End of May is a perfect time of the year to explore the city of Marseille, its surrounding islands and the breathtaking calanques under a nice warm sun.
I landed in Marseille Airport and took a return shuttle (thanks again to the lady from the ticket office who asked if I was a student!) to the train station Marseille Saint-Charles (13,40€).
What to do in Marseille?
I spent the first Thursday afternoon at the Château d’If, home to the fictional Count of Monte Cristo created by the French author Alexandre Dumas.
The fortress and former prison was built in the 16th century has got a very interesting and well explained history. You shouldn’t miss the visit!
To get there, you just need to take the Frioul Express ferry (10.80€) on the old port right next to the polished canopy. You can also pay a bit more to make a second step on another island from the Frioul archipelago. I unfortunately took the boat too late to combine both.
On Friday, I climbed up on both sides of the old port:
- Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica with its beautiful view on the whole city and the seaside. You can reach it with a touristic mini train, the bus 60 form the old port or by foot via the Montée de l’Oratoire. One thing is pretty clear: you won’t be alone up there!
- Le Panier in the oldest neighbourhood of the city. Quite poor and once populated by all sort of crooks, the popular area was partly destructed by Hitler’s allies in 1942. It has now been progressivey rebuilt and has a very artistic touch with many cute little shops from painters and craftsmen. Don’t hesitate to go visit La Vieille-Charité and its beautiful museums.
Nearby you an also enjoy a bit of shopping in La Joliette, right next to the Marseille Cathedral.
I walked back to the other side of the port to the Pharo gardens to enjoy the beautiful colours of the sun setting down on the Frioul archipelago and the old port. A pretty romantic place if you’re a travelling duo.
And after dinner, I hanged out in Cours Ju(lien), the very trendy and arty neighbourhood where young people gather for evening drinks, sometimes simply bringing their own and sitting down on the square around the fountain.
On Saturday, I spent the day trekking in the Calanques national park, the actual reason why I had planned my trip to Marseille. I walked to the tube station Castellane to take the metro until Rond-Point du Prado and then the 23 bus to La Cayolle (direction Beauvallon).
The 5kms hike to the calanque de Sormiou was beautiful. I advised you to take an app with IGN maps to plan the walk you would prefer to do. I climbed up to the Col de Sormiou, took the red path on the left, turned right on the Col des Baumettes to go down to the actual calanque. It’s really not hard but if you prefer, you can also go up and down the actual road.
The bottom of the calanque is actually not as pretty: the beach is super crowded and not comfortable at all. So I walked back up via the path on the left of the main road (not hard to find). Once I reached the top, I hadn’t had enough of breathtaking landscapes so I turned left until the Col de Cortiou where I just lied down and peacefully enjoyed the view on the Riou island.
On Sunday morning, I took the 583 bus from the old port to go down to Prophète beach to walk along the ledge of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy (called The Corniche), resting on the longest bench in the world and passing by several very nice places:
- Anse de l’Oriol
- Anse de la Fausse Monnaie
- First World War Memorial in Vallon des Auffes
Where to eat in Marseille?
- Fish: short menu of fresh fish and Mediterrean dishes in a nice romantic garden at La Passarelle.
- Italian: good Italian food at Il Canaletto. I took the Mezzo Mezzo: half lasagna, half aubergine parmagiana: delicious!
- Cocktails: expensive but very original cocktails chez Gaspard. The bartender will explain you everything about all the exotic spices and funky fruits he mixes with love!
- Ice cream: super good homemade ice creams, and especially the dark vanilla, at Vanille Noire.
Hostel in Marseille
I had booked a 4-bed female dorm at the Vertigo hostel 2 minutes away from the old port: perfect location! Also a good wifi and good breakfast. Not a particular warm atmosphere though: I was travelling solo and didn’t really meet anyone.
What would I visit next time?
- MUCEM, a museum dedicated to the Mediterrean sea
- Book a visit to the Cité Radieuse from Le Corbusier
- The calanque de Sorgiou
- Trekking from Les Goudes to Sormiou
Have you been? Let me know!
*Prices from May 2019.