3 days in Marseille, from city to nature off the beaten track

Long ignored or even feared, Marseille is slowly regaining popularity in the hearts of the French. The sunny city is becoming increasingly popular thanks to its diversity, warmth and eclecticism. The scenes of life in Marseille are also part of the city's identity. The sun setting over the Vieux-Port, the benevolent silhouette of Notre-Dame de la Garde and the crowds on the Cannebière all add to Marseille's cachet. And yet, in just a few steps, you can reach nature and breathtaking landscapes, without really leaving the city. From the verdant public parks in the centre of town to the Calanques National Park and the beaches and coves hidden from curious eyes, nature is everywhere in Marseille. Here's a 3-day itinerary off the beaten track that shows that the city of Marseille has not finished surprising us.

Notre-Dame de la Garde overlooking Marseille.

- © saiko3p / Shutterstock
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Day 1: Nature, culture, architecture

Morning at Borély

We put our suitcases down at Château Beaupin, a timeless place in the Pointe Rouge district. First thing in the morning, it's off to Parc Borély, a huge 18-hectare green estate in the city's 8th arrondissement. The park's castle houses the Museum of Decorative Arts, Earthenware and Fashion, where you feel like you've been invited into the Borély home family, the merchants who built the château. A large collection of ceramics is on display.

Château Beaupin Marseille
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Château Beaupin

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After the visit, enjoy a fresh salad in the shade of a parasol in a small patio with a running fountain at the Café Borély. The stroll continues to the Borély racecourse, also a golf course, where you can watch the jockeys in full training before returning to the beaches and the Prado roundabout, from where you can see the famous Ferris wheel at Escale Borély.

The Ferris wheel at Marseille's Escale Borély.

- © mehdi33300 / Shutterstock

The Borély botanical garden is not to be missed. This intimate garden is open to the public by prior arrangement. It's a delight to stroll along the paths of the different sections of the garden: medicinal plants, climbing plants, Chinese garden, Japanese garden... A charming pagoda is hidden behind the maples and you can hear the frogs croaking in the garden's many waterholes. A timeless place in the city!

Parc Borély, Marseille.

- © olrat / Shutterstock

Architectural stopover at the Cité Radieuse

Leave Parc Borély through the west gate and follow a path that runs alongside the river: the Huveaune footpath. This landscaped path follows the little river that rises on the Sainte-Baume for two and a half kilometres. A popular spot for walkers and cyclists alike, it has a tranquil atmosphere that invites you to take your time. From the Stade Vélodrome, it's just a short walk to Le Corbusier's Cité Radieuse, also known as "La Maison du Fada".

The rooftop of Le Corbusier's Cité Radieuse. © Kali Story

This extraordinary UNESCO World Heritage building, designed by Le Corbusier and built between 1947 and 1952, was born of a dream: to enable its residents to live there collectively without having to leave the building. The building was designed with the well-being and comfort of its occupants in mind: there are shops, an art gallery, a restaurant and tearoom, a school, a gym, a rooftop with a small pool, the Le Corbusier hotel, and the famous MaMo (Centre for Contemporary Art) directed by Ora Ito. Some parts are only accessible to residents to preserve the site.

3* Hôtel le Corbusier Marseille
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3* Hôtel le Corbusier

Sleep in one of Marseille's most emblematic monuments: Le Corbusier's Cité Radieuse!
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Day 2: walk along the Corniche

A stroll through the Anses

There's nothing like a morning swim to start the day in the city, without feeling like you're in the city. On the Corniche Kennedy, you pass through the vallon des Auffes, a picturesque little port in Marseille that is a tourist dream. Its name comes from a grass used by fishermen to make basketry. Explore the typical narrow streets. It's too early to stop off at Chez Jeannot for a pizza, but you should note the address for later!

The Auffes valley in Marseille.

