Cassis: France’s Best Kept Secret Vacation Spot
When people say they’re traveling to southern France and want suggestions on where to go, Cassis is my first recommendation. I lived in a neighboring city along the Mediterranean Sea for 14 months and loved the opportunity to explore Cassis. There are many activities for all types of travelers – a romantic getaway, hiking adventures, relaxing in town or laying on the beach.
Here are seven things you can do in Cassis to create memories and capture photos that will make everyone back home jealous.
Hike the Calanques Near Cassis
My favorite part of Cassis is the Calanques. They are tall, white, limestone cliffs, towering above the blue colors of the Mediterranean Sea. Be sure and carry a camera with you for this part of your visit so you can capture the iconic shots of the area.
Access the Calanques west and south of town. The network of trails follows the cliffs along the shore, or you can cut across the top and head straight for the secluded beach you see pictured above.
Wherever you’re staying in Cassis, the Calanques are within walking distance – at least that’s how I would access them back in the day.
Relax on the Pebbled Beaches of the Mediterranean Sea
Beaches are synonymous with sand. But not along the Mediterranean Sea. The pebbled beaches are more typical, and the multiple beaches in Cassis fit that mold.
Years ago I stayed at Hotel de la Plage, which offered this great view of the sea and easy access to the beach across the street (see photo above). Plage de la Grand Mer is closer to the city center and is likely one of the busier beaches of Cassis.
If you’ve never experienced beaches in France, just note that sometimes swimsuit tops are optional. But relaxing on the beach is fun, and getting into the water can help cool you down on a hot summer day. After some time of the beach, you can either head back to your hotel or decide to explore a little more of downtown Cassis.
Explore the Port of Cassis
The Port of Cassis is a beautiful place for a stroll. You’e got the colorful buildings and restaurants, alongside rows of small boats. I remember a small gelato stand right by the port and it was a refreshing treat. There’s definitely that small-town village feel in Cassis.
Along the port you’ll find an outcropping of rocks with a little lighthouse at the end (see photo at the end of this post). It’s worth walking to and exploring the rocks along side the walkway, too.
Shop the Markets at Place Boragnon
If you’re in Cassis during the summer, you’ll likely be able to catch the market at the city square in Cassis. You’ll find small and unique souvenirs specific to the Provence area of France. From soaps, clothing, olive wood cooking ware and more.
The main market is usually held twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays, but you’ll want to check the Cassis website before you arrive so you can double-check timing. There are other markets that occur at different times of the year, including a flower market in April and a Christmas market in December.
Play Petanque in the Park
Do you know what Petanque is? It’s also known as Boules or Bocce Ball. I was first introduced to this game when I lived in France 20 years ago. We enjoyed going to the city park to watch a group of old men toss the heavy metal balls down the court, vying for points.
In Cassis, you’ll likely find a group of old men playing the game in Square Gilbert Savon. It’s fun to watch them play, but if possible, see if you can invite them to give you a few pointers. Or better yet, buy your own set, give it a whirl in France, then bring it home with you as a souvenir. NOTE: The metal balls are heavy, so you’ll need to figure out the best way to transport it home on the airplane.
Drive or Hike up to Cap Canaille
Cap Canaille offers you some of the most breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea and the Port of Cassis. It’s touted as the highest seaside cliff in France and the fourth highest in Europe.
The road to the top is narrow and windy, so you’ll want to be careful. You can hike up, but it’s a rough hike for the unfit.
If you plan to take photos – or even a selfie – note that there is nothing to protect you from the edge of the cliff. So don’t lose sight of the ground as you’re looking through your viewfinder or camera phone and fall over the edge.
Explore the Museums
There are two main museums in Cassis, but you may find others included in little shops.
Le Four Banal is in the heart of the city and houses a stone oven from the 17th century. It was used by members of the community to bake bread. But beyond the oven, the museum houses other traditional artifacts from Cassis’ history. There is no admission fee, but the museum is only open on certain days. Find the museum’s hours online.
Known as Le Musee, this museum is near Place Boragnon. It features archeological artifacts, art and traditional clothes and items from the Provence area around Cassis. There is a small admission fee (roughly $4), but for more information, visit the museum’s website.
Cassis is the type of city that would be great to visit for weeks or months on end. The tranquil lifestyle, outdoor opportunities, markets, beaches and more make Cassis a great escape for a relaxing and romantic vacation.