Cassis: the beauty of French Riviera beaches without the crowds

Situated on the western side of the French Riviera, Cassis is a small place that captures all the charm of Provence without the madness of more popular destinations like Saint-Tropez or Cannes. It is a popular summer destination, even among the French themselves, yet it somehow manages to preserve a sense of peace and calm that makes you feel right at home. You’ll find Cassis on the southern Mediterranean coast, about ten miles east of Marseille.

What’s special about Cassis?
Nobel prize-winning writer Frédéric Mistral ventured to say that those who have seen Paris but not Cassis have seen nothing at all, surely trying to portray the unique attraction that the little fishing port has over all those who visit it. Lined with quaint little streets, pastel buildings, vineyards, scenic beaches, and olive and fig trees, Cassis perfectly embodies the spirit of Provence and the Mediterranean. 

It also doesn’t hurt that it is located between two remarkable natural sites, Cap Canaille and Les Calanques. 

Things to do
One of the main attractions of Cassis is Les Calanques, a series of coves lining the coast between Marseille and Cassis, set among the majestic limestone cliffs. The easiest way to see them is by taking a boat excursion. There are a number of options available, depending on how many inlets you want to see. If you’re feeling adventurous you can also hike there, but it’s not exactly a walk in the park!

To get the best of both worlds, you can take a baignade (swimming) tour. There are plenty of tours if you search online. You’ll get to see several of the calanques and spend some time swimming in a gorgeous bay. 

You don’t have to venture far to experience the beauty of the town. Much of its appeal is right there in the port. You can just stroll by the water and admire the boats and the impressive Cap Canaille, one of the biggest sea cliffs in Europe. You can appreciate the beautiful Château de Cassis, a fortress turned into a 5-star hotel. 

Food and shopping
If you don’t feel like walking, just stop at one of the many surrounding cafes and restaurants. Take in the view while experiencing the fresh seafood or the local white and rosé wines that Cassis is best known for. 

If you love wine, you can also take a wine tour. Two vineyards offer guided tours in English: Clos Albizzi and Clos Sainte Magdeleine

If you want to do some shopping, check out the dainty boutiques lined along the narrow streets. Or visit the market that takes place on Wednesday and Friday mornings in Place Baragnon and enjoy the beautifully displayed local food, crafts, flowers, clothing, and even jewellery.

If there’s nothing else you’d rather do than relax on a beach, Cassis has got you covered as well. The town has several beaches, but two of them are better known: the sandy Plage de la Grande Mer and the pebbled Plage du Bestouan, which is surprisingly comfortable for a pebbled beach. Both are just a few minutes walk from the port. If you’re looking for a little more peace and quiet, you might have better luck at Plage de l’Arène. It’s less popular, but just as gorgeous as the other two. 

What the weather is like
Cassis is blessed with a mild Mediterranean climate, without too much rain in the summer months. The hottest temperatures average at around 27C (81F) in July and August. June and September are a bit cooler, at around 24C (75F). At night, temperatures can drop to 15-17C (59-63F) during these summer months. 

Getting there
You can easily reach Cassis by train: the Eurostar goes directly from London St. Pancras to Marseille Saint-Charles railway station in around six and a half hours, then you can take a second train to Cassis. If you choose to go by rail, once you get to the railway station in Cassis you can call a cab or enjoy a lovely three-mile walk through beautiful orchards and vineyards. There is bus that goes from the station to the city centre hourly.

If you choose to fly, easyJet will take you to Marseille airport, around twenty miles north-west of Cassis.

Where to stay
Try to find a property that is close to the port, giving you have easy access to beaches, restaurants, and shopping. There are plenty of rustic Airbnbs, apartments, and hotels around, starting at about £60 per night for two people.