Hi Frugalistas! I love the French Riviera and Mediterranean vacations, and I’m always looking for new French Riviera travel destinations to explore. While there are many daytrips from Marseille, my friend KB and I decided a day trip to Cassis would make an interesting comparison to the city. So a visit to Cassis it was.
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French Riviera travel: how to travel to Cassis from Marseille
Marseille to Cassis is an easy drive, but not having a car, KB and I took the 30minute Marseille Cassis train from Marseille’s St Charles station. The quaint, very rural, Cassis train station is about 3km from the main town. There is a shuttle bus, but KB and I had worked out that the walk down into the town was through vineyards and olive groves, so we thought that might be a more interesting way to reach the town.
And we were certainly not disappointed. The walk was truly pretty. On a sunny Sunday morning there was little road or pedestrian traffic. We passed small vineyards and olive groves and admired the landscape of the surrounding hills. As we got closer to the centre of town olive groves and vineyards gave way to houses in extensive gardens, before reaching the centre of town with its typical multcoloured, shuttered, French Riviera townhouses.
What to do on a day trip to Cassis
Down at Cassis harbour we were tempted by the small cruisers offering short trips out to les Calanques de Cassis but we decided we would stay on dry land and explore the town. It was quite busy on a Sunday May morning, but we still managed to find a quiet square to sit and enjoy a drink in the sunshine before we explored.
Like most places in Europe, the best way to explore Cassis is to head away from the crowds and explore the back streets. Being a small town of some 8000 people it’s hard to get lost in Cassis. And remembering that heading downhill will take you to the harbour also helps.
We spent a wonderful time wandering the backstreets of Cassis. We found gorgeous Provençal architecture, ladies out gossiping, cats and tiny hole in the wall restaurants and cafés. Wandering out to the harbour we enjoyed a local craft market (which if it is on is good option for local souvenirs) as well as the picturesque view back to the town, complete with bobbing fishing boats.
The town was so crowded that I was pleased I had booked our table at Restaurant Gilbert for lunch. I don’t normally seek out restaurants on the main tourist trail down by the water, but Restaurant Gilbert had such a high approval score on The Fork app (called La Forchette in France, it’s easy to download) that we agreed it was worth a try.
Arriving for our booking at 1pm the joint was jumping with happy French diners. Our Sunday lunch was a fixed price three course menu for €34 plus drinks. (The menu was not available in English, however, the waiting staff seemed to speak English without any problem). We thought a local Cassis wine was in order given our walk through the vineyards. There being only twelve wineries in the Cassis AOC region, the wines were not listed by maker, but just a single listing on the wine list. Our wine was fabulous with the local food. The French couple at the next table to us (the charming Frederique and Bernadette, also on a Cassis day trip from Marseille where they lived) cooed with approval when they saw our choice, and pronounced it an excellent Cassis wine.
We started with a typical Provençal fish soup. Not to be confused with a classic Marseillais boullaibaisse it was served with croutons, garlic mayonnaise to spoon on the croutons, and grated cheese on a separate plate. The soup itself was served by our waiter with great flourish from a large silver tureen.
Our main course (entrée) was simple grilled fish with vegetables which our waiter deftly filleted for us at the table. Dessert was a chocolate mousse cake.
We spent a happy time chatting half in English, half in French to Bernadette and Frederique and our waiter. French family groups laughed and ate. Despite Cassis being a busy Mediterranean resort town no one rushed us on. It was relaxed and friendly, and the food was excellent.
After lunch we wandered around the shops and I treated myself to a colourful silk scarf from Provençal brand Soleido. Every time I wear it, it’s a reminder of a happy and enjoyable day.
Practical info for travelling to Cassis
Although it is a little further than Antibes and Cannes, Cassis is still one of the easier day trips from Nice and is a simple 30min train ride from Marseille. Despite it being Sunday the trains were not crowded. The biggest problem we had was the lengthy queue to buy our ticket at St Charles station (the ticket machines rather annoyingly don’t take overseas credit cards). If you are planning on taking the Marseille Cassis train, I suggest planning ahead and booking your train ticket before you leave home.
Cassis also makes a great stop on a driving trip along the Cote d’Azur.Book your car now
We ate at the Restaurant Gilbert down at the harbour. You do need to book a table for Sunday lunch for Cassis restaurants, and I would suggest booking one any day during the summer when Cassis swells to over 40 000 inhabitants. Download The Fork app, and book online.
Although it is more popular with French visitors you can, of course, stay in Cassis and enjoy the charms of this French Riviera resort town a little longer.
Cassis (and Marseille) are featured in Rick Steves Mediterranean Cruise Ports guide