One of the best places in Marseille to relax and enjoy the sunshine is Fort Saint-Jean, which lies at the northern mouth of Vieux Port (the Old Port).
The fort was built in 1660. I appreciated that you get a much better sense of it being a defensive building from the sea on the ferry from Vieux Port out to Chateau d’If.
After being used as the HQ for German troops during WW2, the fort was disused, until it was taken over by the French Ministry of Culture in 1960.
Since 2013, Fort Saint-Jean has officially been part of the adjacent Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM). The buildings are joined by a pedestrian foot bridge.
However, you don’t need to pay an admission fee if you just want to explore the grounds of Fort Saint-Jean. There are free, clean pubic toilets in the grounds.
There are some great views of Vieux Port from Fort Stain-Jean. You can make out Notre Dame de la Garde on the peak to the right of the photo below.
The gardens at Fort Saint-Jean are large and beautiful.
There’s a selection of seats, picnic benches and sun loungers dotted around.
If you go to the top of the gardens near the footbridge to MuCEM, you can see Marseille Cathedral.
I loved the three heads sculpture at Fort Saint-Jean.
I’d highly recommend that you take some time out to enjoy the gardens at Fort Saint-Jean when you’re visiting Marseille. You should also go across the footbridge to the rooftop terrace of MuCEM. where there’s a cafe.
On our first evening in Marseille, we were starting to feel hungry after a walk around Vieux Port. In order to escape the traffic on the southern side of the port, we walked up a block. We spotted the L’Esquinade restaurant in the pretty Place Thiers. We were attracted by the 15 Euro three course menu which also included a glass of wine per person.
It was getting a bit cool to sit outside, so we decided to eat indoors.
Our son Gary started off with Fruits de Mer, a selection of seafood.
I had the Mussels starter.
Gary had Bouillabaisse, a traditional Provencal fish stew which originated in Marseille, for his main course. The Bouillabaisse was served with toasted bread, garlic on which to rub the toasted bread and rouille (a mayonnaise made with olive oil, saffron, garlic and cayenne pepper).
My main course of tuna was delicious.
I was glad that I asked what Opera was, as it turned out to be a yummy chocolate and coffee gateau.
Gary had a surprise when he ate his profiterole, as it was filled with ice cream.
All in all, paying 15 Euro each for a meal of this quality was an absolute bargain, especially with the excellent service and ambience.
We stayed at the Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port for four nights in mid April 2105. I booked the accommodation on ebookers during a 20% off hotel promotion, at a cost £183, equivalent to just under £46 a night. However it stated on the ebookers confirmation that there was an additional City Tax of 1 Euro per night per person, which had to be paid at check-in.
I selected the Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port for its central location, good price and self catering facilities. The hotel isn’t right by Vieux Port, it takes at least ten minutes to walk there. It takes around 15 minutes to walk from the main railway station to the hotel.
Entrance to Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port
We arrived around one hour before the official check-in time of 3pm. There was some confusion over whether we could check-in early, so we decided to go to buy some supplies at the nearby supermarket.
When we did finally check-in, I was charged 1.5 Euro per person per day City Tax, when it’d said that it would be 1 Euro in the booking confirmation. By that time, I was too hot and bothered to argue over a few Euro.
A few days before arrival, I’d contacted the hotel by email to request a quiet room. My request had been granted as the room faced an internal courtyard.
Twin room at the Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port
I was extremely happy with the room. It had two large windows, a spacious bathroom and a well equipped small kitchen. The beds were firm and comfy.
The WiFi had a very good signal and you didn’t need to sign in. I would’ve liked another double electrical socket at the desk. We had to charge our mobile phones in the kitchen; it wasn’t ideal having electronic devices near water and the cooker rings.
Cleaning isn’t included in the price if you stay for 4 nights or more; there’s an additional charge of 18 Euro per clean for a studio. Whereas, if you stay for 1-3 nights, daily cleaning is included in the price. The hotel says that rates for stays of 4+ nights are lower to account for this.
