The South of France is a completely new destination for me. I grew up flitting from my home in England to our apartment in Hong Kong and to our holiday house in Malaysia, indulging in wonderfully balmy city breaks and tropical island vibes, with the odd sunny city travel to Barcelona, Majorca, Belgium, Paris and the like.
My boyfriend, however, grew up in France and tells me grand tales of summering in St. Tropez and French countryside jaunts in their camper van, so the idea of finally visiting the French Riviera has been in my mind for a couple of months. When Elodie invited our motley crew over to visit her, we of course jumped at the choice, booked some cheap flights and zoomed over to her corner of the globe for 24 hours in Marseille plus another 24 in Sanary-sur-Mer.
84 Quai du Port, 13002 Marseille, France
Our first port of call in Marseille was a lunch reservation at Le Poulpe, a little restaurant situated just beside the old harbour (le Vieux Port). A Michelin-starred establishment, expect extremely well-priced set menu options, some of the greatest seafood around – seriously, their sea bream main and squid starter are the most frequent recurring stars of my dreams these days – and great wine. Plus, the view isn’t half bad.
Au Bout Du Quai
1 Avenue Saint-Jean, 13002 Marseille, France
For dinner, I couldn’t speak more highly of Au Bout Du Quai. Beautifully picturesque and quaint in decor with a definitive beach house vibe, the restaurant at the end of the harbour is home to a seafood menu of dreams and their ingredients are freshly caught that day.
Go for the sea bass fillet or their rib eye and do take time to appreciate their gloriously stocked bar as well as the beautiful views. Take an outdoor seat if you can.
Glacier Vanille Noire
13 Rue Caisserie, 13002 Marseille, France
For a much-needed respite from the sun, Glacier Vanille Noire is a great port of call. Their black squid ink vanilla flavour is absolutely worth a try: it’s certainly nothing as scary as it sounds, simply a pared-down vanilla that isn’t too sweet. Plus, it’s just round the corner from a pretty glorious view of the harbour.
La Grande Savonnerie
106 Quai du Port, 13002 Marseille, France
Home of Marseille’s globally famous soap, the traditional Savon de Marseille, this quaint little shop sells freshly handmade bars of olive soap. Each block is crafted from natural ingredients and hand-stamped for authenticity and the shopkeepers are more than happy to share the soap’s illustrious history with their customers. Save room in your suitcase for a bar of hand soap, body soap and laundry detergent soap!
One of the more random additions to this guide is Maison Empereur, a no-frills hardware store that houses kitchenware, tools and even clothes. It’s the perfect place to swoon over Le Creuset cookware and pick up any random assortment of cookie cutters that are, ironically, not cookie cutter in creative design at all.
La Vieille Charité
2 Rue de la Charité, 13002 Marseille, France
This historical building was once a charity-funded complex, built to house homeless people and the town’s poor by Marseille local architect, Pierre Puget. An elegant building in the neoclassical style, the courtyard is home to some gorgeous olive trees and a beautiful chapel. It’s situated in the old Panier quarter of the city, where winding lanes and lovely artisan boutiques and cafes pave the streets.
7 Promenade Robert Laffont, 13002 Marseille, France
MuCEM is a brilliantly bold and modern museum, opened in 2013, and home to some of the most beautiful surrounding landscapes. Whilst we didn’t explore the exhibitions inside (we simply ran out of time!), we did venture to the rooftop terrace for a drink in the sun and wandered down through the building, peering at the Mediterranean sea through the building’s beautiful metal cutwork frame.
Where are your favourite places to explore in Marseille?