Cassis, best kept secret in the south of France

We just returned from another trip to the South of France. While we usually visit the stretch of French Riviera between Saint-Tropez and Nice, our childhood playground, we felt like tackling a different area this time. The side west of Saint-Tropez is the lesser-known part of the French Riviera and therefore offers some well-kept secrets. Many years ago, we totally fell in love with the gem called Cassis. We had been longing to return ever since. Now that we did, we can’t wait to tell you all about the wonderful seaside town of Cassis, France.

Cassis France features a gorgeous harbour, pastel houses, convivial markets and the calanques hiking trails. Cassis: the place to be in South of France. #travel #france #southoffrance #provence #cassis #calanques

You’ll find a Cassis map at the end of this post, indicating all places mentioned.

Picturesque highlights of Cassis, France

The heart of the seaside town of Cassis is its port, aligned with pastel-colored houses. It’s where fishermen moor their traditional pointu fishing boats to supply the restaurants along the Quai des Baux with the catch of the day. You’ll also find tourists boats there, taking visitors to see the famous cliffs and calanques, as well as smaller yachts.

Port Cassis counts as one of the best Cassis France highlights

Escape the crowds in one of the alleys that lead away from the quay and wander the charming streets of Cassis. Admiring the pastel facades decorated framed with plants and flower pots. Find a bench at the church square, hidden behind the colorful oleanders, before reserving a table for dinner at one of the quaint restaurants.

Narrow streets with pastel houses and quaint eateries in Cassis France

Enjoy a lavender flavored ice-cream at the Place de la Republique before feeding the ducks at the park next to the townhouse. Then make your way to the Quai Saint-Pierre and watching locals during a lively game of pétanque at the La Boule de Cassis. It’s as authentic as it gets, since this variation on the famous jeu de boules game was first played at La Ciotat, on the opposite side from the cliff that borders Cassis to the east.

Place Baragnon in the heart of Cassis village in Southern France

Dip your toes in the Mediterranean waters at one of the beaches in Cassis, France. Both the Plage La Grande Mer and the Plage de Bastouan are packed during summer months. So, don’t expect to have these Cassis beaches all to yourself. Quieter options could be the Plage du Corton and the Plage de l’Arène to the east of the port.

Look up to see the the Carolingian Château de Cassis, which was once a refuge for locals in a time of foreign invasions. Stepping into history is not an option since nowadays: The Castum Carcisis site is only accessible to guests of this high-end guesthouse. You’ll have the best view over the castle from the opposite quay of the Cassis port.

View over the Chateau de Cassis in the South of France from one of the terraces at the harbour

Have a white or rosé Cassis wine from one of the local vineyards on a shaded terrace. Contrary to what you may think, the crème de cassis liqueur, made from blackcurrants, does not originate from this region. It’s a specialty that found its roots in Burgundy. What’s interesting is how you do pronounce the final s in the cassis fruit but not in the name of the city of Cassis.

During the months of July and August, you’ll see artists from the Cassis region set up shop along this Quai des Artistes around 6 pm, selling their colorful crafts to delighted visitors. At the Place Baragnon, next to the town hall, you’ll find a second artisan market. We’ve visited evening markets at several towns and villages in the Provence over the years because we just love the convivial atmosphere. The one in Cassis counts as one of our favorite artisan markets in southern France because of its enchanting setting. At the same spot, there’s a farmers market, the Marché Hebdomadaire, every Wednesday and Friday morning.

Hiking in Cassis

The fishing village of Cassis, France, enjoys a privileged location between limestone cliffs, endless vineyards and the azure waters of the Mediterranean. This stunning natural setting offers plenty of activities for the active traveler. Hikers in particular will enjoy the variety of trails and sweeping vistas.

