Last Updated on 20/12/2023 by secretmoona
Nestled along the stunning French Riviera, Cassis is a picturesque coastal town renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, vibrant markets, colourful port, narrow streets filled with fountains and Provençal shops, and welcoming terraces. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or simply searching for a tranquil escape, Cassis offers something for everyone. With its unparalleled natural beauty of limestone cliffs and carpeted with pebbly beaches, this guide to the best things to do in Cassis will take you through the must-see attractions, hidden gems, and delectable dining experiences, whether as a day trip or weekend getaway.
Why you should visit Cassis, France
Cassis is in a prime location, surrounded by some of the most breathtaking natural wonders in the Mediterranean. The village is nestled between the Calanques National Park and the magnificent Cap Canaille, the highest maritime cliff in Europe. You can enjoy the traditional Provençal village atmosphere while basking in the allure of the Côte d’Azur coastline.
Things to do in Cassis, France
When visiting Cassis, it would be all too easy to get lost in the many pretty streets for the day. But there’s much more to this picturesque port town. Let’s dive into the things to do in Cassis.
Port de Cassis
As soon as you arrive in Cassis, your feet take you automatically towards the Old Port. After all, it’s one of the top things to do in Cassis. Strolling along the quays of this colourful and charming port is a must. Traditional boats lining the water’s edges and the restaurant’s terraces make the port a lovely place to stop by. Enjoying a meal or drink, admiring the scenery, or simple people are many things you could do there.
Stroll Through the Streets of Cassis Old Town
Cassis is a charming small town with narrow streets lined with houses and buildings painted in pale pastel colours. The streets are decorated with colourful wooden shutters, potted plants and flowers, which adds to the overall beauty of the town. Walking through the streets reminded me of Toulouse, the Pink City. You can easily spend hours strolling the streets, taking in the typical Provençal style.
The old town has many attractions, such as the Saint-Michel church, a small Romanesque-style church built with white stone in the 20th century, and Place Baragnon with its central fountain. In small towns and villages, squares are usually the main places of interest where people like to gather, and Cassis is no exception. You will find lots of benches here, making it an ideal spot to relax and immerse yourself in the Provençal charm and the locals’ way of life.
In this area, you will also find the town hall and the Mediterranean Municipal Museum of Popular Art and Traditions, among other things. The museum, housed in a former 18th-century presbytery, showcases the history of the Provençal town through exhibitions, sculptures, paintings, and archaeological discoveries.
No trip to a town in Provence can be considered complete without visiting the local markets to stock up on regional specialities, and the markets of Cassis are no exception to this rule. These markets are held every Wednesday and Friday morning and offer a typically Provencal experience, where you can sample French rural life. You can find local cheeses, fresh bakeries and typical Mediterranean products such as tapenades and natural soaps. All of which are unique to this region of France. The markets take place around the fountain on Place de la République, where you can shop amid historic buildings and picturesque boutiques.
If you’re interested in seafood, a few stalls located near the port will be waiting for you, where you can relish the catch of the day. Arrive early to get the freshest catch. Cassis truly captures the beauty of Provence, offering visitors an opportunity to enjoy this lovely region’s flavours, sunsets, and views.
Beaches of Cassis
When visiting Cassis, many people focus on its stunning coves and overlook its beaches. Even though the beaches in Cassis aren’t the vast expanse of golden beaches synonymous with the region, there are three beaches that you must see when in Cassis.
The largest beach in Cassis is the Grande Mer. It is easily accessible from the port, which makes it very popular among tourists, especially during the high season. This beach is an excellent choice for swimming and relaxing or enjoying a picnic while admiring the sunset. The crystal-clear turquoise water and the view of the Cassis castle make it an unforgettable sight.
Bestouan Beach is less than a ten-minute walk from the centre of Cassis. The transparent water and fine sand make it a perfect spot for a family vacation. Grab your picnic basket and beach towel and let the gentle sound of the waves soothe you.
If you’re looking for a more peaceful, natural setting, Arène beach is the ideal choice. Although it’s not easily accessible and has little sand, it’s a superb pebble beach that nature lovers will appreciate. The rocks and tranquil atmosphere of the beach make it particularly popular with scuba divers.
Hike the Calanques National Park and discover the creeks.
Hiking the Calanques is one of the top activities to do in Cassis. Although only one of the 26 Calanques is in Cassis, the town serves as the gateway to the Calanques National Park, which spans over 8 500 hectares. Most of the Calanques are scattered across Marseille or La Ciotat. The Calanques of Cassis is a natural wonder of exceptional beauty along the Mediterranean coast. These unique geological formations are characterised by high limestone cliffs that steeply plunge into the crystal-clear waters of the sea.
