Where do you go if you want the bustle of Paris, but the beauty of the Provençal coastline? Easy – head to multicultural Marseille, where new and old rub shoulders. Kick off your shoes and take it easy in the briny sea air. Here’s our list of the coolest things to do in Marseille.

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Take a trip to Le Vieux Port. Courtesy of Jeanne Menjoulet.

Curl up with a book

Le Vieux Port – or old port – is the beating heart of Marseille. Hundreds of brilliant white pleasure boats are moored here, the still water reflecting the balmy azure sky.

Every proper bohemian’s first port of call is a coffee shop. Cup of Tea, on Rue Caisserie just a block away from the waterfront, is the best of the bunch. It’s perfect for watching the world go by, with friendly staff that lead the charge with a relaxed ambience. Browse through the quirky bric-à-brac adorning the walls and pick up a book to improve your French, then head out onto the terrace with a special blend tea or coffee with a literary bent. Locals love the rustic vibe here and we can’t blame them.

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For more treasure hunting, pop over to the Panier district of Marseille.

Shop the French way

Once you’ve finished savouring French delights (we suggest an apricot tart), it’s time for a walk. Get a feel for the city by wandering around the backstreets of Canebière district in search of unusual boutiques and fresh produce markets.

The independent and spirited Marianne Cat in Opéra is one of our favourite stores – full of carefully curated items, from antique-inspired furniture to funky perfumes. You might not find Marianne, or her cat, but you can easily lose hours admiring her chic collection. Check out the locally made leather goods if you’re after a practical souvenir that’s just a little bit different.

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Wander quaint French streets like the Cours Jean Ballard.

Taste the world

It’s no surprise that Marseille’s heritage is tied up in its harbour. Boats used to set sail from here to tour the world, trade or battle – stretching back more than 2000 years. These days, you’ll find it much calmer, but just as colourful.

Soak up the good vibes with dinner at Le Souk restaurant. It’s right by the waterside, so you can watch the sunset over vibrant food and inventive cocktails. Le Souk serves North African cuisine authentically prepared and cooked with expertise. The fluffy couscous and aromatic, spiced tagines are the highlight of the menu. There’s even an incredible view of the Byzantine-Roman cathedral to top it all off.

Bordeaux is certainly at its best in the evening, when the west-facing side traps the late afternoon light and the historic buildings glow gold.

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Choice Hotels in Marseille