An insider's guide to Marseille
Marseille is a city with a rich and diverse heritage. It has embraced the title fully, with fantastic new architecture, investment into the city and a host of exciting events taking place. The second largest metropolis in France has put itself in the spotlight.
1. Notre Dame de la Garde
The beautiful and regal looking basilica is perched high on a hill in the city, the ‘good mother’ (La Bonne Mère, as she is known locally) is the city’s protector, shining brightly in the sunlight. If you pay a visit inside you will see the maritime spirit of Marseille is captured here with model boats hanging down from the ceiling, as it was of course where sailors would come and pray for a safe crossing.
Some of the best views of the city are from here, making it the perfect place to take photos. It also helps you get your bearings as Marseille is a big place! Oh and look out for the bullet holes on the outside walls – this happened during the liberation of Marseille at the end of the Second World War.
2. Old Port (La Vieux Port)
At the beating heart of the city, you have to come to the Old Port of Marseille. Walk along and take in the sights and sound of this bustling, diverse harbour. It is a huge place bursting with fishing boats and with plenty of bars and restaurants close by. There is even a morning fish market if you fancy some fresh catch of the day!
3. Fort Saint Jean
Make sure you take a walk to the MuCEM (Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée) Marseille's stunning new museum for Mediterranean cultures at The Fort Saint Jean. On your way, why not take a seat, have a beer and look out onto the pretty harbour views. You can even catch a boat from the other side of Marseille and walk from the Old Port which is what we did. With the amount of traffic here its a great idea!
4. The Calanques
From Cassis, a picture postcard fishing village, within a short drive of the city, you can take a boat trip to the Calanques. So unique and incredible that they have recently been made national parks, you can choose a trip to take you to three, five or eight. We opted for three to get a taste of the enchanting rocky hideaways that are so famous around this coastline. This took about an hour, which was perfect. Make sure you head straight to the front of the boat when you get on and nab the best spot to take photos!
5. Le Castellet
A charming medieval village, high up on a hill overlooking the valleys below, it is again a short drive from the city. This is an enchanting place - I literally stepped back in time when I got here. There are plenty of gorgeous shops to buy local specialities from lavender to olive oil and soap. My favourite place had to be the cat shop, wall to wall in cat collectables. Make sure you try the drink of Marseille, Pastis, and watch the world go by in one of the local cafes here. My top tip is to arrive early in peak season as parking can be difficult!