Marseille is safe
Dangerous or Not?
When we told our French friends (all pretty big guys who grew up in South of France) we decided to go to Marseille for a day trip, the guys were like "Marseille? Better watch out for the pick-pockets! Don't bring too much cash...". The city has been a trading port for over 2000 years, along with the history of immigrants, it might be a relatively complex mix of people and wealth level. It is understandable that it is regarded as a dangerous place due to these reasons, but you will definitely miss out a big deal if you skip this city while you are close by.
I flew to Marseille just a few months before this trip, as I was invited to an enjoyable tour of SCAD Lacoste. Probably because we were very well taken care of during that trip, I didn't have any worry while I was there. Frankly, this time I can tell you Marseille is pick-pocket-safe, as long as you don't do stupid things like putting your full-of-cash wallet and smartphones on the restaurant table or wearing your bling watch and jewellery while sight-seeing. Just be low-key, bring a practical neck/body wallet, hide it under your shirt, and bring your brain.
Top 3 spots to See
1. Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations
(Photo credit to Rudy Ricciotti)
In this official capital of culture of France, art and cultural museums are a must-see. If you are only planning to spend a day in the city, go to the 2013-opened Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MUCEM) to get a glimpse of the culture. The beautiful site by Rudy Ricciotti is amazing enough for feeding your creativity in photography. Check what's on and prebook your tickets here.
2. Chez FonFon
(Photo credit to Justacote)
Being at the French port city, you cannot leave without trying their famous Bouillabaisse - a fish soup/broth with tomatoes, saffron and five varieties of rockfish accompanied by croutons, rouille (hot chilli) and garlic. Go to Chez FonFon for this and other authentic fish dishes in a cultural setting with interesting artwork and photographs on its interior grey walls. Book online here.
Address: 140 Vallon des Auffes - 13007 Marseille Tel. : 04 91 52 14 38
3. Notre-Dame de la Garde
Marseille’s iconic figure, Notre-Dame de la Garde or “La Bonne Mère” watches over sailors, fishermen and the entire city. Visit Notre-Dame and enjoy the views from the top of the hill during your stay in Marseille. You can take a 20min cute Le Petite Train tour which drives you around the city, and arrive at the tower - feel free to walk around for as long as you want, and catch the next train back to the port. Book the tour or view schedule here.
When to Visit
Go during summer time between June to September, when most of the activities and festivals (such as Festivals of Marseille) are on and weather is perfect for a boat trip out to the Calanques (they stretch to Cassis). You can make it a day or weekend trip to Marseille, while you base in somewhere more "safe" such as Aix-en-Provence (if you are concerned about wandering around at night there).
Where to Stay
1. For the architects
(Photo credits to Hotel le Corbusier)
Completed in 1952 in Marseille, the Hotel le Corbusier building lives the architect's Le Corbusier's most famous quote - a house is "a machine for living in" - a self-contained concrete vessel that is structured like an ocean liner. It is one of the most iconic architectural piece in history, and if you are in the field, you might want to spend a night taking in the retro brutalist designs for a very affordable price (from €79). Book here.
2. For the Design Creatives
(Photo credits to Mama Shelter)
If you like Philippe Starck, Mama Shelter is definitely a must-try. Always offering a great vibe with a cool crowd, this might be the best option for you if you are traveling solo there (you might meet awesome creative friends there). Rooms are cozily quirky, food at the restaurant is fab, with ultra smart and friendly staff. Also perfect if you are going on a half-work-half-leisure trip. I'd recommend any branch of Mama Shelter as I had awesome experiences with them. Book here.
3. For the Art Lovers
(Photo credits to Au Vieux Panier)
If you love art, meeting new people, or simply want to stay in an alternative b&b, try Au Vieux Panier Bed and Breakfast . It is just 500m from the Old Port, with the exterior looking like a shop that closed down years ago, but inside it's an art gallery with beds. Half-English and half-Corsican owner Jessica Venediger bought the building in 2009 and decided to bring a different perspective of art to visitors. There will be different works on show during various periods, so the interior might look different from time to time. Check details and book here.
What to Pack
Since safety is the top priority in Marseille, we should all appear ultra low-key. It doesn't mean we are compensating style over practicality. Below are a few items I believe are made for travels like this, and for design creatives like you.
Travel as light as possible there, but don't do backpacks. Keep everything within your sight/body, and I would suggest not to use a wallet if you carry a small cross-body bag with inner zip compartments. If you put cash notes in that secret compartment (and a few other pockets of your jeans and jacket), you don't even have to take a wallet out and count the cash before you pay for anything in public. And what's more, cross-body bags with zip fastenings are said to be the least likely stealing targets as they require high level skills to act upon. I've been using these ones (yes, my GLUSH/ babies) whenever I travel, and I put it into a big tote as a pouch with strap, for easy accessibility in case of various urgent scenarios.
2. Subtle watch
No blings! This watch is easy to read, subtle enough to avoid any attention, while keeping it sleek.
3. Quality casual outfit
Bright colors are best for reflecting the fierce sun. And something like this Everlane white dress is not a bad choice for staying comfortably chic.
4. Understated sunglasses
The idea is to stay low, so don't wear any gold and shiny larger-than-your-face shades to grab attention. Go for the generic Ray Ban would be great, but if you are keen on getting yourself something slightly unique within this area, try the Clubmaster with wooden frame.
If you wish to know more about my itinerary, personal tips, or other suggestions, feel free to email me or leave a comment below!