12 min read
After our Travel Expert Ellis spending 48h in Reykjavik and bringing you some amazing travel recommendations, our Travel Expert Roxana takes you on a journey to Marseille, the second largest city in France.
What is 2,600 years old, brims with maritime charm and is only a 2-hour flight from our very own England? This week’s holiday destination! As the title of this article might have given away, the location for this week’s BRB 48-hour guide is the marvellous Marseille!
Photo Credit: @noble_geek
Founded by the Ancient Greeks in around 600 BC, Marseille is France’s oldest city. The ancient settlement developed into an important port for the Greeks thanks to its strategic position for trade with the rest of the Mediterranean. To this day, the port has continued to bring wealth to Marseille and the city is now the second largest in France.
Despite its history and prominence, when it comes to holidaying in France, Marseille’s appeal has been long overshadowed by the legendary romance of Paris, elegance of Nice or the suave of Cannes. But trust me when I say, underrating Marseille is a big mistake! It has everything you could wish for in a thriving French city from culinary excellence to trendy boutiques and picturesque architecture. Add to that, the warmer temperatures of a sun-drenched Mediterranean coastal location and the fact that the port’s global connections have brought a rich and exciting multiculturalism to the city. What’s not to love!
Read on for my recommendations of how to spend your weekend in the magnificent metropolis that is Marseille!
After a 2 hour flight from London Gatwick, I land at Marseille Provence Airport (the main airport in Marseille). I want to make the most of my time in the city so I jump in a taxi and head straight to the 4* Hôtel La Residence Du Vieux Port to drop off my bag.
Perfectly situated on Marseille old port, with its great sunlight, The Hôtel La Résidence du Vieux-Port will let you experience a chic 50s retro feel, blending style and comfort.
The hotel has a quirky design for those who love to be different and its location in the city centre facing the Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica makes it perfect for exploring all attractions as well as enjoying a beautiful day by the sea.
After a classic French breakfast of coffee and croissants, make your way to the imposing Fort Saint Jean. This dramatic 17th century building is one of two primary defences built to protect the old port.
Photo Credit: @floraauvray
Today it stands as strong as ever and is open for you to explore. Wander around the narrow alleyways, enjoy the stunning views from the ramparts, and duck in and out of vaulted rooms. A must-see feature of the fort is the Jardin des Migrations or “dry garden“. Landscaped with drought-resistant plants, this allegorical garden tells the history of Marseille’s agricultural trade and illustrates the successive waves of immigrants who left their marks on the city.
Photo Credit: @plantes.migration
Don’t believe that a garden can show all that? You will just have to see it for yourself! Once you’ve had your fill of the fort, make your way to its top where you will find a narrow bridge that takes you to the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM).
Photo Credit: @mucem_officiel
The museum itself is housed within an utterly remarkable latticed cube shell that was built and designed by Rudy Ricciotti. Cross the bridge, admire the intricate metal work up close and relax in the beautiful, dappled sun the design creates.
Then head into the main museum where you will find all sorts of amazing artefacts from all over Europe. The permanent exhibitions are split into four main categories: The Holy City of Jerusalem, Citizenship and Human Rights, The Gods and the Birth of Agriculture, and Foreign Exploration.
Kick off your afternoon with a bite to eat. Le Môle Passedat is perched on the top of the MuCEM and offers delicious local cuisine with a side order of stunning views of the city.
Photo Credit: @martial.ferrat
Or you can head down towards the Old Port and pop into one of the many small and homey eateries found along the waterfront. Take this opportunity to try Marseille’s signature dish of Bouillabaisse - a traditional stew made of fresh fish. !
Photo Credit: @massiliapixx
Reenergised from your scrumptious meal, stroll around the stunning Vieux Port soaking up some sun and savouring the vibrant atmosphere. On your walk, make sure not to miss taking a selfie in the striking L'Ombrière, a large, mirrored canopy that reflects the pedestrians walking below.
Photo Credit: @thyagodantas
From the Vieux Port, board a ferry to the nearby island of Frioul, home to the incredible Château d'If. This perfectly preserved castle was built in 1524 and has functioned as a royal fortress as well as a prison. It is also famous for being a significant setting in Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel The Count of Monte Cristo.
Photo Credit: @ornellagarciaa
After exploring the Château d’If and its creepy cells, take some time to relish in the natural beauty of the island. You could even go for a quick dip in the sea.
Back on the mainland, what better way to bring in the evening than with a tipple of Pastis, the traditional drink of Marseille. Walk into (and stumble out of) a tasting room at La Maison du Pastis, which has one of the best and largest selections of Pastis in the city.
