Cassis, a charming town in Southern France, invites you to slow down and savor the stunning views of the Mediterranean coast. With its relaxed pace and array of activities, Cassis offers something for every traveler, whether you prefer lounging on the beach, exploring local markets, hiking scenic trails, or trying your hand at water sports. Here’s a guide to the top things to see and do in this picturesque French village.

The Heart of Cassis: Port and Waterfront

The picturesque port of Cassis is the beating heart of the village, with its rows of colorful boats and pastel-hued buildings. Stroll along the waterfront and discover:

  • Cafés and restaurants offering local cuisine
  • Étal des pêcheurs, where fishermen sell their daily catch

Soak Up the Sun at Cassis Beaches

Cassis boasts six small beaches, perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and admiring the breathtaking coastal views of the blue sea, Cap Canaille, and Chateau de Cassis, a medieval castle turned luxury hotel. Two easily accessible beaches are:

  1. Plage de la Grande Mer: The main beach in the center of town near the harbor, popular among visitors and locals alike.
  2. Plage de Bestouan: A short walk from town along Avenue l’Amiral Ganteaume, this smaller, pebbled beach offers a less crowded alternative.

Explore the Calanques by Boat

The coast between Cassis and Marseille is dotted with les calanques, a series of coves nestled between towering cliffs. Boat excursions departing from the main harbor offer a fantastic way to appreciate the beauty of these inlets. Choose from various cruise options:

  • 3, 5, 8, or 9 calanque cruises
  • Duration ranging from 45 minutes to 2 hours

For a shorter cruise, opt for the tour that takes you into the three calanques closest to Cassis: Port-Miou, Port Pin, and En-Vau. Keep an eye out for climbers scaling the cliff faces, as pointed out by knowledgeable crew members.

Discover Local History and Architecture

Hôtel de Ville (City Hall)

This 17th-century mansion, built for the former consul of Marseille, Désiré de Moustiers, has served as Cassis’ City Hall since 1945. During weekday business hours, visitors can step inside to admire:

  • Stairway with marble banisters
  • Coffered ceilings
  • Ornately painted beams and trim
  • Medieval ruins visible through a glass floor in the main reception area
  • City crest featuring two fish flanking a bishop’s crosier above the main entrance

The adjoining building, les Salles voûtées, hosts periodic art exhibitions and events, many of which are open to the public for free. Check the Ville de Cassis website or inquire locally for current offerings.

Place Baragnon

This town square, next to City Hall, is where locals gather in the shade of plane trees and enjoy open-air markets. Visit on Wednesdays and Fridays from 8:00 am to 1:30 pm to browse the wares of some 40 merchants, including:

  • Meats, fish, vegetables, and fruits (don’t miss the fresh figs)
  • Baked goods
  • Flowers
  • Clothing

You might also stumble upon an artists’ market, featuring local artisans and potters displaying handcrafted items like pottery, jewelry, and candles. Be sure to check out the free art exhibit in les Salles voûtées during these events.

For a taste of Italy, visit the Italian Market held annually in Place Baragnon during the first week of November.

Place de la République

Formerly known as Place Royale, this tiny square features the Fountain of the Four Nations at its center. The current stone structure, decorated with fresh flowers, replaced an early 17th-century fountain commemorating Louis XIV, the Sun King.

It was from #2 Place de la Republique that artist Paul Signac wrote to Vincent van Gogh in 1889:

“My dear friend, After wandering along the coast, I’ve settled in Cassis. I’m sending you my address so that you can give me good news about yourself…”

Museums and Cultural Attractions

Musée du Cassis (Municipal Museum)

Housed in an 18th-century rectory in Place Baragnon, this museum’s permanent collection includes:

  • Archaeological artifacts from the Celto-Ligurian, Etruscan, and Roman periods
  • Cultural exhibits representing local Cassidain and Provençal folklore and traditions
  • Fine art paintings and portraits

The museum is open Wednesday through Saturday, with a minimal admission fee.