Calanques National Park to the west

The Calanques National Park, one of the most important landmarks in France, stretches from Marseille to Cassis, France. It features limestone cliffs topped with pine trees and several rocky inlets, known as les calanques. In the cliffs of the town of Cassis, you’ll find 9 of those inlets. The first 3 are the most popular ones: The Calanque de Port Miou, the Calanque de Port Pin and the Calanque d’En Vau. Several hiking trails offer visitors the chance to reach the Cassis calanques with their aquamarine waters and explore the park’s biodiversity.

The Calanques that form the highlight of Cassis tourism

We hiked all the way to the Calanque d’En Vau, a strenuous but highly rewarding hike. The inlet’s gorgeous pebble beach can only be reached from the trail or by kayaking or supping your way from the port of Cassis. It’s easy to see why it counts as one of the most iconic photo spots in the South of France. The tourist boats that leave from the Port de Cassis can’t moor in the inlet but do offer a nice view from the ocean inwards.

Fun fact: The limestone of Cassis’s cliffs is said to have been used in the pedestal of New York City’s Statue of Liberty, although this claim seems to be open to debate.

Cap Canaille to the east

At the side of the Cassis Castle are some of the highest cliffs of Europe. The ochre-colored Cap Canaille mountain separates the towns of Cassis and La Ciotat. There’s a hike from the Port of Cassis to the bus station of La Ciotat. Alternatively, you could start mid-way from the Belvédère parking lot towards the magnificent Bec de L’Aigle cliff. Expect spectacular vistas over the Mediterranean and from Cassis all the way to Marseille.

Tip: You don’t necessarily have to hike to enjoy Cap Canaille’s gorgeous views. La Route des Crêtes is a panoramic road that runs from the bay of Cassis to the bay of La Ciotat.

Getting there: Marseille to Cassis

Marseille is the main gateway to Cassis and Marseille Provence the closest airport. Here’s how to travel from Marseille to Cassis, France:

  • Marseille-Cassis train: Take the train at Marseille’s St-Charles station for a 22-minute ride to the station of Cassis. From there, take the hourly bus to the final stop called Casino.
  • Marseille-Cassis bus: A 45-minute bus drive on the M8 line from Marseille Castellane (just outside of the city center) to the Cassis gendarmerie.
  • By car: It’s a pretty straightforward drive from Marseille. Finding parking in Cassis is not always that easy, especially during the peak summer months. We parked at Les Mimosas but there are several other parking lots throughout the city.
Cute little convertible car on a parking in Cassis France

If you’re looking to start a calanque hike, then it’s recommended to park near Port Miou. The parking lot there is pretty small. So, unless you arrive really early, you’ll probably end up parking in one of the residential streets nearby, like we did.

Coming from elsewhere in the (south of) France? Then check out the full access information on the Cassis tourist information website.

Where to stay in Cassis, France

Cassis accommodation options are somewhat limited, which is a rather atypical for southern France. Then again, it does give Cassis a certain exclusive elan.

  • We’re notorious hotel geeks and only found one Cassis hotel that ticks our boxes: the luxurious Les Roches Blanches (5*).
  • If you’re looking to stay in a more affordable yet classy hotel then Hôtel 96 (4*) might be for you. It’s located outside of town, though.

If none of the Cassis hotels fit the bill, then you could search out the perfect guesthouse. Here are some options that caught our eye:

Le port de Cassis France with the pointu fishermen boats

Cassis, France map

For your convenience, we’ve created this map indicating all things to do in Cassis that were mentioned in this article.

That’s it for the gorgeous city of Cassis in the South of France. Have you visited this gem yet? Or do you feel inspired to after reading this article? Let us know in the comments. Happy travels!

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Cassis France features a gorgeous harbour, pastel houses, convivial markets and the calanques hiking trails. Cassis: the place to be in South of France. #travel #france #southoffrance #provence #cassis #calanques
Cassis France features a gorgeous harbour, pastel houses, convivial markets and the calanques hiking trails. Cassis: the place to be in South of France. #travel #france #southoffrance #provence #cassis #calanques

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