- Food Tours
- Culinary walks
- Our Story
Walk down the street in Marseille and you are as likely to find men in djelabas sipping Moroccan mint tea at sidewalk tables as you are to find pastis – Provence’s definitive drink – poured in neighborhood bars.
By publishing the stories of our local heroes, visiting them on culinary tours, or directly fundraising for them when they are in need, we attempt to honor their work and their essential role in maintaining the fabric of the city. Our purpose is twofold. Yes, we want to get travelers to some good places to eat. But we also want to make sure that some of these spots and the artisans making food there find a new audience and get the recognition and support they deserve. They are holding back the tide of globalized sameness, which is not easy work – even if it’s done unknowingly. But we believe that every meal counts and, with the help of our audience, they will add up. We are committed to their perseverance and hope that our modest efforts encourage them to keep at it. Our work is also guided by a belief in: Honest Tourism: The places where we eat and craftsmen that we feature on our culinary tours are all selected with this purpose in mind. We’d never accept a free lunch or consider a discount for our tour groups, because that would contradict our central goal, to support them. Nor do our guides receive any commissions from shopkeepers. Honest Journalism: The same principal is applied to the publishing of stories. There are no sponsored posts or even advertising on CB. The writers and photographers are paid fairly for their work on stories that we all believe in.
The cities we are drawn to all have a culinary tradition of untold richness as well as a certain tension, be it political instability, the tug between East and West, the clash between modern and ancient identities, migration, rapid gentrification, bankruptcy, or a post-colonial hangover. Our decision to get started in a city is always the result of a trip filled with many meals where we are given in intimate view of that tension, right there on the table. By getting lost in this warren of independent food purveyors struggling to preserve or adapt tradition in fast-paced urban life, we start to discover the deep complexity and true flavor of the city. At present, you’ll find our regular dispatches from Athens, Barcelona, Istanbul, Lisbon, Los Angeles, Marseille, Mexico City, Naples, Porto, Queens (NY), Shanghai, Tbilisi and Tokyo.
As travel to most of the cities where we work has resumed, Culinary Backstreets is working with a new set of safety guidelines designed for the physical well-being of our guests, guides and members of the local community that we encounter. These guidelines have been developed in line with the best practices published by governments and health officials in the countries where CB works with regard to restaurant and tour and trip operation. With these procedures in place, our guests — led by our team of professional guides, who are being trained accordingly — can explore with peace of mind. The new procedures we are instituting include:
Culinary Backstreets’ mission has always been to preserve, protect and celebrate local culinary traditions and the unsung heroes of the kitchen. Now, more than ever, we remain focused on this goal. These days, we are paying close attention to the physical, economic and psychological well-being of the local communities and the people who keep them fed. We view this as an opportunity for cities to develop a tourism model that makes sense for them and that avoids the mistakes of the past, and for companies like Culinary Backstreets to be part of that process by renewing our commitment to a more sustainable way of traveling and working. By joining our tours and trips, you are contributing to this effort, which includes:
Culinary Backstreets is offering maximum flexibility for our guests, as we realize that travel this summer and fall might involve unexpected cancellations or postponements. So that our guests can book with confidence, we are putting in place the following cancelation policies:
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Tour the Backstreets of Marseille With Us
The Best of the Backstreets, in brief
Beyond Bouillabaisse: Neighborhood by Neighborhood, Bite by Bite
Our Backstreets envoys, always searching for the next hidden gem
Alexis, Marseille Bureau Chief
Storyteller by trade, Alexis loves sharing the tales of Marseille in her articles and on her walks. When not writing about Foreign Legion veterans-turned-winemakers or translating for the Provence tourist office, this journalist posts her latest discoveries on her IG and site, Yes Way Marseille. Insatiably curious, she roams the backstreets of Marseille to uncover the 2600-year-old city’s treasures, one bite at a time.
Chloe, Marseille Walks Leader
Born and raised in Provence, Chloe is a true lover of her region. After her studies in urban planning, she focused on urban renewal projects all over France. Her interest in food and travel has taken her to work in chocolate museum in Peru and in a chilean vineyard. Settling back into her beloved city of Marseille, she now shares her knowledge of this vibrant city and its Mediterrano-Provencal cuisine by leading tours in the backstreets.
Jenine is a Palestinian-American writer, interpreter, and traveler, especially around home. She lived for many years in the United States, Palestine, Morocco, Lebanon, and now in Marseille. She earned a B.A. from Birzeit University in Palestine, Masters in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia and a PhD from Harvard in Comparative Literature. She is currently at work on a second novel and writes a column, “Sudden Journeys,” for The Markaz Review.
Having lived and traveled around the world, it is Marseille’s multicultural society that keeps her rooted here. The sharing of recipes and daily culinary rituals is how she engages with people from other cultures in her home city. She lives in an Armenian neighborhood and can find everything she needs in the markets to cook Lebanese food, her favorite. In addition to leading culinary tours, she is also a yoga instructor.
