One of the most awesome things of all about the French city of Marseille is the fact that it contains such a massive mixture of cultures…and it naturally follows that a place that contains so many different cultures will also contain a whole load of different foods from these cultures. And food is quite clearly one of the greatest and most important things in life. Am I right!? During the few months I spent visiting Marseille by ship every week, I ran all over the place discovering all sorts of intriguing places to eat, drink and be merry, so have jotted my favourites down in a lovely little list for you here. I haven’t included our fave kebab shop (although I’m pretty sure its name is Kabul King and it’s on the Rue de la République in case you’re interested; they do great fries), or the bakery and greengrocer located opposite our rehearsal studio which saved me from starvation countless number of times; you’re capable of finding your own fave fries and croissants and clementines, I’m sure. Read on, dear pals, to find out the places you need to eat in Marseille! And prepare for a mouth-watering fiasco!
What should you eat in Marseille?
Before I get on to the restaurants and cafes themselves, let’s talk about the actual local dishes that you should really be sampling if you head to the city. Number one is bouillabaise, which is basically a fish soup served as the starter, followed by a main dish of the fish that was used to make the stock for the soup. As a port city, Marseille is obviously in prime location to be serving you with some downright awesome fresh fish, so as long as you stay away from the plastic-menu restaurants with photos of the food, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get something tasty.
Secondly: navettes. Navettes are very hard biscuits which are traditionally flavoured with orange blossom and shaped like little tiny boats. (You see, it’s that nautical theme coming in again). They sell these in pretty much every bakery in the city, although there are also specialist navette bakers like Four des Navettes who focus solely on making these boat-shaped biccies. Confusingly, these days the word ‘navette’ also means ‘shuttle bus’ so be careful if you google where to go for a navette as you could end up in a bus back to the airport if you’re not too careful.
Cup of Tea
This little ‘tea and books’ cafe is near Hotel de Ville and Le Panier, and if I’m honest it’s got the air of the Harry Potters about it. A dark wooden interior filled with tins and tins of tea, shelves of books and walls of old music memorabilia, it’s a beaut little place to stop for a cuppa and a people-watch. They do serve food as well, although personally I’ve only ever gone as far as a croissant situation when I’ve visited. Definitely go for a tea over a coffee, as this is what they really do well.
Cup of Tea, 1 Rue Caisserie. Open 9.30am-6pm Monday to Friday, 9.30am-7pm Saturdays.
Emilie and the Cool Kids
There are actually several of these cafes in the South of France (and one in Reykjavik, apparently), and this is the place to go for a decent coffee, a decent lunchtime salad or bagel, and a very decent cookie. It’s not the location for a full on traditionally French experience, unless you decide to get the French menu instead of the English one, but the food is nice and fresh and the deco is a retro-lover’s dream. Also, there’s an abundance of avocados which is brilliant for the vitamin-deprived cruise ship employee like myself.
Emilie and the Cool Kids, 54 Rue Vacon. Open 9am-6.30pm Monday to Saturday, 10.30am-5.30pm Sundays.
This place is an absolute GEM. My pal introduced me to the hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop specifically so I could try a fricassé, which he described excitedly as a savoury donut sandwich. Actually that’s not a bad explanation of this Tunisian treat- the ‘bread’ part is fried dough, and the filling normally consists of tuna, olives, boiled egg and harissa (give or take a few things). It was DELICIOUS. Fanny does serve other things, like classic sandwiches, tarts and burgers, and customers can hop onto a bar stool at the little corner-shop’s unassuming windows to consume these, or take them away in a good old paper Bach to nibble on while you walk. Good one, Fanny. I’m a fan.
Chez Fanny , 28 Rue Bonneterie. Open 9am-5pm Monday to Friday.
I went into Twist Avenue for the first time because I thought it was a creperie. But oh no sir, this is no pancake place. Twist Avenue has basically taken the concept of the Hungarian Chimney Cake- sugary dough which is wrapped around a cylindrical spit and baked- and turned it into something that’s all a bit ‘hipster’ by adding fillings and toppings and side orders. Both sweet and savoury twists are on the menu, and the normal-sized twists will fill you up to the brim (although mini versions are sold here as well).
Twist Avenue, 99 Bis Rue Henri Fiocca. Open 9.30am-9pm Monday to Thurday, 9.30am-10pm Fridays and Saturdays.
