taste the real Marseille; a perfect self-guided food tour of marseille

Embark on a culinary adventure through Marseille, a city where ancient mariners’ tales entwine with the zest of modern Provence. Our self-guided food tour of Marseille is more than a mere promenade; it’s an adventure taking you from the grandeur of French empirical beauty at the Vieux Port to the spirited alleyways where multicultural Marseille truly thrives. This journey is a tale of two cities, one steeped in regal history and the other bustling with edgy, multicultural culinary inspirations.

Our Adventure Begins, Follow in my Foot steps in Marseille

Imagine stepping off a boat, much like I did 15 years ago, on a quest not just for food but for an experience to sate the hunger of a band of adventurous sailors. This was no ordinary visit; it was the beginning of a love affair with Marseille, its people, and its food. What started as a mission to feed a ravenous crew for my younger brother’s sailing bachelor party has turned into a decade-long exploration of the city’s culinary evolution.

Through this self-guided tour, I’m inviting you to walk in my footsteps, tracing the path from Marseille’s resplendent, reborn waterfront to its vivacious, hidden enclaves. Here, the French art de vivre meets a tangible sense of community and warmth, offering a taste of Marseille as genuine and unfiltered as the flavours on your plate.

A Journey Through Time and Taste

As we meander from the regal splendor of Marseille’s waterfront, adorned with remnants of French imperial glory, we’ll dive into the labyrinth of its backstreets. These alleys, buzzing with life, are where Marseille’s heart beats the strongest, pulsing with the heritage of countless cultures that have found a home here.

This tour isn’t just about discovering food; it’s about experiencing the real Marseille. From the legendary bouillabaisse that tells the city’s maritime story to the aromatic allure of North African spices that whisper of the city’s diverse soul, every stop is a chapter in Marseille’s ongoing narrative.

Eat Like the French: Eat Like A Real Marseillais

Guided by my countless visits over the years, this tour peels back the tourist veneer to reveal Marseille’s true essence. We’ll explore where locals gather, laugh, and dine, taking you beyond the expected to places where the city’s multicultural tapestry comes alive. It’s here, among the vibrant markets and cozy eateries, that you’ll taste, see, and feel the authentic Marseille—a city of contrasts, flavors, and enduring charm.

Our Self-Guided Food Tour of Marseille

Stop 1: Au Vieux Port

43 Quai des Belges, 13001 Marseille, France

Welcome to the beginning of your culinary voyage through Marseille’s savoury past, a journey that’s as rich and layered as a bouillabaisse, the city’s famed fish stew. This vibrant port, settled over 2,600 years ago by savvy Greek merchants from Phocaea, didn’t just grow; it simmered and matured into a melting pot of Mediterranean flavours. These ancient mariners, with a nose for trade and a palate for the exquisite, laid the foundation for Marseille, transforming it into a bustling marketplace where the scent of spices from distant lands mingled with the fresh catch of the day.

As we slice deeper into history, we find the Romans, those connoisseurs of conquest, seasoning the pot. They linked this culinary outpost to the sprawling Empire, ensuring that olives, wine, and the lore of gastronomy flowed as freely as the Rhône. Despite the drama of sieges and the heat of civil wars, Marseille kept its essence, a blend of Greek charm and Roman robustness, adding layers of complexity to its culinary identity.

Fast forward through the spice-scented breezes of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance’s rich infusion of arts and ideas, and Marseille emerges as not just a port but a palate-teasing promise of what’s to come. This city, a tapestry woven from threads of history and flavours of the world, invites you on a self-guided food tour of Marseille. Ready your taste buds to explore its backstreets and boulevards, each turn a page in its gastronomic tale, each bite a sip of history. Join us as we peel back the layers of Marseille’s culinary legacy, a feast for the senses waiting to be devoured.

As you stand here, marvel at the size and ancient history. Breathe deep and smell the city. Enjoy watching the fish flop around, fresh from the sea. Everytime I visit, this is where I buy the freshest fish to cook up at home. Don’t worry if you can’t cook it yourself, this tour will lead you to the spots where you can eat some of the freshest fish in the area. Feeling hungry? Let’s go for a walk and find something to eat.

Head south from the head of the port and the fish market and cross over the busy road onto toward Rue Bailli de Suffren. Here you will pass hundreds of marseille’s favourite method of transport, the scooters that you’ve probably remarked speeding through the streets. Down this wide pedestrian street until you can turn right onto Rue Saint-Saëns.

You will greeted by a fountain known locally as “the blank” constructed in 1978 by local influencial architect. The most important thing to do now is look around you. The buildings and the area you have now entered into you used to be the markets and oil warehouses selling Provence’s liquid gold.