CB’s work was started in 2009 by Ansel Mullins and Yigal Schleifer as a humble food blog called Istanbul Eats. The following year we published a book of our reviews, now in its fifth edition. That year we also launched our first culinary walk in Istanbul, a route we are still using today. In 2012, we realized that what we built in Istanbul was needed in other cities we knew and loved. We started CB that year with Athens, Barcelona, Mexico City and Shanghai as pioneering members of our network. In 2013, we added Rio and also launched our iPhone application in Istanbul. In 2015, Tokyo and Tbilisi came into the fold. That year we published mini-guides to Barcelona and Athens and also launched an iPhone application in those cities. Our Eatinerary service, which provides travelers with tailor-made culinary travel itineraries, was also launched in 2015. In 2016, Lisbon – the latest city to kindle our curiosity – joined the CB network. In 2017 we added Naples and Queens, NY – two places with very compelling stories to tell – to our roster and also published full-size eating guides to Athens and Barcelona. In 2018, Porto joined the list of cities we cover.
Visual Dispatches from the Frontlines of Local Eating
Where is Marseille?
Marseille is in the south of France in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. 1.7 million people live in the metropolitan area and 850,000 in the city itself. This makes it the second largest city in France in terms of population. Its commercial port is the biggest in France and the third largest in the Mediterranean.
What are the best things to do in Marseille?
Marseille is famous for the Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica (aka the Bonne-Mère), the highest point in the city that boasts an incredible view. Other top places to visit in Marseille are the Vieux-Port, Château d’If, the Parc National des Calanques, Mucem museum, and Le Panier neighborhood. Marseille is also known for its significant cultural heritage, from Savon de Marseille to tarot, as well as its typically Southern culture of pastis and pétanque.
When is the best time of year visit Marseille?
The best time to visit Marseille is from April to May or September to November, when tourists visiting during the peak season of June to August have returned home, freeing up the beaches, attractions and accommodations.
What is the weather in Marseille?
The weather in Marseille is very good. The summers are warm, dry, and mostly clear and the winters are cooler and windier. In the winter, its warm enough to eat outside in the sun. In the shade, you’ll want a warm jacket. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 39°F to 84°F and is rarely below 30°F or above 90°F. The rainy season is usually in April/May or November/December. The famous mistral wind blows all year – in the winter it makes the temperature drop 10°F or more.
Is Marseille expensive?
Marseille is not as expensive as Paris, but it is not a cheap destination. You can find a wide range of lodging and dining for every budget. You can plan to spend around €117 ($134) per day on your vacation in Marseille, which is the average daily price based on the expenses of other visitors. Past travelers have spent, on average, €34 ($39) on meals for one day and €23 ($26) on local transportation.
Is Marseille safe?
It is generally safe to travel to Marseille, but visitors should be alert to minor criminal activities such as petty theft and pickpocketing. And as in all major cities in the world, one must be aware of one’s surroundings in the city of Marseille to stay safe at all times. Keep your purse/bag close to you as well as your phone.
What is the best food in Marseille?
Marseille is well known for pizza, especially its wood-fired pizzas with anchovies or cheese. Locals also love sautéed squid with garlic (supions a l’ail), grilled sardines, aioli (steamed fish and vegetables with garlic mayo often served on Fridays), panisses (chick-pea fritters), and tapenade and anchoiade. The most popular Marseille drink is pastis, the iconic anise-based spirit that was born in Marseille. Marseille’s mythical dish is bouillabaisse, a poor man’s fish soup that has become so highly priced in restaurants it now is mostly eaten by tourists or by locals for a special celebration. Heads up – it is very filling.
Where is the best place to stay in Marseille?
The best area to stay in Marseille is the Vieux-Port because of its central location and lively port. It is within walking distance to many attractions, restaurants, and other neighborhoods. The medieval forts that stand guard at the mouth of the Mediterranean remind visitors of Marseille’s key role as a seaport for over 26 centuries. Other lodging options are along the sea, in Le Panier, and near the Gare St. Charles train station.
What is the COVID-19 situation in Marseille?
The COVID-19 situation in Marseille is good because France’s vaccination rate is so high. One needs to have a pass sanitaire/health pass to visit restaurants and sights. Marseille has some of the best hospitals in France as well.
Can Americans travel to Marseille?
U.S. citizens who are fully vaccinated and traveling from the U.S. are allowed to travel to France for any reason. These travelers need to provide a proof of vaccination, a negative COVID test performed within 48 hours prior to departure, and will not need to quarantine.
Can I fly directly to Marseille?
Direct flights to Marseille are available from many major cities in Europe on both international carriers and low-cost airlines. There are no direct flights from the US. Most connections go through Paris, Amsterdam, or London with short layovers. You can also take a 3hr 15-minute high-speed train from Paris.
What is the best restaurant in Marseille?
Marseille has a very diverse dining scene from the traditional to the trendy. Try Chez Etienne for pizza, Boîte á Sardines for fish, Chez Madie les Galinettes for Provençal cooking, La Femina for couscous, and Restaurant AM for a 3-Michelin star splurge. Please check our top 10 essentials list for our latest tips.
Are there beaches in Marseille?
On 26 miles of coastline, Marseille has a wide variety of beaches. Plage des Catalans (closest to the city center) and Plage de Prophète are sandy, great for swimming, and good for all ages. Anse Maldormé, Anse Malmousque, and Anse Fausse Monnaie are rocky coves with turquoise inlets – authentic beaches that locals love. In the Parc National des Calanques, you can also hike to picturesque coves at Sormiou, Morgiou, and Les Goudes.
Is Marseille suitable for children?
Marseille is a great family destination. There is a wonderful mix of history, cultural spaces, street art, and walkable neighborhoods. Many restaurants serve kid-friendly food like pizza. Marseille’s prime location on the Mediterranean and temperate climate means lots of outdoor activities like hiking, biking, swimming, and boating are available year-round. May – October are the best months for water sports.