Shopping in Marseille Print E-mail
Marseille - Practical Information

72% Petanque shop, MarseilleThis is the complete guide to the best shops in Marseille and where to buy the perfect gift or souvenir, plus the areas for high fashion and hot young designers, arts and crafts, food and drink and antiques bargains.

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A likeable particularity of Marseille is that it doesn't have a flagship shopping street comparable to the rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré in Paris, London's Bond Street or Fifth Avenue in New York - the closest equivalent is the rue Paradis, though it doesn't have quite the same cachet.

As with so much else about this melting-pot city, you are very likely to see top-of-the-range stores next to funky little New Age boutiques, high-street chains, scruffy discount outlets or traditional family groceries and bakeries which have been there for decades.

For this reason, and because Marseille's main shopping areas are all within walking distance or a short bus, tram or metro ride of each other, we have listed our recommendations by the type of purchase you're after, rather than by district.

Shops in Marseille and malls such as the Centre Bourse are generally open from Monday to Saturday between 10am and 7pm non-stop, though some smaller boutiques may close for lunch. Since September 2012, around a hundred stores in central Marseille have also opened for business on Sundays to tempt shoppers, though with (so far) mixed success.

This page covers shops only. Click here to read about Marseille's varied street markets which offer a wealth of further possibilities.

Santa ClausNews: There are a number of special events in Marseille at Christmas to attract shoppers to the city.

Marseille's Christmas illuminations have been pretty underwhelming in previous years. But a big effort is being made in 2013, with 111 new light installations inspired by highlights of the Capital of Culture programme on the Old Port and Canebière.

Two giant santons preside over the santons market. The lights are switched on at 7pm on 6 December, accompanied by a fireworks display on the Old Port.

Marseille rarely gets the picturesque blanket of snow that decorates the Christmas markets of Northern Europe. In 2013, though, it has the next best thing. Artificial snowflakes (made of recycled plastic!) swirl around the main shopping area (the rue Davso, rue Sainte, rue Grignan and rue Venture).

There's a food market on the Old Port (underneath Norman Foster's new sunshade), by the existing craft market, with specialities from around the world. 13-15 December. The 2013 Christmas antiques market is held on the rue Edmond Rostand on 15 December.

Even the soulless Centre Bourse shopping mall is doing its bit with a Santa's Grotto (until 28 December) and Christmas market (2 December-4 January 2014).

Meanwhile for alternative shopping and unusual gift ideas, check out the Panier (Old Town), whose winding cobbled streets rise up behind the Town Hall and have gradually become a hive of new designers and artisans.

On 7 December, from 4pm onwards, many of these shops will be serving tea, cakes and / or mulled wine as an extra temptation. Watch out for jewellery, ceramics and pottery, crafts, designer apparel and edible goodies.

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SOUVENIRS, GIFTS AND TRADITIONAL HANDICRAFTS

The Old Port of MarseilleWhat's the best souvenir to bring back from Marseille? Bizarrely according to some reports, a replica of the Eiffel Tower has found great favour, especially with cruise ship passengers who make only one stop in France and aren't too fussed about the difference between Paris and Marseille - unlike the locals.

However, even if you are in Marseille for just a few hours, it's not difficult to find attractive and authentic mementos in the Old Port area.

You would expect this part of town to be teeming with tacky souvenir shops. Not so (although there are a few places selling postcards, posters, cheap ceramics and the like around the quai des Belges / quai de la Fraternité). In fact most of the Old Port itself is lined with restaurants and bars.

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But walk along the quai du Port towards Fort Saint Jean and you will find traditional santons (Christmas crib figurines) at Santons Escoffier (96 quai du Port), which is flanked by several outlets offering savon de Marseille, including pastis-scented soaps, though, thankfully, not soap-flavoured pastis.

Marseille soapOn the other side of the Old Port, some appealing sea-themed presents can be found in the strip of the quai de Rive Neuve between the Bar de la Marine and the Criée Theatre.

Here a cluster of chandlers and fishing suppliers also sell striped sailing sweaters and other casual nautical clothing, exquisitely detailed model ships and pointus (typical Marseille fishing boats), ship's crockery and other accessories, prints and posters and children's toys.

