The Romans used Cassis back and forth along the Mediterranean coast. It was just a small fishing village, where people earned their livelihood from fishing and agriculture. Not much has changed today except for the tourists.
One of the main attractions in the region is the Calanques, a beautiful series of water inlets along the very-high coastline. They now form part of the national park and many people reach them either from the port in Marseille or in Cassis (in summer, Cassis is a great departure point for boat rides in and out of the Calanques). Those with a car, drive up to the cliff overlooking Cassis—the views are not to be missed and a great spot for a panoramic view across the Mediterranean.
There used to be several of quarries here, mining the beautiful-local stone. Today, the locals’ main economy is tourism and wine. Several very-small vineyards in the surrounding hills make wonderful white wine, much of which is available in the local restaurants. Don’t go looking for “crème de cassis” (which is the French liqueur—”cassis” is also French for blackcurrant). Cassis has some wonderful independent shops with high-end fashion or good quality-tourist items, like lavender-based products or Provençal fabric.
With a low gradient into the sea, the main beach in town is pebbly but fantastic and great for kids. One of the two restaurants on the beach rents sun loungers—well worth the money if one’s budget can handle it. The town can be a little hard to get to in summer.
Those driving in, make sure to arrive first thing to ensure finding a parking space close to town. Any later, and drivers will have to park up in the surrounding hills and catch the shuttle bus in. Those coming by train, there’s a local (but rather erratic) bus service into town. For those brave enough to tackle the hills, bring a bike. It’s a lovely ride down into the village but a long effort back up, but the bike allows riders to discover nearby beach coves that are truly magical.
Eat at one of the port-side restaurants that offer local fresh seafood dishes. Alternatively, bring a picnic and have a beer while watching the locals play “pétanques” in the square by the seashore. It’s all lovely. Just take some time to try to answer a raging-local debate: whether Cassis is pronounced with the final ‘s’. Locals say no, but Parisians say yes.