France’s premier seaside port, Marseilles, has acquired quite a reputation over the two millennia it has existed, as a place with swagger and style. It’s a little bit rowdy, but also a little bit glamorous and intriguing - a potent mix that makes it perfect for exploration. Come down see what this French original has to offer.
Where to go
Stroll along the Old Port, lined with cafes and restaurants that bask in the bright Mediterranean sunlight. Shop for Provencal edibles, wearables and decoratives at the regular markets by the Old Port, or travel to La Canebière. Rue de Rome, Rue Paradise or Rue St Ferréol for high-end fashion boutiques. Those with a love of history may enjoy delving into the ancient catacombs of the Basilique Saint Victor, or wandering the streets of the Old Town. Catch a boat to the imposing Château d'If for the scenic ruins and wild flora. Spend a day in some of the many museums that tell the story of the ancient port and its very, very colourful history.
Food & Drink
You’ll be eating a lot of seafood in Marseilles - the city is famous for it. Chiefly, you will come across bouillabaisse, a tangy stew built from a fish stock base. Otherwise, Provencal cuisine has a distinct influence here. For a taste of the real culinary Marseilles, focusing on seafood, try Chez Fonfon (Chez Fonfon, 140 rue du Vallon des Auffes). Everything is superb here, including the bouillabaisse. For something a little different, but by no means less local, head on over to Les Arcenaulx (25 Cours d'Estienne d'Orves) - a gourmet destination that appears to be set up in a library of the old town’s arsenal. Make sure you have the ice cream for desert, it’s ia speciality!
As a two-millennia-old port and a major tourist destination, Marseilles doesn’t want for bars and clubs. Good times kick on well into the night most days - there isn’t really any time you won’t be able to find something that suits your speed. We recommend Le Crystal as a cool, stylish place to be seen the near the Old Port. Terrific cocktails are a plus. Elsewhere, La Caravelle (34 Quai du Port) evokes the spirit of pre-war Marseilles in a kind of jazz bar. It also has a marvellous terrace with views over the Old Port and the ocean.
Where to stay
is our pick for Marseilles. This elegant mansion used to belong to Henriette Reboul, famed antique dealer and ‘priestess of love’ and was lovingly restored by the present owners to appear as Mme Reboul would have known it at the turn of the 20th century. Today this lovely boutique also boasts a spa, hammam and wonderful library for lounging and reading with a glass of wine. Hotel du Castellet
is another prize pick in the Provence region, whose small size belies a wide range of facilities including spa, pool, gym, 6-hole golf course and tennis courts. Babysitting is also available here for those wishing to sneak away for a wonderful dinner. How to get there
Ryanair, EasyJet and British Airways fly from London to Marseilles daily. A Eurostar service also operates from London to Marseilles