the local life and so picturesque. Then time to embark on a ferry to reach Port Frioul, a small island just a few km from Marseille. (Tickets can be bought directly at the various counters on the port ).
This trip made us realised that we chose a totally uncommon period of the year to visit the city : most of the restaurants were closed, almost no visitors on the island, an unusual landscape and such a peaceful atmosphere.
So we walked on the island which is connected to Pomègues, another piece of land characterised by a fortress, spectacular mineral ressources and crystal clear calanques. We felt like we were in another world !
For our lunch stop, great seafood choice in a restaurant right on the pier, BB Island. Shrimps linguine are absolutely my personal recommendation :D
Last stop before taking the train back to Paris : Palais Longchamp from 1839, listed as one of the most notable gardens of France. It was created to celebrate the construction of the Canal de Marseille with the aim of bringing water from the Durance River inside the city. This impotent structure decorated with colourful flowers and a main fountain shows you another totally different style compared to the rest of the city and leaves visitors speechless. Palais Longchamp hosts the Musée des beaux-arts and the Musée d'histoire naturelle.
Do not hesitate to choose Marseille for your next city break, even during cold winter. I forgot the pleasure and the relax of seeing the seaside during low season, when there's a kind of mystic atmosphere that makes you fell regenerated.
Next time I will definitely come back to visit the incredible Calanque National Park while enjoying the good weather, delicious seafood and transparent sea!
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