Marseille: sunny tourism in Provence’s capital
Founded by the ancient Greeks in 600 BC, Marseille is not only France’s oldest city, but also arguably its loveliest. It also boasts 300 days of sunshine every year. Easily accessible by air thanks to its conveniently located airport, TGV link and road, it’s a city worth exploring on your own or as part of an organized tour.
Fans of the 1844 classic The Count of Monte Cristo flock to Marseille to visit Chateau d’If, the 16th-century fortress where Dumas’s protagonist is wrongfully imprisoned. There are more than 15 daily boat departures from the city to the castle, located 3.5 km west of the Vieux Port on Île d’If.
The Vieux Port is an attraction in itself for anyone looking to get a real feel for Marseille's maritime heritage. From the morning fish market to nearby Le Panier—otherwise known as “Marseille’s Montmartre”—to the brand-new MuCEM museum, there’s no shortage of things to do along the city’s harbour.
Built on Marseille’s highest point, the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde towers above the city. The lavish, domed 19th-century Romano-Byzantine basilica offers a 360˚ view of the terracotta-topped roofs below.
Tourists can take a piece of terracotta home, though not from the Marseillais’ rooftops. Santons, hand-painted nativity figurines, are one of Provence’s most endearing Christmas traditions, and were first crafted in Marseille by artisan Jean-Louis Lagnel. The Musée du Santon houses a private collection of 18th- and 19th-century santons, with a boutique where visitors can purchase their own.
Great food and restaurants
Bouillabaisse is Marseille’s most famous culinary invention, and is served in almost every local eatery. Locals love Chez Aldo in out-of-the-way Port de la Madrague, where orders must be placed at least 24 hours in advance. The piles of monkfish, rascasse, conger eel and chapon make it well worth the wait.
Aix-en-Provence, whose colour palette is inspired by Cézanne as well as the festivals, holidays, traditions, Provençal markets, confections and sun-soaked terraces, is a welcoming place any time of year. Blessed with a favourable climate, Aix-en-Provence oozes elegance, and its streets and plazas are always bustling with activity. History is the backdrop to everyday life here, where the thrill of shopping is further enhanced by the surrounding riches. The maze of alleyways reveals a remarkable architectural heritage and Baroque wonders. Each fountain has its secrets, and each private mansion, a tale to tell. Certain properties even boast a privileged location in the heart of parks and gardens, just like in past centuries. Continue your holiday in the Aix countryside to admire the breathtaking landscapes, vineyards and charming towns. From recreational activities to wine tasting, there are plenty of activities providing an experience that’s truly Provençal.