I love Marseille! Yes, it´s true, no matter what other say about Marseille, I find it stunning beautiful and exciting! Many French will give you surprised look and some might start joking about the city they claim to be so dangerous while most likely they never visited! Absolutely go and visit Marseille! One great things is that it features easy access to nature thus if you love hiking it´s a perfect place. If you love beaches, again it´s a perfect spot cause they are city beaches in Marseille as well as more hidden beaches a long the coast. And the calanques, a must see! (See picture above) Even if you just have one day for Marseille consider taking the bus 21 from subway station Prado to Luminy. Get of at the terminal station of the university and you will find yourself at the entrance to the natural reserve on the top of the cliffs. Calculate about 3-4h for a nice walk. The best thing about Marseille are of course the people. They are so welcoming and charming. Just to illustrate how nice they are I am going to share a little experience from my first trip. I took the boat to go to the island and when I arrived back after a long and fantastic hike I decided to have a bite cause I still had to wait an hour for the boat to go back. So, I sit down in this little restaurant and order some fresh fish and there is group of women in their 50ties sitting there having a bottle of rosé and smoking. They look at me and say: “Hey girl, why are you alone here? Come sit with us. You know women have to stick together!” We talked about life till I had to take the boat back. We had some good laughs, a few glasses and a great time. The people of Marseille are also super children-friendly. We went with our baby in January, most places where closed for the annual vacations thus we end up having lunch in a pretty fancy fish restaurant. Of course that´s when I need to do a diaper change, in the middle of lunch. I go to the counter and ask where I can change her diaper and he says talk to the tall one. I go to the tall waiter and ask him and he says: “Just right here! Wait a second.” He takes of decoration and cutlery of one of the tables and says: “Here you go.” I am a bit ashamed and tell him: “I think she pooped, this is a serious diaper change!” He laughes out loud and says: “But it´s my little princess, look at this beauty. Don´t worry. Just change her. This table the most comfortable option.” Well, alright. There were a lot of old, posh looking people having their expensive lunch but they all just smiled at us and continued having lunch! One old lady waved and said: “Coucou bébé!” Once her diaper was changed, the tall guy came back, gave the baby a kiss and said: “Ah ma beauté!” (My beauty)! So that´s a new level of child-friendly! You just have to love the people here with their loud laughter and big hearts!
Here a little list of my favourite places in town!
- Jazz bar with balcony to watch the sunset at Vieux Port : La Caravelle Hôtel Bellevue, 34 Quai du Port, 13002 Marseille
- Lunch: Le Cafe des Epices, delicious lunch set menu, no traffic – hidden terrace, 4 Rue du Lacydon, 13002 Marseille
- Tea Salon: At a Cup of Tea you can enjoy the afternoon sun and delicious homemade cakes. It´s a mix of a litte library and a tea salon. Of course they serve coffee too. 1 Rue Caisserie, 13002
- Cheese: Fromagerie Kalou – an excellent selection of quality cheese, great service, fair pricing. 24 Avenue de Mazargues, 13008 Marseille
- Hiking/ Calanques: Take bus 21 to Luminy (last stop is the university for architecture which is at the entrance to the natural reserve). It takes abt 20 min from Marseille Metro Prado to go there. You can go for a beautiful walk on the Calanque from here. There are several loops possible. The main one is easy to walk and even possible with a push chair and little kids. Take water and food with you!!!
- Anonter option is to take bus 19 from Metro Prado, the bus goes along the coast to the outskirts of Marseille. At the last stop you can change into a minibus taking you to the cap to enjoy a sundowner at terrace of the bar Le 20.000 Lieux (12 Boulevard Alexandre Delabre, 13008 Marseille). In summer time you can hike to the end of the cap and eat at restaurant there but as you can see on the picture on the left it´s a really narrow walk and no way you can take a stroller with you.
- If you follow the street of the village to the end you arrive at another access to go hiking in the calques. We did´t manage to get far with the push chair but I hear there is a restaurant somewhere up there in the forest.
- Think bus 56 goes from Vieux port straight up to La Bonne Mère (church). Amazing view over the city and sea. And a lovely church with a very maritime vibe.
- Take a boat for a day trip to the island, you will feel a little like on the end of world especially if you are not going in high season.
- Lovely art museum just downtown next to the harbour, first choice for a rainy day: Musée Regards de Provence, Avenue Vaudoyer, 13002 Marseille
- If you are looking for a quick access to go hiking and you wann be close to the beach, this airbnb is great https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/10098467?eluid=1&euid=8dceee41-92c3-233e-8279-ae3c1d87c022 but it´s 35 min away from Viuex Port (downtown) So those you rather enjoy restaurants, culture life etc. might wanna check for a place closer to Vieux Port. (anywhere , just not next to the central station, that´s really a crappy hood) . I have stayed at the hostel Vertigo Vieux Port which is perfectly located and I know that they have family rooms. But still expect a young crowd hanging out there.
- My favourite time to go is in February-April and in September/October. It´s just 3h from Paris Gare de Lyon with the TGV and in February it´s often warm enough to have breakfast on a terrace. Fresh baguette, a coffee and sun in your face- heaven! And in September the masses have left but the water is still warm enough to go for a swim. Once, it was a sunny November, I had forgotten my swim suit cause I am sure one could still have gone for a swim.
Enjoy your trip to the South, soak in the sun and eat lot´s of pizza! This is a great getaway from Paris!