A Day Trip from Marseille

with wine tasting in Cassis

View onto Port-Miou.

We came to Marseille to visit the Provence lavender fields, which was an amazing experience.  However, given my day job of a wine geek, I never leave a place without tasting local wines.  Luckily, there are multiple opportunities to go for a wine tasting from Marseille.

I heard a lot about the unique and rare white wines of Cassis, a tiny appellation in Provence on the Mediterranean coast and I couldn’t miss a chance to taste.  We decided to go on a day trip from Marseille but ended up staying a night in Cassis. 

Where is Cassis?

Cassis is a luxury resort village approximately half-an-hour east of Marseille.  If you plan to stay only in Cassis, you don’t need a car.

We took a short 25-minute train ride from Marseille Gare St. Charles to Cassis. The trains are new and air-conditioned. They run quite regularly about every 30 minutes.

It is easy to buy SNCF (French train network) train and bus tickets online on the SNCF website or through their OUI SNCF phone application, which is very handy if you plan to travel by train in France.

If you are short on time, you can also visit Cassis on an organized tour from Marseille or Aix-en-Provence.  

However, if you have more than a day to spare in Provence, I would recommend staying at least a night in Cassis as there a lot to do and to taste. 

Some history..

The area has been occupied since prehistoric times. Between the 300 BC and 100 AD, Carsicis Portus was a fishing harbor involved in trade with the Mediterranean. From the 5th to the 10th century, the inhabitants took refuge on the hilltops escaping the Barbarian invasions. From the 15th century, Cassis is a French territory. In the 20th century, the town has become a resort for well-off residents of Marseille.

View on Calanque Port-Miou.

Why visit Cassis?

My impression of Cassis is luxury white villas surrounded by lush gardens, flowering oleanders, cedars, and palm-trees, azure-blue waters of the Mediterranean and gorgeous mountains.  Besides, this small town is very pleasant and clean.  

Cassis offers everything you might want: beaches, wines, hiking, diving, boating, shopping, spas, luxury resorts, and gastronomic restaurants.  I have heard it had a cinema and a casino as well.  

View from Clos Sainte Magdeline winery.

 

The Calanques National Park

Cassis is situated in the middle of the Calanques National Park which draws a lot of tourists. The Massif the Calanques to the west of Cassis is made of a 400-meter-thick layer of white limestone formed 120 million years ago. The Calanques are like miniature fjords with natural coves.  

They can be visited by boat from the Cassis harbor or on foot.  The closest one is Port-Miou only 20 minutes on foot from the harbor. It is a very picturesque marina on a photo above with the most breathtaking views from a gorge above it.  The Port-Pin trail will take you about an hour and lead you to the smallest and the most intimate of the three Calanques with a tiny, gently sloping cove.

Our hike to Calanque En-Vau took us 2 hours one way. That was not an easy trek by any means. You would need good hiking shoes, a lot of water and stamina to get that far.  Do not forget to bring a snack and a swimsuit with you.  Swimming in crystal-clear turquoise waters is a good reward at the end of the climb.

There are guided hiking and bike tours to the Calanques as well.

To take a boat tour to the Calanques head over to the wooden kiosque in the harbor of Cassis.  You can go to the Calanques of Port Miou, Port-Pin, Sugiton, Morgiou and Sormiou. Boat trips to the Calanques are running all year round, very frequent between March and November. 

Swimming in the Calanques is possible from June to September, however, during our visit at the end of June the water was still quite chilly around 19C (66F).

It is possible to hire a boat and go for sea fishing and diving. 

Inside the Parc National des Calanques on the hard trail to En-Vau.

Beaches and views

Beaches are pebble and rocky.  There are two beaches in the center of Cassis.  

One, right in the heart of the village, the Grande Mer Beach.  Lined with small pebbles, this beach would be the most comfortable to walk and to come with small children.  

The picturesque Plage de Bestoun with magnificent views of Cap Canaille is a few minutes on foot to the  west of the city center.  Both beaches are pebble and have lifeguards, showers, and beach bars.  I recommend bringing protective shoes to enter the waters, as pebbles are very hard to walk on. 

There are two magnificent beaches at the foot of Cap Canaille. Anse du Corton and Anse de l’Arene.  They are quite rocky and not recommended for small kids or those with difficulty walking.  I believe there are no amenities, however the views and the water colors there are just spectacular.