Behind the quai de Rive Neuve are more gift options. Check out Les Arcenaulx at 25 cours d'Estienne d'Orvès which has a very large selection of illustrated books, mostly - though not exclusively - in French, on Marseille and Provence, as well as an antiquarian section. Its handcrafts and food department is a goldmine of upscale gifts and purveys local specialities, including tins of sardines in pastis.

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Round the corner on the place aux Huiles, Les Minots de Marseille is a good source of wooden toys and other presents for young kids. And two blocks back from the quai de Rive Neuve sits the base and shop of the master-santonnier Marcel Carbonel at 49 rue neuve Sainte Catherine with more Christmas crib figures.

The Olympique de Marseille museum and shopWherever you are in Marseille, you'll have no problems finding Olympique de Marseille memorabilia at official OM outlets and other shops all across the city. There's one fairly large OM store at 44 la Canebière, but the biggest selection is to be found at the euphemistically entitled OM Museum - essentially a giant shop, pictured - at the Vélodrome stadium.

One little boutique just off the top of the Old Port is worth a visit for gift-hunters: Marseille in the Box at 13 rue Reine Elisabeth offers high-quality local products wittily packaged in specially designed boxes. And at 11 la Canebière, the Marseille Tourist Office sells a small range of posters, decorative biscuit tins and similar items.

If you are after indiennes, the colourful fabrics of Provence, the best spots to find them in Marseille are two textile emporia at the edge of the Noailles market on the rue de Rome half-way up the Canebière. Neither Olivades nor Souleido, the two high-end manufacturers of indiennes fabrics, have outlets in Marseille.

HAUTE COUTURE AND HIGH STREET FASHION

Marseille is not known for top-of-the-range shopping. But if this is what you have on your mind, the small "golden quadrangle" of streets just behind the Opera is the place to head for and, in fact, contains a number of deluxe marques, including the long-established jeweller's Frojo.

Louis Vuitton recently relocated to a new base in an 18th century hôtel particulier on the rue Grignan, just opposite the Musée Cantini: it's the largest Vuitton store in France outside of Paris.

The rue Paradis has Hermès, Montblanc, Robert Clergerie, and Chopard, alongside newcomers like Sandro, Gérard Darel, Gas, Tara Jarmon and Une Femme à suivre. Agnès B, meanwhile, has a large outlet on the nearby cours d'Estienne d'Orvès.

In the rue Davso and rue Sainte you will find Sonia Rykiel, the children's designer brand IKKS, cop.copine, the Swedish label Cos, Cyrillus, Zadig & Voltaire and Massimo Dutti, among others. Things start getting scruffier by the rue de Rome but some old-style Marseille shops are tucked away between the discount stores.

rue Saint Ferreol, MarseilleMarseille's main department store Galeries Lafayette is on the pedestrianised rue Saint Ferréol (or the rue Saint Fé, as it's known locally). A Gucci franchise selling women's and men's accessories was launched in it in spring 2012. It's open on Sundays.

The rue Saint Ferréol, pictured, is also home to high-street favourites like Zara, Mango, H&M, Sephora, Minelli, Promod, Naf-Naf and Swatch.

Elsewhere in central Marseille, the somewhat uninspiring concrete Centre Bourse shopping mall contains another branch of Galeries Lafayette alongside around 60 more outlets.

In November 2012, it was announced that the Centre Bourse would undergo a facelift in order to give the stark, military-looking bunker a more open, curvacious and "feminine" look, according to the developers, who clearly have women shoppers in their sights.

Nearby, with its sparklingly refurbished Haussmann apartment blocks, the newly gentrified rue de la République is also attempting to establish itself as a shopping venue, though the current range of franchise stores (Mango, H&M, etc.) isn't really yet worth a detour.

Two forthcoming projects will greatly expand Marseille's retail outlets. Les Terrasses du Port is a large shopping mall (or "urban life-centre" as it's calling itself) on the seafront in the Joliette district to the north of Marseille and will open in early 2014.

Just down the road, the vaults of the Major Cathedral are also being converted into high-end retail outlets which should be be ready in late 2014.

NEW DESIGNERS, ARTISTS AND ARTISANS

The tiny rue de la Tour in the above-mentioned golden rectangle behind the Opera has rebranded itself as the rue de la Mode and is inhabited by half a dozen interesting local designers.

