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Marseille in August - any areas to avoid?

(48 Posts)
SarfE4sticated Fri 21-Jun-19 22:35:03

Hi there! Hope you can help - we are thinking about going to Marseille for a 'cheap-ish' holiday over the summer. Going via eurostar (BIL can get us a discount) and staying somewhere central. We love modern art and galleries etc, but DD would also love to be near the beach for swimming. Don't want anywhere seedy or too noisy (although I have earplugs), but don't want to spend ages on a bus to get into the center. Any suggestions for areas to stay in? We're happy to go AirBNB but just need some tips of bits to avoid. Merci!

SarfE4sticated Fri 21-Jun-19 22:35:44

Oh - also any exciting daytrips you can recommend? I reckon we manage 2.

babbi Fri 21-Jun-19 22:37:25

Any particular reason you have chosen Marseille?

The reason I ask is have have travelled extensively world wide and can honestly say it’s by far the worst place I’ve ever visited...
it was an absolute dump ...
sorry ... possibly not helpful .. but there are many nicer places you could go to ..,

Teddybear45 Fri 21-Jun-19 22:39:25

It’s awful in itself but Nice isn’t far away. You could go there everyday. Maybe rent a car if in budget as it will give you more flexibility.

babbi Fri 21-Jun-19 22:40:05

Though thinking of it I was in the city centre (business trip ) and close to the port maybe more rural could be nice ?
Hopefully someone who’s holidayed in the nearby countryside could be more of a help to you - sorry 😐
Enjoy yourself when you get there ...

babbi Fri 21-Jun-19 22:41:04

I’m heading to Nice and Cannes for work in Sept again ... it’s lovely there ...

Expressedways Fri 21-Jun-19 22:43:26

Honestly, I’d avoid all of it. If you haven’t booked a hotel yet I’d add on a TGV to Nice and go there instead.

AgileLass Fri 21-Jun-19 22:45:08

I loved Marseille!

Day trip to Cassis, get a boat from there out along the calanque for sunbathing and swimming.

From Marseille itself you can get a boat out to the Chateau d’If and Ratonneau (nice beaches on the latter)

Aix is lovely for a daytrip as well.

SarfE4sticated Fri 21-Jun-19 22:46:18

We went to Nice last year! I thought it was meant to be a city of culture and looks very nice in the pictures. I imagine it to be a bit like Naples.
Is it really that bad? <bottom lip trembles>

SarfE4sticated Fri 21-Jun-19 22:47:24

Thank you @AgileLass - you've cheered me up :D

AgileLass Fri 21-Jun-19 22:48:54

It’s nicer than Naples, IMO but a similarly gritty, earthy, vibrant city. It’s had a good deal of sprucing up in recent years.

Great food as well. Area around the train station is a bit dodgy, I’d steer clear of there.

Camelos Fri 21-Jun-19 22:58:59

Just back from a few days in Marseille and had a lovely time. I stayed on avenue Pasteur which is short walk from harbour area but easy to get buses or walk to the beaches. Also got bus to the calanques which was beautiful. However getting eurostar back meant a change in Paris. First train delayed which meant we missed our connection back to U.K - last train of the day. We couldn't get a hotel in Paris so had a terrifying night in and around Gare du Norde station witnessing muggings, prostitution and gang fights whilst trying not to become a crime statistic also - the area is truely lawless - unlike anything I've experienced in UK and I've loved in some fairly 'vibrant' locations. Don't get the last train back would be my only advice but highly reccomend Marseille.

Cruddles Fri 21-Jun-19 23:01:09

Get off the train in Lyon and stay there?

SarfE4sticated Fri 21-Jun-19 23:07:27

Thank you @Camelos. That must have been really scary. I'll have a look into train times and changes tomorrow.

I realise that a city break isn't everyone's idea of a summer holiday, but we're a bit odd like that - thanks for your help everyone :D

buttermilkwaffles Sat 22-Jun-19 11:22:21

It's not my favourite French city, by a long way but I wouldn't call it a dump. Has some beautiful buildings and the area immediately to the East of Cathédrale La Major is nice with all the narrow streets (forgotten what that area is called) if a little touristy.
Boat trips to the Calanques or you can get a bus and hike on some attractive coastal paths. Palais Longchamp. Basilica.

