About 2km/1.25mi southwest of Marseilles, the fortified rock island in the Bay of Marseilles with its Château d'If is famous on account of the novel "The Count of Monte Cristo" (1844-45) by Alexandre Dumas the Elder. The fortress, built in 1524, was once used as a prison. There is a fine view from the top of the cliff.
West of the Château d'If lie the two fairly large islands of Ratonneau and Pomègues, linked by a causeway which encloses the Port de Frioul (yacht harbor; quarantine station). Farther out to sea can be seen the little island of Le Planier.
Rove - Rove Tunnel
From the Anse de l'Estaque in the north of the bay outside Marseilles the Rove Canal used to run in a tunnel under the Chaîne de l'Estaque to the Etang de Berre. 22m/72ft wide and 15.4m/50ft high it was the tunnel with the largest cross-section and ships with a draught of up to 4.5m/14ft could use the 7km/4mi long canal. In 1963 it collapsed and has since been closed. From the N568 a path under the railroad line leads to the tunnel entrance.
On the northern edge of Marseilles, at the end of the Place des Héros, with its rows of plane trees, stands the Château Gombert. Here is housed the Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires du Terroir Marseillais, a collection of Provençal art in the house of a pupil of Mistral.
About 1.5km/1mi northwest of Marseilles, at the Massif de l'Etoile is the Loubière Grotto, a cave system with impressive karst phenomena.
The health resort of Allauch is situated amid magnificent hill scenery on the outskirts of Marseilles about 10km/6mi northeast. In the Church of St-Sébastien can be seen a fine painting of the Ascension by Monticelli. To the south lies the attractively laid-out square, Allée des Grands Vents, with four 16th C. windmills, one of which has been restored and now houses the Tourist Office. In the Place Pierre Bellot is the Musée du Vieil Allauch (local history).Above the village to the east stands the 12th C. Chapel of Notre-Dame du Château, from where there is a rewarding view.
The little port of Cassis, 22km/14mi southeast of Marseilles, lies on a semicircular bay, framed by mountains. It was once the haunt of painters, including Vlaminck, Dufy and Matisse; nowadays it is an important recreation center for the people of nearby Marseilles.Of interest are the old settlement center with remains of 12th and 14th C. fortifications, a castle (1381) and the beautiful Fontaine des Quatre Nations.In September 1991 a cave with important pre-historic painting was discovered. The entrance is under water.The cave, known as Grotte de Cosquer, is not open to the public.
Between Marseilles and Cassis lie the magnificent Calanques, narrow fiord-like coves cutting deep into the land between clear vertical rock walls. They are partly used as natural yacht harbors and are popular with climbers for rock ascents. The large Calanques, Port-Miou, En-Vau and Port-Pin, are particularly impressive; they are also accessible from the land and can be reached by boat from Cassis (trips according to demand).
La Ciotat and Corniche des Cretes, France
The port and industrial town of La Ciotat, southeast of Marseilles, can be reached via Cassis. Given sufficient time, the visitor should not use the inland route D559 from Cassis but the somewhat narrow and winding Corniche des Crêtes which runs just below the Falaises, the tallest cliffs in France, high above the sea to Cap Canaille (362m/1,118ft). In the afternoon especially there is a splendid view of the coast from the Calanques to Cap Croisette. The whole stretch, barely 15km/9mi long, leads via the Grande Tête to La Ciotat.La Ciotat, a pretty fishing village with a once important shipyard (now closed; dry dock for ships up to 300,000 tons) lies on the western side of the bay of the same name, dominated by the bold crags of the Bec de l'Aigle (eagle's beak), 155m/509ft high. Offshore is the little Ile Verte (Green Island) with a fortress. In the attractive Old Town are many 17th and 18th C. houses, and near the Town Hall (1864) a turreted keep. Notable paintings are to be seen in the parish church at the Old Port. A visit to the Musée d'Histoire Locale (local history) is recommended.Following the new harbor northwards we reach the district of La Ciotat-Plage, with hotels and a beach.
Etang de Berre
The Etang de Berre is a large lagoon to the northwest of Marseilles. It is connected to the Mediterranean by the Caronte Canal to the west; in the south is the Chaîne de l'Estaque, a ridge up to 279m/916ft high; to the west extends the Plain of the Crau.The Etang de Berre is a popular recreation area for the people of Marseilles and district; nevertheless on the southern and eastern shores there is a great deal of industry as well as the large airport of Marseilles and its associated satellite towns. The northern shore, however, with its quiet little communities and gentle landscape is reminiscent of the atmosphere of the lakes in northern Italy.
Map of Marseilles Attractions