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  • Writer's pictureGaëlle Frilet

An Insider's Guide to Marseilles

Do you know Parisians' favorite hobby when they go south? Imitating Marseilles "chanting accent" as if they were "du pays."

With 1.5 million inhabitants, Marseilles (with a 's' in English) is the 2nd most populated city in France after Paris. If the capital benefits from the image of "French chic," Marseille is proud of its popular image that you can feel with pure Marseillian talk: a mix of sun, crowds, strong character and pride that show among all the various people from the Mediterranée who have chosen the "Cité phocéenne" for their home.

It is essentially known for its coastline made of beaches and "calanques" but Marseilles has much more to offer. Indeed, thanks to recent global renovation of its city center, the opening of a now iconic museum about Mediterranée (the Mucem) facing the sea and clearly lower rents for a big city, Marseilles is now seeing people from all over France moving south to enjoy an affordable apartment or even a house and a beach-city way of life.

Anything missing?

Since 2018, Marseilles is only 3:30 hours away from Paris by TGV, which definitely finished to convince many to commute, especially after COVID where people where looking for a clearer sky and fresher air.

We used to swap our Parisian for a Marseilles' crib during school holidays (my husband used to work for a Marseillian startup, commute on a weekly basis by train), here are some tips to enjoy a perfect stay in the city of le Comte de Monte Cristo:

  • Go to “le Vieux Port” in early morning and see fishermen selling their catch of the day.

  • Continue and enjoy walking in the small streets of le Panier, Marseilles oldest neighborhood. You'll get crafted knives at La Coutellerie du Panier to prepare your 'bouillabaisse,' Marseilles' most iconic dish (6 species of fish marinated in a tomato bouillon accompanied by a fish soup) and see the home of the famous 'Santons' (at Atelier Arterra), this little hand-made terre cuite characters symbol of the South of France.

  • Go back downtown and visit Maison Empereur, the oldest department store in the city in order to bring home a piece of Provence (furniture, tableware, soap, old toys, candles, etc.).

  • Follow the coast to la Corniche and admire les Iles du Frioul and le Chateau d'If, an ancient prison where the Count of Monte Cristo was supposedly imprisoned in Alexander Dumas' novel, and stop for a lunch 'chez Jeannot' at le Vallon des Auffes, a hidden authentic harbour.

  • Spend a few hours on the beaches watching the show that only Marseillian can offer : this characteristic energy that represents this uncommon city.

  • Coming back towards le Vieux Port, visit la Cité radieuse by Le Corbusier, a perfect example (and still inhabited) of an utopian architectural ensemble.

  • See the Stade Velodrome, pride of the city and home of l'OM, Marseilles football club (and scene of fights with its preferred enemy PSG),

  • Back in the city center, climb up to Ciel, a trendy rooftop bar with view over la Bonne Mère, Marseilles most famous church that watches over the city and which is visible from almost everywhere.

Marseille is worth the trip for a unique taste of the most original city in France!


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