Marseille is the second-largest city in France, and the capital of Provence. It's also just a four-hour train ride (and an even quicker flight) from Paris, which makes it a solid choice for a few days away from the City of Light. Here is our suggested itinerary for three days in Marseille.
Day 1: Vieux Port and City Center
Everyone's first stop should be the Vieux Port, Marseille's beating heart since roughly 600 BC. Its massive facilities are home to working and pleasure boats, and the architecture along its quais are pure southern France. Search out some good bouillabaisse, and have lunch while you check out the scene.
Then head over to Cours Julien, a hip area of town, and see the newest street art; shop at the funky boutiques in La Plane, another cool neighborhood; and spend time in the museum complex known as the Centre de la Vielle Charite.
Day 2: Cassis and the Calanques
That may sound like the name of a band, but it's actually a satisfying day trip from Marseille – you can actually walk to Cassis along the coast on the Corniche, and then take a bus back if you wish. Cassis itself is a small fishing village that looks like it appeared fully formed from a postcard, and is home to the eponymous liqueur that gives a kir, the popular aperitif, its color and sweetness.
The Calanques are limestone formations, like fjords, along the coast that are known for their crystal-clear waters, mysterious grottos and hidden-gem beaches. They're best seen by boat; tours are available from both Marseille and Cassis. Get your camera ready, because you won't believe what you're seeing.
Day 3: Market and Notre Dame de la Garde
Even if you've been to other markets in France, it's guaranteed you've never seen anything like the Marché des Capucins – unless you've also been to Northern Africa. Chaotic, aromatic, and exotic, it's an exciting way to start a morning, and an experience that is uniquely Marseillaise.
After you're done there and have had a refreshing pastis, head up by bus to Notre Dame de la Garde, the basilica that overlooks the city from high up on a hill. Its Byzantine architecture is worth seeing up close, and the bird's eye view of your new favorite city is priceless.