Photo Credit: @thefantripper
After sampling several flavours, pick up a bottle of your favourite to take home. Soak up some of the alcohol with a delicious meal at the nearby Restaurant Miramar.
Photo Credit: @foodguidemarseille
This relaxed and sophisticated eatery overlooking the water features an appetizing menu full of delicacies drawn from various Mediterranean influences. Choosing just one dish from all that they offer will be a struggle, but rest assured whatever you do pick will be prepared to the highest standard and will leave you feeling content.
Marseille has a wonderfully relaxed yet fun attitude when it comes to its nightlife. Make the most of the warm night by grabbing a drink al fresco at one of the many bars that can be found around the old port. A personal favourite is La Caravelle.
Photo Credit: @barlacaravelle
A cabaret for sailors in the 1920s, La Caravelle has been entertaining visitors for generations and is known for its live jazz nights. The bar is open until 2 in the morning, so relax and let the night slip away until you’re ready to venture back to your hotel.
I hope you’re feeling well rested because you’ve got a big day of sight-seeing ahead of you! Start off at one of France’s largest cathedrals, The Cathédrale La Major. The church is magnificent to behold with its twin multi-domed towers, and green and white striped stone exterior. If the church is open, step inside to get a look at the church’s ornate interior decorations from the grand columns to the mosaics and the statue of Joan of Arc.
Photo Credit: @sud_up
From here, head into Le Panier, the oldest district in Marseille and arguably one of the prettiest areas. The charming, cobbled streets are usually full of flowers and the beautiful traditional squares are lined with sweet little cafes and boutiques. Here, you will be able to experience a taste of local life at its best.
Photo Credit: @thomas_rset
Travel north through Le Panier and you will be on your way to the peaceful and luscious Parc Longchamp. The park is listed by the French Ministry of Culture as a Notable Garden of France and is well worth a visit. Furthermore, positioned within the picturesque gardens, you will find the magnificent Palais Longchamp.
Photo Credit: @thomapix
Despite the name, this a monument rather than a palace but it is nonetheless dazzling. Constructed in 1869, the Palais celebrates the completion of a canal that provides the city of Marseille with much needed water in the summer months. Large, elaborate and with a gorgeous water feature at its centre, the Palais Longchamp is one of Marseille’s crowning jewels.
After that jampacked morning I bet you are feeling peckish so stop for a spot of lunch at La Boîte à Sardine. This restaurant is a beloved favourite of locals so you can expect an authentic dining experience. For something really special, try their sea anemone beignets (fritters), a seafood treat you’d do well to find elsewhere.
Photo Credit: @laboiteasardinemarseille
Next up on the itinerary is Saint Victor’s Abbey. The current monastery was rebuilt and fortified in the 1100’s to be part of the port’s defence system but the buildings foundations date all the way back to the 5th century. The abbey is worth visiting to see the medieval stonework, stained glass windows and eerie crypts.
Photo Credit: @kamel___10
If you are feeling up for a challenge, walk up Garde hill to Marseille’s crowning glory, the Notre Dame de la Garde. Though the climb is rewarding, I wouldn’t blame you for opting instead to jump aboard the number 60 bus and save your feet some pain.
Photo Credit: @travelmindss__
The Notre Dame de la Garde is a glorious Roman Catholic church and is a symbolic landmark of the city. The sparkling golden Virgin and Child statue that sits atop the building has earnt the basilica the nickname La Bonne Mère which translates to ‘the good mother.’ The church offers a spellbinding view of Marseille and if you get your timings right, you can be here to watch the sun set over the city.
Spend the rest of your holiday enjoying what the French do best – wining and dining! Treat yourself at L’Aromat which is famed for having one of Marseille’s most talented young chefs, Sylvain Robert. He has made a name for himself through his contemporary twists on traditional Mediterranean cooking.
Photo Credit: @fullyfunny.fr
Pair an amazing meal with a glass (or two) of wine and reminisce on all the amazing things you have seen. Squeeze every last second out of your 48 hours by visiting the Cours d'Estienne d'Orves, a large square with bars on every corner, dancing in the streets, and a wonderful atmosphere to bring your holiday to a sad but sweet end.
Photo Credit: @capripics
If like me you love taking short weekend breaks across Europe and spending 48 hours in cities like Barcelona, Prague, Porto, Split, Bologna, Stockholm or Venice, but if like me you hate wasting hours trawling travel sites to plan and research your next weekend break, only to be hit by increased flight prices just before booking, then BeRightBack is for you!
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I hope you enjoyed my 48 hours city guide to Marseille and do not hesitate to use our website chat or to email us if you have any questions!
Roxana (Travel Expert at BeRightBack)
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