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Vallon des Auffes is a little inlet of water along the coast of Marseille with small cliffs on either side. With its multi-colored fishing cottages and boats, it’s a step back in time.
Vallon des Auffes is about two kilom from the Old Port (“le vieux port“) and the center of the city. There are a few of these creeks but Vallon des Auffes is one of the most beloved and well known. In the 18th century, Italian fisherman came here and made it their home, building small huts. The word auffes comes from a kind of grass that was grown in the area to make fishing rope (it would have been called auffo in local Provençal dialect). The inlet can accommodate about 50 traditional fishing boats, which you can still see today. It’s a great opportunity to see a little bit of the coast that hasn’t changed much since Marcel Pagnol’s time.
In the 19th century, the main viaduct and coastal road was built, now called the Corniche Kennedy. It meant that the Vallon des Auffes was connected to the city. Today, the surrounding area is built up with houses but the area has still retained its charm, partly because most people pass by it on the road above.
This small inlet boasts two of Marseille’s best places to eat: Chez Fonfon, which is a traditional fish restaurant and L’Epuisette, which is Michelin starred and on the coastal side of the road. Both are recommended by locals for the local fish stew, bouillabaisse. It also has a family-run pizzeria, Chez Jeannot, which has been there since 1949. In a really small space, you can find “La Dolce Vita” straight from the tourist guidebooks. You can swim in the bay or off the rocks, although its better to swim on the other side of the Corniche Kennedy. There are no shops so if you take a picnic, take plenty of water. It’s a great way to experience a different, more traditional side to Marseille.