The calanques offer a variety of breathtaking landscapes, from secluded coves with turquoise waters to impressive cliffs sculpted by natural elements. Hikers and nature enthusiasts can explore many opportunities along the trails that wind through these rock formations, discovering sandy beaches and secret places worth exploring.
The Three Calanques Walk (GR 98), accessible from Port-Miou takes you through Port-Pin to Calanque d’En Vau before heading back to Cassis. Each cove has its charm, whether it’s Calanque d’En-Vau, renowned for its emerald waters and steep cliffs, or Calanque de Port-Miou, an ancient stone quarry that opens into the sea. As well as hiking, when the weather permits, you can go swimming, snorkelling, and rock climbing in this unspoilt area. The coves are also home to a variety of flora and fauna. As a natural gem, the Calanques of Cassis are a must-see destination for nature lovers and adventurers seeking spectacular and unspoiled coastal landscapes.
When hiking, it’s essential to bring your water bottle, especially during summer when the heat can be suffocating and wear good sneakers or hiking boots. The paths are often very slippery stones and ups and downs.
Note that access to the Calanques National Park is restricted from 1st June and 30th September. In case of extreme hot weather, access can be prohibited.
For those less inclined to hike, visiting the coves by boat is also an option. See below for more information.
Take a boat tour along the Calanques
Cassis, France, offers many fun activities to do, and one of the top things to experience is a boat trip to the creeks. This option is perfect for those who can’t hike the calanques, and it offers different perspectives of the coastal landscapes and its impressive cliffs. Moreover, it allows you to explore several calanques without putting in too much effort!
When you arrive at the port, you will see many companies offering excursions that range from 45 minutes to 1 hour and 50 minutes and include visits to 3, 5, 8, or 9 calanques. However, it is important to only use authorised companies that are recognisable by their orange and blue logo.
If you prefer to explore the area at your own pace, you can rent a boat in Cassis with Click&Boat. Even if you don’t have a licence, you can still rent a boat. This option allows you to explore the area for a day at your leisure.
Here are the prices for each of the tours you can choose from:
- 3 calanques (1 hour): €19
- 5 calanques (1h20): €25
- 8 calanques (1h50): €29
- 9 calanques (2h20): €33
No need to book in advance, just be sure to arrive at the port 30 minutes before the departure time. You can find all the information and timetables on the Calanques de Cassis website.
Discover Cap Canaille
Cap Canaille is one of Europe’s highest sea cliffs and can be found on the coast that stretches towards La Ciotat, opposite the Calanques de Cassis. To reach this stunning location, taking the Route des Crêtes is an absolute must. This is one of the few things to do in Cassis that requires a car. You can reach the Route des Crêtes by taking the departmental road D141, a 12 km scenic route that offers several breathtaking viewpoints of the entire Mediterranean coast and the Calanques de Marseille.
Photographers are in love with the cliff because it offers breathtaking views from the top, especially during sunset. The cliff reaches a height of 394 metres and is known as “Cap Nio” in Provençal.
For those looking for an adventure, we highly recommend taking a guided climbing tour of the Calanques de Cassis. Check out the climbing day course here.
Admire the Château de Cassis (Cassis Castle)
The Château de Cassis, dating back to the 13th century, was once home to the Carolingians. It is now a private hotel and not open to the public. The castle is situated on a steep cliff overlooking Cassis Harbour and the Mediterranean Sea. The fortifications are easily visible from the harbour. Locally known as “Castum Carcisis“, the castle has been present on the site for at least 9 centuries since the 9th century.
Practical Information about Cassis, France
Where to eat in Cassis
Cassis is home to many great restaurants that are known for their delicious fish dishes. We have compiled a list of our favourite restaurants in Cassis:
- Villa Madie: This restaurant has been awarded 2 Michelin stars and is known for its exquisite cuisine and stunning views of the sea. The dishes are inspired by the Mediterranean and change with the seasons, offering a variety of exciting flavours.
- The Breakfast Club: This restaurant serves delicious brunches that are inspired by traditional recipes from both the US and France. The presentation of the food is impressive and perfect for Instagram.
- La Brasserie du Corton: This restaurant is a part of the Villa Madie and offers a unique dining experience with a Mediterranean touch. The food is beautifully presented, and the prices are reasonable.
- La Table du 7: Located on the port, this restaurant specialises in fresh and seasonal Mediterranean dishes. The food is prepared with care and always bursting with flavour.
- La Poissonnerie: This restaurant is famous for its authentic bouillabaisse and fresh shellfish. The cuisine is simple yet delicious and emphasises traditional Provençal dishes. The atmosphere is very family-friendly.
- La Girandole: Located in a small alley in Cassis, La Girandole will delight your taste buds with its Italian dishes. A reduced menu for tasty homemade food in a simple and friendly atmosphere!
