When we were visiting the South of France for a few days to see the lavender fields, I knew I had to see the Mediterranean too. I absolutely loved our Cote d’Azur road trip a few years ago, when we visited the eastern part of the Cote d’Azur (Nice region). I always knew we had to go back to visit the western part surrounding Marseille. So when we stayed in Sault for a few days we headed south for a day to visit Marseille and the Calanques. The Calanques form a national park with a stunning cliff series, which you can visit to hike and to go swimming. We visited Marseille for half a day, which isn’t nearly enough to explore all this city has to offer, but we loved strolling the old quarter Le Panier and the old Port.
The Calanques are a National Park in France, which consists of land and sea. You will find the Calanques sandwiched between Marseille and Cassis. The Calanques are famous for hiking and swimming, while doing the hike you will have insane views over the Mediterranean and sometimes you get the opportunity to take a little dip. Hielke and I decided to visit the Calanques that are nearest to Cassis, as I heared you could do a short hike of 3 hours return in which you would get to see three beautiful cliff series.
Apparently, parking is really difficult near the Calanques (yes also during COVID as pretty much all France wants to visit these beaches). We made sure to arrive early (9.30AM) at the parking near Calanque de Port-Miou in Cassis. The parking is called Parking de la Presqu’ile, named after the restaurant which is situated on the corner. We paid € 8 for a full day of parking, while the entrance to the national park is free. Sometimes the park gets closed during the high season, as the drought can create fire risks. You can check whether the park is open on this website.
The first Calanque you will encounter is Calanque de Port-Miou, which is a beautiful place where the lucky few have a sailboat. You will encounter this Calanque in 10 minutes walking from the parking lot.
The second Calanque is Calanque de Port Pin, which is about 30 minutes of walking, but was pretty accessible if you didn’t mind the heat. Even if you go to this beach I would recommend wearing decent shoes, as there are some climbs with slippery and dusty rocks. You will hardly find any shade while walking there, but you will be rewarded with a beautiful place to swim! When we arrived we were a bit surprised about the number of people laying on the little beach, but we managed to find a relaxed and quiet spot on the rocks ourselves. Hielke took some dives into the water, which was absolutely freezing!
We started at the hike to Calanque d’en-Vau, but did not finish it. We were told this was a hike of 3 hours round trip from the parking lot, but we had some indications that it would take us much longer. When we visited it was over 30 degrees, there was no shade and we took too little water, so we decided not to finish the hike. The hike was much steeper than I expected and I was still not feeling all too well due to my pregnancy, so we decided it was safer to quit. However, the pictures look amazing and I am sure it is worth the hike, just make sure you prepare well and try to visit outside of the high season. At the Calanques you are not able to buy any water or food. Despite of skipping the last hike, I would still recommend visiting the Calanques for the amazing views of the Mediterranean!
If you are looking for a more relaxed visit to the Calanques, you can of course stay much closer than we did. I heard that Cassis is a really charming town, as well as Saint-Tropez and Grimaud. In summer time you will find the most amazing flowers in these “villages fleuries”.
You know I never skip on the opportunity to make a quick stop at a place I haven’t been before. Even though it was 3PM when we finished our visit to the Calanques and we still had to drive back to Sault, I of course needed to have a little taste of Marseille. Marseille was never firmly on my radar before, but after this short visit I would love to see more of this charming city!
Surprisingly, it was really easy and cheap to park in Marseille. We paid less than € 2 per hour for a parking spot in the second largest city of France, which is much cheaper than my hometown Eindhoven 😉 Just follow the parking signs until you are near a garage near a point of interest.
I knew that I really wanted to visit the old town in Marseille, which is called Le Panier, so I made sure we started our time there. Le Panier is full of small, colorful alleyways, with typical French doors and Louvre shutters. You will even find cool murals in this area, as it is one of the most diverse areas in Marseille. We loved strolling around for the afternoon, finding lots of shade and cooling off on the terraces. This area does get busier at night, so if you want to take lots of photographs I would recommend to visit before the evening. I must admit it was not busy at all when we visited during the day in July 2020, as people seem to be avoiding large cities. We didn’t feel unsafe at all. People do seem to gather in the old harbor, but in Le Panier it was easy to socially distance.
We finished our little tour of Marseille in the Old Port, which is a really good spot to visit when the sun starts to set. The restaurants in the Old Port seemed really touristy and are not known for the best quality. I was craving Italian food, after a few days of trying to avoid red meat and hefty cheeses while being pregnant. We ended up at the Italian restaurant Fuxia at the charming square Place Thiars, just behind the harbor. This restaurant was exceptionally modern, the food was delicious and fresh and the restaurant practiced social distancing perfectly!
And that is when our short time in Marseille came to an end, however Marseille has many cultural activities that I would love to do next time, such as:
- Visit the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, as seen on the hill overlooking the old harbor in the picture above.
- Take a stroll on the seaside Corniche.
- Visit the MuCEM for the interesting architecture, but also the interesting collection regarding Mediterranean culture.
- Admire the Palais Longchamp, one of the most romantic places in Marseille.
- Go to L’Estaque, a little fishing town which is super picturesque.