Some of the most beautiful views on Cassis and the Calanques open from Cap Canaille, the highest sea cliff in Europe, almost 400-meters high. You can hike from Cassis to La Cliotat by the Cap Canaille.  We haven’t had time to attempt it, however,  I understand it would take about 4 hours and 12 kilometers of walking on the ridges with breathtaking views.  There are shorter options as well.

After a hike or a day at a beach, go for an apero at the beautiful harbor with colorful buildings and fishing boats.

Beach at Calanque En-Vau.

Wine tasting in Cassis

Given my line of work, I always want to squeeze a wine tasting into any trip.  

Cassis is a place to taste rare white wines of Provence grown right on the Mediterranean coast.

Many of the wineries are certified organic.  Expect to pay approximately 15 to 18 euros for a bottle of white Cassis wine, with special Cuvee going up to 25 euros. 

The wineries of Cassis are located in and around the town and they are quite easy to visit on foot from the town and the harbor, as well as from the train station.  Vineyards are planted in spectacular locations on the Mediterranean coast, so besides wine tasting, they make a beautiful spot to visit. 

Clos Sainte Magdeline was my favorite with the most breathtaking views opening from the vineyard and rose and whites of incredible freshness. 

My favorite wine was at Clos d’ Albizzi, a winery founded in 1523 by a florentine family. The wines are mineral and fresh with white flower blossoms and peach aromas. There is a slight hint of bitterness or anis on the palate.  I would be great with local seafood or light chicken dishes.  

The winery is also offering apero and dinners at their restaurant. 

To visit wineries, contact them directly to make an appointment or inquire about the visits at the local Office of Tourism.  

I have marked the wineries of Cassis in my Map of Provence Wineries.  Some wineries will accept drop-ins, just keep in mind that  most will be closed during lunchtime and on Sundays.

A bottle of my favorite local wine to take home.

About Cassis wines...

2,600 years ago, the Greeks planted the first grape-vines… Created in 1936, Cassis is one of the first French appellations and one of the few areas in Provence producing mainly white wine. As production is relatively low and incredibly popular locally, Cassis wines can be hard to come by outside the region. Vineyards in Cassis cover only 215 hectares (530 acres) planted on narrow terraces known as “restanques“. The vines are sheltered by Cap Canaille, the tallest coastal cliff in France, plunging down from a height of 400 meters (1,300 feet) into the Mediterranean. There are only 12 wineries producing approximately one million bottles of mainly white wines (71%), some rose wines (26%), and a small amount of reds. Today, white wines use Marsanne, Ugni Blanc, Clairette, Sauvignon Blanc, however, in the past, before the phylloxera disaster stroke in the 1860s, Muscat grapes were the most common. The wines made in dry fresh style with minerality and aromas of citrus, white blossom, and honey. They are remarkably balanced and can be cellared for 2 to 5 years.

Gastronomic scene and shopping

Our day trip luckily turned into a two-day adventure.  Would I stay longer in Cassis I would come to buy fresh fish from local fishermen at the Port in the morning.  The boats dock at the harbor on Quai des Baux, right in the centre.  Here you can buy  fresh fish and sea urchins from the fishermen who set up small tables with their catch right next to the boats. 

There are multiple gastronomic events in Cassis, including the Gastronomic Street festival at the end of June, dinner in the vineyards and jazz music festival in July, and Vendanges Etoillees, a culinary festival in September.

If you are here on the right day, check out Wednesday and Friday markets at Place Baragnoxn and Saturday framers market at Place de la Republique to taste local specialty breads fougasses, biscuits, tapenades, almond paste, candied fruit, honey.

Cassis wines can be purchased directly at wineris, at local wine shops, and are well presented in supermarkets.  

There are a number of good restaurants in Cassis serving Mediterranean food.  To end our trip, we had a simple but very high-quality lunch at Le Cendrillon close to the main beach of Cassis. 

Cassis is great for a day tour from Marseille, you could come for as short as half a day to stroll the harbor and visit a winery.

There is enough to do and see if you stay for a few days, especially if you want to go for hikes, boat rides and do more wine tastings. 

Cassis would also make a good base for your travels in Provence.

Enjoy your tour to Cassis! See other wine tour ideas in Provence in my Provence wine tour guide.

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