- © Boris Stroujko / Shutterstock

You get even closer to the sea at Anse de Malmousque. As you climb back up the hill, a road leads off to the right of a military residence. Continue along the Corniche promenade toAnse de Maldormé and its dreamy villas, including the famous yellow bastide, once known as "the Mona Lisa". Take a dip on the small pebble beach below, with its translucent waters.

La bastide jaune, the iconic house of Anse Maldormé.

- © olrat / Shutterstock

The Endoume district

Now it's pizza time, and we're off to l'Eau à la Bouche to try it. A typical pizzeria in the Endoume district, the pizzas here are delicious. The Formica counter and colourful tiles make it a very pleasant place in the district for lunchtime. Take the opportunity to stroll through the narrow, bucolic streets of this charming neighbourhood.

One of the narrow streets of the Endoume district. © Kali Story

In the afternoon, we head for the tide gauge. Both an observation instrument and the building that houses it, Marseille's tide gauge fascinates the curious. Generally closed to visitors, it can be observed from the Corniche Kennedy. It measures sea level and its evolution, and is the zero point for altitude in France- in other words, it's the starting point for all measurements! It is now a listed historic monument.

Joggers on the Corniche Kennedy.

- © Valery Bareta / Shutterstock

Day 3: A Sunday in Les Goudes

Towards the end of the world in Marseille

Want to get away from it all? Take the road to the village of Les Goudes. Nicknamed "Marseille's end of the world", this little port in the 8th arrondissement is a picture-postcard setting. At the end of a winding road, you'll find a picturesque backdrop of fishermen's cottages, steep streets and traditional boats such as the Pointus. A shuttle service operated by the RTM even takes you to Les Goudes by sea in high season.

The small village of Les Goudes.

- © MortenHeiselberg / Shutterstock

At this end of the world, head to the Tuba Club for a lunch by the water. For a more traditional version, opt for the Auberge du Corsaire "Chez Paul", where you can enjoy grilled fish or their famous clam pasta. For a digestive stroll, take the road back up to Callelongue. On the right, at a car park, follow the ridge path that winds its way over the Marseilleveyre limestone massif. If we continued straight on, we'd soon reach the Marseillesveyre cove, but we prefer to turn back and head for La Maronaise.

The port of Callelongue at the end of Les Goudes.

- © trabantos / Shutterstock

A pretty cove in the Calanques

Follow the path for a kilometre to arrive above the famous Baie des Singes. It's a breathtaking walk, with a 180° sea view over Ile Maïre, and there, in a small protected cove with crystal-clear waters, you'll find the restaurant La Baie des Singes, which can only be reached on foot, and which also offers sun lounger hire by the day or half-day. Reservations are essential, even out of season. In September-October, there aren't many people around, so this is a great opportunity to take advantage of this unusual place, which is overrun during the summer months.

The Baie des Singes at the end of Les Goudes.

- © EA Photography / Shutterstock

On the way back, we visit the Saména cove. Attractive with its beautiful rocks and aquamarine colour, it has unfortunately been polluted for several years, so swimming is not recommended. The first calanque in the Calanques National Park, it is home to some remarkable flora, including the Marseilles milkvetch. We return at the end of the day to collect our suitcases and leave Marseille's Indian summer behind us, already feeling nostalgic.

Charming Cabanon in Les Goudes with sea view Marseille
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Charming Cabanon in Les Goudes with sea view

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by Lena COLLINS
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Further reading
Les Goudes, a village in the city
Marseille
Les Goudes, a village in the city
Deep in Marseille's 8th arrondissement, at the end of a winding road that seems to lead nowhere, Les Goudes is a cluster of cottages and villas built around a tiny traditional fishing...
Walk the Corniche with a break in the Vallon des Auffes
Marseille
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...
Euphoria at the Orange Velodrome stadium
Marseille
Euphoria at the Orange Velodrome stadium
If there's one thing that's no laughing matter in Marseille, it's football. The Orange Vélodrome stadium is one of the most important monuments in the city's landscape, and some Marseillais...
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