There are lots of hidden places in Marseille where the locals hang out. Here’s eleven of them, which the locals would rather you didn’t know about.
All the way east along the coastal road from Marseille’s Old Port (“le vieux port“) you’ll find a little stretch of sand called Pointe Rouge. It’s a cute locals beach, where teenagers hang out with their friends or kids play on the sand, while their parents sip wine at the local restaurant tables. Get the bus to stop Pointe Rouge.
La Friche is an old tobacco factory that’s now used to host a range of cultural and economic activities. A number of startups have their offices here and there’s a great restaurant, skate park and bookshop/coffee shop. It can get busy with locals, so they probably wouldn’t want to add to the queue for the bar, but one of the best things is the rooftop bar in the summer, with DJs and a sunset view that’s almost unrivalled in Marseille.
La Friche, 41 Rue Jobin, Marseille, France +33 (0)4 95 04 95 95
Everyone heads out of Marseille along the Còte D’Azur to discover the French Riviera or into the Luberon to see inland Provence. But the Côte Bleu is in the other direction (west from Marseille, towards the Camargues) and an absolute gem. Take the train that winds high up around the coastal cliffs and stop at any one of the lovely small seaside villages.
The Sentier Pédestre de l’Huveaune is a riverside passage (along the small river Huveaune) that leads to the Parc Borély and the seafront from the centre of town. It’s great for a walk, a run or even on your bike.
In the 19th century, Marseille was suffering from a huge water shortage and a cholera outbreak. The council began a ten-year engineering feat to bring water in via a series of complex aqueducts and tunnels from the nearby Durance River. The Palais Longchamp was built in the place where the water comes into Marseille, to celebrate all the hard work. It’s architecturally admired and never seems very busy. You’ll find the Museum of Fine Arts on one side and the Museum of Natural History on the other.
As you head eastwards along the coast from Marseille, just before you reach the Calanques national park, you’ll get to Les Goudes. It’s a little fishing village that’s difficult to get to because of traffic congestion (take the 19B bus or a car) but it’s worth the journey. Head to one of the local bars and watch the sunset, with your feet in the water.
Just a few minutes outside of Marseille on the Côte Bleu, you’ll find the little port of Ensuès-la-Redonne. There isn’t a big beach but it’s picture perfect (rocky, not sandy) with a waterside restaurant or two. They hold a lot of seafood and fish festivals here that are packed full of locals trying the first catch of the season.
Twenty-five years ago, there used to be a real zoo in the grounds of the park next to Palais Longchamp. It was recently brought back as a “crazy zoo” with animal statues locked up inside the old animal cages. It’s a locals park where you’ll find families with small kids taking rides on the real horses around the grounds or couples asleep in self-hung hammocks.
The Vallon des Auffes (featured image) is a small cove along the main coastal road, the Corniche Kennedy. It was settled by Italian fishermen in the 18th century and still retains a traditional vibe. It’s a small place, a great place to swim (off the rocks) or picnic and it boasts a great family-run pizza restaurant and two of Marseille’s best restaurants (one of which has a Michelin star). A great place to find the local fish stew, bouillabaisse.