Marseille is definitely très Française. The French national anthem isn’t called La Marseillaise for nothing. Marseille owns a unique type of French charm. A totally different one from Paris though. It’s warmer, smiley and effortlessly genuine. It owns a welcoming vibe that even if you don’t speak a word of French, you won’t feel like a weird meme.
Being on the Coast, Marseille is France second largest city with 30,000 years old and is usually very crowded during summer (especially August) which makes of colder months a good time to visit it. It’s only 2h30 minutes away from Lisbon, flying with Ryanair at pretty cheap prices (around 45,00€). As you already know, TrenDestination is all about a singular perspective from each destination, where memorable experiences don’t come with a price tag. It’s not about the money you spend yet the memories you bring with you. Therefore, below you’ll find 11 best and unique things you must do in Marseille in order to get the local Marseillaise flavor.
#1. DRINK | Pastis
With an in-your-face anise and licorice based flavor and strong like nothing you ever tasted before (you won’t notice the amount of alcohol in it although it has 40% to 45%!), Pastis is definitely the signature beverage of Marseille. Before you buy it, try it please. Head to La Maison du Pastis shop at the Old Port and ask for a free sample. It’s also one of the best spots to purchase it as the staff can give you proper info about this peculiar drink.
#2. EAT | Navettes de Marseille
Let us tell you that these apparently harmless boat shaped biscuits will kill your diet. With a soft fragrant orange blossom scent and its combination of softness with crunchiness in one bite, these gems from Marseille are unmissable. Les Navettes des Accoules bakery shop is my personal recommendation on where to buy the real traditional stuff. Try also their different macarons, cuccioles and canistrellis.
#3. WALK AROUND | Le Panier
Here’s the itinerary to get around Le Panier neighborhood: get lost. That’s it. Wonder around and discover every tiny artistic piece of it. Since large parts of it are traffic restricted, it’s just perfect to go by foot for an hour or two. If you’re looking for handcrafted jewels, local designer goods or unique art pieces, this is the place. It represents Marseille alternative artistic vibe.
#4. DISCOVER | The Arab Quarter
Habibi, if you truly appreciate the local genuine beauty of each place you visit, you can’t miss the Arab Quarter. It’s the symbol of the melting pot that is Marseille, with a very particular eclectic Afro-Arab vibe. Open up your senses and mind and you’ll be amazed with the locals’ pulse in this neighborhood.
#5. PHOTOGRAPH | The Old Port
Marseille Vieux Port makes it feel like summer even on winter. Stroll around as it’s pretty as a picture making it perfect to take endless photos from different perspectives. It’s Marseille most touristic spot, full of restaurants and bars, and always with loads of things going on. If you have phobia of getting bored, save time to visit it. Make sure you include a visit to the architecturally impressive MuCEM, located at the Port.
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#6. CLIMB | Notre-Dame de la Garde
Heading to this amazing cathedral will give you the opportunity of taking the panoramic picture of your life. The cathedral itself is pretty impressive with all its noble ornaments but the 360º views outside are completely breathtaking. You get to see entire Marseille beauty from there. Hot tip: Get the number 60 bus from downtown and use the same ticket to return (up to 1 hour), for less than 2,00€ per person.
#7. BUY | Marseille soap & Wines
The traditional Savon de Marseille is the oldest soap used in France with a square shape, made of vegetable oils and a white (palm oil) or green (olive oil) color. They make the perfect gift to revive Marseille. Provence is, hands down, one of the most underrated wine regions in France, however, it owns an impressive wine list where the rosé is definitely king. Buying one (or two) wine bottles and drink at home is the ultimate local ritual sign so go for it.
#8. LUNCH | Buffet with a view
Although it’s located in a touristic setting, this restaurant – Les Buffets du Vieux Port – has a nice offer of food with influences from Spain, Italy and obviously France. For the decent price of 23,00€ per person including varied fresh salads and starters, soups, cold meats and cheeses, 5 hot dishes, a full dessert station and a magnifique view to the Port included. If it’s sunny, grab a seat outside and work on your tan.
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#9. DINE | Galettes & crepes
La Table Ronde is the spot where you have to eat to try traditional Breton galettes. Galette is a French term to designate a pancake made of buckwheat flour with a savory filling and nowhere else in Marseille you’ll eat any like these. Try the Complete galette with ham, Emmental cheese and egg although they’re all heavenly tasty.
#10. HIGH-END EXPERIENCE | Marseille Michelin-star
With a Michelin star since 2014, restaurant AM from Chef Alexandre Mazzia celebrates the most remarkable high-end signature dishes you’ll find in Marseille. So if you’re seriously committed with impressive gourmet food without having to offer half of your wage, make sure you have a reservation, well in advance. They have a set lunch menu for 35,00€ per person including 4 amuse-bouche and 8 courses (#YouCantGetBetterThanThis).
#11. NIGHT | Night Walk by Google
Embodying the first-ever Google Street View by night, this experience will stroll you around the alleys and streets of hip-bohemian Cours Julien district. This interactive adventure will submerge you in the natural acoustics of the neighborhood with a soundtrack that reacts to your movements as you look and walk around. Just bear in mind that your device might run out of battery faster.