far far away the distances surrounding Marseille
Marseilles isn’t a city for tourists. There’s nothing to see. Its beauty can’t be photographed. It can only be shared. –Jean-Claude Izzo
Contrary to what Mr. Izzo thinks, three prominent locations in Marseille offer superb panoramic views of far far away places. On clear days one can see the small villages of Martigues and Estaques to the north; and when looking toward the Mediterranean Sea, one can see in the distance the Château d’If, where the Comte de Monte Cristo spent a few years of his life, and the Frioul archipelago.
I propose these three sites: 1) looking down from Notre-Dame de la Garde; 2) visiting the Parc du Pharo; and 3) walking along a section of the Corniche between Catalans and Endoume and, in particular, pausing near the Vallons des Auffes, where you will find the Square du Lieutenant Danjaume and the Monument aux morts de l’Armée d’Orient et des terres lointaines.
These are my favorites for grand panoramic vistas, but they are not the only places in Marseille. Several restaurants along the Corniche will provide excellent views of the Mediterranean Sea with the price of a meal, Peron, L’Epuisette, Le Bistro Plage, Le Petit Pavillon, Le Rhul, Le Petit Nice, to name the most prominent. The restaurant Chalet du Pharo overlooks the Vieux Port toward the MuCEM and the Panier quartier. It is next to the Parc du Pharo.
The Musée Regards de Provence has a restaurant, the Regards Café, with a terrace on the second floor, and it offers a nice panoramic view. During my last visit, while eating lunch, I watched three very large, multi-decked ferries leave Marseille for Corsica and North Africa. They seemed close enough to touch.
The ramparts next to the Abbaye Saint-Victor on the south side of the Port will give you views across the View Port and toward the MuCEM and Fort Saint-Jean.
Let us not forget a boat ride to the Château d’If, and looking back, watching the land recede, then stepping onto the island, climbing to the Château, and scanning the horizon toward Marseille.
Any would be fun, combining a meal with extraordinary views, for example, but none of them can surpass, or even match, the free wanderings at the three locations I have mentioned, my favorites.
Notre-Dame de la Garde
Notre-Dame de la Garde is visible from most any spot in Marseille. It sits on a high hill that looms up, giving the cathedral its perch for overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and the Vieux Port and much of Marseille to the east.
There are many ways to reach Notre-Dame de la Garde—walking, city bus, tourist train, and tourist bus. The small tourist trains and tourist buses will take you to all three of my favorite locations, but you will not be able get off at the Parc du Pharo nor the Corniche. They will stop for you at Notre-Dame de la Garde.
City bus #60 is a good option and cheap. Notre-Dame de la Garde is one of its destination points. If you have walked up, you can return on it to the Vieux Port, and actually continue your ride to its other destination stop, the MuCEM.
Parc du Pharo
The Parc du Pharo is a easy, flat walk from the Vieux Port. Walk along the north side of the Vieux Port toward the Corniche. You will see the gated entrance on your right before you reach the Mediterranean Sea.
Many city buses—#82, #82s, #83, to name three—go in that direction. Each of them will let you off at the bus stop Le Pharo.
It is easy then to walk into the park and straight ahead up a small hill to the Palais du Pharo. To the right and around the back of the Palais are superb vistas into the Port and toward the north to the former fishing villages of Martigues and L’Estaque.
Of the three I have mentioned, the Corniche is my favorite. I walk along it each day to the Vieux Port and never tire of pausing for some moments to look, regardless of the weather conditions. I have “secret spots,” as well, where there is no traffic and typical city noises.
City bus #83 is a gem. It will take you from the Vieux Port to the Corniche and then along a long section of it before turning inland toward the Prado, the Rond Point du Prado. I stand or sit on the coast side of the bus for the best views. If I do not want go inland, which is not interesting at all, and want to continue the ride along the coast, I will get off at the stop La Plage, walk directly across the street, and catch the #19 bus toward the calanques and Madrague de Montredon, the end of the route.
Since the Corniche is very long, one must pause somewhere to take photographs, and that will be at the bus stop Vallons des Auffes. It is a good stop for two reasons. First, one can take in the panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea from the Square du Lieutenant Danjaume and the Monument aux morts de l’Armée d’Orient et des terres lointaines. Secondly, walking across the street one can look down into the small port of Vallons des Auffes, a pretty village-like inlet with small homes and boats in the harbor. Look up and what will you see? Notre-Dame de la Garde, of course.