This is Made in Marseille Provence travel guide, a guide made by Marseille people for everyone. Here you will find out about Provence best places and travel tips. This page takes you on a journey to La Ciotat, coastal town where the cinema and the favourite sport of all Provençaux were born, la Pétanque.
Located behind Cassis, La Ciotat is about 35 km from Marseille city’s centre. Many come to the town to enjoy its Calanques, its ports and beaches, but it would be a real shame to miss its remarkable heritage and history.
This is indeed where the first film in history was shot and where la Pétanque was born. This article will tell you all about La Ciotat activities and must-sees.
Play pétanque in the boulodrome Jules Lenoir
An emblematic sport of Marseille and Provence, la Pétanque was born in La Ciotat in 1907 ! Back in the day, the “Ciotadens” (La Ciotat inhabitants) like everyone in the area, played the Jeu Provençal. Jules Le Noir, a trader and former player, could not play anymore because of his rheumatism that forced him to sit all the time. Thus he started to play on his own, sitting on a chair. One day, a friend decided to please him and offered him to play « les pieds tanqués » (feet stuck on the ground, while the Jeu Provençal is played with one foot above the ground) so the two could play fairly. The game was first baptised « Jeu de boules pieds tanqués », which soon became « Pétanque ».
Learn about the Lumière brothers and the cinema
The Lumière family had a beautiful house in La Ciotat, which was called the « Château Lumière », it is now a group of expensive flats.
This is where the first private screenings took place during summer 1895. The very first film in history was shot by Louis Lumière in La Ciotat train station! Its title says everything: « L’Arrivée d’un train en gare à La Ciotat » (« The arrival of the train in La Ciotat station »). Note also that the cinema l’Eden Théâtre is one of the oldest in the world. It is possible to watch some old versions of the cinema masterpieces as well as young film director first works.
Eden Théâtre, 25 Boulevard Clémenceau, 13600 La Ciotat
Learn about La Ciotat heritage
La Ciotat, especially its old centre, is full of history and stories. Notre-Dame de l’Assomption church, the eleven places, the eight chapels, the old doors, there are many heritage sites to visit. The Tourist Office offers guided tours in the old town every Wednesday.
Departing time from 9.30am from the Tourist Office, it is necessary to book at least one day before your visit. Fees: 3,50€ per person. For more information, visit the Tourist Office website or call the 0033 (0)4 42 08 61 32.
Wander in La Ciotat ports
There are four ports in La Ciotat : le Port des Capucins, le Port de Saint-Jean, le Nouveau Port de Plaisance and le Port-Vieux where the shipyard is located (see next paragraph). If you’d like to stop to one of the many restaurants during your walk, you’ll enjoy a beautiful panorama of l’île verte, the only wooded island of les Bouches-du-Rhône.
Learn about La Ciotat maritime history and its shipyard
Created in the middle of the 19th Century, La Ciotat shipyard is quite famous in Europe. Due to an European directive it was closed at the end of the 80’s. Reopened in 2007, it is now specialised in luxury yachts maintenance and renovation, but also in competition boats building (like the trimarans). The shipyard kept its high reputation as it is the European leader of luxury yachts renovation.
Enjoy its 7 kilometres of beaches
You would think that 7 kilometres of coast is enough, but be aware of the crowd in summer! It gets really difficult to find a place to park. Our advice is to arrive early morning or to park far away from the beaches. Three beaches offers specific facilities for everyone: la plage Lumière, which has the “Tourisme & Handicaps” label, with special chairs, a non-smoking beach and a beach reserved for pets.
Explore the beautiful île verte
As we said, l’île Verte (the green island) is the only wooded island of the Bouches-du-Rhône. In the past, many rabbits lived on the island, but nowadays, this is the home of the gabians (a variety of seagull). You can either relax and enjoy the beach, do snorkelling, or fishing. If you’d like to visit the island, take a walk and discover on your way the German blockhaus, vestiges of World War 2.
Ferry boats trips Île Verte/La Ciotat : between April and October.
Discover the Calanque du Mugel and Calanque de Figuerolles
The Calanques du Mugel et de Figuerolles belong to La Ciotat high spots. The Calanque du Mugel is protected by le Bec de l’Aigle mountains range and has an important vegetation. You will be pleased to walk in Le Parc du Mugel to discover Provence flora, and even very rare species.
The beauty of the Calanque de Figuerolles is extraordinary, admire the contrast between the turquoise sea and the brown cliffs (those are made of “poudingue”, pebbles in a natural cement). Le col du Capucin dominates the Calanque and this beautiful landscape has been immortalised many times by famous painters or film directors (like George Braque or Othon Friesz). To perfectly end your excursion in the Calanques, we advise to stop at Tania’s hotel-restaurant called “la République Indépendante de Figuerolles”. This joke was made by the restaurant founders who found the place so different and atypical that they thought it could not be part of France!
Ride the Route des Crêtes and admire the panorama from le Cap Canaille
To reach Cassis from La Ciotat, the best way is to take the Route des Crêtes which crosses the Cap Canaille mountains range. You must take this road and stop to admire the breathtaking panoramas. The cliffs are highest maritime cliffs in Europe ! Their summit is called « la Grande Tête » (“the big head” ) and is 394 metres high.
From the Route des Crêtes you will see the Golfe de Cassis, the Calanques or the archipel du Riou. There are many car parks along the road to stop and admire the view.A walking and biking trail of about 12 Km (one way) allows you to discover these exceptional panoramas by foot or bike.
Would you like to keep walking and discover Cassis? By this way!