Where to stay in Cassis, France
If you plan to spend some leisurely time in Cassis, it is recommended to stay in Cassis itself instead of Marseille. This small port town offers a good selection of accommodations to choose from. Here are some recommendations:
- Hotel Les Roches Blanches Cassis: This idyllic 5-star seaside hotel is located in an Art Deco mansion and offers great rooms, a seasonal sea view infinity pool and a restaurant.
- Château de Cassis: For those seeking luxury, Château de Cassis is nestled in an exceptional location overlooking the city, providing easy access to Cassis while still feeling protected by its high walls.
- Hotel de la Plage – Mahogany: Set on the beachfront, this hotel is just 5 minutes away from the Port de Cassis. With clean and comfortable rooms, it’s a great option for those looking for convenience.
- HPC Suites: This large apartment is well-equipped with a big comfortable bed, balcony, and terrace. It is located within walking distance to the beach, shops, and restaurants.
- Royal Cottage: This clean and quiet hotel is surrounded by a garden with an outdoor pool. Rooms are decorated in a modern style.
When to visit Cassis
Cassis has become a popular tourist destination in Provence, and as a result, weekends and public holidays, especially during the warmer summer months from June to August, tend to be crowded. However, these are also the best times to visit if you want to enjoy the beach and bask in the sun. If you’re looking for a more relaxed experience, we recommend visiting Cassis during the shoulder seasons of April/May or September/October. During these times, you can avoid the crowds, enjoy great weather, and even hike on the Calanques de Cassis trails. Check out Cassis Tourist Office for more information.
How Long to Spend in Cassis
Cassis is a charming small village that can be easily explored within a few hours, or in a day if you include visits to the Port Miou, the Port de Cassis, and the Old Town. However, if you want to make the most of the surrounding areas, such as the calanques, it is a good idea to use Cassis as a base to explore the nearby places. In the evening, you can enjoy the beautiful scenery of the port and witness the stunning sunset over the Mediterranean.
How to get to Cassis, France
Cassis is a well-connected destination, easily accessible from cities like Marseille, Nice or Aix-en-Provence. Getting to Cassis can be done through various options such as train, bus or rental car.
The A50 motorway is the quickest route to Cassis. For a more scenic drive, take the D559 known as Col de la Gineste, from Marseille or the Route des Crêtes (D559 and D141) from La Ciotat. Cassis is around 40 40-minute’ drive from Marseille via the motorway.
If you plan to travel from Paris, you will need to cover a distance of 800 km, which will take around 8 hours and 30 minutes. From Lyon, it’s around 340 km and will take approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes. From Toulouse, it’s around 430 km and will take about 4 hours and 30 minutes. Finally, from Bordeaux, it’s around 670 km and will take around 7 hours.
If you plan to travel by plane, you can fly to Marseille-Provence and then take the train from Saint Charles station. Then follow the steps in the public transport section. Check Skyscanner for the best fares.
By public transport:
If you prefer to travel by train, you can take one of the many TGV trains that serve Marseille. Check the SNCF website for prices and schedules. There is a train that runs between Marseille Gare de Saint Charles and Cassis every 30 minutes, which takes around 25 minutes. Since the city centre of Cassis is 3 km away from the station, you can take the Marcouline shuttle bus. The ticket costs €0.90 and can be purchased directly from the driver.
You can also take a bus L078 from Marseille (Castellane) to Cassis (Gendarmerie). The journey takes around 45 minutes but is pretty irregular, especially outside of the tourist season.
Once you arrive in Cassis, no car will be necessary because the town is very walkable and easy to get around on foot!
Guided tours in Cassis:
Various tours can be arranged to Cassis, such as this day trip from Marseille or a day trip from Aix-en-Provence. The Calanques trails are well marked however, if you wish to hike with an experienced guide, try this guided tour with lots of information.
Rent a car in Cassis, France
If you plan on spending more time in Cassis than in Marseille, it is advisable to rent a car instead of relying on public transport. Renting a car in Cassis will provide you with more flexibility to explore the town, especially if you are planning to hike the Calanques. We highly recommend DiscoverCars for its simple, practical, and affordable rental solutions. Their search filters make it easy to find a suitable car based on your criteria and budget. If you need a quick and efficient way to rent a car, we suggest you visit DiscoverCars.com.
Parking in Cassis:
Cassis has many public car parks, but they fill up quickly in high season. If there are no more parking spaces, it is advisable to park at the Gorguettes relay car park outside the village centre. You can park for free here and take a shuttle that runs every 15-30 minutes to the centre of Cassis or to the starting point of the Calanques promenade. The shuttle costs €1.60 for a return trip, but it is free for children under 6 years old.
Thanks for reading our guide to the things to do in Cassis, France. Cassis embodies the beauty of Provence year-round. You are sure to have a great time.
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