2pm // Le Fantastique
A fantastic lunch
DRESSING THE PART
Chances are it’s going to be sunny and warm, so wear your favorite summer clothes and don’t worry too much about fashion. Marseille is a relaxed city.
The Bourne Identity
Je Danse Le Mia – IAM
My Night With The Prostitute From Marseille – Beirut
Le Rap a Perdu Ses Esprits – Kenya Arkana
Walk up the Boulevard Baille again towards Coogee where you had breakfast. A few meters before the coffee shop, you’ll find Le Fantastique.
Le Fantastique is a wonderful restaurant, run by a couple of friends who are great hosts and welcome you with open arms. They mainly focus on lunch, but are open for dinner on Thursdays and Fridays as well, so if you’re in town for longer than 12hrs, make sure to visit them again during the evening.
During our 12hrs in Marseille, however, we visit Le Fantastique to take a break from all the exploring and refuel with some great lunch. The menu at the door lets you know what’s on offer today, the dishes here are always cooked fresh and change every day. The focus is on strong Mediterranean flavors and healthy eating. Expect soups, salads, small Tapas-style dishes and Quiches, and if you have a sweet tooth, definitely leave some room for dessert. Le Fantastique’s cakes and tarts are delicious. Order at the counter and find a space to sit. If the sun is shining, head straight into the backyard and try to get a hold of a table in the garden.
Le Fantastique looks homely, with vintage furniture and different patterns on the table cloths, and lots of quirky details on the shelves for you to discover, from Mexican wrestling masks to a faded Che Guevara bust. Their wine selection is extremely affordable and lovely, so do it like the French and have a glass with your lunch.
Enjoy the break, and when you’re done walk back to the Castellane subway stop and jump back on the M1, taking you to Vieux-Port – Hôtel de ville where you were earlier in the day. Time for some fun in the sun.
Le Fantastique // 76 Boulevard Baille // Mon-Wed 8am-3pm, Thu/Fri 8am-3pm & 6pm-12am // facebook
3.30pm // Compagnie de Provence
Buying the real ‘Savon de Marseille’
You’re at one of Marseille’s main tourist attractions now, the Old Port of Marseille, called Vieux Port in French. This is the city’s oldest harbor, reaching back to the antiquity. Where big merchant ships used to dock you’ll now find yachts, private vessels and fishing boats. Old folks and young kids are standing on the docks with their fishing rods, waiting for a catch. And pedestrians are swarming around, soaking in the sun.
You’ll notice the rather spectacular mirror installation in the middle of the square. This ‘Vieux Port Pavilion’ was built by Norman Foster for Marseille’s run as European capital of culture in 2013 and has luckily remained in place.
Stroll along the water with the sea to your left until you reach the other side of the harbor. Then, walk up the Rue de la Prison right next to the town hall to reach Compagnie de Provence.
Marseille is world renowned for its soap. Makers of real ‘Savon de Marseille’ have to follow strict rules that dictate how the product has to be manufactured, following recipes as old as 600 years. Real Savon de Marseille is made out of at least 72% vegetable oil, alkaline ash from sea plants and salt water.
The Compagnie de Provence manufactures its soaps in exactly this traditional way. But they also tried to modernize the product, revamped the packaging and extended their product spectrum, including liquid soaps for the first time. In the brand’s small store near the harbor you’ll find Marseillaise soap in many different forms and varieties. A perfect souvenir!
Compagnie de Provence // 1 Rue Caisserie // Mon-Thu 10am-1pm & 2pm-7pm, Fri-Sun 10am-7pm // website
The history of Europe wrapped in a spectacular building
Marseille’s public transport system includes two subway and three tram lines, the rest of the city can be reached via bus. Buy your tickets at the machines before boarding or from the bus drivers.
WHAT TO ORDER
Food: Bouillabaisse, the fish stew containing at least three varieties of fresh local fish.
Drinks: Pastis, made with aniseeds and spices is the drink du jour.
Find your way to the end of the wharf, walking either along the water or down Rue Caisserie. You’ll spot our next destination, the MuCEM, in the distance.
But when reaching the shore, the first big building you’ll see is Fort Saint-Jean, a fortification built in 1660 by Louis XIV. It’s connected to the city by a thin bridge leading over the water. Cross that bridge, go through a quick security check, and you’ll be inside the thick walls of the old fort. Take your time to explore the place before you cross yet another bridge over to the actual MuCem.
