Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Marseille, France

Executive summary by Darmansjah

Best For Views
Be blown away by the city views and 19th-century architecture at the hilltop Basillque Notre Dame de la Garde, the Romano Byzantine basillica that dominates Marseilles’s skyline. Buit between 1853 and 1864, it is crowned with a 9.7m-tall statue tof the virgin (00 33 4 91 134 080; Montee de la Bonne Mere; 7am-7pm).

Best For Culture
The southern quay of the Vieux Port is where it all happens. Marseille’s old fish auction house is now the Theatre National de Marseille at No 30; locals play petanque at legendary nightclub Le Troilleybus at No 24; and cafes buzz untill the early hours on Cours Honore d’Estienne d’Orves.

Best For History
Immortalised in Alexandre dumas’ 1840s novel The Count Of Monte Cristo, 16th-century fortress-turned-prison Chateau d’if  is its on the tiny island lie d’if. Frioul if Express boats sail to it from the Vieux Port (00 33 4 91 465 465; 9.30am-5.30pm).

Best For Shopping
Originally the site of the Greek agora (marketplace), Le panier’s cobbled lanes remain lined with specialist shops and artist’ ateliers. Best buy; savon de Marseille (soap) from Compagnie de Provence (1 Rue Caisserie).

Best For Miniatures
Santons are a Christmas tradition in Provence – tiny terracota nativity statues of anyting from angels to chestnut sellers. Watch the figures being hand-painted at Atelier du Santon (santons; 47 Rue Neuve Ste-Catherine), or visit the Musee du Santon next door (00 33 4 91 13 61 36; Tue-Sat; free).

Why Go
Seedy, salacious, sexy Marseille is the Med’s largest, most vibrant port and was recently the recipient of a multi-million dollar regeneration programme, which is being used to transform the city before it takes on the mantle of European Capital of Culture in 2013.

When To Go
July and August are hot and expensive, but you’ll enjoy the best cultural and artistic festivals such as the Five Continents Jazz Festival and The Feast of the Assumption. May and September are best for touring the coast, and March is carnival time.

How To Go
To get Aeroport Marseille-Province, which is 27kms northwest of Marseille, fly into Paris and connect with Air France ( or fly into London and connect with British Airways (, easyJet ( or Ryanair (

Eat And Drink

Created around a veggie patch and herb garden, La Passarelle has the air of a secret garden. Retro vintage tables and charis sit on a terrace beside the strawberry beds. Everthing growing in the garden goes into the organic menu (00 33 6 68 627 787; 52 rue du Plan Fourmiguier, 7e; lunch and dinner Tue-Sat).

Merseille has some of the besst North African food north of the Med. At Le Souk dine on great tagines (slow-cooked stews) and honey-soaked pastries (00 33 4 91 91 29 29; 100 quai du Port, 2e; closed Mon and dinner Sun).

For a dreamy sunset meal in the calanques, book a table on the covered terrace of Nautic Bar where you’ll dine on fish a la Provencale and supions (pan-fried squid in garlic). Look for the pretty peach cottage with a green canopy (00 33 4 91 400 637; Calanque de Morgiou; lunch and dinner Apr-Oct).

When it comes to serving up authentic bouillabaisse, the city’s signature dish, Le Miramar, with its pretty quayside terrace at the Vieux Port, cannot be beat 900 33 4 91 911 040;; 12 quail du Port,2e; lunch and dinner Tue-Sat; bouillabaisse meal for two).

Set out over the sea, Peron provides a superior gastronomic experience. Choose the roast duck with candied kumquats (00 33 4 91 521 522;; 56 corniche President John F Kennedy, 7e; lunch and dinner, mains).
Find Your Way

Car rental companies can be found at the airport and central train. Gegie des Transports Marseillais (RTM) runs the bus, metro and tram lines. Tickets can be used on anya combination (6 rue des Fabres, 1er for information).


Retro 1950s furnishings and cosy communal spaces give stylish hostel Hotel Vertigo a relaxed ambiance. The double rooms are particularly funky, two are in traditional cabnons (fishing cabins) in the courtyard (00 33 4 91 910 711;; 42 ure des Petites Maries, 1er; doubles ).

Wake up to the breezy beach-house vibe of Hotel Le Richelieu, teetering on a rocky ledge that overhangs the sea. All rooms have spectacular views of the Cote Bleue and Chateau d’if. The adjacent beach is open between June and September (00 33 491 310 192;; 52 corniche President Joh F Kennedy,7e).

Antique shops surround the good value Hotel Edmond Rostand, in the elegant Quartier des Antiquaires. Some of its 16 contemporary-style rooms overlook a tiny private garden, others have veiws of rooftops and the basillica (00 33 4 91 377 495;; 31 rue du Dragon, 6e).

The beautiful Villa Monticelli has five rooms, all individually decorated with elegant period furnishings and large beds. The amazing breakfast of homemade jams, yoghurt and crepes can be enjoyed out on the terrace (00 33 4 91 221 520;; 96 ure du Commandant Rolland; 8e).

Le Petit Nice-Passedat is perched on the rocks above a tiny cove. The 16 rooms are modern in style, and most overlook the pool and cacti garden. The hotel is also home to Geral passedat’s thre Michelin-starred restaurant (00 33 4 91 592 592;; Anse de Maldorme, 7e).

Find Out More

Lonely Planet’s Provence and the Cote d’Azur has a chapter on marseille. You can also download hte Provence chapter from visit form ore ideas on things to do. For a falvour of mutlicultural marseille, read The Marseilles Trilogy by Jean-Claude Izzo, the Marseille-raised son of Spanish and Italian immigrants.

Your Recomendation

Village Life; Caary-le-Rouet is a samall village jut outside Marseille; about 20 minutes drive from the airport. The village is centred around a small harbour, and has a good selection of restaurants, all with great views across the water, plus a small cinema and casino. The retaurant le Saint Trop is very good, but a little expensive ( there are excellent cheaper restarurants further along the quay and all have outdoor dining areas (, in French).

Coastal Cruise; Lonely Planet forum users rate the Calanques, a series of dramatic rocky inlets along the coast road to Cassis. The most picturesque coves are usually only accessible on foot, but between April and October a reservation at nautic Bar in Morgiou or  Le Lunch (00 33 4 91 250 539) in Sormiou lets you drive down to the water’s edge. The best vies however are from a boat. Return trips run from the Vieux Port ( 2 ½ - 3 ½ hours).

Total Seafood; Toinou is a very good fish restaurant close to La Canerbiere, Marseille’s main shopping street. It’s extremely basic, spread over two or three floors, and very popular. I had a mixed seafood platter, with oysters, clams and lobster (, in French; 3 cours Saint-Louis; daily).

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