“Anyone who has seen Paris, but hasn’t seen Cassis, hasn’t seen anything” – Frédéric Mistral (1830-1914)
Quiet and still, the fisherman’s boats rock gently along the Port. As the sun greets the water, the colourful houses burst into life with the freshest catch of the Côte d’Azur on full display. Bouillabaisse, Soupe de poissons and seafood served with a side of tapenade can be found within the restaurants that kiss the port, cooked in traditional Provencal style.
Admiring the port while strolling down the esplanade, a small cobblestoned passageway captures your curiosity asking to be explored. Here you find remnants of Cassis’ historic past, gorgeous boutiques and artisan food – each store specialising in it’s own delicacy – gelato, handmade cookies and biscuits, vinegars, wines, oils and fresh produce.
But, do not be fooled by appearances, for this sleepy town is home to an adventurous heart. Framed on one side by France’s highest sea cliff Cap Canaille, and the Calanque national park on the other, Cassis is food for any adventurers soul.
Welcome to Cassis
I’m so happy to finally share with you my favourite destination of my trip to France. I loved Cassis from the moment I stepped off the bus. Cassis has a bit of everything that I consider to be ideal in a place, in fact I’ve already got dibs to retire here (haha).
On top of the hill, you’ll find modern apartments, good internet and gorgeous views of the Mediterranean and the town below. There’s lots of nature, the weather is gorgeous and the beaches? Postcard perfect.
Walking towards the town, the wide modern roads collide into small cobblestone passageways that snake through the historic village. The village itself has a whole lot of charm with all passageways leading towards the town’s centrepiece, the port surrounded by colourful fisherman buildings.
With delicious food and the Calanque National Park to boot, let’s explore Cassis!
How To Get There
Travel from Paris to Cassis is fairly easy. There is a direct TGV from Paris to Marseille St Charles, then it’s just one transfer from Marseille St Charles to Cassis. The journey takes approximately 4 hours.
I travelled to Cassis from Nice, which is approximately a 2-3 hour trip. Like travelling from Paris, there are two transfers required
- Nice Ville to Toulon
- Toulon to Cassis
When you arrive, Cassis train station is located about 5km away from the village centre. Catch the bus called “Marcouline” located at the station’s exit to Cassis’ town centre. As I was staying at an Airbnb, I got off at the stop called “Belsunce” located just before the town centre.
As mentioned in my other travel posts, I recommend booking your transport via Trainline – it will work out the entire journey under one ticket, plus you can download the app and have everything stored on your phone in one place; super handy when you have multiple tickets from travelling all over Europe/France.
Where to Stay
I stayed at a wonderful AirBnb in Cassis which I highly recommend to everyone. The apartment is large, spacious, modern, comfortable and owned by the lovely, Sophie.
As a lone traveller I was a bit hesitant to stay in an apartment with the owner because I love my space, but it actually turned out perfect. Sophie was wonderful, really friendly and could speak English which was a bonus. She also knew all the best local places to recommend and could help me out with anything difficult, such as transport. She was also very respectful of my personal space which was great!
The apartment itself is in a wonderful location being very close to the town centre, beaches and the National Park where you can trek to the Calanques.
Best of all, each morning she set up a gorgeous breakfast which was amazing!
What to Discover
Port de Cassis
If you’re looking for the picture perfect postcard place you can’t go past Cassis Port. Picturesque and beautiful, the port is spotted with local fishing boats and framed with the colourful homes of fisherman. On the esplanade, there are a number of delicious restaurants specialising in local delicacies, particularly seafood!
Walking through the historic streets was one of my favourite experiences of Cassis. I absolutely loved the city centre here. In quintessential Southern France tradition, the city centre diverges into numerous winding streets and cobblestone pathways lined with artisan shops, restaurants and colourful architecture decorated in vines and pot plants.
La plage du Bestouan
Probably the most pristine beach I saw during my travels – La Page Du Bestouan is GORGEOUS. Imagine just living in the house in photo?? Pure paradise. I discovered this beach on the way to the Calanque National Park. It’s only a short walk from Cassis city centre.