The MuCEM was opened in 2013 and is France’s first (and so far, only) national museum located outside of Paris. Its architecture is spectacular, with a see-through wall of patterned metal enclosing a glass cube. There is plenty to see, even if you wouldn’t enter the exhibitions.
But if you do, you’ll learn a lot about Europe’s rich history, from its hunters and gatherers to enlightened citizens and the advent of religion. Two additional exhibitions focus on the contrast between Africa and Europe (‘Le Noir et Le Bleu’) and women’s role in society as well as sexuality (‘Au Bazar du Genre’).
Explore the exhibitions, the buildings and the beautiful area at the water around them, and then cross the big Boulevard and head over in the direction of the city. You’ll pass by the Cathédrale La Major on your left, a magnificent church and the seat of the Archdiocese of Marseille. Walk up the Rue du Panier into the heart of Le Panier.
MuCEM // Musée des civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée // 1 Esplanade du J4 // opening hours summer: Tue-Thu & Sat/Sun 11am-7pm, Fri 11am-10pm, winter: Tue-Sun 11am-6pm // Admission: 8 Euro // website
6pm // Le Panier
Small streets steeped in history
Le Panier is one of Marseille’s oldest quarters, and walking through the narrow streets, you get a real sense of the spirit of the old Marseille. For centuries, Le Panier was the first stop for the many immigrants arriving at Marseille’s massive harbor. They found their first home in the colorful buildings, some moved on later, others stayed. It’s also the area of Marseille where the sailors would visit and have some fun.
In most other big cities, areas like Le Panier would be gentrified by now. In Marseille, that’s not the case. Yes, there are some cute shops in some of the old houses, and you find local art galleries and small bars and restaurants here, but for the most part, Le Panier is still very much a lived in part of town. Big parts of its inhabitants have Corsican or North African roots, and living here is still affordable.
Take your time walking up and down the steep small streets. Marseille is never more charming than here on this hill, close to the water and overlooking the harbor. Explore the hidden squares, visit as many of the small shops as you like, and definitely take a lot of photos.
For dinner, you’ll have to be back at Cours Julien one more time. Walk there or take the metro (from the Old Port via Castellane to Notre Dame du Mont – Cours Julien).
8pm // La Cantinetta
A wonderful Italian dinner at Cours Julien
You’ve already visited Cours Julien during the day, now it’s time to experience this lively part of town by night. You’ll find that it gets pretty crowded here on warm summer days, that the restaurants are full and the bars even fuller.
There are a lot of places to eat around Cours Julien, put the very best place to have dinner, hands down, is at La Cantinetta. Owned by a Frenchman named Pierre-Antoine Denis, La Cantinetta serves you simple Italian dishes, all cooked to perfection. Start with some of their great appetizers – the burrata is worth it, as are the mountains of thinly sliced Parma ham and the Carpaccio – and then opt for their homemade pasta dishes or the meat of the day. Service here is friendly and super efficient, a fact that is very important, since it is always crowded here.
Make sure to order from their exceptional list of natural wines, glasses start at just 2,50 Euro. If you can, get a seat outside in their beautiful backyard and enjoy your meal under the stars. If you want to make sure to get a table, book in advance. You could walk by here while exploring Cours Julien earlier in the day or just give the restaurant a call (they speak English, +33 491 48 10 48)
La Cantinetta // 24 Cours Julien // Mon-Sat 12pm-2pm & 7.30pm-10.30pm
10pm // Mama Shelter
A beautifully designed home away from home
A great, long day is over, time to kick back and relax at the hotel. In Marseille, we’re staying at Mama Shelter. You can easily walk here from Cours Julien. Longtime 12hrs readers know this small hotel chain already from our 12hrs in Paris.
The Marseille version has all the lovely perks you find at the other Mama Shelter locations: Free, super-fast wi-fi, movie streaming on giant Apple screens (also free), big, comfy beds. All this comes at absolutely affordable prices.
So put down your bags full of souvenirs, take down the sunglasses and lean back. You just spent 12hrs in Marseille!
Mama Shelter // 64 Rue de la Loubiere // website
Pictures: Francis Amiand
Made in cooperation with Eurostar.
These were 12hrs in Marseille. To discover more locations and stories from here, head over to the Marseille category of our blog! Just click here.
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