Marseille and it’s liquid gold trade

This city’s saga with olive oil isn’t just a tale; it’s a lavish feast steeped in history! Imagine, if you will, the Middle Ages, when Provence was practically overflowing with the gold of the land: olive oil, along with soda ash and Camargue’s finest salt. This trio of treasures turned the region into a soap-making powerhouse. By the 17th century, Marseille had crowned itself the soap sovereign of France, a title solidified by none other than Louis XIV’s edict. This royal decree was the Michelin star of its day for Marseille soap, insisting on nothing but pure olive oils in its concoction and turning up its nose at animal fats.

Fast forward to the 19th and early 20th centuries, the golden era of Marseille soap—it was “72% oil, extra pure,” and the city basked in the glory of its soap and oil industries. But as the pages of history turned, synthetic detergents strutted onto the scene, supermarkets sprang up like mushrooms, and the soap narrative began to suds away. Yet, just as a phoenix rises from its ashes, the 1970s and 1980s saw a rebirth of Marseille soap, championing the banner of natural and eco-friendly products, though it would never quite recapture its former limelight.

Now, let me serve you the crux of this delectable story—Marseille’s dance with olive oil and soap is a testament to the city’s resilience, adaptability, and its indelible link to the Mediterranean’s bountiful pantry. The olive oil trade, through the sudsy lens of soap-making, mirrors Marseille’s ability to ride the waves of industrial and commercial tides. And there you have it, a dish best served rich in history and steeped in the essence of Marseille!

if you carry on down this road you will reach the “Place aux Huiles” but it holds little interest to our story so we invite you to turn left and on to what is called locally the place des sense.

A picture from the front of Les Grandes Halles - One of the stops you may want to explore as you take our self-guided food tour of Marseille

Stop 2: Cours Honoré-d’Estienne-d’Orves

19a Cr Honoré d’Estienne d’Orves Etage 4, Etage 4, Etage 4, 13001 Marseille, France

Today, this area has undergone, and in some spot’s still is undergoing, a massive facelift thanks to conscious efforts of re-generation turned to gentrification. This lively ancient market selling provence’s delicious ingredietns to the world is now transformed into a spectacle of huge restaurant terraces that vie for local business people and tourists trade. There are some gastronomic delights to be had but none that I can truly recommend to you.

If you want to taste all the gastronomic trend’s of Marseille, then step into the “Les Grandes Halles” where a recent renovation of the areas local market into. It’s great for families that want to have lunch from varied vendors and brilliant if it’s your first visit to the area. But on our last visit with the family we were turned off by the Parisian prices and dismal service.

Instead my culinary comrades admire it all and bathe in the atmosphere and then follow me, up the stairs into the back streets.

A picture of a croissant at the bakery at one of the stops you may want to explore as you take our self-guided food tour of Marseille

Stop 3: Patisserie Sylvain Depuichaffray

66 Rue Grignan, 13001 Marseille, France

Once you have climbed the stairs, walk up the hill a block until you see the justice courts in front of you and turn eft onto Rue Glandeves. Here on the corner you will find a culinary gem to start our adventure.

Our first stop for a tasting, a patissier of course who has grown to be renowned here in Marseille, since his return from working in Australia in 2015. Sylvain has built a thriving pastry, chocolate and coffee store just steps away from the law courts that you have just passed on your right. The enchanting pastries glisten with all the pedigree expected of a top pattisier. You may grab a Croissant as we did or something more extravagant. There is a cafe here, if you want to dive in and grab a seat amongst the suited and booted lawyers of provence.

We however preferred to take out pastries to-go and head off to find one of the best coffee’s of the region. Turn left as you come out the bakery, left again at the main road and head down the hill until you can take the second right.

A picture inside of Deep Coffee, a place to get a delicious coffee on your self-guided food tour of Marseills

Stop 4: Deep, deeply delicious Coffee

17 Rue Glandeves, 13001 Marseille, France

As you turn off the main road leading away from the port you arrive in to the beginning of the modern pedestrianised shopping streets of Marseille, Rue Francis Davso. More about that later, dive left on Rue Glandeves and you will notice the wonderful painted signs of the shops here and some great street art. Ready for some coffee?

You will spot Deep because of it’s long benches and tables full of hip provencale typing away at MacBooks as they enjoying coffee. There is often a queue here due to it’s reputation as one of the top coffee roasters in Town. Historically, Marseille has always had a coffee culture, with many ancient roasters in this area. We choose to go here for coffee as it really represents the new Marseille to us, a vibrent tapestry of young professionals from all over the world enjoying life in one of Europe’s greatest and most ancient cities. We would never have imagined a Marseille like this on our first visit all those years ago, could this be the future of the city?