Cassis and Aix for day trips.

That said, I would pick Lyon over Marseille, or if you want somewhere further south than Lyon, Nimes and Montpellier are both great and easy to reach by train.

Will be very hot in August though, too hot for me and Marseille has lots of hills!

Thursday452poh Sat 22-Jun-19 11:28:03

It’s not a dump, but like many french cities in the height of summer it smells strongly of wee. Very strongly!!
We went for a day trip from near Avignon....
In August the weather can be hit and miss towards the end of the month and can be very rainy... beginning of August is fine.
Look for somewhere with a pool as when it’s hot, it’s hot. Temp is about 38/39 this week out there!!!

SarfE4sticated Sat 22-Jun-19 12:05:44

Annoyingly we’re busy in July and back to school early September. Have two weeks in October/November by which time it might be a bit chilly. Maybe Bilbao 🤔

PouncerDarling Sat 22-Jun-19 12:08:14

Stay in the old port area, which is lovely. And get the train out to Cassis, which is absolutely gorgeous.

PouncerDarling Sat 22-Jun-19 12:09:12

You can also go up to the Marseille Notre Dame from the old port

SuckingDieselFella Sat 22-Jun-19 12:16:31

Get off the train in Lyon. It's a beautiful city, old Lyon is a lovely place to wander around, there are world-class food markets at the weekend, it's the food capital of France, you can go on a river cruise or just wander along by the riverside and stop for a coffee... Why would you want to go to Marseille?

Runkle Sat 22-Jun-19 12:23:02

I had a French partner from Avignon who said avoid Marsielles at all costs. Try Avignon or Lyon.

ImpossibleNovelty Sat 22-Jun-19 12:23:02

Marseille is the most threatening feeling place I’ve ever been (more than Naples, more than South Africa for example). Went with two burly men and even they felt concerned. I honestly found nothing redeeming there. Sorry OP but I would really think again.

strongandlong Sat 22-Jun-19 13:05:09

We spent a couple of days in Marseille last August. It was lovely! We stayed right by the marina (old port) and didn't stray that far from there, so can't help with areas. Just wanted to counterbalance some of the gloom here!

SarfE4sticated Sat 22-Jun-19 18:36:20

We tend to like to go to big cities for our hols, as neither of us are really sun worshippers. We like modern art and museums, and DD loves to swim in the sea. Marseille seemed like a good choice and we have friends who have been there and raved about it. Nice was great as lots of nice parks and galleries and a nice beach at the end of the road. I assumed Marseille would be similar but a bit rougher because of the port.
I'll have a little look to see if there is anywhere a bit quieter to stay nearby. We like Bilbao and Valencia and of course Rome and Barcelona, but it needs to be somewhere we can stay relatively reasonably and get to by a cheap airline.

DonkeyHohtay Sat 22-Jun-19 20:45:31

So pleased to see people recommending Cassis - we are off there next week! Flying into Marseille and leaving from there too, weren't planning on going into the city and judging from responses that's a good idea.

There's also a large water park just hte other side of Cassis at St Cyr Sur Mer which we're planning on taking the kids to.

Humphriescushion Sat 22-Jun-19 20:56:54

Marseille has improved over the last few years. There are gritty areas but the port is lovely. The muceem is well worth a visit and there is a lovely restaurant in it. It will be very hot so stay somewhere with a pool and air con if possible.maybe have a look at the prado area ( think that is what it was called) lots of embassy, a big park and near the beach. We stayed at the sofitel hotel and it was like a little oasis away from the crowds.

You should be able to do lots of trips from there, as people have said, cassis, aix, avignon, la ciotat, bandol. Nearer is l'estaque and martiques. Someone recommended a restaurant on a beach called le mange tout - i did not manage to go but it looked lovely.

Marseille has a very real feel to it and it is growing on me.
Have a good time.

buttermilkwaffles Sun 23-Jun-19 01:04:18

Le Panier is the area is was thinking of, the Old Town, although largely rebuilt after WW2.

