Welcome back to the all new City Break segment here at The Roaming Kangaroo. Up next we have a little visit to the south of France and in particular, the stunning city of Marseille! Enjoy!
Upon first glance Marseille looks like any other city. Urban sprawl, busy highways, notoriously high crime. Despite these facts I immediately felt charmed by the place when I arrived at my hotel in the Vieux Port.
As you can see from the picture above my view from the rooftop at Hotel Hermes was spectacular and proved to be a great base for the long weekend. Along the Vieux Port are loads of restaurants, cafes, bars, boat tours and sightseeing so essentially it was all on my front doorstep!
Marseille is served by the Provence Airport and takes around 30 minutes via either bus or taxi to reach the city station. From there it’s around a 15 minute walk down to the Vieux Port. I visited for the May bank holiday weekend which was ideal weather wise, low to mid 20s made it perfect for sightseeing and taking in all that Marseille has to offer!
I was lucky enough to be in town for the Flame Festival which was one of the events on the calendar due to Marseille being the European City of Culture, a title which changes hands each year. As part of the unveiling of the newly refurbished Vieux Port, an artistic installation involving sculptures with thousands of open flames was displayed across the water and on the quays.
The next morning arrived and I was itching to get out onto the Med and do a boat trip of some kind. Turns out the Calanques National Park were a few hours away by boat which are basically an abundance of limestone deposits which have risen up out of the earth and sea over many many years.
It was impressive to see such a natural occurrence close up. The Calanques stretch from Marseille to a fishing village called Cassis. After being on the Med all morning I really felt like a dip so it was off to a great little beach right in the heart of town!
The Plage du Catalans is a tiny beach around a 30 minute walk from the Vieux Port in between the exclusive areas of Pharo and Endoume which gets packed with locals and visitors alike and it really was a great way to while away a few hours under the Marseille sun taking it all in!
Another famous landmark in Marseille is Chateau d’If. It’s an old fort last used in WWII and was the setting for the book and movie The Count of Monte Cristo. It takes an hour to reach by boat from Marseille and really feels more isolated than it is.
In its peak the old fort held up to 3,500 prisoners but I imagine the amazing views and location were probably lost on them due to their predicament. Needless to say the fort is now a tourist attraction and provides an important link to the past and a reminder of how lucky we are to be living in relative freedom current day.
If it’s wine that interests you most, Marseille is in the Provence region of France which does hold its own when it comes to the crushed grapes. Due to the limestone in the area and ideal weather the wines are a little different to the rest of the country yet distinctively good.
A landmark that you won’t miss here is the Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica on the eastern hill of Marseille. Nicknamed “the Good Mother” due to the fact that she looks high over Marseille, you will see her from just about anywhere in town. There is a tourist train that takes you up the steep climb for a few Euros and let me say that the views at the top are well worth the price.
So there you have it. I loved my time in Marseille and felt it had a bit of everything – location, good weather, great food, history, sights and proud locals. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about it!