7 Special Things: MARSEILLE
Updated: Mar 4
France's oldest and 2nd largest city is oft overlooked as it has a reputation for being a gritty, loud place with a significant North African influence, not what comes to mind when people want to have that quintessentially French experience. Which is a shame because Marseille is a gorgeous city backed by the blue Meditteranean sea, a rich fishing culture, magnificent architecture both modern and ancient, delicious food (like, the best Pizza this side of Napoli), and boisterous, friendly people. Plan to spend a few days or more here, before roaming Provence in search of those over-photographed Lavender fields.
Bouillabaisse : Bouillabaisse is the best food the French ever invented. And to think, at it's inception, it was the poor man's soup literally using the dregs of the ocean as it's base sopped up with stale bread. Now, a bowl of this delicacy will set you back a pretty penny, and that's just in the tourist trap places in Le Vieux Port. Have it at Michelin starred Chez Fonfon and you're paying upwards of 50 euros pp, but it just might be the best meal of your life.
Vallon des Auffes is a charming little cove outside the city center that houses quite a few Michelin starred restaurants that specialize in the Bouillabaisse mentioned above. This not-so secret spot is where the the local fishman go to catch their early morning bounty, delivered to the best restaurants the city has to offer. It's a perfect area for a day trip, accessible by walking or riding along the incredibly scenic Corniche kennedy coastal highway.
La Cité Radieuse : Fans of architecture and urban planning should make a special trip out to the 6th émé (neighborhood) to explore this stunning property designed by Le Corbusier, one of the 20th century's most celebrated architects. Wander the grounds first, then ride up to the rooftop to see some pristine examples of Brutalist architecture before drinking wine in the stunning restaurant, la Ventre Architecte.
Le Panier and The Waterfront District : Everyone knows to get lost in labyrinthine streets of Le Panier, but make sure to end up in the newly renovated waterfront district so that you can visit the Cathedrale De Major, a nice alternative if you haven't hiked up to the very popular Notre Dame De La Garde. There are also two amazing modern museums to visit, it's just a lovely place to take a breather and admire the sea before you continue your explorations of this very hilly city.
Cours Julien : Ah, the vibrant bohemian quarter! No city should be without one. Once downtrodden, the graffiti garnished buildings of this area heave with patrons enjoying avant garde cuisine, expoerimental music, and just generally people watching. During the day, it's slightly quieter as the people enjoy perusing the art galleries and vintage shops alike.
La Canebiére : La Canebiere is the central Nouth/South axis of the city and is a must do stroll to engage with all walks of life of this incredibly diverse city. While not having many sights of note, it's still a special place to walk because the pulse of this vibrant, rough around the edges city resides here.