Discovering an unusual and atypical Marseille

There’s much more to Marseille than its beautiful beaches, Bonne Mère and Vieux-Port. Far from the tourist clichés, the Phocaean city abounds in secret and original places within its various districts. Between art, culture, nature, history and the sea, you’ll discover an unusual and atypical Marseille that you won’t soon forget!

A visit to an atypical and authentic Marseille

1. Cours Julien, street art on the move in Marseille

In the Notre-Dame-du-Mont district, the cours Julien is the artistic district par excellence in which street art is showcased. You’ll stroll through alleyways decorated with artists’ graffiti to discover artisanal boutiques with a bobo, vintage feel. An atypical spot in Marseille, the cours Ju is frequented both during the day for its restaurant terraces and in the evening for its festive, cosmopolitan atmosphere. Every Wednesday morning, a farmers’ and organic market awaits you to sample fresh, quality produce from local producers. If you wish, the Marseille Tourist Office offers guided tours on the theme of street art to find out more about the works on Cours Julien.

2. La Friche de la Belle-de-Mai, between culture and entertainment

Both a workspace and a venue for the arts, the Friche de la Belle-de-Mai – born out of the former Seita factory – is a 45,000 sq. m multi-purpose public space combining 5 performance and concert halls, shared gardens, a playground and sports area, a restaurant, bookshop, nursery, exhibitions, roof terrace and training center. All the arts intersect here: theater, dance, music, painting, radio… This is an original place where art and culture are made, produced, distributed and shared. Like any other district, you can stroll through the public spaces, enjoy a bite to eat, take your child to play on the playground, cultivate your own plot in the collective gardens… During the summer, the roof of the Friche de la Belle-de-Mai is accessible to all, with deckchairs and music on the program!

3. Le Vallon des Auffes, a fishing village of authentic charm

Near the Catalans beach, just opposite the statue to the heroes of the Army of the East, lies a stunning Provencal neighborhood, which has retained the charm of a small Mediterranean fishing village in the heart of the city. Nestled between two cliffs, the Vallon des Auffes is a true haven of peace in Provence, both close to and far from the hustle and bustle of the city center. It feels like a freeze-frame in Marcel Pagnol’s time, making it one of Marseille’s most iconic spots. You’ll see many colorful fishermen’s cottages, pointus (Marseilles fishing boats) and traditional restaurants that add to the charm of this authentic site. Looking for “Dolce Vita”? You’ll certainly find it in the Vallon des Auffes.

4. Les Goudes and Callelongue, villages at the end of the world

At the southern end of the city, accessible by road, the district of Goudes and Callelongue have an air of the end of the world. A veritable little fishing village, Les Goudes is made up of cabanons, restaurants and fortifications, all just a stone’s throw from idyllic spots like Callelongue and Cap Croisette. In the heart of this village, you can enjoy a fine meal in one of the many restaurants specializing in fish, but also dive into the water after a stroll to enjoy a swim in the outer harbor, for want of a beach. For breathtaking scenery, head for the Calanque de Callelongue just beyond the village of Les Goudes in the Marseilleveyre massif. This is a wilderness where you’ll face an arid landscape of white limestone, giving an impression of freedom.

5. Le Panier, a dive into the historic heart of Marseille

The oldest district of the Phocaean city, the Panier is an original place to discover an unusual and atypical Marseille. Stroll through its picturesque streets to discover designer boutiques that will welcome you with great enthusiasm. Located in the 2nd arrondissement, this colorful, leafy neighborhood is an open-air museum with its inviting frescoes, cultural venues (Maison Diamantée, Pavillon Daviel, Hôtel de Cabre, Vieille Charité…) and countless regional artisans. With a wide range of restaurants, you’ll have the chance to sample Marseillaise specialties, like the traditional bouillabaisse.

Bonus. Fun and educational sound walks

To discover Marseille’s neighborhoods in an original way, grab your headphones, phone or MP3 player and let yourself be guided by Radio Grenouille’s Sound walks as they explore the territory in and around Marseille. With a different perspective from what we’re used to seeing, some thirty fun and educational walks are available on their website, enabling you to discover little-known places in the Marseille region.

Unusual activities and unique experiences in Marseille

6. Dive into Prohibition at Carry Nation

A clandestine bar, the Carry Nation offers a return to the days of Prohibition. In the 1920s, it was strictly forbidden to drink alcohol. To enjoy a glass of wine or a pint of beer, you’ll need to be discreet to enter, at the risk of being denounced by Carry Nation, a lady whose mission during Prohibition was to destroy all speakeasies. As well as being a place dedicated to spiritsof the world and cocktails, this atypical Marseilles bar features an exhibition of historical objects to bring that somewhat peculiar era to life. There’s only one way to get a taste of these divine, forbidden beverages: book your evening! Entrance is only via a secret passage, the address of which will be given to you once your reservation has been confirmed.

7. Explore behind-the-scenes of a pastis factory

The last pastis factory based in Marseille, Cristal Limiñana has been a specialist in aniseed aperitifs since 1884. The Cristal Anis bottle, particularly recognizable by its hexagonal shape, is still made in this family-run factory. Located near the Marseille Blancarde train station, the factory can be visited by appointment only. Spend an afternoon going behind the scenes of the production of the South of France’s most famous alcoholic beverage. The creator’s great-granddaughter will share with you the Mediterranean history of the Limiñana family and reveal the secrets of anisette, pastis and the whole range of drinks made in Marseille.

8. Visit a Vietnamese pagoda just outside Marseille

The city of Marseille is fortunate to be home to atrue treasure trove of Asian culture in its northern districts, namely the Pagoda Phap Hoa. Founded in 1978 by a Vietnamese Buddhist monk at the foot of the Savine in the 15th arrondissement, this pagoda is made up of several Buddha statues, including a huge elongated one and another covered in gilding that culminates on a promontory. Partly visible from the freeway, this parcel of Vietnam in France is the largest Vietnamese temple in Marseille. It welcomes many visitors who enjoy a total change of scenery.

9. Unlock the secrets of Marseille soap

Listed as a historical monument, the savonnerie Fer à Cheval is one of the last soap factories to perpetuate the tradition of Marshilles soap. Far from industrial manufacturing, genuine Marseille soap requires special attention and skilled labor. The master soapmakers keep a constant eye on their soap paste, which only they master to perfection. They pass on their manufacturing secrets from generation to generation to converse this authentic Marseille heritage. By reservation only, you can visit the factory boutique located inside the soap factory, which combines modernity and savoir-faire.

10. Sleep under the stars, under the pines of Allauch

Located in Allauch and La Bouilladisse, just a few kilometers from Marseille, Attrap’Rêves offers unusual accommodations to sleep under the stars in the heart of the forest. To make the most of an atypical stay in the heart of nature, you’ll have the choice of sleeping in a themed bubble, in a wooden cabin or in the Aqua Room, a suite featuring a fish aquarium, private Jacuzzi and water mattress. At night, you can observe the starry sky through the telescope provided. Between dream and fantasy, you’re sure to discover an unusual and atypical Marseille.