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The last outpost of the French Riviera, Marseille presents itself to the eyes of travellers as the perfect blend of culture, history, and sea – leaving no doubt as to why it is often nicknamed the ‘Naples of France.’ Basking under the title of France’s “sunniest” city too, here you’ll see people strolling up and down la Canebiere or relaxing on the terrace of a cafe, not holed up indoors; or heading seawards to breathe. La plage de Catalans, though not the most conventionally picturesque (the Calanques are more beautiful), holds court at the city’s heart. As evening sets in, Marseille’s citizens head there to shed their suits and drop their briefcases, taking a refreshing dip before heading homeward, a charming ritual which epitomises the marseillaises.

Below is a curated weekend guide to Marseille, for those who wish to do more than just swim.


This is the place to go if you love food, orange wines and being in the company of attractive people. Launched in summer 2021 by three friends, including current global hotshot Valentin Raffali, who had already collaborated on other projects (Thistle in Arles and the Mercerie in Marseille) this bistro is beloved by chefs, journalists, and skaters – the scene. It has a five-course fixed price surprise menu, devised by a different resident chef, and has, since it opened, incorporated North-African, Middle-Eastern, South-East Asian, and South American culinary traditions. Offerings include ravioli in miso butter, succulent koftas, crispy matchstick fries, pizzettes, ceviche, and an array of impeccably roasted meats and fishes. But one fixture stands proudly: the legendary citrus or strawberry-glazed, ahem, “dildonut”, a  churro-donut hybrid – long, glistening and twisted, and served with fresh yoghurt on the side.

5 Rue Crudère, 13006 Marseille. Demand for tables is high so booking months in advance is advisable.


This neighbourhood bar/cinema/film club is also located in Cours Julien (one minute from Livingston and three from Limmat), an enclave that comes alive as soon as the sun starts setting, buzzing with eclectic, high quality restaurants and wine bars. But Videodrome is quite the local gem. Here, cinephiles of all stripes converge, drawn by a meticulously curated program, tailored to the arthouse aficionado, the connoisseur of short films, and the impassioned activist hungry for thought-provoking documentaries. But VIDEODROME offers more than just screenings – from children’s shows to workshops on VJing, radio broadcasting, and animation filmmaking, there’s always something cool happening within these walls. And if none of the scheduled events catch your eye, you can just relax with a cold beer in the lush garden or on the intimate terrace.

49 Cr Julien, 13006 Marseille


Tuna and chickpeas, with egg and capers.

Nestled in the centre of Noailles, the North African district of Marseille, close to the vieux port and surrounded by market stalls selling roasted chicken, stuffed dates, piles of halva, spices and fresh fruit, Chez Yassine is an institution for lovers of Tunisian cuisine. The interior is somewhat sparse, and it’s nicer to sit outdoors anyway, in the busy but shaded alley, sipping on some homemade lemonade or one of the fresh juices they make in-house. Among the things to try are ojja, a Tunisian version of a shakshuka: eggs poached in rich and peppery tomato sauce with onions and green olives, perfect to mop up with some bread. The grilled fish with frites is a lovely choice if you fancy something less saucy. Or, for the salad lovers, the leblebi, a salad of roasted, crispy chickpeas, served with eggs or tuna, is excellent.

8 Rue d’Aubagne, 13001 Marseille


Also in Noailles and located in front of Chez Yassine, l’IDÉAL’s food nods at the profiles of Algerian, Moroccan, and Mediterranean cuisine, but with a distinctly Italian twist, combining the flavours of Puglia, as well as Provence. Boiled egg salad with tuna and preserved lemon, fresh pickles, slow-cooked veal, mussels with gorgonzola and a selection of fresh cheeses and cured meats are available on the menu and from the fresh counter. In fact, this restaurant doubles as a deli where the shelves groan under the weight of fancy tinned tomatoes, homemade tapenade and hummus, olives and bottles of good local wine – so you can get your shopping in after you’ve dined. I urge you to trust the recommendations of the affable staff here – especially on wine. I was offered a glass of “limited edition rose” from a winery nearby, which then turned into a bottle. I liked the atmosphere of this place so much I went back to try the desserts a few days later and fell in love with the affogato – voila! 

11 Rue d’Aubagne, 13001 Marseille


Caroline Dutrey.