Once you’ve enjoyed the delicious coffee from Deep, gather up your things, it’s time for us to wonder through the busy shopping streets on the hunt for the real Marseille.

Head south on Rue Glandeves back towards Rue Francis Davso and turn left onto Rue Francis Davso to walk up it into one of the most diverse culinary areas of the city.

a picture of the boulangerie aixoise, a great spot to get local faire on your self-guided food tour of marseille

47 Rue Francis Davso, 13001 Marseille, France

You will spot the Boulangerie Aixoise on the way. This ancient Boulangerie serves far more of the local treats than Sylvain. Still Pekish? Dive in and grab some Navettes biscuits, even if you don’t eat them now, I will tell you a bit about their history.

The savory tale of Marseille’s iconic Navettes. Imagine, it’s 1781, and Monsieur Aveyrous crafts the first batch of these boat-shaped biscuits to honor the legend of the Holy Mary sailing to Provence’s shores. Fast forward, and today’s Navettes still carry the scent of orange blossom—a nod to their storied past. Craving the real deal? You will great one at this bakery or you can stroll down to the Panier district, where “Navettes des Accoules” and the Four des Navettes awaits, among others, promising a taste of history with every bite. Don’t forget, it’s cash only at these historic spots, but the journey back in time is priceless.

Keep walking east on Rue Francis Davso toward Rue Paradis, you may be distracted by the shops on your route. Kilo vintage shops, stores full of tracksuits and souvenir shops here are enough of the beaten path to hold great shopping promise, Take your time and enjoy them. We are on our way to the Marseille backstreets that hold an otherworldly experience.

Turn left onto Rue de Rome and then right onto Rue Meolan et du Père Blaize

A picture of Maison Blaize, a herbalist of the highest regard and wonderful place to buy souvenirs on your self-guided food tour of marseille

Stop 5: Herb’s & Tea chez Father Blaize

4 Rue Meolan et du Père Blaize, 13001 Marseille, France

We have talking about those hidden backstreets that are a treasure trove of culinary delights, we welcome to our first one, Maison Blaize.

Dive into the culinary alchemy at Maison Blaize, right in Marseille’s pulsing heart, here generations of healers from Alpes de Haute Provence have been blending the ancient wisdom of herbs into remedies for nearly 200 years. This herbalist haven is a treasure trove of natural elixirs, from earthy dried plants to masterfully crafted tinctures. Swing by their tea salon for a sip of Marseille in a cup—herbal teas inspired by the city’s vibrant quarters, each a fragrant journey through history and flavor.

There are often free tastings here and of course this is one of several culinary shopping opportunities on our Self-guided food tour of Marseille. If you have read my french market tour, I highly recommend aromatics as a brilliant souvenir to take home, a small amount goes a long way and it’s light to pack into your luggage.

Finished? Not yet, Head northeast on Rue Meolan et du Père Blaize toward Rue d’Aubagne. This buzzy street is the on the edge of the Market area, here you will be greeted by the wonderful “Epicerie L’ideal” run by Julia Sammut, with her rich culinary lineage and diverse heritage, she infuses her food market, the one she called the ideal grocery store, with the flavours of the world. Picture an emporium where every shelf is a celebration of her beloved global delicacies. Come lunch if you fancy, the aroma of Mediterranean dishes draws in regulars, while the deli offers an irresistible array of cheeses, charcuterie, and fresh salads for the taking. Worried about navigating this gastronomic paradise? The warm and knowledgable staff are your guide. And don’t miss out on the Friday night apéros—a perfect culinary kick-off to your weekend.

Once you’ve finished perusing the shops here, turn left onto Rue Longue des Capucins. Now we step into the world that reminds me of my first visit to Marseille on the hunt for delicious food stuffs for our hungry sailors.

Welcome to another world, the market streets of marseille are a culinary delight and a huge adventure across all of the meditreanian delights.

Stop 6: Marche Des Capucins

16 Rue du Marché des Capucins, 13001 Marseille, France

If you don’t feel “depaysage” at this point, you are braver than me, this street is like stepping into another world hidden in Marseille. I will never forget arriving at this market for the first time all those years ago on the hunt for stores for a ship packed with hungry sailors. It’s nicer now than it used to be, the dodgy off trade is still visable, but it has calmed down to be replaced by even more treats from around the mediterranean basin.

