On a time sensitive trip to Provence or like us, tend to move faster than the average bear? Here are our agenda for one day in the colorful, laid-back city of Marseille:
1. Admire the view and get your bearings from the central train station. You can see the beautiful basilica, Notre-Dame de la Garde, as well as orient yourself to the vista of the Marseille suburbs stretching outward into the horizon. Try to ignore the weird colonialist statues of naked African and Asian women at the bottom of the stairs. We think these are just left over from an early 20th century renovation, but if you have additional information, please let us know!
2. Head straight down the stairs down to the Old Port to take in the Fish Market (a 10-15 minute walk). The hundreds of boats behind the fish vendors are more impressive perhaps than the 6 or 7 vendors offering their salty wares, but you will gain an impression for the past when the fish market was much grander. Walk along the edge of the harbor until you reach the bay and the solid towers protecting the city from invaders of the past.
3. To the left of the Old Port is the cool, interesting section of Marseille you will want to investigate with your one day. Don’t worry about the rest of the city on the right of the port, unless you have several days. To the left of the port, the city stretches up, up, up to the magnificent basilica. Depending on the timing of your visit, head up to the Basilicata first.
4. Alternatively go to an amazing wine bar and Provencal restaurant first: La Bistrot au Vin. We enjoyed a gut-busting meal for 11.50 Euros each: a serious entrée of “Caviar du Aubergine” and a Goat Cheese and Tomato Tart on a healthy bed of lettuce with a glass of wine, coffee and dessert included. We ordered an appetizer – Audrey cannot resist pied a cochon –and unfortunately were too full to order dessert! We assumed every restuaruant in Marseille would offer Boublibaisse, but this was sadly not the case. You will have much better luck finding “Brochettes” of grilled meat or fish in this town. Wander around this area after lunch and take in the street scene; lots of cool boutiques, restaurants and cafes spill out onto the sidewalk.
5. Assuming you went for the lunch option first, on to Notre-Dame de la Garde. This is clearly a tourist site but well worth hiking up a steep street for. After about 15-20 minutes of upward schlepping, you will reach the base of the magnificent basilica. Up a few more flights of stairs you will reach the top and a magnificent 360 degree view of the city. The basilica itself is impressive on the outside and gorgeous on the inside. Reward your climb with a sit down inside to take in this impressive tribute to God.
6. On the way back down from the church, be sure to stop in to Creations Sacs Mary (ph: 04 91 37 14 49), a small leather goods company on the way down to the center of the city that produces all their beautiful, well-priced wares on site. The walk down to the center of town if very enjoyable, with views of Notre-Dame and cute shops on both left and right of the street. Get a snack at a patisserie or café as you march down to Rue Sylvebelle. Take a right and go along until you reach Corse Julien (about 30 minutes, if you don’t stop at any of the elegant boutiques, wine stores, or antique stores on the way!)
7. The Corse Julien is a large, laid back area encompassing food shops, bookstores and rambling community park. Mix in with Marseille families around the fountains or kill an hour or two checking out the bookstores or drinking a coffee at one of the multiple social conscientious cafes. If you are still around at dinnertime, you will find ample multi-cultural pickings in this area.
8. Should you need to leave that night, the central train station is just a medium walk (20 minutes) from Corse Julien. If not, take in a movie or walk around the harbor before heading to dinner (left side of the port!)