MARSEILLE, VARIED LANDSCAPES
WHAT TO DO? MY JOURNEY
Marseille is a city that I did not know at all. I’ve heard a lot about it but wanted to form my own opinion. And it was a nice surprise.
WALKING IN THE CITY CENTER
Docks shopping center
Vallon des Auffes
Street art in the city center
Fort Saint Jean
View on Marseille
Cathedrale de la Major
There are different districts to visit in Marseille which are nice. The best known district is the Panier. It’s a great lively area with lots of cute little shops. While walking, you will discover quiet little streets with beautiful street art. There is also the magnificent Cathedrale de la Major in the area. I could not go inside because of the works, but just the outside, it is impressive! 2 hours are enough to go around the neighborhood. It is also the perfect area to sit down and have a drink on a terrace.
Another very lively district is the Old Port. Restaurants, shops, boats, a nice little stroll along the water. Do not hesitate to go to the parallel streets which are just as lively, such as the Cours Honoré d’Estienne D’orves. And at the end of this old port, you can easily access the famous Fort Saint Jean, located opposite to Fort Saint Nicolas. These forts were once used to control access to the city. Admission is free, and the fort can be visited in an hour. You can go around the ramparts, go to the small garden, see the buildings of the fort. It doesn’t feel like you’re in the city center at all. And if you want to have a nice view of this fort as well as the old port, then go to the Emile Duclaux park. A slightly elevated park that will allow you to admire the view on the part of Marseille. The park is not big but you can find there the monument dedicated to the heroes and victims of the sea, as well as the palace of Pharo.
Speaking of views of Marseille, go to the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde. You can’t miss it! A magnificent basilica in height which overlooks an incredible view of Marseille, and on the Frioul islands, it’s incredible! The basilica is very beautiful from the outside. A little advice before going there, check the opening hours of the Basilica because this also includes access around it.
Not far from the Basilica, you can go directly to the Vallon des Auffes. I really loved this district! A super cute little port with a few little houses. Lovely! It’s worth taking a trip there. It really looks like a world apart, a fishing village atmosphere.
If you want to see something atypical, I advise you to go to the Dock Village shopping center. I loved this shopping complex which has different patios with palm trees or artistic structures. It’s very casual and beautiful! Each place has a specific theme, and everything is related to this theme. It’s super nice!
To stay with the atypical theme, go see the fountain in Longchamp park. She is impressive! Even if it is not in operation when you go there, it is definitely worth it! I can’t even imagine when there is water. The fountain is surrounded by magnificent statues, as well as by the Museum of Fine Arts and Natural History. I do not necessarily recommend the park, there is not much to see.
And finally, a neighborhood to see in Marseille is Cours Julien. It’s the place to be for bars and street art. Go for a little walk at the end of the day for the bars, and in the early morning for the street arts.
Entrance to Fort Saint Jean: free
The ol charity museum
In the Panier district, there is the museum of the old Charity (musée de la Vieille Charité). It is a chapel surrounded by a cloister on several floors. To visit the different rooms of the cloister, you can visit the permanent exhibitions for free. You have to go to the cashier to have the access. I only did the Egypt Museum which was well done and interesting. You can also visit the interior of the Chapel, which is pretty but there is not much to see. The exhibitions are not very big, a good hour will be enough for you to visit everything.
At the old port, you can visit the soap museum. Do not miss this one! The museum is very interesting and allows you to know the history of soap as well as its manufacturing process. Machines for making soap are on display, old advertisements for Marseille soap, and other nuggets around soap. It is a small museum that can be visited in about fifteen minutes. I even took the opportunity to take 100g of Marseille soap.
Then there is the most famous museum in Marseille, the MUCEM. We didn’t visit it. On the other hand you can go inside and take the “lift” on foot, which goes all the way around the building between the glass windows and the concrete sculptures that can be seen from the outside. It’s very pretty and it makes nice effects on the way. There is a terrace on the rooftop if you want to stop there. From the rooftop, there is a footbridge that allows you to go to Fort Saint Jean.
