Walk the Corniche with a break in the Vallon des Auffes

If the Vieux-Port is the heart of Marseille, the Corniche du Président John Fitzgerald Kennedy is its main thoroughfare. Running for around three kilometres from the Palais du Pharo to the Prado beaches, the Corniche - as it is simply called by the people of Marseille - offers some of the finest views of the city and the Mediterranean. Along the way, which is best enjoyed on foot or by bike, you'll come across mansions, bars, beaches, Michelin-starred restaurants and luxury hotels. It's a lovely walk, lulled by the warmth of the southern sun and the sea spray carried by the breeze. Take a short break in Vallon des Auffes, a colourful, picturesque fishing port where you can sample some of Marseille's best bouillabaisse at Chez Fonfon. A welcome break not to be missed on your next trip to Marseille.

Corniche Kennedy and the entrance to the Vallon des Auffes.

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The history of the Corniche Kennedy and the Vallon des Auffes

Originally, the Corniche Kennedy was nothing more than a small coastal road on the side of the creeks. In the 19th century, the city of Marseille decided to develop its seaside urban planning, and the Corniche road was part of this plan. In 1884, the Marseilles tide gauge was installed, which records variations in sea level and still determines the reference zero altitude in France today.

The road was widened a century later, before being renamed the Corniche du Président John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1963 to pay tribute to the President of the United States who was assassinated that same year.

Bars and restaurants in front of the Monument aux morts de l'Armée d'Orient on the Corniche Kennedy.
© olrat / Shutterstock

The 17-metre-high bridge spanning the port of the Vallon des Auffes was built in the 19th century, at the same time as the Corniche Kennedy. The esplanade in front of the Vallon is home to the monument to the dead of the Army of the Orient and Far Away Lands, a five-metre sculpture depicting an allegory of victory. The Vallon des Auffes itself owes its name to the auffe, a plant used to make fishing nets and ship's ropes. So it's not hard to see why the history of the area has always been closely linked to the sea.

What to do on the Corniche Kennedy and in the Vallon des Auffes?

The Corniche Kennedy is one of the prettiest walks in Marseille. Over the kilometres and around the bends, it offers a variety of striking views over the city, the Mediterranean and the Frioul islands. On the seaside, you'll come across boats, fishermen's huts and pretty beaches that are very popular with the locals, such as the famous Catalans and Prophète beaches.

Prophète beach on Corniche Kennedy.

- © olrat / Shutterstock

The other side is occupied by impressive villas and luxury hotels. During your stroll, you can sit on the longest bench in the world, recognised by the Book of Records in 1965, which is actually interrupted in several places. Corniche Kennedy is also home to renowned bars and restaurants such as Le Petit Nice Passédat 3-star and Le Rhul, known for its excellent bouillabaisse.

The hot spot for Marseille's restaurant scene on the Corniche Kennedy is the Vallon des Auffes. Chez Fonfon has been a local institution since the 1950s, and is world-renowned for its bouillabaisse and fish specialities. The same goes for Chez Michel, which has even been awarded a Michelin star.

The picturesque port of Vallon des Auffes.

- © Tatiana Popova / Shutterstock

Simpler and more accessible, Chez Jeannot pizzeria is always fully booked! At the same time, it has to be said that it's very pleasant to share a good meal in such an enchanting setting. At sunset, when the last rays of the sun caress the port of the Vallon des Auffes and the rocking boats take on a golden hue, the spectacle is simply enchanting.

Our favourite hotel on the Corniche Kennedy

Le Rhul 3* Marseille
Booking.com

Le Rhul 3*

Best known for its restaurant, which serves one of the best bouillabaisses in Marseille, the 3-star Rhul also offers pretty sea-view rooms.
8.1 Very good
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£134 / night
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Practical information for Corniche Kennedy and Vallon des Auffes

As a place of transit and a place of life, you simply can't miss the Corniche Kennedy! Don't miss out on the Vallon des Auffes port, with its picture-postcard scenery. Allow around an hour for a quick walk along the Corniche Kennedy, with a quick break at the Vallon des Auffes. Allow more time if you want to stroll around and enjoy the scenery.

📍 How do I get to the Corniche Kennedy and the Vallon des Auffes?

Several kilometres long, it's very easy to get to Corniche Kennedy. It's easy to get there by car, but we recommend that you walk or cycle along it so that you can enjoy the scenery at your leisure, as well as the beaches, bars and restaurants if you feel like it. It will also be much easier to get to the Vallon des Auffes, where parking is difficult. The 83 bus, which crosses the Corniche Kennedy from one end to the other with regular stops, can be a good compromise.

A few tips for your visit

  • A cycle path runs along the Corniche Kennedy for around two kilometres, between the Plage des Catalans and the Prado.
  • The pavements are well adapted for PRMs and pushchairs.
  • The Corniche Kennedy is perfect for jogging, and is THE place to be for runners in Marseille.
  • If you want to have lunch or dinner in one of the restaurants in the Vallon des Auffes, be sure to book your table in advance, especially in high season.
  • One Sunday a month, the Corniche Kennedy is closed to cars as part of the La Voie est Libre operation.
by Val HANCOCK
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