City of the Olympique de Marseille, pastis, boules, soap, rocky inlets and relaxation. Massalia or Marseille makes you feel like a king in a castle with it’s spectacular city to sea views. The panorama from the top of the steps of the Saint Charles railway station offers us a first glimpse of this multicultural city.
Staycity Aparthotels is located within the famous district of Belsunce:
“Belsunce is the jewel in Marseille’s crown, tucked between the station and the Old Port” are Bouga’s lyrics, a rapper from Marseille who pays tribute to his neighbourhood with his song Belsunce Breakdown. Here you will find La Compagnie which is an art and cultural venue with many interesting events and exhibitions. They also offer workshops with resident artists for all ages, an audio workshops for children during the school holidays and a traditional photography workshop for adults.
Heading towards Saint-Charles and continuing toward north you will reach the Friche Belle de mai: a diverse complex that now occupies the legendary Gitanes cigarette factories! There are many creative businesses here including radio recording studios, publishing houses, exhibitions, concert venues, auditoriums, bookstore-cafes and of course restaurants. Every Wednesday the outdoor space in the Friche transforms into a large sports field for skateboarding, ping-pong, football, dancing are geared towards children. Find out what’s on in the Friche here.
Not far from the Belle de mai is la Cantine du Midi: a voluntary run kitchen where every morning a new team prepare the meals for the day. A starter, main course, dessert and coffee made with seasonal vegetables for the modest price of €7! Served on a large wooden table it’s the perfect place for a casual, slightly bohemian lunch. Every Tuesday, all non-locals are invited to participate in workshops here called “Cantine de Langues” (Canteen of Languages).
The Cinema the Gyptis shares the same name as the original Marseille city and is located a stone’s throw from the Friche. Students and children pay only €2.50 to enter and get in free the first Sunday of every month. This arthouse cinema offers as many arthouse films as it does blockbusters.
There are 2 metro lines, 3 tram lines and many buses running through Marseille. The 45 bus, which can be taken from the Prado roundabout, goes to the rocky inlets via Marseilleveyre passing the Saint-Anne district where the famous Cité Radieuse of Le Corbusier can be visited.
It’s also very pleasant to stroll around Marseille because everything is within easy reach and the weather is usually warm and dry. For example, a few minutes walk from La Canebière is the Grand Hôtel du Louvre et de la Paix (now C&A). This was the first cinema of Marseille where the Lumière brothers showed their films.
From the old port to the Palais Longchamp, La Canebière you can really see the diversity of the city, the Noailles or “belly of Marseille” is a popular district that used to house old covered markets and is still very lively today with its daily market.
Pizza Charly, 24 rue des Feuillants, is the best pizzeria in the area. This restaurant is perfect to satisfy you at any time of day with slices at only €1 until 11 pm.
From La Place des Réformés, in front of the church des Réformés (aka Eglise Saint-Vincent-de-Paul), take the flower lined rue Adolphe Thiers, to arrive at La Plaine.
Marseille has a very active voluntary community where it’s not unusual to be asked to pay a subscription to enter in a bar or cultural venue: don’t panic, it’s only a few euros and these businesses depend on it for survival. For example, le Videodrome 2 which is a video club where DVDs can be borrowed and watched in a small 50 seater room. They are often shown in their original format. There is also a bar with a small restaurant that opens in the evenings where you can get plates of tapas and soup of the day made from local produce. There’s also a large terrace where you can enjoy a cold beer. Youth workshops are organised on Wednesdays, Saturdays and during the school holidays.
If you wanted to have a picnic head to Le Bar à Pain bakery to enjoy pies or a fresh sandwich. Their delicious organic bread is baked using the traditional methods and can be bought with or without gluten.
La Boîte à Sardine is a restaurant where guests can enjoy the sea urchin of the Saint-Pierre and other fish from the sea. Run by a genuine fishmonger, Fabien Rugi who deals only with the local fishermen and has designed his restaurant in a very original style. The Côteaux-of Aix Galinette white is the perfect accompaniment to this seafood.
Shall we go for a walk?
Radio Grenouille offers an array of audio tours to discover Marseille and it’s thousand faces.
Jour ouvrable is a walk located in the Belsunce district, a few meters from Staycity that starts at Bernard du Bois Street. All you need to do is download the sound file, put on some headphones and you’re all set…
From Staycity you can go for a walk or bike ride (1 hour round trip), if the weather is fine, to the Malmousque district, a small authentic fishing village in the heart of the city facing the islands D’If and Friuli.
You’ll pass through the old port and it’s typical southern boats, skirt past the Saint-Victor abbey at the foot of the famous Notre-Dame de la Garde, more commonly known as the “Good Mother”. Make a small turn at 136 Rue Sainte, at the Four des Navettes, to taste the best biscuits with orange blossom.
Continue along the beach of Les Catalans, until the Vallons des Auffes. Once you arrive in Malmousque, venture onto the rocks and settle for a sunset worthy of the most beautiful postcard shots.
Want to come home with little gifts?
If you are book and bric à brac lover go for a walk on the Julien course where many secondhand booksellers and secondhand traders unpack their treasures in the street. The children’s bookshop, La Boîte à Histoire at 31 cours Julien is worth a visit.
Otherwise, for the athletes, on the other side of the old port in the district of the basket, you will find the House of the Ball on the Place of the 13 Townships. This is a museum that traces the history of the petanque, the national sport of the south of France where you can find boules balls in the shop.
“Tonight we’re going out!”
The Badaboum Theatre is a theatre designed especially for children. Here they have shows, stories and a circus for children followed by a snack with a facilitator who initiates a discussion about the experience.
Marseille is full of festivals of all kinds throughout the year, for music lovers there’s Babel Med in March and Mimi Festival in August on the island of Friuli, for film lovers there’s a documentary film festival Le Fid in July and contemporary dance lovers will enjoy the Festival Parallèle in January.
For more information, refer to the Ventilo newspaper, which will give you plenty of tips for packing lots in!
Finally, to find out about the concerts and unusual workshops that take place in Marseille, you can consult the Vortex, a monthly cultural calendar highlighting the events.