Wasn't as impressed as others appear to be with the Port as it had almost no shelter from the baking sun and a large and busy main road right round it which meant that all the cafes and bars have a main road between them and the waterside rather than being by the waterside iyswim. Have been to much nicer ports both in France and elsewhere.

stucknoue Sun 23-Jun-19 01:33:12

I liked it, the harbour is lovely and we climbed up the big hill but we had local friends. Nice beaches either side of the city. One of the best meals ever overlooking the Med.

Taytotots Sun 23-Jun-19 02:08:19

I was in Marseille for work last year. I enjoyed it - bit different from being on holiday though. I stayed south of the old port in the pharo/endoume area. Felt safe walking alone at night to and from old port. Swam in sea at lunchtime - lots of beaches/places to get in around that area and the water is lovely. Cassis and the calanques worth a day trip. Museums around old port. Nice seafood and wine. I think i could manage a holiday there! Not sure on rest of city though.

notangelinajolie Sun 23-Jun-19 02:31:49

Marseille is the place I'd be avoiding if I was flying into Marseille. It's ok for cheap flights but that's about it. It's nothing more than an industrial port. Head inland to Aix or Luberon villages. Or Avignon - I'm not keen but lots do like it.

notangelinajolie Sun 23-Jun-19 02:34:22

Get of the train in Avignon.

midsomermurderess Sun 23-Jun-19 13:09:00

I'd recommended Lyon too, but the old city reminds me of the old town in Edinburgh, absolutely rammed with tourists and almost every shop sells tourist tat. Totally disneyfied. But other areas of, the city are definitely worth exploring and in the summer there is a city beach. Good tram/bus system too;

PancakesAndMapleSyrup Sun 23-Jun-19 13:27:42

Lyon is the 'capital' city of food in France. Honestly I would stop off there and have your break. I wouldn't be going to Marseille it's not particularly safe either. I say that as a French national, there are so many other places to go, Marseille would be firmly at the bottom of a very very long list.

Humphriescushion Sun 23-Jun-19 13:45:20

A few years ago I would have agreed with all the negative commentsabout marseille, but much less so now. Yes there are areas that are seedy but now i found it much more interesting. I prefer it to Nice as long as you find a quiet area to stay.

Hortz Sun 23-Jun-19 14:28:36

I thought Marseilles was grim. Almost any other coastal city would be better.
Aix is beautiful but might not be enough for a long break and not on the coast.

MinnieMountain Sun 23-Jun-19 17:55:32

Has anyone been to Saint Cyr Sur Mer? We're thinking of going for a beach holiday there.

Humphriescushion Sun 23-Jun-19 19:19:46

I play tennis there but only park and dont know the town minne. Plenty of people seem to go to the beach there so imagine that is nice. Is close to lots of nice places that i do know, like bandol, sanary sur mer and la ciotat ( lots of work going on in bandol and la ciotat but hopefully will stop or be finished shortly.

SarfE4sticated Mon 01-Jul-19 22:14:37

We've booked a week in August via Eurostar (DIrect trains thanks to you @Camelos), and staying around here (see pic).
*@People Who Like Nice*,
If you have any recommendations for cheap places to eat, nice areas to visit, please share. We'll definitely head to the Muceum and visit Aix, hopefully a boat trip to the Calanques too.

SarfE4sticated Mon 01-Jul-19 22:38:10

Oh dear - that should say!

Humphriescushion Tue 02-Jul-19 06:54:49

Le mange tout in mejean, a restaurant on a calanque the other side of marseille has been highly recommended by some friends. If you visiting that side of marseille, would book though since it is very small.

SarfE4sticated Tue 02-Jul-19 07:33:59

Ooh that looks lovely @humphriescushion thanks 🙏🏻😊

Humphriescushion Tue 02-Jul-19 07:34:13
This blog is good for aix and marseille. It mentions the colorbus a new hop on to get to beaches etc.
Also a local speciality is panisse and is a nice snack.
In aix the caumont is worth a visit. An old mansion that has been beautifully restored and now has art exhibitions. Get tickets online to avoid the queues. Has a nice restaurant/cafe in the garden. Opposite this is an english bookshop ( not really exciting for you) is cool and has a cafe if it is too hot ( book in bar).
We often go the cinema in aix where they have plenty films in english - once again not very exciting for you but in august they are very cool. (The renoir, cezanne and mazarin)
Maybe have a look at marseille on netflix, a french series with gerard depardeui, i loved it for its images of marseille, so maybe worth a look.

