Bouches-du-Rhône (13260) Population: 7,967 Altitude: 1 m
Cassis is a picturesque little Mediterranean port village on the rocky coast about 20 km east of Marseille. Cassis has great beaches, frequent markets, a famous white wine, and boat trips along the Calanques cliff-side coves.
A walk through the old village streets will reveal some nice old buildings, some dating back to the 16th century, and some many with the colorful pastels of Provence. Other sites in the village are old fountains, and the large open-air market held every Wed and Sat all year a couple of blocks from the port.
The village was rebuilt on the old ruins in the 18th century, resulting in a more regular layout than most other medieval villages.
There's not much Medieval village to visit; Cassis is about the pretty seaport, the beaches and the sea front atmosphere.
Cassis is still a small fishing port, but the little fishing boats now share the harbor with yachts and a collection of tourist boats for visiting the calanques.
Along with the standard small fishing boats in Cassis, you'll see several of the double-ended pointus with their high bow posts, a Provencal boat that's been fishing these waters fro the past 2000 years.
A fine old chateau-fort, the 1381 Chateaux de la Maison des Baux, dominates the harbor, but it's privately owned and closed to the public, except to residents of the upscale hotel. A walk up to the hill top beside the chateau offers a reasonable view down to the village and harbor. The local map (from the Office de Tourisme) shows a "loop" route down to the shore. It's a pretty walk, but the shore-line path back to the village is now closed off, so it's back up over the hill past the chateau.
Cassis has a fine sandy beach by the town center, the Plage de la Grande Mer. Grande Mer is 200 m long, with a mixture of sand and gravel, and has lifeguards in the summer.
Plage du Corton is 700 meters southeast of town. It's a beach of galets, in a lovely, protected setting of a "cirque" bay. There's a handy parking lot just beside the beach, or a coastal walking route from the Grande Mer beach, about 15 minutes.
Plage de l'Arène is in the next cove east past Corton beach, about 1 km southeast of the village. It's a long, narrow beach of galets and stone, beautiful but isolated.
Plage du Bestouan is southwest of the village, 600 m out Ave de l'Amiral Ganteaume (a 10-minute walk from the port). It's a beach of galets, over 100 m long (the second largest beach of Cassis), but fairly narrow. In the summer there are lifeguards, and it's very crowded.
Plage Bleue is 2 km southwest of the port, out near the end of the Cap Cable peninsula. Plage Bleue is a "beach" of huge, flat rocks slightly inclined towards the sea, and great for sunbathing.
Boat tours of the Calanques depart from the east side of Cassis port, at Quai Saint-Pierre. Prices and times of the different tours are clearly marked on large signs. Find the tour you want, check if good seats are still available for the "next" trip, otherwise get tickets for a later departure. You book your ticket from a central kiosk at the quay near the boats.
• 3 Calanques; 0h45 (about 10 €):
Port Miou, Port Pin, En Vau
• 5 Calanques; 1h (about 12 €): Port Miou, Port Pin, En Vau, L'Oule, Devenson
• 8 Calanques; 1h30 (about 15 €): Port Miou, Port Pin, En Vau L'Oule, Devenson, Oeil de Verre, Sugiton, Morgiou
Cassis Road Train
The Cassis "Road Train" is a typical tourist train for visiting a town, except that here it takes you on visits of interesting sites outside the town. The starting point is at the end of Quiai Saint-Pierre, just past the Calanques tour boats, towards the tourist office. The tour takes 45 minutes. You visit the heights east of town and north of town, with views of the Bay of Cassis, the chateau and vineyards. It then goes west out the Port-Miou peninsula, and an included 10-minute stop for taking pictures of the views.
• Open: every day of the year, 7 days a week
• Six departures, 11h15 to 17h15, and an 18h15 time during the high season.
• Cost: 8 €, kids 6&mash;11 3 € (2017-2018), tickets sold on board.
History of Cassis
First record, Carsicis Portus, from the Itinerary of Antonin (Roman); 1323: Castrum Cassitis
Prehistoric: Regional habitation is now known to date back 27,000 years, with recent discovery of the underwater Cosquer caves, in the calanques between Cassis and Marseilles. Paleolithic stamped pottery shards and Paleo-Christian lamps were discovered at the Calanque Port-Miou.