I didn’t mind doing a bit of cleaning myself. The other advantage of DIY cleaning is that you don’t get disturbed. I often find that the housekeeping staff appear in the early afternoon, just when I’ve arrived back at the room after a morning’s sightseeing.
Breakfast cost 11 Euro a day. I had a quick look at what was on offer, and decided that I could prepare a similar spread in the apartment at a much lower cost. Plus, we could have a late breakfast with no need to rush down during breakfast serving hours.
The official check-out time is 11am. As our train to Nice departed at 1pm, I requested a late check-out at noon, which was granted.
I’d recommend the Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port for the quality of the accommodation. Paying for daily cleaning and breakfast would bump up the price per night quite a bit. If your stay if for 4+ nights and you are willing to shop for and prepare your own breakfast and spend a few minutes per day cleaning the room, it offers very good value for money.
Click here to check availability and price at the Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port.
I had planned to visit the Museum of Decorative Arts in Marseille prior to our trip to the city. My interest was further piqued by posters and flyers dotted around the city of the ‘Pop Art Design’ exhibition by Hubert Le Gall at the Museum of Decorative Arts, which runs until 6 September 2015.
The museum, which is housed in Chateau Borely, was renovated for Marseille’s 2013 stint as a European Capital of Culture. The adjacent park is beautiful, but we weren’t able to explore it, as it was raining heavily.
I loved the hare’s ears seat.
There appeared to be a bit of a hare theme, as I spotted another in the dining room, sculpted as a candelabra, balanced on a top hat.
The bedroom contained some of Hubert Le Gall’s trademark flower patterns. Daisies were emblazoned on a sideboard.
There was a black multi flower rug sculpture on the floor.
The black and gold table on the first floor landing had what looked like a giraffe refection on the floor.
Another of my favourite exhibits was the fish dress.
There were some lovely glass pieces.
The Art Nouveau stained glass was beautiful.
The sun and cloud shelf was pretty.
There was a golden teddy bear style sculpture base for a reading light above a table in the drawing room.
And another similar sculpture in the fireplace.
I wasn’t quite sure which animal heads decorated the mirror frame, I thought maybe antelopes.
The spaghetti style chandelier was different to the more standard reflective crystal prism style.
The red and green flower pot chairs were fun.
I’d highly recommend a visit to the Museum of Decorative Arts in Marseille. If you buy a Marseille City Pass the 5 Euro entry fee is waived.
I’ve found that you can’t generalise about the utility of city passes. You have to work it out for each individual city. It depends on the individual offering; the price, how many attractions are included and if these attractions offer free or merely reduced admission.
Adult prices for a Marseille City Pass
24 Euro for 24 hours
31 Euro for 48 hours
39 Euro for 72 hours
As I’ll be in Marseille from Friday afternoon to Tuesday morning, and the museums are shut on Mondays, the 48 hours Marseille City Pass looks like the best option for me.
Free entry to permanent exhibitions at these museums:
– Museum of African, Oceanic, American-Indian Art
– Museum of Mediterranean Archeology
– Marine Museum
– “Cantini” Museum
– Roman Docks Museum
– Natural History Museum
– Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions of Marseille
– Museum of Decorative Arts and Fashion
– History Museum
– MAC (Contemporary Art)
– MuCEM (Closed on Tuesdays)
– Museum of Fine Arts – Palais Longchamp
– Museum “Regards de Provence”
All public transport including bus, metro and tram.
The total for these four attractions came to 34 Euro, more than the 31 Euro for a 48 hour Marseille City Pass. As I thought that I might also use public transport to explore outside the city centre, I reckoned that it was worth buying the pass.
Update 2 May 2015 – Buying the Marseille City Pass did work out to be a good deal. I also took a tourist train to Notre Dame de la Garde which costs 8 Euro The return bus fare to the two museums outside the city centre costs 3 Euro. Therefore, I got 45 Euro worth of value from paying 31 Euro.