Five special places in Marseille
I have already been to the Mediterranean port city five times and would go there again at any time. For me, Marseille is the perfect combination of an inspiring city break and a relaxing beach holiday. Of a bustling city and impressive nature. Marseille was the European Capital of Culture in 2013 and has seized the attention to rise out of the shadow of France as the second largest city in France in Paris step out A so-called metropolitan hiking trail through the city and the surrounding area was opened, the infrastructure was significantly improved and two new museums were opened Port built.
Where it used to be quite dangerous, today the sailing boats sway peacefully in the wind. And an oversized, mirrored roof invites all strollers to take photos upside down or to linger briefly in the shade. For me, the best thing about traveling is the discovery, in Marseille it's the reunion. And yet I look for new special places with every stay - I would like to present five of them here.
1. The Radiant City
Architecturally and culturally, Marseille has a lot to offer. The 2013 newly built and recently reopened "Villa Méditerranée" and the futuristic block of the new museum "MUCEM" built at the same time. Both buildings are located on a headland in front of the old town between the old port (Vieux Port) and the industrial port. Not far from there is the curved high-rise shipping company designed by star architect Zaha Hadid. These modern architectural highlights are real tourist magnets. However, I particularly liked a historic building (UNESCO World Heritage Site) just outside the city center. A high rise building with great 360 degree views of the adjacent mountains and the sea.
The residential unit "La Cité Radieuse" (the radiant city) was completed in 1952 and is considered one of the most famous buildings of the architectural legend Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris) and was a pioneer for many high-rise residential buildings. The now somewhat outdated building has eighteen floors and over three hundred apartments. In the middle floors is the shopping mile of the "Cité", which used to be something like a market place with a butcher's shop, laundry and supermarket.
Today there is still the "Hotel Le Corbusier', a restaurant and an art book store. On the accessible roof terrace there was a kindergarten, a theater and a sports hall with an outdoor running track. These public places are freely accessible. In order to get a glimpse of the inside of a model apartment, you have to register for a guided tour in advance. The duplex apartments are mostly built in such a way that all tenants can see the sea and the mountains. The facilities, which were comfortable and modern by the standards of the time, such as hot water, central heating and numerous practical wooden fixtures, were groundbreaking. A visit is worthwhile for anyone interested in architecture and is an exciting journey through time to the beginnings of social housing.
2. A business like a hundred years ago
Many young designers have settled in Marseille, whose fashion is often inspired by casual beach life. There are also some nice interior design shops with new French designs or antiques. But I was particularly impressed by a shop called "Maison Empereur". One could casually describe it as a haberdashery, but that wouldn't do nearly justice to this extraordinary hodgepodge.
Cutlery, yard goods, crockery, tools, soaps and lightbulbs are sold in small, crooked shops that merge into one another and are spread over three buildings. The shop was opened in 1827, is a family business and primarily sustainable products such as raffia baskets, lavender bags, beard brushes, ceramic cicadas or historical toys. Perhaps the best-known souvenir is the famous soap called "Savon de Marseille". Like beer, this has a purity law. It must consist of at least 72 percent vegetable oil and may only contain natural colors and additives. They are available with the scents of lavender, lemon or olive oil, among others. So you can take the smell of the city home with you.
3. A trip to the moon
If you then have enough of the lively city, there are an incredible number of excursion destinations in the area around Marseille. The picturesque Cassis by the sea or the sophisticated Aix-en-Provence in the hinterland are definitely worth a day trip. Both places can be reached easily and inexpensively by bus and train.
Also popular are boat tours in the so-called "Calanques", small fjord-like bays, some of which are only accessible from the water and stretching almost twenty kilometers north of Marseille to Cassis. Less frequented than the "Calanques" are "Les Goudes", which are something like the entrance to the national park. The vegetation is rather sparse and so this first section of the park is almost like a lunar landscape. This remote neighborhood has starred in numerous films for its stunning setting, most recently in Stillwater, starring Matt Damon.
The small fishing villages are reminiscent of times gone by and there are some good restaurants ("Chez Paul", Le petit port) and bars (20.000 leus, tuba). It takes twenty minutes by bus from Prado Beach to get here. Depending on the time of day, you have to call a taxi back because the buses no longer run in the evening.
4. The whole family cooks here
The restaurant "Nestou“ is not far from the smaller city beach (Plage des Catalans) in a quiet side street and is a real gem. Named after Ernest (Nestou), the little son of Jean-Philippe and Jeanne Garbin, the chefs and managers of this nice family eatery. Here you can enjoy delicious food at fair prices both at lunchtime and in the evening.
The dishes are Mediterranean paired with successful inspirations from other world cuisines. Of course, freshly caught fish is served here by the sea, but there is always a good selection of vegetarian dishes. For example, smoky eggplant with fennel confit and a sauce of red onions and pickled cherries. While Philippe prepares the main courses, Jeanne is responsible for the heavenly desserts - such as homemade strawberry sorbet with homemade almond biscuit and crème anglaise, a kind of Bavarian cream or zabaglione.
The guest room is reminiscent of the bow of a ship and is paneled with blue wood and little "Nestou" is doing his homework at one of the tables. When the sun goes down over the sea and the last rays touch the guests sitting outside, you see happy faces. Neighbors, gourmets and tourists sit next to each other and enjoy this special meal in a relaxed atmosphere. Later in the evening, restaurateurs from the surrounding bars drop by for a quick snack or a small meal.
5. Rare edelweiss in the middle of Marseille
If you want to spend the night in a typical Marseille town house on Rue Lafayette, not far from the train station (there is a direct train from Frankfurt to Marseille once a day), Véronique Bieger is the place for you. A charming Board with beautiful antiques and fine finds.
Double rooms from 85 euros per night.
© Photos: Geraldine Voss, Florentina Kolb, Edelweiss