“But what about us?” / “We’ll always have Paris […]”. These iconic lines from the movie “Casablanca” might have forever established the city of light as the most picturesque backdrop to the perfect love story and whirlwind romance, fictional or real; but the time has come to venture down under and fall in love with the true gem of the South of France, a diamond (proudly) in the rough, Marseille.
As the oldest city in France – it was founded by the Greeks in 600BC – Marseille doesn’t lack character nor edge. For the past few years however, the city has smartly beautified its Vieux Port (the old port of Marseille), stepped up its wining and dining options, and made it nice in several key areas, to the delight of locals and tourists alike. So much so that Parisians even gladly spend their Summer break exploring the calanques, checking out new cocktail bars, and dancing the blazing sunset away on sandy beaches in the “rival” city. Here are 8 reasons why, just like Carrie in “SATC”, you should take the city itself, Marseille, as your ultimate Mediterranean lover!
The Calanque of Morgiou and the Blue Cave
The series of beautiful inlets that pearl the Mediterranean coastal landscape between the city of Marseille and the town of Cassis are far from a hidden gem. The dramatic rocky cliffs cradling heavenly carved bays, filled with crystal-clear water are a sight to be seen, and prove a deserving reward after hours of hiking through the national park under the blazing sun. The most breathtaking of them all is Calanque of En-Vau, no doubt. But, it can also be very crowded… like CROW-DED. That’s where Calanque of Morgiou comes in, and might just be the smartest pick. Why? Simple: this spot has the right balance between gorgeous scenery, turquoise water, a tolerable amount of people, and a reasonable hiking distance on safe terrain. Might we add that if you make a reservation at the restaurant located right by the little fishing port of Morgiou, you’re allowed to drive all the way down to the beach, thus avoiding the aforementioned hike. You’re welcome. And, if you’re feeling adventurous and just have to get that epic Instagram picture, you may venture further away towards Calanque of Sugiton and reach the Grotte Bleue (or Blue Cave). Beware though, you can only access the actual cave by sea – you’ll have to swim or canoe into it. Make sure to go early to soak up all the beauty of the locale, uninterrupted.
The Panier, the oldest district in Marseille
Merely climb the stairs behind the Town Hall and you’ll enter Marseille’s lively and historic Panier (the Basket, ndlr). First a fishermen’s village, the Panier quickly became a welcoming haven for immigrants from Italy, Corsica, and Northern Africa. The ever-evolving neighbourhood has now become the ideal area to stroll around and explore narrow streets, colorful murals, tiny cafes, antique shops, art galleries, and step away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
We’ve already mentioned our love for the magical vessel that is Copperbay Paris in a previous article focusing on the best cocktail bars in the French capital – check it out. Its little brother (or sister), Copperbay Marseille, does not disappoint one bit. The cocktails are still bespoke and delicious, the staff lovely, the interior design exquisitely Instagrammable from every angle, and the playlist is always on point. We mean the right kind of late 90s-early 2000s bops that’ll put any of us in the mood for an all nighter. Copperbay Marseille is the place to be, point blank.
The fairly new eating spot may evoke Ancient Greece and mythological legends, but the menu however proves quite contemporary and straight to the point. Tasty roasted wild vegetables, juicy freshly-caught grilled fish, and mouth-watering flower-infused roasted poultry make a sample of all the deliciousness that Ourea offers to locals and travelers alike. The wine selection is not too shabby either. Our personal favorite, Catherine et Pierre Breton Bourgueil la Dilettante. When in Marseille, don’t think twice and book a table at this lively, tasty, and affordable restaurant.
Les Bords De Mer Hotel
Saying that Les Bords De Mer is our favorite hotel in Marseille would be an understatement. We’re simply obsessed! Perched between sea and sky – literally, this 50s-inspired, pastel-colored, beauty of a place treats his guests to the most epic and dreamy view over the Mediterranean sea from pretty much anywhere. We mean, from the rooms, to the restaurant, bar, and panoramic rooftop infinity pool. What else, you ask. Nirvana?! Well, the relaxing sauna, elegant hammam, mineral spa, and REN Clean Skincare beauty rooms might just take you in 7thheaven after all.
The Cabanon de Paulette
In need of a little “scene”, come close and listen. The Cabanon de Paulette offers refreshing drinks, yummy snacks, dance-worthy music, and most importantly a spectacular view of the sunset at dusk. Chat, laugh, and dance with locals, Parisians, and travelers from all over Europe on the warm sand. You’ll for sure make friends with everyone at the end of the night.
The Cite Radieuse
Taking the elevator to the rooftop terrace of the Cite Radieuse is like boarding a spaceship to the most peaceful and poetic brutalist space station ever. If the 360º panoramic view over the South side of the city of Marseille doesn’t take your breath away and cure your depression, maybe Ora Ito’s Modulor art gallery which features world-renowned architectural geniuses will do the trick. On your way down, stop on 3rd and 4th “street”. The two indoor promenades house a bakery, a restaurant, a hotel, a bar, several shops and amenities, as if you truly were outside on a commercial street. For any #ArchitectureLover, the Cite Radieuse is simply a must-see.
The Chateau La Coste
Speaking of art, we cannot NOT mention Chateau La Coste, our very own version of New York’s Dia Beacon, but better. Because, it’s also a winery! Not technically in Marseille, but close enough by car (approx. 45 minutes), the massive property houses said-winery, a hotel, several restaurants, two art galleries, and an art and architecture walk. A true #PromenadeArchitecture of 2.5 hours. Endless fields of grapevines and olive trees cradle monumental as well as more intimate modernist and contemporary art installations by international artists such as Tadao Ando, Louise Bourgeois, Ai Wei Wei, Alexander Calder, Tracey Emin, Tunga, and Frank Gehry. An experience you won’t easily forget.
So, see you down South!
By PK Douglas