Poor Marseille started as a back up plan for me and my best friend, when an apparently pivotal dentist conference blocked out all accommodation in Stockholm. No joke. For me however, this Marseille weekend ticked all budget-boxes and proved a real winner.
3 THINGS YOU REALLY CANNOT MISS:
LES CALANQUES | the gorgeous little town of Cassis can easily be reached if staying a weekend in Marseille. Catch the train, then enjoy a boat ride once there to the icy but dazzling clear waters of Les Calanques. Also check out: Gare de Marseille-Saint-Charles itself for an elevated outlook.
BASILIQUE NOTRE-DAME DE LA GARDE | a bit of a hike, but make sure you do it! There’s a 360-degree view from the top. And inside is interesting in an ornate way, if that’s your thing.
COASTAL PROMENADE | we hired city bikes for a couple of hours. From the port, head left – basically as far as you can be bothered! There’s some quaint little coves, houses to nosy at, and restaurants offering excuses to stop along the way. Also check out: we stopped at gorgeous Le Bistrot Plage for lunch.
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
FORT SAINT-JEAN & NICOLAS | impressive on either side of the port. Explore the marked contrasts of old Cathédrale La Major, alongside new MuCEM and Villa Méditerranée history centres. You can admire Saint-Jean’s walls from lovely restaurant Le Chalet du Pharo on the Fort Saint-Nicolas side (south). Also check out: the Rowing Club and Novotel bars, both with a great roof terrace and near Pharo Palace.
VIEUX-PORT | the Old Port is a great spot to orientate yourself from, and pretty with boats moored in the middle. Some of the surrounding architecture is magnificent. We enjoyed the small balcony of La Caravelle to grab breakfast, and dinner at Bistrot l’Horloge in a lively central square. Also check out: L’Unic dive bar for a nightcap.
LE PANIER | highly recommend a wander around this small, token artsy/ bohemian area north of Vieux-Port. The back streets are winding with a cluster of small restaurants. Between here and the station, for example along Rue des Dominicaines, was also lively. At the time decorated with children’s paintings hung like bunting. Also check out: the handful of no-booze authentic Turkish grub places at bargain prices.
3 THINGS TO STEER CLEAR:
BAD REPORTS | positively, we didn’t see this side at all. But I had been told there’s a seedy, grimier side to Marseille. Just something to be aware of I guess.
LA CANEBIERE | we stayed in an airbnb near the fire station, not far back from the port. This was perfectly adequate and so central. However, I believe there are nicer areas – and this street sometimes felt like the average bits of a mini-Las Ramblas, Barcelona.
TRASHY BARS | Marseille is a city and busy port, so there’s no doubt a plethora of night life options to tickle your fancy. We didn’t go out heaps, but did spy more than enough loud Irish bars and sports pubs that weren’t appealing. For this reason I wouldn’t stay right where La Canebiere connects to Vieux-Port.
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE:
A DOSE MORE SUNSHINE | this trip was 4 days, so I feel like we squeezed in a fair amount of stuff. The weather was slightly hit and miss though and I’d love to experience the headland in the height of summer, when no doubt there is a real local buzz.
AND KNOW THIS: Marseille is the oldest city in France, founded 2,600 years ago.