Nestled at the foot of a dramatic rocky outcrop crowned by a 14th-century château (now a hotel open only to guests), this little fishing port is all charm, hence the enormous crowds that pile into its Vieux Port with its bustling restaurants, play on its shingle beaches, visit its terraced vineyards and sip fabled white Cassis wine.
Salon de Provence
Delve into old-town Salon, fortified in the 12th century, from place Crousillat, the prettiest square. From 1547 until his death in 1566, the philosopher Nostradamus lived at Maison de Nostradamus. Scrolls of Nostradamus' prophecies line the walls, while often macabre wax figures recreate key scenes from his life.
Marseille abuts the wild and spectacular Parc National des Calanques, a 20km stretch of high, rocky promontories, rising from brilliant-turquoise Mediterranean waters. The sheer cliffs are occasionally interrupted by small idyllic beaches, some impossible to reach without a kayak. The Marseillais cherish the Calanques, and come here to soak up the sun or take a long hike.
The Côte Bleue clambers from Marseille’s western edge, past gritty fishing villages, to Cap Couronne. Marine-life-rich waters around the sandy cape are protected by the Parc Régional Marin de la Côte Bleue. The Blue Coast has a precious trove of calanques, which compete with the famous ones between Marseille and Cassis.