Even with my brother today, he chuckles as I stepped into a large dirty puddle, “It’s like we are walking through Terry Pratchet’s city of Ankh-Morpork”. Keep an eye on your belongings to stay safe becomes tough thanks to the charming culinary wonders around. This is one of the most stimulating parts of town, especially for you my culinary adventurer. As you breath in the smells of spices mixed with freshly baked breads, fresh fruit and the sea air. Everything here is a moment of genuine delight for me as for you. All of the mediterranean culinary delicacies come together in this street, but were headed to the market.

old ladies baking in marseille

The buzzy market of Capucines is often known as the belly of Marseille, is not as ancient as it’s namesake the monastery that was constructed here in 1579. Founded in 1956, running everyday except sunday’s it’s the cheapest and the freshest available food around. While you may be concerned about the cigertte sellers and beggers, you can be sure that it’s actually pretty safe thanks to a special police unit and plenty of surveillance that means most tourists need not be too worried. We always stop here and load up, as I did when I first visited, with fresh fruit and vegtable from provence, more fish, delicious lamb. The market is abuzz with locals and visitors alike on the hunt for a delicious bargain.

There are many places I can recommend for you, and many I have yet to taste. My rule here is spot where the old ladies and men go. Where the mothers and father work and the stock seems to be running out. That’s where I want to get my food to eat and eat like the Marseillais do.

Need to take a break? I highly recommend a coffee or mint tea and some delicious north African pastries from “Pâtisserie orientale Tanite”.

After you are ready to leave your explorations of this wondrous market. Take a right at it’s northern end onto Rue Rodolphe Pollak. A street lined with plants in barrels and shops filled with hair extensions. You used to be able to buy live chickens and goat’s here, but it seems that these businesses have disappeared as Marseille cleans up it’s act thanks to the olympics on the horizon.

At the end turn left onto Rue d’Aubagne. Ready for a gentle walk. You will now be walking up hill past more street traders, Tunisian basket shops and brilliant little vegan co-working spots popping up as the hipsters slowly take over. The street art starts to take over the fronts of the ancient buildings, some are wonderful, others terrible tags that come with the revelious nature of the city.

Once you finally arrive at the top, you come to the famous street art hotspot.

Cours Juliaen excaliers, a great place to enjoy some of marseille's amazing street art

Stop 7: Escaliers Cours Julien

40 Rue Jean-Baptiste-Estelle, 13006 Marseille, France

Escaliers Cours Julien is a vibrant canvas that captures the essence of the city’s street art culture. This area thrives as a dynamic gallery under the open sky, where every step and turn reveals striking murals and graffiti. Artists from around the globe have contributed to this colourful mosaic, making it a must-visit for art enthusiasts and a vivid testament to Marseille’s creative spirit.

Take a selfie as you walk up the steps as we near the end of our journey at one of my favourite spots in the city.

A picture of cours Julien in the sunshine, the end of your self-guided food tour in marseille

Stop 8: Finishing our Adventure with young Marseillais promisse

Cr Julien, 13006 Marseille, France

Cours Julien, with its storied past morphing into a pulsating present, is a feast for the senses on your self-guided food tour of Marseille. Once a bustling market where locals bartered and bonded, it has transformed into an avant-garde canvas alive with street art, echoing the vibrant heart of the city. This transformation reflects Marseille’s embrace of the new without losing the essence of its soul.

As you conclude your culinary voyage, Cours Julien invites you to unwind with a Pastis on a sun-dappled terrace, encapsulating the spirit of Marseille—a city where history and modernity mingle like the finest ingredients in a Provençal dish. Here, amidst the laughter of new friends and the clink of glasses, the flavours of your journey find their perfect ending.

There are pizza’s at 1€50 a slice or wonderful lunch’s to be had by some of the cities most innovative and exciting chefs. I tasted the honey and orange water ice cream from the pink elephant with white spots and fell in love again. Opening up our self-guided food tour map, you will find plenty of recommendations saved in the layer interesting spot’s along your route. You will also find more recommendations for great places to help you enjoy your time in Marseille on some of the other blogs we have written about our time exploring the town.

What You’ll Need for your self-gudied food tour of Marseille:

For your self-guided food tour of Marseille, make sure to arm yourself with a few essentials to fully enjoy this culinary adventure.

  • Comfortable walking shoes: Be prepared for a day on your feet as you explore.
  • A map or GPS-enabled device: While wandering is part of the charm, you’ll want to navigate Marseille’s maze-like streets with ease.
  • A water bottle: Stay hydrated as you trek through the city.
  • Cash and cards: Some stops may be cash-only, and it’s always good to have options.
  • An appetite for adventure: Be ready to try new things and dive into the rich tapestry of Marseille’s culinary scene.
  • A Isothermal bag with an Ice block: If you are planning on buying fish or meat on this tour, we highly recommend you bring your own insulated bag with an ice block. It can get very warm here!