IncrediblySadToo Tue 02-Jul-19 07:44:22

An interesting mix of responses

I like cities too & lived in Valencia for a while. Even in a ‘dudgy’ Night it feels a million times safer than Marseilles I hate the place, but clearly others like it... I’d live it if you ‘report back’ when you come home & tell us what you all thought of it!

I’m ‘watching’ the thread and will re read everyone’s suggestions next time I end up having to go there.

Hippopotas Tue 02-Jul-19 07:49:04

I loved Marseilles. Went as a group of ladies didn’t feel threatened at all. I thought it was beautiful and I much preferred it to Paris

LuckyBitches Thu 11-Jul-19 11:31:04

I too loved Marseille, yes it's a bit edgy, to me it's a quintessential port city. But it's got beautiful bits and it's not very touristy, lots of good bars and restaurants, and an atmospheric market in Noailles, that could be in Morocco. I think the comparison with Naples is apt, and that's another city I love for its character. But it's not for everyone.

SarfE4sticated Thu 22-Aug-19 09:55:44

Hi everyone! Bonjour from Marseille.
Whoever said it smelt of pee was right, but it is a great place to visit if you like art and markets. We are by a little beach which is busy but sandy, and not far from the old port which is pretty and nice to walk around. We have been to the Mucem which is really nice and have been on a day trip to Cassis on the bus. It was an interesting experience going on the bus, as once the coach is full you have to wait for the next bus. This was fine on the way out, as we were about 20mins early for the bus and got a seat easily, but getting the return bus from Cassis was horrible. Like a scene out of a disaster movie, with peoples shoving a pushing others out of the way to get on the bus. absolutely horrible, so if you're doing the same trip, I would suggest getting the train back. We did a 45 minute boat tour around the Calanques which was quite long enough, and really beautiful.
Haven't eaten out yet as everything is so expensive, but hoping to visit the Notre Dame cathedral where you an eat a meal prepared by nuns. Just need to muster enough school girl french to book a table.
weather is gorgeous, hot, but with a lovely breeze, and the area where we are is really peaceful (thankfully).

whataboutbob Sun 25-Aug-19 23:04:53

OP I like your positive spirit. As you can tell Marseille ,is very love it or hate it. Its inhabitants tend to be fiercely patriotic about it. I’ve been going there since I was a kid as I grew up in Algeria and my grandparents lived in Aix. We took the ferry over the Mediterranean from Marseille a few times. Sometimes when I go back I get flashbacks to being in Algeria, because of the smells in some streets such as the rue du tapis vert. I think it’s a city to be experienced rather than visited, I hope you enjoy going to Notre dame de la garde, it’s worth it for the view alone.

SarfE4sticated Mon 26-Aug-19 17:02:24

On our way home today, and we really loved our time there. We did have a lovely AirBnB near the old port so that really helped. Nice view of the sea and breezy balcony. Dd and I are really pale so the normal pool and sun lounger holidays don’t suit us. We also love galleries markets and exploring so Marseille was great for us. The beaches are nice (and busy) and the sea warm and clear so dh and dd has great fun swimming every day. Our neighbourhood was really friendly and on two occasions some very dapper old
Men offered us assistance. In fact a very nice lady offered me a spot under her sunshade as she saw me skulking in the shadows on the beach one morning. 🤣
We didn’t properly eat out at all - just marvelled at the amazing fruit and veg on offer at the carrefour, and took ham rolls and peaches out with us during the day and cooked at home in the evening and ate on the balcony watching the sunset.
We went to Mucem, Le Corbusier la radieuse, Notre Dame de la Garde, Cassis (plus boat trip), the Frac and another modern art gallery.
All lovely, and when you get used to the busses they’re very useful.
All in all perfect for us.

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