Looking out across the azure Mediterranean sea, surrounded by rolling hills and the white limestone cliffs of the famous Calanques, Marseille enjoys a truly fantastic setting. Read on to plan the perfect city break.


The extension of the TGV railway line has brought Marseille within three hours of Paris, with no fewer than 15 trains connecting the cities each day. From Paris, services connect to London with Eurostar (website: www.eurostar.com). Air France (website: www.airfrance.com) flies from London and New York to Marseille. No-frills carriers easyJet (website: www.easyjet.com) and Ryanair (website: www.ryanair.com) also fly to the city.

Why now?

This is the best time of year to visit Marseille, with beautiful sunny days before the temperatures soar in the summer.


Wonder at the landmark Romanesque-Byzantine basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde, towering on the highest point of the city (147m/482ft above sea level). Look out for the mosaics, which are particularly beautiful, and the numerous public prayers hanging in the nave bearing witness to the pilgrims' faith and thanksgiving. Back outside, admire the magnificent views of the city spread out at its feet, and of the bay, with the Frioul archipelago in the distance.


Roam the Vieux Port, home to 3,000 boats, and the heart of Marseille. On the quai de Rive Neuve, check out the Place Thiars, a lively square dotted with dozens of restaurants and bars, the ideal place to meet up for an al fresco evening. Then cross the harbour to quai du Port to take a peek at the impressive 17th-century Hotel de Ville (town hall). From the quai des Belges, with the bustling fish market, you will have the best view of the Canebière, the most famous street in the city, and the subject of a popular song.


You'll be spoilt for choice of good restaurants in Marseille, such as the respected L'Epuisette or Le Miramar. Sample local specialities, including bouillabaisse (fish stew) of course, but also navettes - delicious orange-blossom flavoured biscuits in the shape of boats.


There is no shortage of shopping opportunities in Marseilles, from the smart shops that line the rue Paradis, rue Saint Ferréol and rue de Rome, to the unmissable fish market on the quai des Belges, Vieux Port, or for something different, les Puces (the flea market) (130 chemin de la Madrague Ville), a cross between a north African bazaar and a car boot sale, with a few antiques thrown in for good measure. Just make sure you pick up a souvenir bar of renowned soap - savon de Marseille, or a bottle of Pastis - the celebrated local tipple.

Did you know?

Impressionist Paul Cézanne was the first painter to discover the little fishing village of L'Estaque, to the northwest of Marseille, from which he painted many views of the bay.

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