Embark on a Journey of Culinary Discovery

As our tour winds to a close, remember that Marseille is a city of endless tastes and tales. This self-guided food tour is but a glimpse into the vibrant heart of France’s oldest city—a canvas painted with the flavors of the world. You’ve walked the streets where history and modernity blend seamlessly, sampled delicacies that span continents, and uncovered the hidden gems that make Marseille truly special. Let your culinary compass guide you to further explorations, for every corner of this magnificent city has a story to taste. Your adventure doesn’t end here—it’s just the beginning of your love affair with Marseille.

Chef Tris Portrait Eat Like The French! March 19, 2024
Food Tour Guide
From the bustling streets of Paris to the quiet moments at home, my journey is one of passion, resilience, and a deep love for French cuisine. As Chef Tris, my transformation from a culinary expert and tech recruiter to a local food tour guide in Paris has been a delicious turn of events, blending my professional skills with my personal story of renewal.

Self-Guided Food Tour Marseille FAQ

What are the must-visit food markets in Marseille for a self-guided tour?

Marseille boasts several vibrant food markets that are essential stops on any self-guided food tour. The tour mapped above starts with Vieux-Port Fish Market and takes in the amazing Marché des Capucins, where you can find fresh produce, spices, and local delicacies. These are the two must visit market’s in Marseille in my opinion but if you are looking for another bustling market offering a variety of North African and Mediterranean foods. Don’t miss the Marché de Noailles.

Which traditional dishes should I try during a self-guided food tour in Marseille?

Marseille is renowned for its unique Provencal cuisine. Be sure to try Bouillabaisse, a rich fish stew brimming with local seafood. Panisse, made from chickpea flour, and Pieds paquets, a hearty dish of stuffed sheep’s feet and tripe, are also local favourites. For a sweet treat, indulge in Navettes, traditional boat-shaped biscuits flavoured with orange blossom.

How can I plan a budget-friendly self-guided food tour in Marseille?

To keep your food tour budget-friendly, start your day with a visit to local markets like Marché des Capucins to sample fresh produce and affordable snacks. Opt for street food options such as Panisse or Chichi Frégi, a local doughnut. Take advantage of lunch specials at smaller bistros and cafes, and consider picnicking in scenic spots like Parc Borély with goodies from the market.

What are the best times to visit Marseille for a self-guided food tour?

The best time to visit Marseille for a food tour is in the spring (April to June) or fall (September to November). During these periods, the weather is pleasant, and the tourist crowds are thinner, allowing for a more relaxed experience. Summer can be hot and crowded, while winter, though mild, may not offer the full vibrancy of the city’s markets and food festivals.

Are there any hidden culinary gems in Marseille that I should include in my self-guided tour?

Absolutely! You will find a review of Limmat on this site which you can stop at for lunch during this self-guided food tour of Marseille. Beyond the popular spots, seek out Chez Étienne in the Le Panier district for some of the best pizza in town. La Cantinetta offers delightful Italian-inspired dishes with a Provencal twist. For a unique experience, visit Epicerie l’Idéal, a gourmet deli where you can pick up high-quality local products and enjoy them on the go.

What local beverages should I try on a self-guided food tour in Marseille?

Marseille has a rich tradition of local beverages. Pastis, an anise-flavoured spirit, is a quintessential aperitif you must try. Enjoy a glass of Rosé de Provence, a local rosé wine known for its refreshing qualities. For a non-alcoholic option, try Picon bière, a bittersweet orange-flavoured beer mix that is very popular in the region.

Can I find vegetarian or vegan options during a self-guided food tour in Marseille?

Yes, Marseille offers a variety of vegetarian and vegan options. Look for La Table à Jaja, a bistro offering delicious vegetarian dishes. Green Love is a vegan café known for its plant-based menu and healthy options. Markets like Marché des Capucins also provide fresh fruits, vegetables, and legumes perfect for vegetarians and vegans.

What are some tips for navigating the local food scene in Marseille on my own?

To navigate Marseille’s food scene, start by exploring local markets early in the morning to beat the crowds and get the freshest produce. Learn a few basic French phrases to help with ordering and interacting with vendors. Don’t be afraid to ask locals for recommendations – they can point you to hidden gems. Finally, pace yourself and enjoy the culinary journey without trying to rush through it all in one day.

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