Antoine’s guide to Marseille

Because of the Paris Olympics, many friend ask me for advice about Paris, and I refer them to the my Insider’s guide to Paris. But there’s another French city I recommend visiting to people: Marseille. It is a city on the Mediterranean, with a very rich culture – the city was founded by settlers from Phocaea 26 centuries ago, with lots of great food, sights and people.
Actibus immensis urbs fulget masiliensis
“The city of Marseille shines through his great achievements”
So here’s a bunch of things not to miss in Marseille:
– Notre Dame de la Garde (“La Bonne Mere”, or the good mother), the cathedral that sits on top of the city. Unique architecture and history, you can see it from pretty much everywhere. Walking up there is doable, or you can take a bus. When you go down, there is path that brings you to Roucas Blanc (the fancy, low-key neighbourhood of Marseille), if you feel like wandering (ask around.)

Local’s favorite spot in Marseille is Vallon de Auffes, a small enclave along the corniche.
Nothing much to see there, but go there at night to have a “pizza à la figatelli” (corsican sausage pizza) at Chez Jeannot (cheap, but can be crowded) or enjoy the best Bouillabaisse (a fish soup, typical of Marseille, somehow similar to a Ciopino in San Francisco) at Chez Fonfon (it’s more pricy, and you need to book in advance)
Marseille doesn’t have decent beaches — locals go to Calanques instead, but a great spot to wade in the water is Anse de le Fausse Monnaie, where is also located the most reknown restaurant in Marseille, Le Petit Nice.
The parks are not the best either (though the surrounding of Palais Longchamp are nice, and “parc du 26e centenaire” was my reading spot when I lived there), but a good place to have a picnic could be Palais du Pharo, overlooking the “Vieux Port”. This is a great start for a walk along corniche Kennedy, which is winding along the coast (and leads to Vallon de Auffes)
The Vieux Port is a must (you can’t miss it!), and the recently opened MUCEM (Museum of the Mediterranean culture) is apparently really great to visit
When you’re on the North side of Vieux Port, you can walk to Le Panier, the most authentic borough of Marseille, and get a Pan Bagnat (typical Marseille sandwich with tuna) or a coffee at a terrasse.
If you like music, two of the best venues are Docks des Suds and Cabaret Aleatoire, but it seems that the schedule is very empty during the summer. Nightlife mostly happens around Cours Julien, where there are many bars and small venues.

For the food, you can go to the Marché des Capucins (better known as Noailles farmer’s market, next to La Cannebiere, the center street of Marseille, that starts at the Vieux Port.) There you can get lots of delicious fruits for next to nothing, great falafel and other pop-up food options.

The navette is the culinary symbol of Marseille, and you can get the best at Four des Navettes.
Around Polytech Marseille, there’s nothing much (things may have changed since I’ve been here), but we used to climb Massif de l’Etoile with our bikes.
If you have more time and want to venture into the sea, you can go to Frioul (the small island facing Marseille), where the action of the novel “The Count of Monte Christo” was based (or the adjacent Chateau d’If, actually.) There are ferries from Vieux Port.
If you have a car, you can go to Cassis, a charming coastal city, where the most beautiful calanques are located (Calanque d’En-Vau and Port-Pin are really great), either by boat, or through a hike.

Still a bit further, you can go to Aix-En-Provence (that’s the posh version of Marseille, but without the seaview.) It’s pretty, and great for shopping. There’s a famous Ballet (Pavillon Noir) but it’s closed during the summer.

Have a nice stay in Provence!