After our two weeks in Italy, we headed to Marseille, where we spent a long weekend with some friends. We rented a big house with a pool on Airbnb, which was a great idea, as it was already very hot in early July. Here is the list of what to do in Marseille, if you want to enjoy your summer stay in South in France.
Head to the Vieux-Port
Probably the most iconic place of Marseille, the Vieux-Port is a must-stop while visiting Marseille. Along the quays, you will find some of Marseille most famous hotels, cafés and sea-food restaurants. It is a relatively big port, and from there leave all the ferries to visit the islands surrounding Marseille, such as “Château d’If” – famous for the novel The Count of Monte Cristo or the Îles du Frioul.
Rent a boat
It would be a shame to be in Marseille and not to explore the Calanques by the sea! Rent a boat with Zeboat, as we did, and spend one day on the sea. Start by leaving the Old port in Marseille, pass by the Frioul islands, and the famous Castle of If, from The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.
Renting a boat with Zeboat was very easy: we rented a Capelli Tempest 700 for the day (9am to 6pm) for 440 euros, without gas. The boat is for up to 12 persons, and will allow you to spend a great day in the Calanques area.
Count an extra 150 euros for gas, and a 200 euros deposit. Make sure to bring your boat licence, as it will mandatory to rent the boat.
Then, buy a pique-nique and bring some rosé, and you have the perfect day!
Hike in the Calanques
This was our favourite activity in Marseille: discover the Calanques with a hike! We decided to go to the Calanques de Sormiou, and we did a hike of 2 hours to get to the Calanques, with a magnificent scenery.
Eventually, we reach the Calanques and were able to go for a well deserved swim, in the -surprisingly- frozen water. Hike in the morning, get some rest and have some food once you get to sea, enjoy the small beach there, and go back to the Baumettes parking lot at the end of the day.
Count a total of 3h-3h30 for the loop. Also, do not forget to bring a lot of water if you hike in the Calanques in summer.
Visit le Panier
To escape the crazy heat of Marseille, to visit le Panier will be a great option: many narrow streets and a lot of shadow to get some rest from the burning sun. Le Panier is very famous for its small streets and shops, and will offer you many restaurants and bars. We stopped at le Rendez-Vous des Amis ( 3 Rue Rodillat, 13002 Marseille), in a small square, and it was perfect to have a beer and some panisse – a local speciality made of chickpeas – after exploring the city for a day.
Formerly a popular district, le Panier is the oldest district of Marseille, and is getting very touristic, and trendy. You will find many artist workshops and trendy boutiques, and a lot of street art, so keep an eye open!
Only about 30 minutes by car from Marseille, you will find Cassis, a less crowded, but still very charming, harbor city. To have a great view over the city, head to Cap Canaille, part of the highest hills by the sea in France, and the 4th in Europe! Don’t miss the view over Cassis, especially with the sunset.
For the most courageous, you can hike along the sea all the way during 14 km, following AllTrails itinerary.
Visit the Mucem
The Mucem (Musée des civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée/ Museum of European civilization and the Mediterranean sea) is without doubt the most famous museum of Marseille. Located on the entrance of the Vieux-Port, and built on an old Fortress (Fort Saint-Jean), the Museum access is free (only the exhibitions are not) and offer an amazing panoramic view over the Vieux-Port.
Pay a visit to our Bonne Mère
You will see it everywhere in Marseille, Notre-Dame-de-la-Gardes, also known as “Bonne Mère” watches over Marseille. Built in 1214, it has welcomed pilgrims for more than 800 years, and it will offer you a spectacular view over the city of Marseille.
About logistics, don’t leave anything visible in your car, if you parked up there, just in case. You will see many signs reminded it to you.
Have dinner at Romy
A friend of friend is chef at Romy, that is how we heard of the place, and we were very lucky! The food there was great, from starters to desserts. Products are fresh and local, and the service is great. There is a large terrace outside, perfect for big group as well. We definitely recommend the place!
Restaurant Romy 9 Rue de Lodi, 13006 Marseille. Open everyday 12-2:30pm and 7:30-10:30, except Sunday 11-3pm
Have sushi from Su & Shi
Recently, we were very disappointed with Sushi places, and we decided we would not order sushi anymore. However, our friends strongly recommended Su And Shi to us, and while we were working remotely, we decided to order them for lunch – what a great idea it was! It was the best sushis we ordered – ever! The products are delicious and original, and the price is same as any other place, just with a much better value. Don’t hesitate any further, and order some Su and Shi as well!
Get an Ice cream from la Vanille Noire
Would it be really summer time without an ice cream ? We found the best one in Marseille, at la Vanille Noire.
Few words from Nicolas, the founder, who opened la Vanille Noire 7 years ago: Initially I did not want to create this emblematic flavour, The ´Black Vanilla´(Vanille Noire), it came to fruition 6 months after the opening. Above all, I wanted and still want to make the best ice cream possible: the Black Vanilla, but also many more.
So, you got it! If you want to try his speciality, the Black Vanilla, which is a salty vanilla, you can, but don’t hesitate to try any other taste, as they are all delicious – basilic and grapefruit was a great mix for us.
La Vanille Noire is located between the Mucem, the old port and the panier, so you cannot miss it while wandering in Marseille.
We hope this article will inspire you to visit Marseille, probably the most iconic French city of the South-East coast. We loved our stay there and we think it is a perfect family or friends destination as it is a very dynamic city. The only downside is the relative insecurity as found in most European large cities which is a little worse in Marseille. If you visit it, try to stay in the city center and be careful of your belongings. Marseille is perfect for a week-end city break but can only be visited in a week if you plan to visit the entire area!