So you might know that I spent November of 2015 in Marseille, France. Since then I’ve done nothing but sing praises for the south of France. Everything there is a little bit brighter–mainly because, unlike in Paris, the sun actually shines there. Instead of my normal post where I ramble forever about how gorgeous everything was, I’m going to hit my hard and fast favs of this little region.
So let’s start with my favorite coffee shops, because honestly the first thing I do in a new city is find a coffee shop. Why? Because it gives you a second to sit and recharge after the travel, and then you can feel out the locals in the area.
Marseille: Coogee Coffee. This Australian style coffee shop is down right great. You’ll feel instantly relaxed by all the wooden interiors, and recharged by the subtle rap music bouncing around. It has about a million little plants (some that I got to watch grow up over the month I was there), a bike hanging from the ceiling, fresh baked Nutella muffins, and the best chai lattes I’ve ever found. They also have some really delicious regular lattes, daily juice options, a salad bar, and fresh baked goods. The owners speak French, English, and probably a few other languages. They like to be able to practice their English, but don’t be afraid to speak French with them either. This is the perfect place to sit down and get work done as they offer free wifi. They are located on 100 Boulevard Baille, 13005 Marseille, France.
Aix: Mana Espresso. This coffee shop is owned by two Francophile Brits who moved from the UK to the south of France and started one of the most popular cafes. It’s very popular with the college community there, because not only is the coffee amazing, but the food is too. The owners speak English too, so that’s a nice plus. We all know that 2015 was the year of avocado toast, but in all of my avocado toast adventures I have never found any as great as Mana’s. Every time I came in, she knew I would either get the fresh juice (amazing) or the toast. Now, in France, usually good food is enough to win people over, but I honestly think that Mana is so extremely successful because of how much they try to make their customers happy. One time I ordered the avocado toast, but they didn’t have enough for a whole meal. Instead, I got this incredible cauliflower soup (that I still think about some days…), and when Alex brought it out, she also had a bowl of veggies–including the last of the avocado because she knew I wanted it?! That is the kind of customer service you really don’t see often in France, but when you do, you become loyal to that cafe.
Next up: Wandering. This is my second favorite thing to do in a city for a few reasons: it’s stress free, money free, and includes exercise! The last reason was really just instilled in me by the amount of bread I ate in France. But okay–you had your coffee, maybe a light lunch, let’s get going on the town.
Marseille: Le Painer, Vieux Port, and Cours Julien. There are a lot of different corners of Marseille, and while I suggest you explore them all, I didn’t even get to do that in a month, so what can expect from you? Le Painer is trendy–artisan shops sell clusters of everything from soap to bread to oil paintings. The streets twist and wind because it was rebuilt after WWII, so enjoy the beautiful maze, and then head to down to Vieux Port.
Marseille is a port city, so you have to go and see exactly what the fuss is about. Walk around the surrounding streets and find fish markets and fresh markets, then make sure you wander to the port for amazing views of the sea. If you follow the port on the left you’ll find yourself near a beautiful beach. If you walk up north, you’ll run into the coolest part of town: Cours Julien. You will instantly know you are in this area because the average Marseillaise graffiti will suddenly turn into art. There is a massive staircase with an amazing view of Marseille. Walk up it, and then turn around. Wait until sunset and be ready to marvel. You don’t really have to wait there until sunset, instead follow the walls of art and explore. In this area you’ll find an ice cream and pancake house (Ego), a wine bar or two (or four), and a very cool fountain area. The perfect place for chilling after your long walk.
Aix: Fountains, Route de Cezanne, and the Cours Mirabeau. If Marseille is gritty, graffiti and full of the city life, Aix is the classy piece of Paris that the south is missing. Even though Aix is a huge student hub, the city is easy to navigate. When you first come into Aix, I’m guessing you are coming on the bus from either the airport or Marseille. Either way it will take you to a beautiful bus station, just a short distance from the first of many fountains you will see. Aix is sometimes called “The City of Many Fountains” because people like to be literal. Two of the most beautiful fountains are in the Cours Mirabeau. This is the main boulevard of Aix. You can find yourself walking under a small path of fully bloomed trees in the spring and summer. While you’re here make sure to stop for a glass of rosé to cool off and watch all the beautifully dressed people walk by. The same path is flanked by Christmas lights and market stands during the months of November and December. Instead of a cold drink, you can get some vin chaud from the market stands. If you’re in for a little more informative walk, go on the Route de Cézanne. You can follow the famous artist’s morning routine, and even see some of the vistas he painted.
Now. Time to drink! You’ve walked around the city, and you are in need of a big glass of something. I have a few fav bars in each city.
Champ du Mars. Located in Cours Julien, as most of my favorite Marseille things are, this bar has live music, a porch, and two cats. Yep, you can sit and drink a nice cold pastis while petting a snuggly little cat. If you come before five, the cats will probably be walking around, but late in the night they opt to sit by the bar and just watch the partiers come in and out.
E-Wine Pub. This place is often populated by students, especially on Fridays. Interestingly enough, there are a lot of students from Aix who come to this bar, even though they have plenty in their own city.
Oogie. This is more of resto that turns into a disco, AKA my favorite thing. I love when I can have dinner and then go out dancing, but don’t have to move locations. Oogie is really cool, and is also in Cours Julien.
Wohoo: This was probably my favorite bar while I was in Aix, and I didn’t even realize what made it so cool for a while. Wohoo maybe look small, but it has an underground dance floor. How did that slip past me the first two times I went there? I have no idea. But after taking birthday shots there one night, we found it. My only advice? Wear closed toe shoes.
O’Shannon: This bar is much less dance floor and much more ‘a pitcher of beer and a soccer game on’ type of place. But it’s in a great spot with a lot of other bars, so while you’re sitting at a table watching people who started partying way before you, you can join in as groups move from bar to bar. Another great thing about this location is that cheap pizza and frites exist right around the corner. Oh, and after you get them you can go and sit on a fountain to munch. Because there are many fountains.
There are so many amazing experiences from my time in Aix and Marseille. It was really amazing to be able to see so much culture during the day, but also know there is an affordable and fun night life waiting for me come sundown. Okay, now to look up flight prices after writing this whole thing. I need to go back!
When are you heading to the South of France?