I love my home city for its inimitable quality of light, colorful locals, and warm atmosphere. This lively and cosmopolitan city attracts more and more tourists every year, since it was European capital of Culture in 2013.
Here is my proposal for a two days program in Marseille, including museums, the island of the Count of Monte Cristo, designer shops, and of course nice seafood restaurants.
I recommend to book your accommodation by the Old harbour (Vieux Port), as this program is designed for people who arrive by car, train or plane and are not planning to rent a car for this city break.
If you arrive early in the afternoon you can take a walk to St Victor abbey, and visit its crypte. On your way, make a stop to taste some local biscuits, flavoured with orange blossom, at the “Four aux navettes” old bakery.
If you have time enough, go for a walk to Cours d’Estienne D’Orves and the place aux huiles…
Finally, celebrate you arrival with the most typical dish called bouillabaisse, you can have it at the Miramar on the Vieux Port. This is a fish soup served with potatoes and garlic bread. The cost is 63€ per person, without drinks and dessert. You can hardly find it below 50€ and if you do so, it probably doesn’t have all the traditional fishes in it.
For a lower holiday budget I recommend to have dinner at l’Oliveraie (provençale cuisine), 10 place aux huiles, or at l’Escapade Marseillaise
Saturday morning :
Since its opening 2 years ago , the MuCEM (museum of European and Mediteranean civilizations ) is a must-visit attraction in town.
If you’d rather wander in the city than visiting an exhibition, I still advise you to spend ther one hour to go around the building. Discover the old fort and the impressive view from the tower St Jean, cross along the walkway to the new building designed by Rudy Riccioti, covered with a concrete lace. Some woden deckchairs are available for sunbathing, you’ll find some coffees and restaurants, ran by famous local Chef Gérald Passédat (Le Petit Nice, 3 Michelin stars), with a wide range of prices. Before leaving, take a look at the bookshop, featuring a large collection of authors from the Mediterranean.
Let’s now visit the old city center called Panier, to see its craggy streets hosting some artcraft shops. Please don’t miss the Vieille Charité (1670), you can see there interesting exhibitions, or just take a look inside at this former almshouse for the poor constructed by Pierre Puget, whom pink and white stones attract light in such a nice way. Walking around the chapel and the galleries is free of charge.
Have a break at the terrace of the hotel Intercontinental ***** Hôtel Dieu, overlooking the harbour and with a great view at Notre Dame de la Garde. Enjoy a drink in this historical building turned into a luxury hotel 3 years ago.
For lower budgets, you can seat for a local aperitif drink aniseed-flavoured called Pastis at one of the terraces facing la Vieille Charité (rue des pistoles) or at place de Lenche.
For lunch, you should head to the Notre Dame du Mont and Cours Julien area, 10 minutes walk from the harbor. This is a hipster district with many terraces, graffiti, small shops (see my shopping review).
Le goût des choses is a very good restaurant with a warm welcome.
If you like italian food, ans small secret gardens in town head to: la Cantinetta (previous booking is required).
The best price quality ratio for traditional french food is found at le Quinze (15 rue des 3 rois).
Saturday afternoon :
Option A : Head to Notre Dame de la Garde from the Vieux Port with city bus (N°60) or onboard of the touristic train. The view when you get there is literally breathtaking. Inside the basilica, you will see many ex-votos offered by sailors to Notre Dame de la Garde, a testimony of their trust in her protection.
If you want to save time for shopping, I recommend to go for Option A.
The main shopping streets are Rue St Ferréol and Rue de la République, featuring your international brands… If you’re looking for local brands around the Vieux Port, visit the perfume shop l’Eau de Cassis, rue Pythéas , and its neighbor jewels shop Virginie Monroe . A few steps away you can find funny souvenirs branded Marseille at Un été en vacances. Gentlemen should find original t-shirts inspired in street art design at Kulte (46 rue Francis Davso).
Most innovative clothes shops, local designers and even second-hand clothes can be found around the cours Julien district (such as Dandelion). If you go there, don’t miss the soap factory la Licorne. The brand can also be found on the Vieux Port but there you can visit the workshop at 11 am, 15pm, and 16pm.
Please take care to choose your olive oil Marseille soap made in Marseille
>> More information about Marseille soap.
The lattest shopping malls in the city center are the Terrasses du port, (Metro la Joliette, L2), where you can find the japanese brand UNIQLO and some French sweets by Dalloyau… It is also a nice place to have a drink with an incredible sea view… And Les Docks, wher you find designer shops in an industrial setting (10 place de la Joliette).
If the weather is nice, get on board to visit the If Castle and Frioul islands. Boats leave from the Vieux Port every 30 minutes.
Discover the fictional universe of Alexandre Dumas and the original setting of Edmond Dantes cell, from which he evaded and where he planned his terrible revenge before becoming the Count of Monte Cristo.
For the Frioul visit, wear comfortable shoes to go around the island. You will see the caroline hospital, a historic monument under renovation. It was constructed in 1823 as a quarantine place following the yellow fever outbreak in Spain, as memories from the great plague that devastated Provence in 1720 were still alive.
Back in town, I suggest a diner at le Nulle par Ailleurs, for its trendy atmosphere .
Sunday Morning :
This time get onboard a bus boat to visit one of the hundreds villages that became part of Marseille, a charming fishermen harbor: la Madrague de Montredon. The boat service from the Vieux Port to Pointe Rouge is available from april to September 27th and costs 5€, including public transport during 1,30 hour. Then you need to take bus N°19 (details below) or walk for 15 minutes.
When the boat is not in service, you can take Bus N°83on the vieux port and go along the Kennedy coast road that boasts the longest bench in the World.
At the terminus, continue with Bus N° 19 in direction of la Madrague de Montredon untill the last stop…
Stop for a fish or pizza menu at restaurant Au bord de l’eau, on the Madrague tiny harbour.
If you prefer pop art design and rooftop restaurants on a small beach, get off at the Grotte Rolland stop and follow the signs for the Abricôtié.
You can go on with the visit to the villages of les Goudes and Callelongue (bus N °20 – Madrague de Montredon – Callelongue), you will feel like you got to the edge of earth!
When you get to Callelongue, walk along the small harbor and climb straight upon the hill, you can then follow a marked path to the Marseilleveyre callanque. This easy hiking trail lasts one hour and you will find a café on arrival. On your way, you will be able to admire the Cap Canaille in Cassis, the highest cliff in Europe, and its red stone immersed in the deep blue sea.
When boat service is open, you can directly take a boat from Pointe Rouge to les Goudes, where you can find several restaurants.
If you have some transport scheduled on Sunday, be careful as the only road that goes to les Goudes can be awfully jammed at the end of the day. If you go for the hiking in the Callanques, I strongly recommend to do that in the morning.