The famous contribution to world culture is a Fish Soup
Marseille: The second largest French city has been transformed. Marseille has long been overlooked as a tourist destination in favour of rivals such as Nice and Cannes, not to mention Paris. It is somehow placed in the wrong end of the French Riviera. Unfair, I would say. After a solid facelift and modernization Marseille has changed for the better. This city is going trendy. For anyone who hasn’t been to Marseille their consolation must be that they have no idea what they’re missing.
Forget passed year’s headlines about crime and corruption. Now it’s about the new museums and galleries, about bars and hipsters, the vibrant beat of a big port city with the boats and Quai de la Fraternitè topped with Norman Foster’s stainless-steel roof. Marseille is cool, trendy and cultured.
Overview. To watch the spectacular surroundings get up to Notre Dame de la Garde, a historic fortress and church located 154 meters above sea level. From here there are panoramic views of the city, the mountains in the background and in front of the sea and the harbour with its colorful fishing boats in the Vieux Port. After a short time you will discover that this is a vital port city combined with the charm normally found in a fishing village.
Lunch. For a Provencal lunch, try L’Effet Clochette, address 2 Place des Augustines. The harbour Vieux Port has countless opportunities, but to test a French brasserie try Caruso Café, address 158 Quai de Port, which gets good reviews among those who have eaten there. Pizzeria Chez Angele, address 50 Rue Caisserie, is located two streets behind the harbour.
Aperitif. A walk around the harbour you will quickly discover Le Bar de la Marine, which attracts all kinds of people, from sailors to corporates. The terrace has a nice view, but inside you get the true experience of this institution with furniture from the 1930s and photographs and caricatures on the walls. This bar was in the film Love Actually, and here they love pastis, an aperitif with anise flavour. Cafe La Samaritaine is the city’s answer to Cafe de Paris. Cafe Parisien, address 1 Place Sadi-Carnot, has the option to play petanque and La Caravelle, address 34 quai du Port, is excellent for an aperitif at the sunset.
Famous fish soup. Sorry, Zinedine Zidane, but the fish soup Bouillabaisse is the city’s most famous contribution to world culture. Chez Michel, Address 6 Rue des Catalans, serving the original version and has done so since the restaurant opened in 1946. The meal begins with the waiter showing fresh fish, and while enjoying a glass of wine chef prepares meal served twice. First comes the soup eaten with croutons, aioli and grated cheese over. Afterwards the waiter returns with fish, filleting it at the table, put the fish on a platter and have some soup over the fish – and freshly baked bread as an accessory. Bouillabaisse was once the poor man’s fish soup, now it’s expensive and famous. Some things in Marseille will never change and bouillabaisse is one of them.
Specialties. French people eat earlier than you think. Lunch at noon and the evening meal starts at eight o’clock. Simple French restaurant is excellent for children. Whether there is a children’s menu or not the food is about meat, chips and ice cream. Note that tip to the waiter is included in the bill, but a few extra are always welcome. The basis for local cuisine is fresh products from Provence, fish and seafood and spices from around the world. Some of the specialties are Pieds a Paquet, consisting of meat cooked for several hours in white wine and herbs and Soupe au Pistou, a soup of vegetables, beans, garlic and herbs are some of the ingredients. Aioli is mayonnaise with garlic served to several dishes.
Markets. As seaport with imports, exports and trade, it is natural that there are many markets, from fish market for spices, locally produced soap and clothes in Avenue du Prado. Capucins Market is a souk-like explosion of spice, figs, music, saris and people of all nations shouting to be heard. A wide variety of shops are in the area of Rue Paradis, just east of the harbour.
The beach. Marseille has three kilometres of beautiful beaches, especially good is sandy Plaque they Prophete. The area inside is the park Borely with hiking trails, restaurants, golf course, country house and a small lake with swans and rowboat. Other option is to take a bus from the Vieux Port to the beaches Plage du Prado Plage de la Corniche.
Culture. Marseille is a cultural city, with artists and art studios and 22 museums, including Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations. This place has a first-class restaurant. The rich cultural life also consists of 25 theatres, including two national theatres, 10 concert halls, an opera and a national ballet company.
City. Vieux-Port is in many ways unique with its 2600 years long history, eminent monuments and lively activity at sea and ashore. At both ends is impressive fort, while the promenade is filled with bars and restaurants, Town Hall, Belfry and market. Old Town Le Panier is just minutes away. In the narrow streets are shops and craftsmen, but also some of the oldest monuments dating back to ancient times. Vallon des Auffes is an old fishing village full of colorful boats and fishing huts.
Advice. If you don’t speak French you should note some advice. Getting good service here is anything but a divine right. It’s like learning to play a computer game. You’ve got to press the right buttons or it will be game over before you have had a chance to buy a single croissant. No one shouts ‘garçon!’ in a French cafe unless they don’t want to get served. To attract the attention of a waiter or waitress just raise your arm and call out ‘s’il vous plait’ .
When friends and family meet in France they begin with a kiss on each cheek. But in the south there are always three kisses. Start your training – in Marseille you will quickly notice that you have come to the right end of the Riviera.
Make it Happen!
Touch Down: Marseille Provence Airport can be reached directly from over 100 destinations. The bus departs every 15 minutes from the airport to Marseille. Taxi costs about 50 euro at daytime. Transport in the city; Metro lines 1 and 2, two tramlines and bus network. Saint-Charles train station, Marseille - Paris in three hours by speed train.
Stay: Hotel Sofitel at the port has the best view, with a restaurant of the highest class, in terms of food and views. The hotel has a pool, spa and fitness center. Le Richelieu is a more affordable option with prices ranging from 110 Euros for a double with sea view and breakfast. Lerichelieu-marseille.com. Le Peron is a family-run hotel with rooms from 80 Euros. Ask for a corner room overlooking the ocean.
Eat: Michelin restaurant Le Miramar, 12 Quai de Port, is an option for exclusive dining. Here the fish soup Bouillabaisse, served as fish stew, costs more than 50 Euros, but you’ll not need anything else, probably for a week (bouillabaisse.com)
Play: The Plaine district is where ethnic chic meets hip. La Dame Noir is probably the city's hippest nightclub. It is fairly small, fairly warm and be prepared for loud music from DJ and concerts. If electro-techno is your style, then this is the place - if you past the guards. Check out the concerts at Poste à Galène.
Mini Guide: Marseilles Convention and Visitors Bureau, the tourist office, located in 11 La Canebiere, near the Vieux Port. The city's climate: 300 sunny days a year. In 2017 Marseille will become the capital of Europe for sports. France, Albania, Iceland, Hungary, Ukraine and Poland will play matches during UEFA Euro 2016 in Marseille.