Guide to Marseille
This post officially kicks off my travel guide series, where I share information and opinions on the places I have visited. I decided to begin with a destination that I have traveled to a number of times, and feel that I know rather well. Marseille, France is a port city on the Mediterranean coast. It is also the second largest city in France. Known for its coastal vibes and cultural diversity, it is a place I believe anyone who wants to get to know France should visit.
I am French, and I have family that lives all over the country, including Marseille. Some of my earliest memories of the country include the drive from the Marseille Provence Airport to my aunt's breezy and bright apartment. When I think of Marseille, I think of neighborhood kids playing impromptu soccer games, the bustling and multicultural city centers, and of course, the beach.
For some, Marseille has developed a reputation as gritty—a travel destination only for brave backpackers—but new developments are establishing Marseille as an undeniable cultural hub. In 2013, Marseille was named the European Capital of Culture, and has seemingly been living up to the title ever since.
Where to Stay
There are great hotels—large and small—all over the city, but none are more talked about than the one mentioned above. According to many locals, it is one of the best hotels in the city. It is located in the picturesque historic quarter, and has become one of the top rated locations in Marseille. Even if you don't book a night here, the hotel's bar, Le Capian, is a great place to grab a drink.
What to Do
Plages du Prado
You can't visit Marseille and not go to the beach. Les Plages du Prado are the strip of beaches in Southern Marseille, right on the Mediterranean. The beaches here are rather calm and sunsets are especially beautiful.
I believe the Vieux-Port is what makes Marseille truly special. It has been a major port since ancient times, and is still the highlight of the city today. The port is flanked by countless bars, cafés, and restaurants. It's the perfect place to grab a coffee and watch the boats.
Panier is the historic quarter of Marseille. The architecture is distinctly ancient, with stone steps and narrow pathways weaving through the neighborhood. The quarter is populated by small restaurants, artsy shops, and cafés.
If you visit Marseille, plan a day trip to Les Calanques, a collection of rocky inlets and bays. The views are beautiful, and activities like biking or cliff diving are possible. While in the Calanques, make sure to visit Cassis, a small and picturesque town situated within the cliffs.
More Things to Do...
What to Eat
Besides classic French fare, be sure to try things special to the region:
Bouillabaisse — the traditional Provençal fish stew originating from Marseille.
Kebabs — Marseille has a large North African population, so delicious Arab food is easy to find.
And, to really experience the Provençal lifestyle, go for a picnic!
All in all, Marseille has a lot to offer beyond the agreeable Mediterranean weather. This guide can only begin to cover all that is available within the city. The city may hold somewhat of a complex reputation, but it is undeniably dynamic and spirited. For those who are willing to do the searching, they are sure to discover many things of value.
If you enjoyed this guide, check out my other travel posts here.