But the two best places in central Marseille to find New Age crafts, small art galleries, alternative retail outlets, and cutting-edge new designers (clothes, crafts, homeware, etc.) are the cours Julien district and the Old Town, or Panier.

Cours Julien, MarseilleThe cours Ju, as it's known (pictured), is a wide, leafy pedestrian area lined mainly with cafes and restaurants, but the streets around teem with intriguing little stores. They tend to come and go, of course, but this downloadable English-language guide by local resident Kim Sapriel is a good place to start, as is the local association website (in French only).

On the cours Ju itself, Oogie at no. 55 was Marseille's first "lifestore", with clothes, books, a café and hairdressing salon, and remains a favourite. Madame Zaza de Marseille at no. 73 is one of the city's best-known designer labels, celebrated for its light, playful touch and ethnic style.

The winding and labyrinthine backstreets of the Old Town are also richly populated with small craft shops, artists' studios and speciality food outlets and here too it's best just to stroll around if you have an hour or two and see what catches your eye while soaking in the atmosphere. Pictured top left: the curiously named 72% Pétanque at 10 rue du petit Puits in the Old Town which sells Marseille soap and other local products.

FOOD AND DRINK

Marseille's best-known food speciality is the navette, an orange-flower flavoured, boat-shaped biscuit, or cookie, traditionally eaten at Candlemas: read more about it here. Two historic bakeries on opposite sides of the Old Port sell freshly made navettes.

On the Old Town side is Les Navettes des Accoules at 68 rue Caisserie, while on the Notre Dame de la Garde side is La Four des Navettes at 136 rue Sainte. If buying navettes to take home, be advised that they tend to go soggy quickly, though you can crisp them up later by heating them gently.

Espantines de Marseille chocolatesFor chocolate, there are several excellent artisanal chocolatiers in the Old Town area, Xocoatl at 28 Grand' Rue and La Chocolatière du Panier at 49 rue du petit Puits, two small family businesses creating unusual and surprisingly tasty confections that might include ingredients such as lavender, basil, pastis and even onion.

You can eat chocs while still feeling (relatively virtuous) with Marseille's own invention, the espérantine, pictured, which is based on healthy olive oil rather than animal  fats, is shaped like an olive leaf and coloured bright green. It's attractively packaged, tastes a lot nicer than it sounds and definitely an original. You can buy them at L'Espérantine de Marseille, 15 rue des Vignerons.

Two long-established delicatessens selling fine cheeses, patisseries, conserves, ready-made dishes and all sorts of other local produce are Bataille at 18 rue Fontange in the cours Julien district and Marrou at 2 boulevard Baille and 475 rue Paradis. But you'll have to go across town to 64 avenue du Prado to find the Marseillais' favourite fromagerie, Chez Emily.

For olive oil, the Oliviers & Co chain has a shop just off the Old Port at 14 rue Henri Fiocca. It sells olive oil from Provence and around the world and other Provence-related delicacies (tapenade, etc.) and souvenirs.

Pastis bottle and glassesFor Marseille's iconic apéritif, visit La Maison du Pastis at 108 quai du Port. Actually founded by a Belgian, Frédéric Bernard, the company distills its own prize-winning brand and sells 75 more types of pastis, the odd absinthe and accessories such as jugs and carafes.

If you want to buy wine in Marseille, a very good central spot is 29 place aux Huiles, a top-class restaurant (click here to read a full review) as well as a wine bar and wine merchant (cave à vins). Its sommelier, Mickael Zortian, trained with the superchef Alain Ducasse at Le Louis XV in Paris and has built up a cellar of over 2,000 wines. Or, for organic wines, try Si Belle la Vigne at 36 cours Julien.

For everyday food and wine shopping, the best bet in the Old Port area is Monoprix at 8 cours Saint Louis, just off the lower stretch of the Canebière. It's a budget department store with a large food hall on the first floor and is open on Sunday mornings. A wider selection of more gourmet fare can be found in the food hall of Galeries Lafayette in the Centre Bourse. It's open all day Sunday.

