This guide lists the very best beaches in Marseille, an enthralling Mediterranean city on the famous Cote d'Azur. Marseille might be better known for its ancient port area, its Greek and Roman history, its soaring church spires, and buzzy yacht harbours, but don't forget that sparkling beaches are also on the menu.

    Most of Marseille's beaches clutch the French Riviera, which begins just to the east. There, you'll catch hidden coves known as calanques and pine-topped inlets dashed by pearly pebbles. There are also urban beaches and other sands to the northwest of the port city. Read on to find out which are the most popular beaches in Marseille.

    1

    Plage Bonneveine

    A manmade spot of sand in Marseille

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    Plage Bonneveine, also known as Gaston Deferre Beach, is one of the so-called Prado Beaches in Marseille. Such beaches were purpose-built in the 1970s to offer a place for city dwellers to swim and splash in the Mediterranean. This beach sits at the end of wide Avenue Bonneveine, around 20 minutes in the car from the Vieux Port district in the old city.

    It's a classic conch-shell of a beach, arching around a promenade that sprouts big royal palms. From around May onwards, there are usually rows of sun loungers on the sand. The summer also sees a couple of watersports outfitters set up shop on Plage Bonneveine, offering kayak and boat rentals that will let you explore the rest of the Prado strand to the north and south.

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    2

    Plage de la Grande Mer

    A small beach offering a taste of the riviera

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    The Plage de la Grande Mer is a prime example of why you have to whiz out of downtown Marseille to get the very best of the beaches in the area. It's actually the main beach of little Cassis, sat 35 minutes' drive to the south-west of the city, on the fringes of the Cote d'Azur.

    It's not a long beach – around 150 metres in all. However, it's got the laid-back riviera charm you've been searching for. The rugged Pointe des Lombards rises on one side, hosting pine groves and an old chateau. Back on the sand is a relaxed little beach bar serving cold beers and French wines, which gives way to a few rock pools that act as natural bathing spots when the water's calm.

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    Calanque de Port Pin

    One of Marseille's most photographed bays

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    Calanque de Port Pin is one of the most photographed bays in the whole of the Marseille area. It sits in the district of Vaufrèges, around an hour's drive from the Old Port of Marseille (Vieux Port) and only 45 minutes' drive from the town of Cassis. That places it within the protected reserves of the jaw-droppingly beautiful Calanques National Park.

    Quite right, too, because the inlet is a gorgeous dash of white stone topped by Aleppo pines that gives way to a few rocky bathing points. There's a small section of pebbles right at the base of the calanque that's best for swimming with the kids. Alternatively, take one of the coastal hiking paths, which rise to dramatic lookouts over the Mediterranean Sea.

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    4

    Plage du Prado

    An easy-to-reach city beach near Marseilles

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    Plage du Prado is the northernmost of the manmade beaches on the promenades that run south from the heart of Marseille. It's easy to get to. Simply hop on the direct bus that runs from the port to the Plages district. The ride takes around 40 minutes in total and there are frequent services in the summer months.

    The beach itself is spacious and wide but still manages to get busy with all manner of sunbathers and volleyball players whenever it's hot. It's protected by a few boulder-built groins, which helps to keep the waves small and the swimming good. At lunch, consider dipping into the Parc Balnéaire du Prado that's just behind for a picnic on the grass.

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    5

    Calanque d'En Vau

    A hidden paradise at the end of a coastal hike

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    Calanque d'En Vau is one of the finest of all the calanques – rugged, fjord-like inlets – that carve through the coastline south of Marseille. It's certainly not the easiest to get to. You'll need to don the hiking boots and hit the pine-fringed trails for at least an hour to arrive.

    The destination is a sheer-cut gorge with soaring cliffs of pearly stone on either side. It runs for half a mile into the shoreline, revealing an amphitheatre of big rocks studded with gnarled pine trees and juniper bushes. Finally, it culminates with a small dash of pebble beach that's washed by waters that look like polished glass.

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    Plage de l'Arene

    For something a little different down in Cassis

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    Plage de l'Arene, or Arena Beach as it's also known, is one of the jewels in the crown of the Cassis coast. That puts it around 35 minutes' drive out of Marseille via the A50, although there is a longer, more scenic route through the Vaufrèges forests that will leave you feeling like James Bond in his Aston Martin.

    Being a few bays outside of the centre of Cassis itself helps Plage de l'Arene to remain quiet and secluded. Others stay away because it's not a sandy beach, but covered in watermelon-sized boulders. The result is somewhere rather wild and untouched. It's definitely one for the beach hunters who like to go off the beaten track.

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    Plage de Sainte-Croix

    A beach with spectacular views of the Gulf of Lion

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    Plage de Sainte-Croix to the northwest of Marseille looks out across the sparkling Gulf of Lion. The view sweeps just before the French coast shifts north into the wetlands and the sand bars of the flamingo-dotted Camargue. The location, being opposite to the Cote d'Azur, helps cut down the crowds considerably.

    The beach itself is a charming spot. It's backed by big rock walls cut up by the occasional coastal cave. There's a white-painted chapel standing above the salty waves, which roll into an arc of pristine sand that has a distinctly white tinge. It gets busy in summer, though crowds thin for the evenings when the sunsets are fantastic.

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    foto dari Airair (CC BY-SA 3.0) dimodifikasi

    8

    Plage des Catalans

    A lively bay in the heart of Marseille

    Plage des Catalans (Catalan Beach) is smack dab in the middle of Marseille. You can even walk here from the Vieux Port – just stroll straight through the Pharo neighbourhood for around 15 minutes and you'll find it.

    Of course, being so close to the yacht moorings and the action means that Plage des Catalans suffers from crowds. It's not the place to come for an escape to the wild Cote d'Azur and a quiet reading session. It's best for quick dips in the sea to cool off in the Marseille summer. It can also get lively in the evenings when the town's students gather for cold beers and wines overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

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    9

    Calanque de Sormiou

    A taste of the wild without having to trek

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    Calanque de Sormiou reigns as the largest of all the calanques in the national park to the south of Marseille. Getting there is relatively easy because it sits on the city side of the reserve, around 20 minutes' drive from the Prado beaches. Just watch out for the hairpin bends as you go.

    It's because of that road wiggling straight in from the heart of Marseille that Calanque de Sormiou becomes probably the busiest of all the coves in this area, at least between May and August. The beach is sandy, too, and there are designated swimming areas away from the boats. You'll also get a clutch of salt-washed French bistros for those long seafood lunches with the family.

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    Calanque Morgiou

    Grottoes and headland hikes

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    Calanque Morgiou is the beating heart of the Calanques National Park and it's considered one of the best beaches near Marseille. Although there's a (very!) narrow road leading there through the eucalyptus woods and the pine forests, it still manages to retain something of a remote feel. That might be because the drive from the Old Port takes at least 40 minutes.

    The reward for making the trip is an interesting cut in the coastline. It hosts a quaint little port that's usually filled with painted fishing skiffs. There are overhanging rocks that shade pebble coves where the waters are a come-snorkel-in-me blue colour. And there are adventures, too, like the hike to Cap Morgiou and the variety of coastal grottoes ripe for exploration.

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    Joseph Francis | Penulis yang Berkontribusi

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