The Basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde sits on the highest point in Marseille and overlooks everything. It was completed in 1864 in a Roman-Byzantine style – domes, mosaic, multi-coloured stones. It’s a wonderful place to take a loved one, to picnic, to take in the views, and for couple selfies. Take the tourist train from Le Vieux Port for an easier climb up the hill. If you want to be really romantic, head up here at night time with a cheeky bottle of wine, sit on the lower steps and toast to true love.
Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MUCEM)
The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (or MuCEM for short) is a relatively new addition to the local museums. The building is sublime and a real focal point of the rejuvenation that’s taken place in Marseille in recent years. It’s linked to the Panier, one of the oldest districts in Marseille and its neighbour, the old Fort Saint-Jean, by spectacular walkways that will take your breath away. It has lots of art exhibitions inside and is a great spot for catching events, such as film screenings. Head to the roof for a beer or ice cream and enjoy those amazing views. Every month or so they hold free club nights in the basement until the early hours and give free access to their latest exhibition upstairs.
Named after the famous US President, the “corniche” as locals call it, is the seaside avenue that skirts the coastline of Marseille, southwards. On one side are plenty of rocky beaches, where you can tuck yourself away from sight and lounge facing the sea – “trèsromantique” with a loved one. On the other side are parks, grand hotels, restaurants and the odd shop where you can stop for an expensive or cheap lunch. It’s a great place to bike along to head to the wider town beaches beyond – you can easily hire one of the town bikes.
The Parc Borély is one of Marseille’s secrets that locals would love you not to know about. Jog along the dry river bed, towards the sea and do a few circuits of the park and its stylish mansion. If you’re looking for romance, there’s no better place. The huge mansion in the middle of the park is impressive as is the 17 hectares of national park, which the French government considers to be one of the Notable Gardens of France. What’s best about it is its location – it’s right on the seafront, so you can turn a great morning in the park into a great afternoon on the beach.
The district of Panier is the oldest in Marseille, just behind the Old Port and the new MuCEM museum. It’s full of little winding streets and very old buildings, which is a wonderful way to take in an aspect of old Marseille. Catch it now before it undergoes the inevitable regeneration that the rest of the city is currently experiencing.
This is one of Marseille’s coolest streets to hang out in as the neighbourhood has undergone some huge regeneration (and still is). The Cours Julien used to be very run-down and now is full of bars, ice cream, a cinema, and a club. This is regeneration of inner-city centres at its best – although it’s still edgy and very rough around the edges. Admire the street art (and if you’re lucky, you’ll see some artists in action), wander the indie shops, second-hand retro stores and buy the local bottled brews.