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Take the Family › A Marseille City Break with Kids

A Marseille City Break with Kids

The Château d'If © Office de Tourisme et des Congrès de Marseille.The Château d'If © Office de Tourisme et des Congrès de Marseille.

Our stopover in Marseilles was one of those city breaks by default –  a quick breather before our family motorhoming holiday in the South of France. But we loved what we saw of this compelling city with its 2,600-year-old Greek origins and North African vibe, and plan to go back and explore it more fully. 

We chose our hotel for its fabulous position on the Old Port, overlooking luxury yachts bobbing on the sparkling Med, fishermen going about their business and the 17th-century Fort Saint Jean. But the Grand Hôtel Beauvau is spectacular in its own right – a grande old dame opened in 1816, it has included George Sand, Chopin, Lamartine, Mérimée and Paganini among its guests. These days, warm Mediterranean decor and contemporary furnishings offset venerable antiques that have been here since the early days. It’s also very family-friendly, with top-floor duplex suites with a double bed and two singles, plus balconies with Old Port views – perfect for our family of five with the addition of a cot for baby Zac.

The Vieux Port makes for a lovely place to stroll around, lined with people-watching cafés and ice-cream parlours. We also headed up to the Jardin du Pharo, beside Napoleon III’s imperial Palais (now a convention centre) – this is the place for the very best Old Port views, as well as shady lawns, a carousel, a nautically themed play area and snack kiosks.

As for the rest of Marseille, given that we had so little time, we opted for an open-top bus tour departing from the Old Port and taking us on a ‘fly-by’ of all the major sites, including the Cathédrale de la Major, Les Catalans beach, the gorgeous coastline at the Oriol Corniche (make sure you point out to the kids the Château d’If, setting for several scenes in Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo) and the iconic Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde. On a future visit (and now that the kids are older), we'd want to make time for a tour of the Nouveau Stade Vélodrome, home to Olympique de Marseille, and MuCEM - Musée des civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée, which has opened since our stay.

And naturally we squeezed in some time to feast on the classic local dish, bouillabaisse – a seafood stew that's good all over town but that we can recommend sampling at Le Marseillais on the Vieux Port. A special shout-out, too, to Brasserie OM in front of the Grand Hôtel Beauvau, for keeping its kitchen open late to feed us after we arrived in the city at closing time on a Sunday night due to our flight being delayed.

Read more about family holidays in the South of France.

By Rhonda Carrier

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