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Marseilles: What's Not to Love?

The Facts

Where to Stay
Le Petit-Nice Passédat 160 Corniche Président-J.-F.-Kennedy; 33-4/91-59-25-92, fax 33-4/91-59-28-08; doubles from $438. An intimate and secluded Relais & Châteaux hotel overlooking the sea, about 10 minutes' drive from the center of town, with a tiny outdoor seawater pool. The restaurant is one of Marseilles's best.
Hôtel Sofitel Vieux Port 36 Blvd. Charles-Livon; 33-4/91-15-59-00, fax 33-4/91-15-59-50; doubles from $159. Upscale chain hotel with bland interiors but amazing views over the Vieux Port.
Hôtel Mercure Beauvau 4 Rue Beauvau; 33-4/91-54-91-00, fax 33-4/91-54-15-76; doubles from $96. Historic hotel (Chopin and George Sand stayed here) in the heart of the Vieux Port, with antique furniture but modern interiors, and excellent breakfast and brunch.

Restaurants, Cafés, and Bars
Chez Vincent 2 bis Ave. Chartreux; 33-4/91-49-62-34; dinner for two $46. A marvelous pizza, pasta, and fish restaurant that's been around for years. The decoration is unremarkable, the scene authentic and hip, and the food simple and fresh.
L'Oliveraie 10 Place aux Huiles; 33-4/91-33-34-41; dinner for two $40. Provençal restaurant with a 15th-century stone vaulted interior, serving up tasty fish in fragrant sauces.
Pizzeria Chez Jeannot 129 Vallon des Auffes; 33-4/91-52-11-28; dinner for two $30. Family pizza restaurant in a tiny cove jammed with fishing boats. The best tables are out in the wooden shack perched above the water.
Il Canaletto 8 Cours Jean-Ballard; 33-4/91-33-90-12; dinner for two $40. A great spot in the Vieux Port for Italian food, with a cool crowd and the dreamiest, creamiest tiramisù.
Torréfaction Debout 46 Rue Francis-Davso; 33-4/91-33-00-12. Espresso and handmade chocolates.
O.M. Café 3 Quai des Belges; 33-4/91-33-80-33. Owned by a former Olympique Marseille soccer club goalkeeper, which explains the blue-and-white interior (team colors), the terrace packed with soccer fans, the match playing on TV, and the principal topic of conversation.

Shopping
A.R.M. Marseille 22 Rue Bussy l'Indien; 33-4/91-42-40-57. Cool, contemporary takes on Provençal furniture and linens: gorgeous beds, chic consoles, and huge bureaus, in creamy beige and steel gray, all of which can be made to order and shipped home.
La Compagnie de Provence 1 Rue Caisserie; 33-4/91-56-20-94. Marseilles boys Philippe Boigeol and Pascal Bourelly took a standard household item—olive-oil soap—repackaged it in brown paper and credibility, and made it a cult. Their boutique sells the whole range of linen waters, shower gels, body creams, and soaps.
Vilebrequin 32 Rue Grignan; 33-4/91-33-65-15. The ultimate men's swimsuits, in gorgeous pastel colors, with big florals and well-cut design.
Manon Martin 10 Rue de la Tour; 33-4/91-55-60-95. Flirty, funky handmade hats, including silk turbans, pearl-embroidered skullcaps, and darling toile de Jouy kiddies' caps.
Diable Noir 69 Cours Julien, 33-4/91-42-86-73; also at 5 Rue de la Tour, 33-4/91-55-66-33. Designer Marc Bommarchou gives a corset or traditional Camargue riding skirt a contemporary spin with a flurry of ribbons and print.
Xuly Bët 21 Rue Bussy l'Indien; 33-4/96-12-45-73. Sexy street wear for those not yet acquainted with cellulite.

Great Escape
Plage du Prado is one of Marseilles's best beaches—a 15-minute drive east of town in the middle of the Parc Balnéaire du Prado.

A bowl of steaming bouillabaisse is still an essential element of the Marseilles diet, a holdover from the days when fishermen would make a spicy soup using the odds and ends that they couldn't sell. For a delicious bouillabaisse that you don't have to order in advance, try Le Miramar (12 Quai du Port; 33-4/91-91-10-40; $85 for two). Alternatively, join le tout Marseilles at the lively Brasserie New York (33 Quai des Belges; 33-4/91-33-60-98; $72 for two), overlooking the Vieux Port. Or try the postmodern, deconstructed bouillabaisse served by the luxe restaurant at Le Petit-Nice Passédat (see above; $55 for two).

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