Cassis was a very ancient fishing port and is an interesting village to visit. The village was rebuilt on the old ruins in the 18th century, resulting in a more regular layout than most other medieval villages. Some of the buildings, however, date . A walk through the old village streets will reveal some nice old buildings, some dating back to the 16th century, and some restored with the colorful pastels of Provence [photo-7]. Other sites in the village are old fountains [photo-6] and an open-air artists market [photo-5] (where we bought a few small paintings of Provence). The harbor area is really the prettiest part of Cassis.
Cassis is still a small fishing port, but the little fishing boats now share the harbor with yachts and a collection of tourist boats for visiting the calanques -- a trip you shouldn't miss. Our [photo-2] shows the stern of the double-ended pointus; on the opposite ends, note the high bow post that's been a feature of the pointus for the past 2000 years.
A fine old chateau-fort, the 1381 Chateaux de la Maison des Baux, dominates the harbor [photo-3], but it's privately owned and closed to the public. A walk up ot the hill top beside the chateau offers a reasonable view down to the village and harbor. The local map (from the Office de Tourisme) shows a "loop" route down to the shore. It's a pretty walk [photo-4], but the shore-line path back to the village is now closed off, so it's back up over the hill past the chateau.
The first of the white Cassis stone quarries in the Calanques was opened in 1753.
Beaches Cassis has a fine sandy beach just outside the port, the Plage de la Grande mer [photo-4]. The beaches Plage du Corton and Plage de l'Arène are on the coast just to the south of the village. Just west of the port are the beaches La Plage du Bestouan and La Plage Bleue; in between are is the huge sloping stone shelf popular as a nudist beach.
First record, Carsicis Portus, from the Itinerary of Antonin (Roman); 1323: Castrum Cassitis
Prehistoric: Regional habitation is now known to date back 27,000 years, with recent discovery of the underwater Cosquer caves, in the calanques between Cassis and Marseilles. Paleolithic stamped pottery shards and Paleo-Christian lamps were discovered at the Calanque Port-Miou.
Celto-Ligurian: Cassis was a Gallo-Roman fishing port, and numerous Gallo-Roman artifacts have been discovered.
Rule changed several times. In the 14th century it belonged to the Seigneurie de Roquefort. In 1376, Pope Gregory XI of Avignon was on his way to restore the Papacy to Rome when his fleet took refuge from a storm in the calanque Port-Miou.
In 1443, Cassis became a parish independent from Roquefort, and was ruled by the bishops of Marseille during the end of the 15th century. In the middle of the 16th century, Charles-Quinte of Spain, in the Provencal part of his quest to become Universal Monarch, captured the chateau and pillaged Cassis. The population suffered severely from the great plague of 1720.
Except for occasional visits by pirates, which had been happening off and on throughout history, Cassis was relatively calm until 1813 when the English overpowered Napoleon's defenses and pillaged the port.
Office de Tourisme
Tel : 04 42 01 71 17; Fax: 04 42 01 28 31
Wine was being made around Cassis even before the Greeks arrived around 600 BC, and it's only gotten better. The appellation Cassis wine, received the Appellation d'Origine Controlée in 1936 -- the first in the region. It's produced in red, rosé and white, with the white being the most famous.
Domaine La Ferme Blanche
Location: RD 559
Open: 9H-19h, every day
Tel: 0442 010 074; Fax: 04 42 01 73 94
Chateau de Fontcreuse
Location: 13 rte de La Ciotat
Open: Mon-Fri, 8h30-12h, 14h-17h30
Tel: 0442 017 109; Fax: 04 42 01 32 64
J-F Brando. Outstanding wines, especially 1996.
Domaine des Quatre Vents
Open: Mon-Fri, 8h30-12h, 14h-18h
Tel: 0442 010 112
Alain de Montillet
Transportation CassisThe Marseille-Toulon-Hyeres train line serves Cassis [Travel-Railplans]
Department 13, Bouches-du-Rhône Buses
See Beyond's Bouches-du-Rhone (13) Bus Schedules for downloading Bouches-du-Rhone bus-lines map and bus-line schedules [pdf for each line] (link for PDF files).
Marseille Calanques boat tours
Visits of the Calanques all year; tours of 3, 5 or 8 calanques.
Location: Office de Tourisme
Open: Departures on request at the harbour.
Tel: 0442 017 117
Rock climbers come here from all over Europe (and perhaps even further) to scale the white cliffs of the calanques. Climbs can start from near accessible areas at the head of the inlets, or directly from the sea, and go up as high as 240 meters. Small boats at the harbor take climbers out to the base of the cliffs, or the tourist navettes will drop them off or pick them up at the accessible points.
IGN (1/25,000) #3245 ET "Aubagane, La Ciotat, Ste-Baume"
A local map of Cassis and the Calanques is available (free) from the Office de Tourism; it includes cycling and hiking routes.
- • The GR98 (Grande Randonnée) passes through the center of Cassis.
• To the west, the GR98 follows the calanques coastline to the Massif de Marseilleveyre and the edge of the city of Marseilles. There are also other local trails in the calanques, allowing some loop hikes.
• To the east, the GR98 goes out past (and partly along-side) the autoroute into the hills. It joins with the GR51 (Balcony of the Cote d'Azur) about 10 km out of Cassis.
- • Some local loop hikes are marked on the Corniche des Crêtes, between Cassis and la Ciotat.
- No water is available in the Massif des Calanques.
- During the summer months, all local trails are closed in the Massif des Calanques; only the GR98 is open.
These comments were contributed by Marcia D., San Francisco, Nov 1998:
In Cassis, we spent a week of suppers going from restaurant to restaurant around the harbor, and we never had anything less than excellent.
The port is lined with terrace cafés and restaurants, offering a variety of fare and prices. There are even more restaurants on the many little streets of the village away from the port. We tried "La Paillotte" on the Quai Barthelemy, which had excellent choices and quality for a 15 euro lunch menu.