In the heart of Marseille’s La Belle de Mai neighbourhood is la Friche (“wasteland” in English), a sprawling cultural centre within the remnants of an abandoned tobacco factory, famous for making the iconic Gauloises and Gitanes. This 45,000-square-metre multi use public space is a place for work and art dissemination, attracting around half a million visitors annually and serving as a prototype for cultural models and urban transformation. It reminded me a bit of MACBA in Barcelona’s Raval, or the Barbican in London, large, converted spaces that blend into their surroundings and enhance the public space. Here at la Friche there are performance halls, a restaurant, bookstore, terrace, nursery and a rooftop where you can listen to Djs and sip cocktails in the summer. It’s worth checking out the programme to see what’s on because the music, art and culture offering is extensive – festivals of skate and metal, rock, and dance, which often take place on the sprawling outdoor terrace. Some real legends have played here – Justice, Aloe Blacc, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Major Lazer, Autechre, and Kendrick Lamar – and the performances usually happen at the Cabaret Aleatoire, a venue within the venue. It’s also the best place in Marseille to go clubbing. 

41 Rue Jobin, 13003 Marseille


This was hands down my favourite spot to eat in Marseille, probably because it didn’t feel at all like being in a cookie-cutter East London wine bar, a place not trying too hard to be cool. The walls are covered in under-the-sea paraphernalia like fishing nets, life vests, plastic crabs and oh, there is a little fisherman’s boat suspended over the main dining counter. There’s no such thing as a menu, but there’s a charming maitre who waits for the lunch tables to have sat down before shouting what’s on offer that day (first in French, and then in English). There’s always oysters or sea urchins and there’s one day a week when it offers “frites” (actual fries, as well as fried sardines, panisse, calamari, and more.) The atmosphere is super informal and allows for fast friendship to blossom (with the table next to ours, we ended up sharing the wine, tasting each other’s food and going out for cigarettes together.) We started with some fish croquettes served with a parsley, lemony pesto, and followed with monkfish ravioli in a warm broth, before tuna tartare mixed with crunchy almonds, spring onions and basil that was lavish. In fact, the food was so good we pondered whether we should start over after dessert. But just as we decided to be sensible and pay the bill, our new friends were already ordering more oysters.

Should book but you could get lucky, like I did.  2 Bd de la Libération, 13001 Marseille


One thing I’ve come to learn is that if you want something more than just a bar to drink, but something less than a club to go “out-out”, karaoke usually hits the spot. SING OR DIE is tucked away on a quiet street near Reformé, close both to La Plein and the 1st: easy enough to reach on foot if you’re already hanging out in the centre of town. With no sign on the door, the spot is easily missed, but look for the doorbell that says “ring or die” and you’ll know you’re there. It’s hands down one of the sweatiest places I’ve ever been so make sure you leave everything at the wardrobe. Expect stiff, dubious drinks and a rowdy crowd full of others unbothered by such things. On the lineup? All the 80s, 90s and noughties classics, plus a selection of the best French bangers like Dalida’s Gigi L’Amoroso.

56 Rue Léon Bourgeois, 13001 Marseille


Down in the trendy and graffiti-covered Cours Julien, you wouldn’t give this place a penny if it wasn’t for the small and appealing menu scribbled with chalk on a blackboard outside: Italian classics revisited, such as the Sicilian agrodolce classic, caponata or the Piedmontese bagna cauda, the warm anchovy and garlic dip served with fresh vegetables or pickles, but also fresh fish carpaccio with blood oranges, apple or celery, tuna salad, vegetarian ragouts, and delicious, homemade fruit tarts. Starters are seven euros and mains 15, which is really good value for money, even in Marseille. If you go in summer, sit on the terrace and watch the hip crowd walk up and down with bags of vinyls or second-hand clothes.

Best to book. 41 Rue Jean-Baptiste-Estelle, 13006 Marseille


If you’d prefer to see a live gig, then head to L’embobineuse, still located in the neighbourhood of La Belle de Mai, inside an ex-industrial space which got a little makeover – an emblem of the nouveau “fancy DIY culture” in Marseille. But it retains its edge and some grit: definitely a cult venue for the alt-scene in Marseille, so expect to hear post punk, new wave, hyper noise, future folklore, and sputnik rock. 

11 Bd Boues, 13003 Marseille

Header image: Outside Limmat by Maddalena Vatti.

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