By Carol Pucci
Photography by Krista Rossow
Originally appeared in Virtuoso Life magazine, January 2015.
A major facelift of the once gritty port town of Marseille has ignited the revitalization of Le Panier
, the oldest part of the city, where new artists’ studios, galleries, and sun-splashed cafés now dot the hilltop neighborhood. Young entrepreneurs call this area the “Montmartre of Marseille,” comparing its steep streets and artsy vibe to the northern hilltop quarter of Paris. The shops of potters, painters, and soap sellers line narrow streets once filled with brothels. And La Vieille Charité
crowns the transformation: Originally a poorhouse, it’s been restored as a museum set in a courtyard with a striking Italian baroque-style domed chapel.
Relax on cushioned sofas at Place Lorette
, where owner Sarah Nawi riffs on family recipes for traditional Moroccan tagines and couscous dishes. Mediterranean flavors come together in spiced dishes under the potted olive trees at Le Café des Épices
. Have your navettes
– traditional boat-shaped biscuits made with orange-flower water – and your ice cream too, with a scoop of “navettissimo” gelato at Le Glacier du Roi
Join locals relaxing on the terrace at Bar des 13 Coins
45 rue Sainte-Françoise; with a Cagole beer, known for its label’s illustration of a woman in a tight red dress and matching lipstick. Sample an anise-flavored pastis aperitif on the square at Le Panier Gourmand
near the Vieille Charité. For a proper English cuppa, settle in with a good book at Cup of Tea
Visit ceramist Colette Ripley
(1 rue Four du Chapitre; 33-6/6639-7221) for hand-glazed espresso and tea cups, Christophe Hernandez at Atelier Arterra
(15 rue du Petit Puits; 33-4/9191-0331) for folk art miniatures called santons
, and 72% Pétanque
(10 rue de Petit Puits; 33-4/9191-1457) for rough-cut blocks of savon de Marseille, an olive oil soap crafted here since the Middle Ages.
Perched peacefully above the Vieux-Port, the 194-room InterContinental Marseille – Hotel Dieu
is housed in a beautifully restored eighteenth-century building. Enjoy views of Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica
from balcony rooms, and don’t miss Sunday brunch on the terrace.
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