Essential La Ciotat – the cradle of cinema
Culture - Family
For your one-day tour of La Ciotat, you can relax on the Grande Plage or the beach at Figuerolles, a popular spot for locals that you can't leave without seeing. Cinema lovers should head to the Eden Théâtre, famous for screening one of the first films produced by the Lumière brothers. The birth of film is also honoured at the Musée Ciotaden, a museum that retraces the town's history and the traditions of Provence. After an excellent lunch at Le Vin 7, potter around the shops at the Old Port. Later, make your way to the Ile Verte and Parc du Mugel for stunning views. Just don't forget your camera!
An invigorating stroll along the Grande Plage
Begin your day at the Grande Plage, the main beach in La Ciotat beside Les Capucins port and the Cyrnos and Lumière beaches. Take a dip in the Med, of course, or settle for the morning on a towel or sun lounger on the soft sand. If sunbathing isn't for you, there are a host of water sports on offer and lots of play areas for kids. The extras: the beach is patrolled in high season and there are places to eat looking out to sea or on the sand. Paid parking close by.
In the footsteps of the Lumière brothers at the Eden Théâtre
Eden Théâtre 25 boulevard Georges Clémenceau 13600 La Ciotat
Make sure you stop to admire the Eden Théâtre, the oldest cinema in the world set in La Ciotat's historic centre along the coastal path that leads to the Old Port. Opened in 1889 by the Lumière brothers, it was the very first place where moving images were screened! The first reel showed a film named 'The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat station'. The building is listed as an Historic Monument. The cinema puts on lots of events and programmes a host of original screenings through the year.
The history of Provence at the Musée Ciotaden
Musée Ciotaden 1 quai Ganteaume 13600 La Ciotat
"Continue your tour by walking a few metres along to the municipal museum. The building inaugurated by Napoleon III was originally the local town hall before it was converted into a museum.
Fifteen rooms recount the history of La Ciotat and the Provence region through film, petanque, fishing, the sea and scenes of everyday Provençal life.
The openwork belfry on top of the building is stunning.
Shopping in La Ciotat, a hub of local designers
Continue onwards to the Old Port to admire the view of magnificent yachts and traditional boats on the water. The area around the port with its narrow lanes and old doors is vibrant thanks to the boutiques and souvenir shops which are sure to tempt you in.
Lunch in the Old Port at L'Escalet
L'Escalet Vieux Port 21 quai François Mitterrand 13600 La Ciotat
It's midday already so take a well-deserved break at one of the little restaurants around the port, for example L’Escalet, recommended by Tables 13. Championing fresh, local and seasonal ingredients, the chef will 'tickle your taste buds' with his wood-fired fish and meats revisited 'Escalet' style. The daily specials are excellent value for money.
Ile Verte, a green oasis in turquoise waters
Kick off the afternoon by sailing out to Ile Verte, the only leafy island in the region. This islet just 400 metres from the coast and part of the Cap Canaille site is unspoilt and replete with relics from the past. Take a relaxing walk through nature along the cliff face or head up to the highest point where you'll find Fort Saint-Pierre which affords clear views of La Ciotat and the Bec de l'Aigle. Snorkelling fans, don't forget to take your equipment with you, the water around the island is teeming with marine life!
Parc du Mugel, resplendent and relaxing
Parc Naturel du Mugel Calanque du Mugel Avenue Des Calanques 13600 La Ciotat
Back on dry land, head to the magnificent Le Mugel Botanical Park which looks and smells wonderful. Take a stroll around the exotic garden and then breathe in the rich mix of fragrances in the aromatic garden. See plants, trees and rare species spread over 12 hectares. If you follow the steep path carved into the rock face, you'll come to a belvedere at 82 metres altitude which affords breath-taking views of the sea and the cliffs.
Anse de Figuerolles
Conclude your day by catching a magical sunset over the colourful rocks at Anse de Figuerolles. To get there coming from La Ciotat's town centre, simply follow the quays in the Old Port, pass Avenue des Calanques then take Avenue de Figuerolles. There's a set of stairs that lead to a restaurant half-way down and then the calanque itself. The view from the beach is wonderful.
- Exploring the calanques (creeks) from the water in a kayak or on a stand-up paddleboard
- Feeling like you've got the world to yourself at the Bec de l’Aigle, a natural relief carved into the red puddingstone in La Ciotat
- Cruising the roads around Cap Canaille and watching the horizon from the Soubeyran sea cliffs (the highest in Europe)
- Stopping for a breather in the very picturesque Parc du Mugel
- Wandering around La Ciotat's old port with its beautiful 17th century houses
The best time to visit
- Wednesday morning to take a guided tour of the town by a storyteller from Provence
- July-August to browse the night market at La Ciotat's Old Port (8 pm to 1 am)
- Early December to fill up your sack at the Christmas market and village on Esplanade du 8 mai 1945
All year round
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Provence in a day
Less than 30 kilometres from the port of Marseille, Provence is a rich tapestry of stunning scenery and traditional art de vivre. Before continuing on your cruise, take a day to explore the many ingredients that make up the eternal Provence through three iconic towns: Aubagne, Aix-en-Provence and Les Baux-de-Provence. You'll get to see the variety of Provençal architecture condensed into a day, taste sweet and savoury local specialities and admire breath-taking landscapes the colour of Bibemus stone.
Arles, cultural city break ancient and modern
Arles is an oasis of antiquity with its archaeology museum, Roman amphitheatre and the long-condemned ancient cryptoporticus. You'll travel back to the Middle Ages with a visit to the Church of St. Trophime and Montmajour Abbey that affords fantastic views all around. At the Fondation Van Gogh, learn about the painter's work and his influence on the art world, while the Réattu gives you an insight into 19th and 20th century art history. Don't forget to stop for lunch (we recommend J.L Rabanel) and follow that with more culture at the Actes Sud centre.
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