Entrance to the Old Charity Museum: free
Entrance to the Soap Museum: free
Port of Frioul
To access the Frioul islands, very simple. You are going to the port of Marseille and you cannot miss the checkouts to get there. There is a huge mirror hanging there. If you are there in low season, you can take tickets at the counter, directly on site, on D-Day. It takes about thirty minutes by boat to get there. You will arrive by the port of Frioul which is a small village with a few restaurants and houses. I did not know that people live there, less than 150 people.
We started with the island of Pomègues which is the wilder of the two islands. Follow the paths to go around the island, they are well indicated. There are a few forts to see and a battery of canals. You can also admire small creeks and beautiful coastal cliffs. The colors are splendid. One of my favorites is the Calanque de la Crise. Super beautiful ! I loved this island, a real gem of nature! On the other hand, watch out for the gulls, I got attacked several times by them haha.
Then we continued with the island of Ratonneau, which has more constructions. You can see various abandoned buildings there, such as Fort Ratonneau or the former Caroline Hospital (closed for renovation). To finish your walk, you can refresh yourself at the large beach of St Estève, not far from the Port of Frioul.
I did not know the existence of the Frioul islands, and it was a great discovery for me. Both wild and with some infrastructure. The landscape is super beautiful! A short day is enough to visit the island.
Return tickets for the Frioul islands: €11.10
If you are in Marseille without a car and want to visit the creeks for a day, here are the 3 creeks near the city that you can visit (and which are very well known due to their beauty). To get there, take bus 22 or 23 from the Prado. You will arrive at your destination in about thirty minutes.
The first creek you will see is the Sorgiou creek (Calanque de Sorgiou). It takes about a good hour of walking downhill to get to the beach. It’s not the most beautiful of the creeks, but it gives you a leg up for the start of the day.
Take the path towards the Morgiou creek (calanque de Morgiou). It takes about 1h30 to get there. The creek is magnificent, a little nugget! Incredible colors! A very beautiful wonder of nature. Even the little village you pass by is super cute.
Then, to go to the 3rd creek, that of Sugiton (calanque de Sugiton), you can take the path that runs along the cliffs. Do not take this path in bad weather, it can be slippery and dangerous. The path allows you to have superb views of the creeks, at the top! On the other hand, it’s not the ideal path for my fear of height. But it is ok. The vertiginous paths are for a short duration, and there is a small wall to climb. It takes about 1 hour to reach the creek. And it is also very beautiful! Wilder than the other 2, and narrower. Gorgeous, and with breathtaking colors. The three creeks I saw really all have a completely different style.
To return to the center of Marseille, you can go up the path of this creek to take the B1 bus to Luminy, count about 1 hour to get there. It’s only going up, be ready.
One-way ticket for the bus from Marseille to the first creek: €2 (plan the exact change because they do not give it back)
One-way bus ticket from Luminy to Marseille: €1.80
Marseille was a nice surprise for me. Honestly, the opinions I had on the city were mixed, but I found some very interesting visits, and very lively districts. And I really liked the Frioul islands, as well as the creeks.
WHEN TO GO?
Favorable weather to visit Marseille. We were there in May and we had sometimes a sunny sky, sometimes a cloudy sky. But it was still pleasant, it wasn’t too hot.
3 days are enough to visit most of downtown Marseille, including a day in the creeks. The activities and neighborhoods to see are pretty much all in the same place.
WHERE TO SLEEP? MY ACCOMMODATION
Click here to see our accommodation.
We had a small studio at the top at the bottom of a garden. Very well equipped and super cute. A real happiness ! And our host was very welcoming. I recommend you without hesitation.
Price / night / person : €31
MY 3 TIPS
- I can’t say it enough but check the timetables of museums and parks to organize your day as well as possible.
- Go see the islands of Frioul. Before arriving in Marseille, I had never heard of it.
- Do the creeks by foot. You will enjoy the landscape longer and your effort will be rewarded. Some creeks are wild and therefore difficult to access by car. Attention to people who are scared of heights, some passages are a bit scary, but it is ok.