ANTIQUES AND VINTAGE

Numerous antique shops and art galleries have set up home in the so-called "quartier des Antiquaires": the rue Edmond Rostand, rue Sylvabelle and rue Saint-Jacques near the Préfecture. Every three months this district also closes its streets to traffic and hosts an open-air Sunday antiques market. The cours Julien is another good hunting ground for vintage clothes, books and records, and see our market page guide for details of Marseille's flea market.

 

Nouvelles

Saint Barbara's Wheat in Provence at ChristmasChristmas in Provence starts on 4 December! Read about Saint Barbara's wheat and other local Christmas traditions.

 

Saint Victor Abbey Marseille by nightNow in its 47th year, the prestigious music festival at Marseille's historic, beautiful Saint Victor Abbey continues until 5 December. Last concert: Christmas carols.

 

Provence olive oilProvence's festivals celebrating the season's new olive oil are on in the Alpilles and Aix. 30 Nov-15 Dec.

 

Santa ClausChristmas shopping in Marseille this year features fireworks on the Old Port, giant santons on the Canebière, mulled wine and cakes in the Old Town - and artificial snow on the rue Sainte. From 6 Dec.

 

SkiingHeading to the ski slopes? Here's how to get there from Marseille or Aix by snow bus or snow train.

 

Christmas on the Cours Mirabeau, AixProvence's colourful Christmas markets are opening for business. Find the best fairs and festivals in Marseille, Aix, Avignon, Arles and elsewhere.

 

Descente des BergersCount the sheep (there'll be plenty of them around) at the Fête des Bergers, or Shepherds' Festival, in Istres, on the Blue Coast. Sheepdog trials, sheep processions, a banquet (with roast lamb?) 29 Nov-8 Dec.

 

Rose wine of ProvenceStar billing: Miraval, the rosé wine produced by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, has just been named one of the top 100 wines in the world.

 

MSC SplendidaWe report from this autumn's Top Cruise conference about the new cruise routes from Marseille in 2014 and the latest developments in the city's booming cruise tourism.

 

Avignon fringe theatre festivalThe summer 2014 dates have now been confirmed for the Avignon "In" and "Off" Theatre Festivals.

 

CalissonsPuzzling over Christmas gift ideas? Here are our top five Provence-themed presents, all available to buy by mail order.

 

Claude Gazier paintingClaude Gazier's moody paintings evoke the smokey atmosphere of vintage film stills. La Ciotat, until 7 Dec.

 

Victoire Belezy as Fanny in Daniel Auteuil's Pagnol trilogyThe first two parts of actor-director Daniel Auteuil's new version of Marcel Pagnol's classic Marius, Fanny, César trilogy, set on the Old Port of Marseile, are now playing in UK cinemas.

 

Marilyn by Andy WarholWarhol, Hopper, Bacon, Magritte, Picasso, Delvaux: diary dates for some of the big art shows lined up for Marseille in 2014.

 

Henri Lebasque Nude Asleep on a BedWomen of Provence, as seen by male painters and by themselves, are the subject of a new show at the Musée Regards de Provence, Marseille. Until 24 Feb 2014.

 

Ballet Preljocac in Aix en ProvenceTake a backstage tour of the Pavillon Noir in Aix en Provence (14 Dec) or watch Angelin Preljocaj and the Ballet Preljocaj in rehearsal (10 Dec). These events are free.

 

Image from the film about the artist Pierre-Auguste RenoirNow available on DVD: France's entry for the Oscars is Renoir, a film about the artist's life shot in the Var near Saint Tropez.

 

Ceramic by Le Corbusier Ceramics, sculptures, tapestries, paintings - and erotic sketches: Le Corbusier was not just a revolutionary architect, as this must-see show at the J1 Hangar, Marseille, reveals. Until 22 Dec.

 

Lucien Clergue's photograph of Le Testament dOrphee in Les Baux de Provence Jean Cocteau's Le Testament d'Orphée was filmed in the Valley of Hell near Les Baux de Provence. A show of photographs by Lucien Clergue, in Les Baux, chronicles the shooting. Until 31 Dec.

 

Ben Foster as Lance Armstrong in Stephen Frears new filmThe disgraced Tour de France cyclist Lance Armstrong is the subject of a new film by the Oscar-nominated director Stephen Frears, now shooting in the French Alps.