London lifestyle & travels with kids and babies
Marseille with kids has been a great call, the city is arty, full of character and buzzing. Second largest city in France and the oldest, it struck us with cutting edge museums by the sea, beautiful historical buildings, vibrant streets and galleries, world class restaurants and chic hotels. Whilst it might have had a reputation as being slightly rough in the past, we found it visionary, child friendly, with magnificent heritage, Mediterranean setting and warm people. So warmly recommending holidays in Marseille, find all about the luxury and cultural treats in here!
And unlike Paris, Marseille has near-constant sunshine, miles of beautiful beaches and coastal paths, unique and exciting flavours. The colourful port, picturesque buildings, breathtaking coastline, dramatic cliffs and hidden creeks, make luxury holidays in Marseille with kids so much more that a city break.
We stayed in a very special place – Le Petit Nice Passedat. Part of relais et chateaux, this is one fabulous pied a terre for a sweet retreat, small 5 star luxury hotel and 3 stars Michelin restaurant. And yes there is such thing as Relais Chateaux by the Mediterranean and kids friendly!
The real privilege has been to meet Gerald and his father and get to talk to them casually about their gorgeous family heritage, their loveliest dog Leons, the kids, their day, the wonderful gastronomy. It is hospitality for generations, les maitres being there regularly, hands on in the kitchen and welcoming guests to their wonderful relais and grounds, inviting you to see and taste the Mediterranean in a new and exquisite perspective.
What we liked most in our 3.5 days of Marseille with kids:
(I) Wander around the historic Le Panier district, explore the artisan shopping, smell the wonderful Marseille soaps and lavender products;
(II) Explore Le Mucem and its visionary stunning architecture by the sea (Rudi Riccioti), let the kids enjoy the cool playground just in front of Cathedral La Major;
(III) Soak up the vibrant atmosphere of The Vieux Port (Old Port);
(IV) For tired feet take a little train to combine i-iii. A cute open carriage train takes you from The Old Port, past the grand Pharo Palace, built by Napoleon then onto a coastal road down towards the sea, before climbing up to the highest point in the city – the Notre Dame de La Garde, a basilica which sits overlooking the whole of Marseille, resided over by La Bonne Mère (the Good Mother). You can get off the train here to explore the cool interior of the church and the wraparound terraces to enjoy 360 degree views of Marseille;
(V) beach – Sandy Plage des Catalans boasts plenty of facilities, while The Vallons consists of a series of small creeks, perfect for a spontaneous dip. Plage du Prophete is a great spot for families or an impromptu seaside picnic. Or for something slightly further, Cassis is barely 30min drive;
(VI) for a greenery break from the beach, head to Parc Borely: there’s a chateau, a lake, a terrace at the lakeside cafe, green winding paths, carousel and playgrounds;
(VII) wander around the coastal paths by Le Petit Nice Passedat, they make a perfect sunset spot. The teenagers and locals we met were warm, engaging, curious and friendly- our kids loved playing with them and their dogs!
(VIII) spend a day in Cassis, a charming former fishing village and take a boat trip to nearby Cassis and the Calanques (20 km of rocky inlets carved into the cliffsides);
(IX) last but what we’ve done religiously each day – pool time at Le Petit Nice. Nothing like a boutique Relais Chateau by the sea, with impeccable service, views and tranquility.
Lunching and dining Marseille and around, our favourites have been:
(A) Le Mole by Gerard Passedat. Marseille’s harbour-front leviathan of a museum wows in so many way and Le Mole on its roof is the place to go with the kids to explore as a family Gerald Passedat’s wonderful cuisine. We arrived rather late as we got distracted by sunset by the coastal path and then le Mucem, but this had been one amazing experience for us all from the views on the 5th floor over the sea and Cathedral La Major, to service and fine dining. We tried some notable exquisite dishes: seared tuna, scallops melting in your mouth, seabass with tomato coulis and most amazing risotto quinoa based,various amuse bouches and icecreams. It’s a perfect family introduction to Gerald’s vision of Mediterranean, where one can view the state of art kitchen or the more relaxed waterfront part. The open air rooftop looks stunning, end of May not yet opened but wow how I wish we had anything similar by Tate Modern!
(B) La Maison by Cassis port had a good lunch random hours for bohemian souls like ours, who sailed, played a bit too much by the beach and only made it for food 4:30pm.
(C) For an absolute foodie experience and grown up dinner, Gerald Passedat 3 etoiles gastronomy at Le Petit Nice will charm your senses fully. A dedicated article will be soon on the blog on Le Petit Nice relais and dining – one lifetime experience.
Last year we embarked with young kids on a road trip through some awesome chateaux hotels through Normandy, Loire, Bordeaux, Bergerac. Despite the lack of kidsclubs, the chateau life charmed us all, so this May half term Marseille with kids was a beautiful continuation. But what makes Le Petit Nice Passedat stand out again, is seeing Gerald Passedat in the kitchen and his father at the mansion, both so passionate about what they do, so gracious with team and welcoming with the guests, making you rediscover the Mediterranean and Provence through their eyes and senses.
From La Mer & Mistral Occitane products in the hotel, to the fragrances in and around the hotel, to the 3 stars Michelins pescatarian gastronomy, this is an unforgettable Mediterranean treat. It’s also hospitality that can’t be trained by leisure corporates, it runs in the family and it is so precious and special to be part of. In a world of hotelier and dining that often needs mass, where luxury ends up scalable and outsourced, Le Petit Nice Passedat is truly a gem and such a privilege to get to experience.
For further Provence inspiration check our article about day trips from Aix en Provence; for more Relais & Chateaux we loved with kids, check our roadtrip in France in here. For more spring inspiration in France check our Paris article: March, April or May? and Paris with toddlers and/or kids.