One Day In Marseille
“Marseilles isn’t a city for tourists. There’s nothing to see. Its beauty can’t be photographed. It can only be shared. It’s a place where you have to take sides, be passionately for or against. Only then can you see what there is to see. And you realize, too late, that you’re in the middle of a tragedy. An ancient tragedy in which the hero is death. In Marseilles, even to lose you have to know how to fight.”
Marseille is the second largest city in France and France, the second largest economy in Europe. On the South coast of France, lies the capital of the Bouches-du-Rhône department and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. Welcome to one day in Marseille!
Let’s start off with the most annoying thing about our visit to France that year: Turns out, crepes are seasonal. Seriously? In South Africa, crepes -or pancakes as we call them- are an absolute winter-time treat, served with cinnamon sugar. In France, apparently, it is a warm weather dish and no one would serve crepes “that time of year”… I had tarte tatin instead. In France. By default it was marvellous.
On the topic of food, Marseille is a great spot for seafood. More specifically, moules frites or moules et frites (mussels and fries). This dish of Belgian origin is quite popular in France, and is served with fresh bread and fries. All over, friends in lunch spots are sharing pots of freshly steamed mussels, sipping Leffe, and dipping pieces of bread and fries into the white wine sauce in the bottom of their mussel pots.
On our visit to Marseille, we spent the day on foot, browsing the Christmas markets and sampling many of the things this city is renowned for. While sipping hot chocolate, we sniffed all the different varieties of Savon de Marseille. Around 1370 the first soap maker was recorded in Marseille, and ever since it is the number one take home gift when visiting this part of France. Our favourite fragrances included raspberry, vanilla, coffee and olive.
While strolling along Quai du Port (the tourist trap of Marseille) you could easily see how many visitors spend lazy afternoons in cafés, admiring the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde and contrails in the sky. The area is lovely for a stroll, but the prices are high, and the service slow.
What To Pack
The elegant French seem to be well kept and neat in public places, add to that a good share of artsy folk, and you have Marseille down to a tee. The last third of residents, and be described as very trendy. For the most part tourists seem well dressed while strolling along the old harbour.
How To Get There
200 km West of Nice, wedged between Spain and Italy, Marseille claims it’s stretch of the Balearic sea. You can arrive by air, road, rail or sea. Marseille Provence Airport or Aéroport de Marseille Provence is the nearest airport (Airport code MRS).
What To Eat
- Fresh mussels with fries and fresh bread – moules frites
- Bouillabaisse – Provençal fish stew
- Tapenade – olive pate
What To Drink
- Pastis – this french drink is an anise flavoured spirit and aperitif
- Champagne – we found that the good stuff was more reasonably priced here, as opposed to back home
What To See & Do
- Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde – visible from almost everywhere in Marseille. Take the tram all the way up, and walk back down the steep hill, discovering some low-key residential areas.
- Cathedrale de la Major
- The Old Port
- Marseille Mucem
- Palais Longchamp – You would require transportaion to visit the Palace Longchamp
- The Panier – wandering in the narrow streets near the museum
- From the old port, you can take L’Open Tour Marseille
- Scuba and snorkelling
Marseille is a large, modern city situated in beautiful surrounds. 150km East of Marseille you will find Saint Tropez, and 180 km from Marseille, Cannes. The shortest Route to Monaco is 227km.
In Provance, surrounding Marseille, you can visit Aix-en-Provence – Cassis (30km north of Marseille) known for the workshop of Cezanne, its narrow streets, fountains and old town.
We hope you enjoy Marseille as much as we did- and remember, you must try the mussels!