For this weekend tour inspired by contemporary art, start with a visit to the MAC, Marseille's museum of contemporary art. Next, go and soak up the unique atmosphere at the Friche Belle de Mai cultural complex. For lunch, fresh and creative cuisine awaits you at the Grandes Tables de la Friche. Then it's onwards to the FRAC before a visit to the library archives. On day two, make your way to Aix-en-Provence where exploring the Fondation Vasarely will take up most of your morning. At midday, your appetite will be pleasingly sated at La Pioline before you venture off to Arles to visit the Fondation Van Gogh, a gem of an arts institution.
Day 1 – Marseille: see 800 artworks at the MAC
69 Avenue D'Haïfa 13008 Marseille
Begin your tour in the 8th arrondissement, specifically at the MAC whose exhibits feature the quintessence of contemporary art since the 1950s. There are a number of artistic movements to discover, from Land Art to New Realism and Fluxus. Even the garden at the MAC is devoted to the arts with works by César, Fabrice Gygi and Julien Blaine dotted around the grounds. A visit bursting with colour!
Day 1 – Marseille, the Friche Belle de Mai
41 Rue Jobin 13003 Marseille
Next on your itinerary is the Friche Belle de Mai. Set in an old tobacco factory, this cultural complex today hosts over 500 artists. The centre is made up of the Tour Panorama where exhibitions are held, a skate park, a theatre, a concert hall and gardens. An extraordinary town within a town spread over 45,000 square metres! When the sun is out, head straight to the top to have a drink on the roof terrace.
Day 1 – Marseille: Bouches-du-Rhône's departmental library archives
18 Rue Mirès 13003 Marseille
The region's departmental archives or ABD occupy an ultra-modern building between the Joliette Docks and the Docks du Sud. The huge open square and sweeping garden at this city district in the throes of redevelopment are ideal to find some peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle. There's always some concert, exhibition or other to enjoy in this space spread over 28,000 square metres! Be sure to check out the programme.
Day 2 – Aix-en-Provence, Op art at the Fondation Vasarely
1 Avenue Marcel Pagnol CS 50490 13096 Aix-en-Provence
After a lazy morning, day two begins with a tour of the Fondation Vasarely where there is just as much to see outside as inside. This architectonic museum erected in 1976 is one of a kind and houses exhibits of monumental-in-scale artworks integrating kinetic art and optical art. Don't leave without visiting the gift shop where you can find numbered silk-screen prints, stylish homeware and artist prints.
Day 2 – A cultural lunch at Château de la Pioline
Château de la Pioline 260 Rue Guillaume du Vair La Pioline 13290 Aix-en-Provence
For your lunch in Aix, we recommend Pierre Reboul inside Château de la Pioline set in four hectares of grounds. You'll be in good hands with the Michelin-starred chef Pierre Reboul, known for his traditional yet inventive Provençal cuisine. There are four fixed-price menus to choose from or you can order à la carte. Whichever option you go for, you're promised a pleasantly surprising culinary experience. Plus the Louis 16th dining room brings a nice regal touch to your lunch.
Day 2 – Arles: Fondation Van Gogh, where heritage meets modern art
35ter Rue Dr Fanton 13200 Arles
After a delicious lunch, it's time to head to Arles. You can start the afternoon with a wander around the Fondation Van Gogh, a 16th century town house that was converted into a bank and later a museum. This is a wonderful opportunity to see many of the iconic painter's works and appreciate the influence he has had on other artists. This centre for artistic exchange, inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List, features an eye-catching gate designed by the visual artist Bertrand Lavier and a roof installation imagined by Raphael Hefti.
- Meeting artists face to face in the studios at the Friche Belle de Mai
- Taking home a signed and numbered silk-screen print by Vasarely
- Packing such a rich and concentrated tour of the arts into a weekend
- Getting to explore Marseille's diverse and dynamic culture
The best time to visit
- In May for the Sm'art – the Mediterranean Contemporary and Abstract Art Fair
- Late August-early September for Art-o-Rama, the international contemporary art fair at the Friche
- Late November-early December to attend the short film festival 'Tous Courts' in Aix
By public transport, Personal vehicle
- Visited cities
All year round
Discover other itineraries
Dear old stones
Do you love old stone buildings and Provence? For this heritage tour, start your day at Marseille's Roman docks before heading to the modern and interactive Marseille history museum. Today's lunch recommendation is Une Table au Sud in the Old Port. It's very close to the city's archaeological museum, a fantastic way to get to grips with Marseille from today and back to the past. The following day, a morning at the Arles Antique museum will fly by until your lunch at Mas de la Fenière in the shade of mulberry trees. In Saint-Rémy, the ancient town of Glanum will bring your two-day tour to a wonderful conclusion.
The leading lights in architecture
For your architecture-themed day, this tour will show you buildings and works designed by leading lights including Jean Nouvel, Franck Gehry, Rudy Ricciotti, Stefano Boeri, Le Corbusier, Kengo Kuma, Pouillon, Vasarely, Tadao Endo and others. It will take you to the MuCEM and its amazing footbridge before you get to visit the Villa Méditerranée that is half suspended over the Mediterranean Sea. When lunchtime arrives, we suggest you head to Le Ventre de l’Architecte (literally 'the architect's belly'!) in the Cité Radieuse designed by the great Le Corbusier. The FRAC and its fascinating façade is the next stop on the tour. The Regards de Provence Museum is an example of a very successful restoration while the luminescent modular components which make up the Fondation Vasarely are simply mesmerising. Lastly, conclude your tour at Château La Coste, where architecture meets wine.
Your tour of Martigues is designed for lazy contemplation and new discoveries. It's a quiet town so you might be surprised to see such rich heritage there, from the Annonciade Chapel to Fort Bouc and the Ziem Museum. The 'Venice of Provence' has a strong artistic legacy and you won't fail to be enchanted by the legendary 'Miroir aux Oiseaux', the place that gave so much inspiration to great masters. All rounded off with a gourmet meal on the canal side, what more could you want?
Happiness is in the lavender field!
Francis lived happily close beside his tree...
Picked ripe from the tree, figs are simply to die for. They can also be scattered on trays and left to dry in the sun for 3 days: "That's the best way to keep your figs all winter – we serve figs at Christmas as one of Provence's famous 13 Desserts," smiles Jacqueline Honoré.