Updated August 30, 2023 | Original Post: July 27, 2019
The first time we visited the Provence region of Southern France, I envisioned meandering around a charming French town, enjoying the ambiance, the people, and the food. I pictured everything I dreamed of in travel magazines that would take me on a journey through these delightful, beautiful towns. Cassis, France, was one; a cute little coastal town that provided everything I imagined a French town would have in addition to its seaside charms on the Mediterranean—leading to my speculation that spending a charming day in Cassis, France, is a must-do. If you’ve got one day in Cassis, France, here are some things to do in this quaint Provincial French town.
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Situated on the Mediterranean of the southern coast of France, Cassis (pronounced as Kah-see) is heralded as a “poor man’s St. Tropez” (Rick Steves Europe). The Romans had, at one point in time taken over Cassis, using it as a maritime trade between Northern Africa and the Middle Eastern countries. However, this seaside town is as old as 500-600 B.C. when the Ligures settled into this area, living a life of fishing, hunting, and farming. An interesting fact, the name Cassis in English means syrupy black currant liquor.
This seaside town in Southern France is close enough (about a 45-minute drive) to the bustling fishing city of Marseilles but charming enough to warrant a day trip for those wishing to find a quieter, smaller, humble town by the ocean. Additionally, Cassis is not far from another charming seaside town, La Ciotat, or the lovely Provincial town of Aix-en-Provence that is worth visiting. And, if you’re visiting at the right time, you may even catch the lavender fields. You can find more about our visit to Aix-en-Provence here and our lavender field visit here.
Getting Around Cassis
The easiest way to get to Cassis is by driving. Arriving in town, the parking situation was not difficult; we found parking near this underground Casino Parking for a fee (€9). For more parking options, check out this site that offers information about where free parking can be found around town.
Cassis is walkable and easy to navigate. There are also buses and taxis that can take you through the vineyards, the castle, and many other local areas. We didn’t have an agenda for the day other than exploring this seaside town and getting lost.
Other Ways to Get to Cassis
If you are in Marseille, Cassis is an easy 45-minute drive day trip. However, a train is also one of the easiest ways to get to Cassis if you don’t have a rental car. The train ride is 25 minutes from the Marseille Gare St. Charles to Cassis, running every 30 minutes. You can purchase train and bus tickets online via the SNCF Connect website.
Another way to visit Cassis is via a tour from Marseille or Aix-en-Provence. Here are some amazing tours offered that you can find, here.
How To Spend a Day in Cassis, France
Locate one of the Many Beaches of Cassis
Cassis has several beaches you can choose from. As we entered the town on foot, we immediately headed towards the Port de Cassis and found the beach on the way to the Port. This beach is the Plage de la Grande Mer. This beach is right in the heart of Cassis, is family-friendly, and has a lifeguard on duty. For additional beaches around Cassis, you can find this list here.
Port de Cassis
From the beach, we followed the path to the Port de Cassis. As soon as we discovered Cassis’ harbor, my heart swelled with joy to see the colorful vibrancy that Cassis was all about. From the buildings to the boats, it was possibly that picture-perfect, straight out of a travel magazine photo that I imagined it would be.
Somehow, we stumbled upon a group of gentlemen playing a form of Bocce ball game in a sandy area near the Port. I just loved the intimacy of the photo and how this village already had that down to Earth feel.
As you walk further into the port, you can admire the colorful boats docked at the port with the backdrop of the many vibrant restaurants and cafes. You could easily sit along one of the cafes, enjoy people watching or boat lusting, and admire the Castle (Chateau de Cassis) on a hilltop above the seaside port.
Admire the Château de Cassis
Unfortunately, not open for public visits, this centuries-old fortress can be admired from the port. Perched high atop Cassis, overlooking the seaside port and offering pretty views of the Mediterranean Sea, this castle has a history dating back to the 8th century during the Carolingian empire. It used to be the main commercial center during the Gallo-Roman period and is currently a private property open for guest stays. You can find more information on their site here.
Discover the Shops and Cafes
As we meandered through the village, the cute little cafes and shops were just as charming as the seaside village. We stopped to grab a meal of burgers and frites (fries) at the Snack les Calanques, we wanted simple, and we were starving from our long drive from Genova, Italy. We found the perfect spot to eat our meal with a wonderful view of the Port.
After our meal, we found ourselves getting lost into the cobblestone streets of Cassis and ventured into a confectioner store of Autrefois full of sweets galore!
You’ll want to check out the cutest little boutique shop of Le Boutique de Nat if you’re into shopping. You’ll find the provincial French woven baskets, hats, and other goods in this cute little shop. There are other cute boutique shops to visit around Cassis.
Get Lost and Explore
No itinerary in hand for the day, and all I wanted to do was explore this seaside village and walk along the streets of Cassis. It’s full of quaint cafes, colorful old architects, and of course, full of life. You could take your time walking around this seaside village and feel like you are on a cover of a Condé Nast magazine. It’s worth exploring! Let me take you on a journey with my photos of every nook and cranny of this lovely French provincial town.
Visit the Calanques
This was something we didn’t have time to do on our visit, and I wish we had. As a seaside town, Cassis is tucked away in one of the most beautiful rocky, Mediterranean-like fjords, the Calanques. A natural wonder, the Calanques is nestled between the bustling seaside port of Marseilles and Cassis. These rocky coves made of limestones form a steep and narrow valley along the Mediterranean Sea waters. It is 20 km of protected National Park and has 26 calanques (25 in Marseilles, 1 in Cassis). However, to get to this beautiful location from Cassis, there are several ways to get to the National Park: hiking or boat tours.
Since Cassis is the ideal starting point for visiting the west of the Calanques range and the Cap Canaille area, I’d recommend adding an extra day to visit the Calanques, as this will take a full day to explore if you are hiking or taking the boat there. You can find more information regarding how to get to the Calanques here. If inquiring about boat tours to explore the Calanques, most are offered at the Cassis port. You can also find more hiking or boat tours to the Calanques from nearby locations here.
Try the Local Wines
We also didn’t get a chance to do this, but it was recommended. Cassis is known for their white wines in Provence, produced on the Mediterranean coast. The location is perfect for wine growers because the tallest coastal cliff in France, Cap Canaille, shelters Cassis. There are 12 wineries in the region. You can explore and find the wineries around Cassis on foot. Although dry and fruity whites are the most renowned, the reds and rosés are also well-known. You can find more information on the Office of Cassis Tourism website here.
Take a Tour of Cassis on Le Petit Train Touristique de Cassis
If you like rides and touring cities this way, taking the Le Petit Train in Cassis may be a wonderful option. It takes you on a 45-minute guided train tour through Cassis. You can buy your tickets at the tourist office or on-site on the train. More information can be found here. We didn’t take the train during our visit but thought it would be a good idea for those with limited mobility and/or wanting to see more of Cassis in a short amount of time.
Cassis is the quaint, French provincial seaside port you want to add to your Southern France itinerary. Not only was it the picture-perfect seaside port, but it also boasts so much charm in one tiny seaside town. You only need a day to explore this town, and I would not have minded staying overnight to enjoy the tranquil moments beyond the day tourists. It’s also a perfect way to get yourself acquainted with the Calanques, which you’ll need an extra day to explore this natural wonder. Are you adding Cassis to your French bucket list? You definitely should! Until next time friends! Jusqu’à la prochaine fois les amis!
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