Joliette used to be a run-down area where the big ferries come in and out of town, but it’s now part of the biggest regeneration area in Europe and has had lots of funding to build new houses, bars and shops. The star attraction is the new shopping mall, Les Terrasses du Port. All the big brands are here – high street and high-end fashion – but the best part is the roof. It’s a great place to eat or have a drink looking out over the Mediterranean. The other key must-see in this neighbourhood is the Museum of European and Mediterranean Culture (MUCEM). It’s an amazing building to wander through – either to look at the art exhibitions or to have an ice-cream on the roof. Again, it has amazing views. There are lots of lovely restaurants along the seafront and nice bars too. The arts centre, Le Silo, is here too; a great place to take in a concert.
Panier is the oldest district in Marseille, just behind the old port and bordering the district of Joliette. There isn’t one big attraction to see here, but the winding roads and old buildings are lovely and the Cathédrale La Major is well worth a visit – it’s a neo-byzantine church with lots of old murals and mosaics.
This area used to be incredibly rough and it still is in places. But like every regenerated area in a big city, that’s what makes it edgy and cool. Head to the Cours Julien, the one must-see street for anyone who likes to party. It’s full of bars, cafés, interesting restaurants (Asian, African, etc.), cute arty shops, designers and playgrounds. A great place to end the day and watch the sun go down with a beer or coffee.
Anyone who likes a more independent beach experience will love the Corniche Kennedy. It’s the long road that skirts the seafront and a great place to cycle (you can hire a bike on a half hour basis at any one of the many public bike parks in town). There are lots of rocky bays for you to discover, where the locals go. Take a picnic, spread out your towel on a little rock and enjoy the paradise.
Belle de Mai
The area by the city’s train station (St Charles) has undergone a major revival in recent years. The Friche Belle de Mai is an old tobacco factory that is home to a skateboarding park, a wonderful cafe and arty bookshop, a playground and a bar and a restaurant. Most importantly it plays host to several festivals, concerts, art exhibitions and social events. Check out the website here.
The Palais Longchamp is a wonderful place to see a little art, view a simply spectacular building and have a picnic in the park. The Musée des Beaux Arts has paintings from the 1500s to the 1800s and the Natural History Museum is worth a visit for the building alone.
The Opéra district includes the Old Port area so is a must-see for anyone who likes a lively atmosphere. It’s full of bars and restaurants, clubs and fast food outlets. If you can’t afford or don’t want the sometimes pricey food, buy something from the fast food places and sit with your feet dangling over the harbour wall. It’s a wonderful place to watch the world go by and listen to the buskers. It’s also home to the giant Ferris wheel, which will give you amazing views over the city.