Le Four Banal (Community Bread Oven)

This tiny museum in the heart of Cassis showcases the 17th-century stone oven once used by villagers as a communal bread oven. Dedicated to local culture and heritage, the museum displays:

  • Traditional costumes
  • Carved figurines
  • Lace and beaded fabrics
  • A colorfully tiled, modern kitchen with a sink made of local stone

Admission is free, and the museum is worth a quick visit if you’re in the area during opening hours. Find Le Four Banal at the corner of Rue Thérèse Rastit and Rue du Four.

Musee du Perfum (Perfume Museum)

The parfumeur createur l’Eau de Cassis, established in 1851, has a boutique that doubles as a perfume museum. Explore displays of:

  • Perfumes and colognes
  • Candles
  • All-natural soaps and bath products
  • Distilling equipment

Admission to the Musee du Perfum is free, and it’s located at 2 Place Baragnon.

Outdoor Activities and Sports


Spend time in Square Gilbert Savon, near the harbor (behind the ticket office for calanque boat tours), watching locals (mostly men) play the popular Provençal sport of Pétanque, also called boules (a form of lawn bowling).

Vineyards and Wine Tasting

Winemaking in Cassis dates back to around 600 B.C., when the Greeks introduced the practice to the region. Today, 12 local vineyards on the terraced hillsides beneath Cap Canaille produce popular red, white, and rosé varieties.

Celebrate Cassis’ wine heritage at the annual Les Vendanges Etoilées festival, held each September.

Cap Canaille

This massive headland, the highest sea cliff in France and one of the highest in Europe, sits like a crown of cliffs and ridges over the Mediterranean.

Outdoor Adventures

For the more adventurous traveler, Cassis offers a variety of activities:

  • Hiking trails above the Calanques
  • Following la Route des Crêtes to the top of Cap Canaille
  • Touring the city and hillside on an e-bike
  • Rock climbing
  • Kayaking
  • Snorkeling
  • Scuba diving

Suggested Itineraries

To make the most of your visit to Cassis, consider these sample itineraries:

Half-Day Itinerary

  1. Stroll along the port and waterfront, taking in the colorful boats and buildings.
  2. Visit the Hôtel de Ville to admire the architecture and medieval ruins.
  3. Explore the open-air market at Place Baragnon (if visiting on a Wednesday or Friday morning).
  4. Grab a bite to eat at one of the waterfront cafés or restaurants.

Full-Day Itinerary

  1. Start your day with a visit to the Musée du Cassis to learn about the town’s history and culture.
  2. Take a boat tour of the Calanques, marveling at the stunning cliffs and inlets.
  3. Relax on Plage de la Grande Mer or Plage de Bestouan, soaking up the sun and sea.
  4. Explore the shops and galleries in the town center, including the Musee du Perfum.
  5. End your day with a leisurely dinner at a local restaurant, savoring the flavors of Provençal cuisine.

Multi-Day Itinerary

  1. Dedicate a day to exploring the Calanques, either by boat or on foot via the hiking trails.
  2. Spend a morning at the open-air market in Place Baragnon, followed by a visit to the Hôtel de Ville and Le Four Banal museum.
  3. Take a half-day trip to a local vineyard for wine tasting and to learn about the region’s winemaking history.
  4. Enjoy a beach day at Plage de la Grande Mer or Plage de Bestouan, trying your hand at water sports like kayaking or snorkeling.
  5. Venture to the top of Cap Canaille via la Route des Crêtes for panoramic views of the coastline.

Tips for Visiting Cassis

  • The best time to visit Cassis is during the shoulder season (April-May or September-October) when the weather is pleasant and crowds are smaller.
  • Book accommodations early, especially if visiting during peak summer months, as Cassis is a popular destination.
  • Bring comfortable walking shoes, as many of the town’s attractions are best explored on foot.
  • Don’t forget your sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses, as the Mediterranean sun can be intense.
  • Try local specialties like bouillabaisse (a traditional fish stew), aioli (garlic mayonnaise), and Cassis wine.

Cassis is a picture-perfect destination that offers a delightful blend of natural beauty, history, and culture. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or a bit of both, this charming French village has a lot to offer. So, slow down, savor the moment, and let Cassis work its magic on you.

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