You’ll find this cavernous cafe and restaurant in the Vauban area if you decide to make the steep walk up to Notre Dame de la Garde, and it may well be a welcome relief from the trekking, know what I’m saying!? The interior is all very minimalist- think concrete flooring and white and grey tiled counters- and there’s also some tables outside the front if you fancy sipping a coffee and watching the world go by from out there. I’ve only ever gone for a coffee-and-pastry combo here (v v good), but there’s also a full lunch and dinner menu which is filled with French and Mediterranean treats and looks delish.
Carlotta With, 84 Boulevard Vauban. Open 8am-11pm Tuesday to Friday, 9am-11pm Saturdays, 9am-5pm Sundays.
Continuing onwards with the Vauban theme, as the area is just so lovely, a few doors down from Carlotta With is EMKI Pop. EMKI Pop sells gourmet ice lollies made from all natural and seasonal ingredients; you can get your lolly with a topping, with a coffee or with a side order of cookies if you fancy. Or, skip the whole lolly part and go for something like an açai bowl instead.
EMKI Pop, 80 Boulevard Vauban. Open 8.30am-7pm Tuesday to Friday, 10am-7pm Saturday and Sunday.
Toute Une Histoire
This little bakery doesn’t look like much either outside or in, but I can honestly say it sells some of the best cakes and pastries I ever tried in France! (And I feel like I’ve tried a fair few.) The lady running the place is a lovely lass, and if I’d have had room to try everything in there I would have done without a doubt; delicate pastries decorated with creme patisseiere and fruit, classic croissants and pain au chocolat, and loaves of bread are all baked here, and when I saw that she also sold canelés- dense, chewy cakes originally from Bordeaux- I obv had to get one. One of those, and one of several other things as well.
Toute Une Histoire, 4 Cours Pierre Puget. Open 7am-8pm Monday to Friday, 7am-2pm Saturdays.
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If you’re looking for a cozy place to get a glass of wine or two, this is the prime location, pals! An unassuming little bar just back from Le Vieux Port, the atmosphere here is just downright lovely. I never ate here but every plate of food that passed by on its way to a table of hungry diners looked and smelled delicious; and the prices aren’t too bad either.
Bistrot L’Horloge, 11 Cours Honoré d’Estienne d’Or. Open 9.30am-1am Monday to Saturday, 4pm-1am Sundays.
Loated in Le Panier, the oldest part of Marseille, this Comoran restaurant serves up a choice of three dishes every day- one vegetarian, one meat, and one fish. I felt a bit like I’d been invited into the very higgledy-piggledy kitchen of the lovely lady who was cooking our dinner for us in the very same room we ate in, filling the whole place with amazing spicy smells as she bustled about chatting to the other lady who worked there. Obviously as they were talking in French, and my French is pretty bad/mal, they may well have been talking about, and laughing about, us; but it was hard to tell and the food was so good that I wouldn’t have minded anyway.
Douceur Picante, 17 Rue de l’Évêché. Open 12pm-10.30pm Tuesday-Sunday.
This little restaurant on Le Cours Julien is another situation where the cooking takes place almost right in front of your eyes. Well, it does if you sit near the kitchen part, anyway. Seasonal French food is what’s on the menu, with a good selection of wine and beer to wash it all down with. It’s a little bit pricier than the other places on this here list, but the food was so scrumptious that I wasn’t too fussed.
Avanti Popolo, 75 Cours Julien. Open 8am-11pm Wednesday to Monday.
La Jardin d’á Côté
We sat outside on Le Cours Julien at this beaut little bistro, tucking into a very hearty stew involving beef and red wine and onions and having a very grand old time in the winter sunshine. French classics are all the rage at this bistro, and our waiter was a hilarious man who was all too happy to give us advice as to what we should eat on a Winters Day in Marseille. When a fight broke out between two homeless lads over the way (one guy had stolen the other guy’s wine bottle), the heroic waiter burst in to interrupt the scuffle and ran back to declare- ‘It is the same argument with those two every day. Ah, beautiful Marseille!’ I mean, he was kind of joking but I think Marseille is beautiful, in its own unique way.
Le Jardin d’á Côté, 65 Cours Julien. Open 9am-9pm Monday to Sunday.