For a short weekend by the sea, Marseille is only three hours from Paris by TGV. Expect bright sunshine, even in winter, great seafood, and a character all of its own. Below is a list of everything we tried and loved, with details and addresses on the interactive map.
From the Vieux Port, most places are walkable – and in fact, with the windy streets and steps, it is a great palce to wander and get lost. Marseille also has Le Vélo, a network of rental bikes that costs €1/week to subscribe, with each trip free for the first 30 minutes. (Be warned that the city’s cycle paths are not always obvious or continuous!)
GO: La Friche la Belle de Mai, an old tobacco factory that is now an exhibition space, gallery, bookshop and café with outdoor space for kids to play.
Notre-Dame de la Garde: an oddly striped cathedral, if only for the exercise walking up the hill and the fantastic view from the top.
La Cité Radieuse de Corbusier: an architectural experiment in constructing a ‘vertical village’. Guests have to sign in, but it is free to visit the 3rd & 4th floors, the restaurant and the roof, where again, the view over the coast and mountains behind is spectacular. Read more about it in English here.
Le Vallon des Auffes: a tiny harbour along the coast, like an old fishing village.
MUCEM: the Museum of European and Mediterranean civilisations, a modern addition to an old castle complex, the MUCEM has exhibitions, a bookshop, a great roof terrace café and stunning architecture.
GO further afield: for a day trip, consider a boat trip to the islands of Friul opposite Marseille, or down the coast to see the calanques, naturally formed inlets often only accessible by boat. For a DIY version, catch the 19 bus from Castellane to Madrague de Montredon (terminus), then the 20 to the end of the line, to Les Goudes. There you can follow the coastline on foot along rocky footpaths. Bring a picnic and sturdy shoes!
EAT: La Cantine de Nour d’Egypte is an cosy restaurant strewn with cushions. Sit in the window with a mint tea or order a mezze platter. Book ahead for a generous brunch on Sundays! Open every day.
Toinou: a seafood place in the centre. Eat in or grab a bag of cooked prawns, whelks and octopus salad from the stall outside – don’t forget the bread and mayonnaise! – for a picnic by the water at Vieux Port. Open every day.
Chez Etienne: serves two kinds of pizza, cheese or cheese and anchovies. Has a grumpy, old-fashioned charm and loyal, local clientele. Order the fried supions too, a kind of squid, and plan on taking a nap after lunch. Closed Sunday.
Pâtisserie Sylvain Depuichaffay: for elegant cakes and snail buns in the morning. Excellent modern tarte tatin. Closed Sunday.
Pâtisserie St Victor: in the chic St Victor district, this bakery has a queue out the door on Sunday mornings, normally a good sign. Large selection of breads, cakes and take-away salads – good for a picnic or supper in. Tasted and approved: navette briochée, a simple brioche flavoured with orange-flower water. Open every day.
Le Bricoleur des Douceurs: a new pâtisserie in the Bompard district, they are so popular their cakes will sell out on a Sunday morning if you are no good at waking early! Closed Sunday afternoon and Monday.
Mo Moon Family: very cute café for kids and grown-ups alike. A low table and play area to keep children busy, while adults can choose from cakes and delicious teas. Especially appreciated the hourglass timer to show how long to steep the leaf tea! Closed Sundays (except 2nd Sunday of month).