Celto-Ligurian: Cassis was a Gallo-Roman fishing port, and numerous Gallo-Roman artifacts have been discovered.
Rule changed several times. In the 14th century it belonged to the Seigneurie de Roquefort. In 1376, Pope Gregory XI of Avignon was on his way to restore the Papacy to Rome when his fleet took refuge from a storm in the calanque Port-Miou.
In 1443, Cassis became a parish independent from Roquefort, and was ruled by the bishops of Marseille during the end of the 15th century. In the middle of the 16th century, Charles-Quinte of Spain, in the Provencal part of his quest to become Universal Monarch, captured the chateau and pillaged Cassis. The population suffered severely from the great plague of 1720.
Except for occasional visits by pirates, which had been happening off and on throughout history, Cassis was relatively calm until 1813 when the English overpowered Napoleon's defenses and pillaged the port.
Tel : 04 42 01 71 17; Fax: 04 42 01 28 31
 Certainly one of the top-ten worst tourist offices in our years of visiting hundreds of them. Woman was abrupt, rude, un-listening to our requests, unhelpful. Sadly, old-school type, who missed out on the French Tourist Office initiative to teach their personnel to at least be polite to the customers. Painfully pulled bits of information from her, but very unpleasant.
Market day: Wed, Fri.
June - Fete de la Mer, Fete des Pecheurs (fishermen)
Sep (Beginning) - Fête du vin - Wine Festival
• GPS: 43.235998, 5.538633
IGN (1/25,000) #3245 ET "Aubagane, La Ciotat, Ste-Baume"
A local map of Cassis and the Calanques is available (free) from the Office de Tourism; it includes cycling and hiking routes.
- • The GR98 (Grande Randonnée) passes through the center of Cassis.
• To the west, the GR98 follows the calanques coastline to the Massif de Marseilleveyre and the edge of the city of Marseilles. There are also other local trails in the calanques, allowing some loop hikes.
• To the east, the GR98 goes out past (and partly along-side) the autoroute into the hills. It joins with the GR51 (Balcony of the Cote d'Azur) about 10 km out of Cassis.
- • Some local loop hikes are marked on the Corniche des Crêtes, between Cassis and la Ciotat.
- No water is available in the Massif des Calanques.
- During the summer months, all local trails are closed in the Massif des Calanques; only the GR98 is open.
The port is lined with terrace cafés and restaurants, offering a variety of fare and prices. There are even more restaurants on the many little streets of the village away from the port. We tried "La Paillotte" on the Quai Barthelemy, which had excellent choices and quality for a 15 euro lunch menu.
There's a lot of restaurant competition in Cassis, so the quality tends to be good and the prices low. Styles range from burgers-and-fries to great seafood.
Our Reader's Comments (below) about dining date back to 1998. From our most recent visit in 2017, we still agree with that.
Wine was being made around Cassis even before the Greeks arrived around 600 BC, and it's only gotten better. Cassis wine received the Appellation d'Origine Controlée in 1936 -- the first in the region. It's produced in red, rosé and white, with the white being the most famous. (see Provence Wines)
We've personally spent scores (or hundreds) of evenings, over the years, sitting at terrace restaurants in Provence sipping Cassis "Blanc de Blanc" white wine while snacking on shrimp and brown bread.
Rock climbers come here from all over Europe (and perhaps even further) to scale the white cliffs of the calanques. Climbs can start from near accessible areas at the head of the inlets, or directly from the sea, and go up as high as 240 meters. Small boats at the harbor take climbers out to the base of the cliffs, or the tourist navettes will drop them off or pick them up at the accessible points.
The Marseille-Toulon-Hyeres train line serves Cassis [Travel-Rail-Provence]
Department 13, Bouches-du-Rhône Buses
- See Beyond's Bouches-du-Rhone (13) Bus Schedules for downloading Bouches-du-Rhone bus-lines map and bus-line schedules [pdf for each line] (link for PDF files).
These comments were contributed by Marcia D., San Francisco, Nov 1998:
In Cassis, we spent a week of suppers going from restaurant to restaurant around the harbor, and we never had anything less than excellent.