The second largest port in France, Marseille is a busy town full of history, glamour, expensive yachts and smelly soaps. Without the over the top cliche wealth of St Tropez, Marseille has an understated elegance and some fantastic views and coffee shops to visit.
The old town is a maze of steep hills that you find yourself struggling for breath walking up, whilst elderly locals skip up carrying their shopping bags.The buildings are all of that beautiful sandy colour, with narrow pathways between them and the charm of the old part of Marseille is inescapable. However, when you head down toward the harbour you see the stylish world of Marseille today; coffee shops, seafood restaurants and a harbour full of yachts. If you wanted to spend money in the town, you absolutely could empty your bank account, but there are ways to see Marseille on a budget!
The Road Train that leaves from the harbour edge is perhaps tacky and a tourist trap but at €8 per adult for at least an hour of sightseeing it’s a great value way of seeing the city. The main route takes you past the harbour and up into the newer part of the city, going past some extravagant villas and giving you an opportunity to see the relatively secluded beaches of the area. As you climb the hills in the bright blue train, you get a sense of how vast this city is, and as you reach the Notre-Dame de la Garde with the imposing gold statue of the Virgin Mary sitting above the land.
It’s hard not to fantasize about living in the enormous villas that overlook the bay, and about eating each evening in one of the amazing (and pricey) restaurants around the harbour. However, if you’re there at the right time of year (anything outside of the summer) you can get a good deal on a big bowl of mussels and chips. Delicious. Marseille also has a great selection of coffee shops (not of the Amsterdam variety) and I’d recommend the iced espresso from the blue coffee shop in the harbour (specific, I know).
Marseille is full of markets, all selling pretty similar but amazing smelling soaps, lavender and macarons. I have been led to believe that soap is something Marseille prides itself in, and the huge displays on offer in the markets are definitely tempting, and most bars are between €1 and €2. So stock up on gifts for the family upon your return! Of course, trying out the French cuisine is a must, and I always like having a nibble on something from a market rather than splashing out on a big meal.
The whole town is gorgeous, with lots of places to explore and on a lazy day it’s easy to waste away hours on the beach or at the harbour sipping coffee. Oh how jolly sophisticated.