The most beautiful beaches in Marseille – Lonely Planet

This ancient Greek port and Roman colony may now be France’s second-largest city, but the sprawling metropolis of Marseille retains its maritime charm.

Several mythical seaside towns – Cassis, Bandol in the naturally glamorous Var, the tango-dancing Côte Bleue in the Camargue at flamingo point – are all a short train ride from the Provençal capital. The Calanques National Park, meanwhile, conceals a string of delightful and wild creeks that can be reached on foot or by boat.

But as any self-respecting Marseillais will proudly tell you, you don’t need to leave the city to find soft golden sand, coves of pebbles shaded by fragrant Aleppo pines and old-fashioned rock ladders plunging into a turquoise and clear. These are eight of the best.

The calanque of Marseilleveyre is ideal for lunch in nature

A hike in the Calanques is a Marseille rite of passage. In this national park, rocky paths wind through maquis (herbal scrub), sun-scorched agaves and umbrella pines to reveal larger-than-life views of the Mediterranean and towering limestone cliffs plunging down to calanques (creeks). the size of a doll far below.

The best known (Calanques de Morgiou, Sormiou and En-Vau) are horribly overrun with tourists – an online booking system is being tested at Calanque de Sorgiton this summer to limit the number of visitors to 300 per day. Avoid.

Head instead to the most delicious of local secrets: Calanque de Marseilleveyre. Take the marked hiking trail to the heavenly cove of Callelongue in the 8th; this should take about 50 minutes. Linger over lunch at At the Belgian, a remote, ramshackle cottage with no electricity, no road access, no reservations – just a few daily specials and salads, plastic tables and chairs on the sand – plus the most extraordinary tranquility and a view that no money can buy. Paddle here by sea ​​kayak is a fun option.

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Plage des Catalans attracted the first bathers in the 19th century and became wildly fashionable in the 1920s © olrat / Shutterstock

Plage des Catalans is ideal for urban swimming, volleyball and underwater art

From the Old Port, walk 20 minutes or take a shared electric scooter to glide under the giant Norman Foster mirrored canopy and west along Quai de Rive Neuve and Boulevard Charles Livon to the nearest beach downtown. Modest in size and sheltered, it attracted the first divers in the 19th century and became very fashionable in the 1920s, when swimmers established the elite Cercle des Nageurs de Marseille swimming club here.

The legendary Catalan sands are the contemporary HQ of the city’s beach volleyball club. Between the hollows of the sea, watch tanned players hit balls on the pitch. Bring your own snorkeling gear to admire giant underwater sculptures at the Musée Subaquatique, Marseille’s quirkiest museum, 100m (328ft) from the shore at the bottom of the sea.

Take refreshments to the beach or reserve a table for a tapas lunch or an early evening drink and kemia (Maghreb hors d’oeuvres) at The Akolytes, opposite the noisy rue de la Plage des Catalans. Irresistible: the traditional Marseillais panisses (chickpea pancakes with chili sauce), Camargue oysters and sardine crumble with parmesan.

Bonne Brise Beach is ideal for sunrise swims and sleepovers

Follow a local crowd to this small sandy beach (also called Plage de la Verrerie), tucked down a flight of steps between La Madrague de Montredon and Anse des Sablettes in the 8th arrondissement.

The views over the Port de la Madrague are quite pretty, but the big deal is spending the night on the beach in a vintage fisherman’s shed (fisherman’s hut), with a weathered deck facing the sea (you’ll find several on AirBnB.) Having the beach all to yourself once the rowdy sun-seekers are gone for the day or waking up with a swim at the sunrise and breakfast alone on the sand is magical.

A panoramic shot of the beach near Prado Beach Park with mountains in the background
Actually a trio of beaches, the Plages du Prado are the largest and busiest seaside strip in Marseille © Maremagnum / Getty Images

The Prado beaches are ideal for family fun

Mesmerizing views of Marseille’s seaside unfold along the coastal corniche that stretches 5 km (3.1 miles) south from the Catalans to the Plages du Prado. Actually a trio of beaches, Prado is Marseille’s largest and busiest seaside strip – scorching on weekends and in summer. Join the locals as they relax on the wide pebble beach, kiss as the sun sets, and linger until late over a take-out pizza from one of the trucks parked along the 3.5 km stretch ( 2.2 miles).

