The Vallon des Auffes, MarseilleSeveral small, pretty creeks just off the Corniche Kennedy along Marseille's southern coastline have miraculously kept their typical character.

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Fishermen's cottages and brightly coloured traditional fishing boats huddle in a setting apparently unchanged for centuries yet a stone's throw from freeways, villas and high-rise housing blocks.

The whole stretch of coast sums up Marseille's capacity to blend old and new, rich and poor.

The most celebrated creek is the Vallon des Auffes: the name comes from a variety of grass formerly used for making ropes and fishing nets. It was settled in the 18th century by Italian immigrants, mainly fishermen.

But it wasn't until the 19th century that the coast road, the Corniche Kennedy, was built, along with the bridge that spans the valley. It linked the isolated Vallon des Auffes with the rest of Marseille. Today it's very easily accessible.

There are several other lesser-known creeks just nearby. They include the Vallon de Malmousque and the Vallon de la Fausse Monnaie (whose name was inspired by the discovery of counterfeiters' equipment during the construction of the nearby bridge).

The Vallon des Auffes, MarseilleThey are about 20-30 minutes on foot from the Old Port. But on summer afternoons it's much too hot to walk.

And so, from about 2.30pm onwards, the buses are packed with beach-towel bearing locals off for a couple of hours' swimming and sunbathing. Get off the bus with them at the War Memorial (le Monument aux morts de l'Orient).

The seafront is a short walk down steps from the main road and along sleepy, narrow residential back streets.

There are no beaches, just rocks and a great atmosphere. In the afternoon, be sure to bring your own drinks and picnic.

Where: Find the Vallon des Auffes on Google Maps.

How to get there: Bus 83 from the Old Port.

Where to eat and drink: For a special treat in the evening, the Vallon des Auffes boasts two of Marseille's very top fish restaurants, the Michelin-starred L'Epuisette and the historic Chez Fonfon. Both are renowned for their bouillabaisse.

For more modest tastes and budgets, Chez Jeannot is a friendly family-owned pizzeria whose history dates back to 1949. It has recently had a sparkling make-over in vintage 1950s style. There are no restaurants or bars in the smaller creeks.

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