Plage de la grande mer & cap canaille
Cassis most popular beach is Plage de la Grande Mer, located at the centre of town and crowned by Cap Canaille; the highest sea cliff in France and one of the highest across Europe. If you’re adventurous enough, Cap Canaille features a tough, steep hike to the summit, but the view from showcases the long stretch of the Mediterranean sea, Cassis harbour and even the Calanques.
The Calanque NATIONAL PARK
My main reason for visiting Cassis was to see the Calanques. While doing research for my trip, I stumbled across a picture of the Calanques and knew I had to visit.
I had read on the internet that the hike to the Calanques was difficult, but I think I underestimated how difficult. Hiking all the way to Calanque d’En Vau (the third furthest Calanque from Cassis) and back took all day and I was exhausted by the end of it. My feet hurt and my legs were jelly! It’s tough, but totally worth it – one of the best experiences of my entire trip.
There are a few challenges on your hike to the Calanques. The first is signage. It’s terrible and then eventually non existent.
The second is that there are two ways to descend into to the Calanque d’En Vau The first way is a steep decent that’s quite tough, but doesn’t require you to be an experienced hiker – you can slide down on your bum for the difficult parts. The other is a more tourist friendly route, but it takes a lot longer to reach the Calanques and at times can be confusing to navigate. It’s also the route you end up taking on the way back, regardless of if you descended down the steep cliff face or not.
Calanque 01: Port-Miou
Just a short walk from Cassis, no hiking is needed to visit this Calanque. Calanque Port-Miou is beautiful in that it is lined with the fishermen’s sailing boats.
Calanque 02: Port Pin
Port Pin is the first Calanque inside the national park. Altogether, it takes about 30 minutes to walk there, so if you’re not keen on a whole day hike to En Vau, I recommend at least visiting Port Pin.
Small, intimate and not crowded, Port Pin’s clear emerald waters are beautiful and perfect for a swim! The walk to Port Pin is easy and clearly marked.
Calanque o3: En Vau
From Port Pin onwards things get a little tricky. The hike starts getting tougher and signage virtually becomes non existent the further you travel into the national park. En Vau is approximately a 3 hour hike from Port Pin.
Because I hadn’t travelled to Cassis during peak season, there were significantly less travellers visiting the national park than usual and this meant getting lost was quite easy…in fact on my way back I was DID get lost for about an hour inside the national park…that’s how bad the signage is.
If you think I’m exaggerating, take a look at the image below. This is an example of signage that was actually clear and obvious. Most of the time you walk for long stretches of time before seeing another of of these markings and some markings are even hidden off track.
By the time I reached En Vau the sun was starting to set, so I didn’t get to see the crystal blue waters, but it was still beautiful! The water was freezing as I travelled just as summer was transitioning into winter so I recommend going during the summer months.
More national park shots…
Where to fill the belly
Restaurant Le Chaudron
Overall rating: ★★★.5
This restaurant caught my eye straight away because of how beautiful it looked on the outside! I was given a beautiful seat on the terrace which was perfect on a summer’s night. The staff were very friendly and tried their hand at English which was very helpful.
I did the usual French 3 course meal special. Overall food was good, but didn’t make me go wow.
Overall rating: ★★★★
On my second night I ate here and unfortunately didn’t take any photos! I chose the 3 course menu for 23,50€ and chose the fish soup, followed by the Filet de rouget accompagné de sa tapenade d’olive verte and finished with a Panacotta type desert. The Provincial dish I had for my main felt very homely and it was great to taste a traditional French fish soup!
Overall rating: ★★★★★
This little shop is so awesome, I can’t believe I can’t find anything written about it on Trip Advisor or the like. The amount of artisan goodies in the store is enough to make my mouth water just remembering it. I loved the whole concept of selling handmade cookies and biscuits, out in the open to pick and choose as you please.
There were also handmade lollies, flavoured oils, regional wines and more. This place is a must visit and a must eat too!