The Prado is Marseille’s first playground during the day. Ogle the 1903 marble replica of Michelangelo David, toss a soccer ball across the grassy lawn separating the beach from the busy road, take the kids for a round of mini-golf or to the playground, and flex your muscles at a street workout station. On the water is sailing, sea kayaking and countless other water activities. Watching talented riders throw tricks in Prado’s sacred “bowl” – a world famous skate park – is a mesmerizing moment.

Degaby Island is the best beach of the desert islands

If you’re looking for five-star luxury and paparazzi-free privacy, this uninhabited islet is all yours. It sits off the picturesque port of Malmousque, close to the iconic waterfront restaurants Le Petit Nice Passedat and Le Rhul.

Fort de l’île was built under Louis XIV in 1703, later used to isolate plague victims, and was gifted to music hall star Liane Degaby by her wealthy industrial husband in 1914. on lounge chairs under the shade of an umbrella, swim from the deck, watch fish with a snorkel, and enjoy the thrill of life on a desert island.

The hitch? Degaby Island is the five star private beach Hotel C2 – accessible only to hotel guests. Assuming your budget doesn’t stretch that far, instead compete with the locals for a hotly contested spot on the rocks of Malmousque to lay out your beach towel.

People at the beach on the bay of Cap Croisette on a summer afternoon
Accessible only from the restaurant La Baie des Singes, the Plage de la Baie de Singes is the chic spot to chill © EA Photography / Shutterstock

Baie de Singes beach is ideal for beach chic and bouillabaisse

Prepare to be hit. In the charming fishing village of Les Goudes in the 8th, stroll along the strip of quaint cottages on the main street Désirat Pelaprat and continue to Cap Croisette. On this breezy, untamed lunar cape of sun-bleached limestone, crumbling World War II bunkers and clumps of rare Marseille Astragalus (look for white and purple flowers in spring), a narrow path winds through white rocks to to the sea and Monkey Bay.

Nicknamed Plage de Bout du Monde, this sandy beach on a small bay really looks like the end of the world. Accessible only from The Bay of Monkeys restaurant, it’s the chic place to relax with stars on orange lounge chairs, climb on rocks and have lunch with grilled sea bass, langoustine pasta and traditional bouillabaisse, Marseille’s signature fish stew. And the 360 ​​degree views of the Mediterranean are out of this world.

Pointe Rouge beach is ideal for sea walking with a view of the city

Hit this wide beach first and you won’t be the only person on the water, dotted with slow walkers in wetsuits and stand-up paddleboarders enjoying an early morning workout. The sea views of the Frioul islands and the bay of Marseille are incomparable.

At noon, cheap restaurants backing onto the beach and cafes with plastic tables on the sand come into action. Take one tray of fries (fries), slice of pizza or panini smeared with Nutella and join the hoi polloi enjoying a quintessential family day by the sea. Frequent buses and seasonal boat shuttles to the Old Port only add to the popularity of Pointe Rouge beach.

Saint-Estève beach in the Frioul archipelago, Marseille
St-Estève beach in the Frioul archipelago is the perfect place to observe marine life up close © Fabianodp / Shutterstock

St-Estève beach is the best for marine biodiversity and snorkeling

Pack snorkeling gear and a picnic with your swimmers, and sail from Vieux Port to Ratonneau Island (also called Frioul Island) in the Frioul Archipelago. Seabirds and rare plants thrive on this pinprick outcrop, and the beach at St-Estève is the perfect place to observe marine life up close.

The half-sand, half-pebble beach with a cinematic view of the Château d’If is a 20-minute walk from the port where Frioul Si Express boats dock. In summer, its family-friendly Sentier Sous-Marin (underwater trail), marked in shallow waters by five buoys, encourages divers to discover Marseille’s rich native marine life.

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