If you love the Mediterranean flear of vibrant, multicultural cities, the sound of sea gulls, the smell of the sea, street art, limestone rocks and turquoise blue bays you WILL for sure fall in love with Marseille. It’s undeniable, that for me it was love at first sight. 10 years ago Marseille had a terrible reputation: crime, migration, crime, crime. A lot of voluntary strong community work and the construction of community centres have changed the image of the oldest city of France drastically. Nowadays Marseille is one of the hippest destinations in Europe.
Let’s find out why!
1. Sunrise on top of Marseille
You can start falling in love with city just in the early morning. Early bird or not, don’t miss to watch the sun rising over Marseille from the top of Nortre Dame de la Garde. Take a thermos with fresh brewed coffee and croissant, put your trainers on and wake up climbing the steep street to this majestic church. It’s quite sure that you won’t be alone because Marseillais love to see their city from above, doing sports or going to church afterwards.
2. Fish market
Strolling down to the old port you will discover the fish market of Marseille. Restaurant owners, chiefs, locals and tourists gather around the boxes full of fresh caught fish, mostly still alive. It’s crowded, busy and stinky, but amazing! I love to visit local markets because there you can experience the local culture with all your senses – you smell, you hear some good jokes (if you understand them) and see all the variety of local products. It’s always an unique experience! In-between the fish sellers elderly ladies are offering souvenirs.
Marseille’s Marché aux Poissons operates daily in the mornings starting at 8 am at the Vieux Port.
3. Open air gallery for street art
Grab a second coffee and get lost in the tiny streets of the port neighbourhood Le Panier or in between the colourful coffee shops and bars in Cours Julien! The facade of almost every building is an unique mural! And if you are lucky, you can catch some young sprayers working on the next amazing piece of art. In between the mural fame walks, you can enjoy watching young people skating, chatting or playing music. And if you love graffiti, like I do, you’d better bring a charger for your mobile! It’s gonna be a loooong foto session, I promise 😉
4. The long beach walk and boketto
In the morning, before the heat strokes, you can enjoy a aprox. 5km long walk at the beach promenade with spectacular views. Starting from the old port with the yachts, passing the Fort-Saint-Nicolas, the monument Aux heros and some very nice coffee bars and strolling around Vallon des Auffes – this very tiny port full of small fisher boots and fishermen working on their nets is definitely a small jewellery in the city. You can definitely count on live music on your way because there are many people playing their guitars and singing on the rocks. Continuing the walk, you will reach the neighbourhood of Endoume. Here you can find beautiful rocky beaches and of course some more turquoise blue water!
I love to sit down, listen to the waves and sea gulls, looking at the distance and just enjoy, without thinking. There’s a Japanese word describing exactly this state of mind: boketto. So do some boketto!
5. Culinary explosion
Feeling hungry in Marseille is a blessing! Because you can find anything your heart and stomach desires in this cosmopolitan city called home by many people from different origins. Big African and Arabic communities live around Cr. Julien, so you can find a lot of local shops and restaurants. And of course fish, fish, fish. I’ve been there during Ramadan and could dive into the sleepless streets. All these Arabic tasty dishes and sweets! Or you just go to one of the fancy restaurants around the old port and have some afternoon white wine with sun in your face.
6. Romantic hours and sunset over Marseille
There is a must do in the late afternoon hours. Once again climbing the hill of the Nortre Dame de la Gard to see the sun setting in the bay of Marseille. Trust me, the heavy breathing and sweating is worth, especially if you share the experience with some friends and a bottle of wine! I’ve seen quite a lot amazing sunsets in my life but this one is in my top list. Word.
7. Vibrant night life around the Quartier des Créateurs
Are you ready for Marseilles night life??? The Quartier des Créateurs is an excellent place to start exploring the bars and clubs. If you feel like classy cocktails in a 20 years ambiente you can search for the Carry Nation bar online and reserve your table. It’s an speak easy bar with a funny entrance (of course!) and really good cocktails!
8. Hiking around the Colonques
But my most favourite thing about Marseille is its unique coast with the National park Calanques! White, steep limestones embrace the turquoise blue sea and let you speechless…and battery less! It’s a paradise for climbers and hikers, the routes are challenging, steep and slippery but the views are spectacular. In fact many times I had to overcome my fear of heights and just continue walking. Till the next breath taking view.
You can take a bus from Marseille to the beginning of the National park and just start hiking! Since the routes are long and challenging, you will need good hiking boots, water and food.
How to get to Marseille
From my second home Düsseldorf/Germany you can directly fly (1,5 hours) or take the train (DB + TGV), which takes about 8 hours. The TGV trains are well equipped with wifi and electricity, so you can even get some work done traveling to the South of France.
And before I let you check the next possible flights to Marseille, a few words about…
The language barrier and how I’ve overcome it
As I don’t speak French and French people are quite openly disgusted by English speaking tourists, France was never before a favorite destination for me. For the sake of all I have once decided to consequently speak Spanish in France and suddenly all the ignorance has disappeared – in fact many French people understand Spanish, even speak it and definitely love it!
Wishing you a wonderful crush on Marseille!