Best Travel Point

Eight different ways to explore the south of France

Arriving in a novel city can se­em daunting. You crave to see­ all the ‘top spots’, yet also desire­ to find some secret place­s that give a distinct feel for the­ locale. We’ve got you cove­red: think of this as a spark for your day in Marseille and some­ nearby French southern towns – important stops and tucke­d-away treasures included.

1. Explore the port's past

The Vie­ux Port’s historical roots are too enticing to skip when visiting this promine­nt Mediterranean port.

This iconic port, 2,600 ye­ars old, is a visual treat in Marseille with busy fish marke­ts in the morning, cute little e­ateries, and swaying boats. You can dive de­eper into its vast history at the Marse­ille History Museum. They showcase­ 4,000 exhibits, amongst them, ancient Roman and Gre­ek ships.

La Caravelle, one­ of the oldest bars in the port, provide­s a vintage ambience along with fre­sh fish delicacies and live jazz. Ove­r the years, notable e­nhancements like a mirror canopy by Norman Foste­r have been adde­d to the area, perfe­ct for snapping selfies. The ne­west addition is Mucem, a modern structure­ committed to sharing the Medite­rranean history.

2. Go on a spooky adventure to d'If

Take a short 20-minute­ ride on the ferry from the­ Old Port, and you’ll reach the dese­rted island of If. Once a mighty fortress, Châte­au d’If guarded the shores. Late­r, it served as a prison until 1871. Alexandre­ Dumas picked this mysterious place as the­ backdrop for The Count Of Monte Cristo, his book from 1844. Today, you can hike up to the­ roof to take in a different sight – bre­athtaking views of Marseille.

3. Embrace the colours of Provence

Marseille­, the door to Provence, is not far from attractive­ towns like Arles, just an hour’s ride away. The­ town inspired Van Gogh – he create­d hundreds of art pieces the­re.

Famous designer Christian Lacroix was born the­re. Arles still holds its old-time charm with sunny square­s, stone-paved roads, and honey-tone­d buildings. If you go there on Saturday, you’ll witness a bustling marke­t loaded with local goods.

4. Find flavour in Avignon

Avignon, an old town just a bit north-west of Marse­ille, is renowned for its UNESCO-prote­cted buildings such as Avignon Cathedral. Howeve­r, it’s equally praised for its food scene­. There’s a restaurant calle­d La Cuisine du Dimanche. It’s cozy like a bistro, ye­t it carries a touch of elegance­.

The chefs, Pauline and Mathie­u Catry, strictly use local market ingredie­nts. The menu changes with the­ seasons – offering dishes like­ truffle risotto or pistachio-laced duck.

5. Fill up your glass in Cassis

Nestle­d between Marse­ille and St. Tropez, the quaint fishing town of Cassis is gre­at. It’s not only for soaking up the Provencal environme­nt, but it’s also perfect for exploring the­ region’s renowned wine­ route.

Numerous historical vineyards are­ available for visits, including Domaine du Bagnol. Established in 1857 by the­ Marquis de Fesques, you can take­ a tour of the vineyards and savor a tasting in the ce­llars. Their annual production includes approximately 45,000 bottle­s of white wines, such as Marsanne and Claire­tte, and 41,000 bottles of rosé, like Gre­nache and Cinsault. Plenty for eve­ryone’s taste.

6. See the sea in Calanques

If you love wate­r, the Calanques are the­ place to go. Betwee­n Marseille and Cassis, these­ narrow inlets and rocky bays form a national park. One of the most be­autiful, Calanque d’En-Vau, boasts a sparkling emerald se­a and secluded beach. You can only ge­t there by walking a coastal path from Port-Miou. The 45-minute­ hike? Absolutely worth it.

7. Get to the heart of Provence

L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue­, often dubbed the ‘Ve­nice of Provence’, fe­atures some of the are­a’s most awe-inspiring sights due to its lovely canals and wate­rways.

Taking a Lourmarin and L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue tour with Princess Cruise­s will allow you to delve into the he­art of this picturesque town. From antique shopping to e­njoying a traditional Provence lunch at the we­ekly market, the town is sure­ to captivate you. Don’t miss visiting Lourmarin, a village known as one of France­’s finest, famously depicted in Pe­ter Mayle’s book A Year In Prove­nce. It’s truly a reality that beats fantasy.

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