Ah… Marseille… The cicadas, the singing accent, the hot weather, the old port, the Mucem, the calanques… So many things you think you know and yet… Marseille is so much more than that, not only in the city but also beyond, there is so much to explore!
I discovered this area 4 years ago and every visit is a new surprise. In this article I tell you about 7 magical places to discover, in Marseille and its surroundings. Most of them require a good physical stamina so get warmed up!
It is the first calanque I visited and it is perhaps my most beautiful memory, the one I returned the most to afterwards. Located in the south of the Marseille area, near the university site of Luminy, this is where your hike will start.
Of course it is possible to see the calanque from the sea but it would be a shame to miss out the great walk in the hills to reach it by foot. The hike starts from the Sugiton pass, you can make a first break at the belvedere to admire from above the nearby calanque, Morgiou.
Then your descent will start between small paths and concrete paths. As you go down you will discover the calanque and its two small creeks. Immersed in the turquoise water, small islets including the “Torpilleur” (torpedo boat) that you will easily recognize. The small beaches are prohibited because the access is dangerous.
Duration : 50 mins to go / 1.15 hour back
Length : 3,2km
Difficulty : 2/5
See here the hike
Port-Miou / Port-Pin calanques
Located in Cassis on the peninsula, it is a calanque different from the others. First because it is one of the only two which is located on the territory of Cassis and not Marseille… but secondly because it extends over 1.4 km! It also makes it possible to join two other neighboring calanques, Port-Pin (in Cassis) and En vau (in Marseille).
The name Port-Miou comes from the Latin Portus Melior, literally, the “best port” and for good reason, you will start your walk directly to the marina embedded in the limestone rocks.
After discovering the port and the wild coast you will continue towards the calanque of Port Pin. Two paths are possible, the old or the new GR 98-51. The old one is really prettier but beware it is also more difficult, rocks are slippery!
After effort, comfort, once you arrive at the calanque of Port-Pin you just have to put on your swimsuit and dive in the turquoise water. For those who want to see more, the path continues to the calanque d’En Vau…
Duration : 30 mins to Port Pin / 1.15 hour to En Vau
Length : 2.3 km to Port Pin / 3.8 km to En Vau
Difficulty : 2/5
See here the hike
Mont Saint-Pilon at Plan d’Aups – Massif de la Sainte-Beaume
Hiking lovers you have found your paradise! Far away from the calanques, its tourists and the hustle and bustle of the city, lies the Sainte-Baume massif. It stretches between the departments of Bouches-du-Rhône and Var over an area of 45,000 hectares and is criss-crossed by many hikes.
For this article let’s go to the Saint Pilon and the Marie-Madeleine’s cave. Like Lourdes, the Sainte Beaume is a high place of pilgrimage. A hostelry run by Dominican friars welcomes pilgrims at the bottom of the massif, it is there that your adventure begins.
The path begins by crossing a forest, protected for centuries, it is exceptional by the variety and quality of the species. But more than that, the calm and the atmosphere that reigns there, almost gives it a magical side and for good reason. After 40 minutes of ascent you arrive in a surprising place: the Marie-Madelein’s cave. Before entering this famous cave, take a few minutes, or even more, to admire the panorama of the esplanade: it’s breathtaking! You can then visit the cave of Marie-Madeleine.
After the resurrection of Christ, she arrived with her brother Lazarus and her sister Martha to evangelize Provence. She will end her life in this cave. The temperature inside is 13° winter and summer, a beneficial little break to face the rest of the hike to the top of the massif.
The trail continues but this time, you won’t enjoy the shadow of the forest, it climbs to the top! If you liked the panorama from the esplanade of the cave, this one is even more magical. You will be able to admire the landscape at 360 degrees and for miles around. From here you can see the parking lot of the hostel, I still remember the size of my car, a tiny blue spot. Since then, every time I want to put my problems into perspective, I think back to that moment, that immensity, and to the fact that we are only a small point in the universe facing this beautiful nature.
Duration : 3.30 hours
Length : 6.4 km
Difficulty : 3/5
See here the hike
La route des crêtes
To continue the journey on the heights, let’s go to the cliff of Cap Canaille on “La route des crêtes” which extends over 7 km between Cassis and La Ciotat. The road is equipped with many parking lots and rest areas to enjoy the breathtaking view on the coast. You can access to it by foot, car or bike (beware it climbs… really hard!). Be careful though, the road is closed in case of strong wind !
At the east of Marseille, behind the calanques, is the beautiful city of Cassis. Charming, restful, full of crannies, this city conquered me.
An old castle of several centuries is on the heights, a port in pastel colors, small cobbled streets with many small cafes and restaurants … Here we take the time!
Le Parc des Bruyères
The Parc des Bruyères is located between the districts of Saint-Loup and Saint-Marcel in the south-east of Marseille.
On more than 101 hectares, it is a true green setting between two valleys, a link between the city and the calanques. Its vegetation is more than lush, even in winter, you can admire the heather Erica arborea which inspired the name of the park.
We visited the parc at the end of the day to enjoy the « Golden hour ».
What a show to see Notre-Dame de la Garde overlooking the city and gradually plunging it into shadow.
Notre-Dame de la Garde
It is a pilgrimage for many, one of those magical places that triggers a feeling of real well-being, serenity, fullness. It is difficult to explain, but it has become a mandatory stopover on each of my visits to the city!
Up there, on its small hill of 149 meters, the nicknamed the “Good Mother” has stood out since the Middle Ages as THE symbol of the city, protector of sailors and fishermen.
Even before entering the Basilica, the magic begins: a panoramic view of Marseille which allows you to admire the sea bordered by hills to the west; to the north, the Etoile massif, the Nerthe, the Estaque range (from the Couronne in Martigues); to the east, Sainte-Baume, Garlaban,; in the South Carpiagne, Marseilleveyre and even in very good weather, the Mont Ventoux.
If the outside of the Basilica is already different from what we know, with its facades in white limestone and gray-green sandstone and a statue of copper gilded with gold leaf, inside it does not look like any other.
All in white and red marble, but above all adorned with mosaics in every nook and cranny: its 3 domes, its nave, its choir, its side chapels …
12 million tesserae, small tiles of 1 to 2 cm2, made by Venetian craftsmen, were necessary for the realization of this decoration which makes it warm, cheerful and dazzling.
In the basement you can also visit the crypt. I am not a believer but I still experience a sense of well-being and calm when I enter. Mandatory step!
Bus access : line No 60.
By foot: from the north by taking boulevard André-Aune then rue Cherchell or from the south using a path that winds up the hillside from rue du Bois sacré.
Touristic train : website
Car access : from the Old Port: cours Jean-Ballard, rue Breteuil, boulevard Vauban and rue Fort-du-Sanctuaire.
Opening : 7 am to 6.30 pm
Website : http://www.notredamedelagarde.com/
This is where this first article for Marseille and its surroundings ends, do not hesitate to comment to share your favorites and unusual places!