The capital of Corse-du-Sud has a happy knack for packing everything people love about Corsica.
You have history, as Napoleon Bonaparte was born and baptized in the city, and his family donated many exciting memorabilia to the museum.
Minutes from the city, Pointe de la Parata offers a cinematic natural setting with mountains in the background covered in wild herbs, heather and myrtle bushes.
Then you come to the beach, which is rich, white, bathed in pale blue waters that are unbelievably clear.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Ajaccio:
1. Pointe de la Parata
On an island where astonishing natural wonders are almost commonplace, Pointe de la Parata will still leave you overwhelmed.
This is a black granite promontory on the northern boundary of the Gulf of Ajaccio, near a string of stubborn rock vertices that continue to form the island of blood at sea.
The headland has a Genoese watchtower 55 meters above the water, part of a 16th-century network that defended the coast from Barbary pirates.
Drive to the restaurant, from where you can follow the walking path to get a close look at the tower or dip your feet into the transparent sea.
2. Bloody Road
Starting on the south coast of Ajaccio, it is a seaside route to Pointe de Parata.
It contains the “Corniche Ajaccienne”, a raised winding road that hugs the zigzagging contours of the rugged coast.
It’s all about the scenery, to the Isle of Descent and the best beaches in Ajaccio, such as Plage de Marinella.
On the way is the cemetery of St. Anthony, where the acclaimed Corsican singer Tino Rossian is buried.
Now you can take a similar journey through the Sentier des Crêtes (Walk on the Peak) with just your own two feet.
You’ll gallop along ridges far above the coastal development, immersing yourself in a world of pines, prickly pears, and blooming myrtle, with breathtaking ocean views.
3. Fisch Museum
The fine arts museum in Ajaccio is named after Napoleon’s uncle Joseph Fisch, archbishop of Lyon.
In the early 1800s, he founded the museum by donating his lavish collection of paintings, which constitute one of the largest collections of Italian Baroque and Renaissance paintings anywhere in France.
Cosmè Tura, Giovanni Bellini, Michelangelo, Veronese, Titian and Salvatore Rosa are just some of the most famous artists.
The Fesch Museum is also where you can start tracing the history of the Bonaparte family, as there are around 700 works from the First and Second Empires, as well as busts of the Bonaparte family.
4. The House of Bonaparte
Napoleon’s birthplace is one of those attractions that focuses more on what the place is about than what’s there.
Really, all you need to know is that you’re inspecting the home of the epoch-making figure born on August 15, 1769. The house has been decorated with Bonaparte family furniture, even if you have to use your imagination to imagine what it is like in the 18th century.
The first Bonaparte to live in this low-key four-story house was Napoleon’s great-great-grandfather in the late 17th century, and the building remained in family hands until 1923. Napoleon only spent his early years here, so there’s a lot about the rest of the royal family and their relationship to Ajaccio.
5. Napoleon Salon
In the town hall of Ajaccio there is a richly decorated gallery filled with sculptures, paintings, medals and engravings related to Napoleon, which were donated to the city until 1936 by the Bonaparte family. The amount of art and memorabilia is so great that it pours into the Fesch Museum.
But the most fascinating piece is at the Town Hall, where you can continue your little voyage through the history of Ajaccio Bonaparte by viewing the register that records Napoleon’s baptism.
On the damask walls are full-length portraits of Napoleon, Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie, and a portrait of Napoleon’s brother Joseph when he was proclaimed king of Spain during the Peninsular War.
6. Plage de Capo di Feno
There are more than 20 beaches in or near Ajaccio, mostly lively corners, with clear, smooth waters and white sand.
You might want to get away from the crowds, if so, you can drive 10 km to the coast north of Pointe de la Parata.
Plage de Capo di Feno has more wild beauty, with bushes and forests, as well as offshore sandbars for surfers to rest.
It’s not suitable for recreational swimmers, but you can paddle and sunbathe on the light-colored sand.
Pack a friend and a blanket, and stay for the evening, as the sunsets are unmatched on this west-facing beach.
7. Place the Foch
Next to the town hall is a slender square surrounded by impressive old palm trees.
You are greeted by a familiar face: a marble statue of Napoleon disguised as a Roman consul, sculpted by the Italian Massimiliano Laboureur, stands on a pedestal along the square looking towards the port.
If you want to visit the sights of Ajaccio in comfort, you can take the little train at Place Foch.
But perhaps the best reason to stop is the Marchés des Producteurs de Pays on Saturday morning, when sheep cheeses, cured meats, olives and wines made and grown in the countryside near Corsica are laid out
Irresistibly at the stalls in the square.
8. Ajaccio Cathedral
Going back in the footsteps of Napoleon, the Cathedral of Ajaccio was the church where the emperor was baptized on July 21, 1771. Not only that, but his mother Letizia began to labor with him when she attended the Mass of the Assumption on August 15, 1769. Marble His baptized font is right at the entrance.
Aside from its ties to Napoleon, the cathedral is a handsome and austere 16th-century Mannerist building, with its ochre-coloured walls illuminated by the sun.
Stop at the Church of Our Lady of Pianto, decorated with frescoes by Domenico Tintoretto (son of Jacopo) and Eugène Delacroix.
9. Tête de Mort
Wake up early in the summer morning and trek above Ajaccio to admire the breathtaking coastal scenery.
The trail winds up from the Bois des Anglais through the frankincense bushes, cacti and wild olive bushes of the fabled Corsican maquis.
After some time, you will reach a sinister looking granite boulder called Tête de Mort (Head of Death), which according to local legend is the petrified head of Lucifer himself! The path then loops back and meets the sea at Parc Berthault, a few steps from the Plage du Trottel, about a 90-minute walk.
Sea turtles and tortoises from five continents live in this reserve and research center, 20 kilometers northeast of Ajaccio.
There are 3,000 animals, from 170 species, that thrive in the Corsican climate and carefully configured tanks and enclosures in the two-hectare park.
The turtle hatchery and nursery is sure to make you smile; if you come on the right day, you’ll see a baby turtle emerge from its shell.
From Galapagos tortoises to small European pond terrapins, it’s interesting to see how these animals have evolved in different parts of the world.
11. Plage d’Argent
From the port of Ajaccio, you can board a speedboat that will take you to this paradise beach south of the city.
It’s the quickest way to get you there in 20 minutes or so, rather than an hour-long drive on winding mountain roads.
When you step foot on the flawless white sand that surrounds the shallow bay for more than a kilometer, you’ll know why you’re trying.
The water is clear as glass, and it is ten meters above the shore.
Behind you, there are only a few houses and restaurants, on hills covered with pine, heather and myrtle.
12. Water sports
It would be redundant to list all the local companies that offer water activities such as paddle boarding, sea kayaking, diving, surfing, and guided snorkeling trips (there are as many as 50 nearby). Almost every beach around Ajaccio has a water sports center, and there are plenty of yacht charter companies in the port offering crewed and bareboat charters.
As with jet skis and yachts, you need a boat license to rent a jet ski yourself, but not if you have a qualified supervisor.
Companies such as “Hiking Jet Passion” offer guided tours to the most beautiful bays around Ajaccio Bay.
13. Scandora Cruises
The port also has a wide selection of cruise companies to choose from, taking you on a one-day cruise on Corisica’s west coast to the UNESCO-protected Scandola Nature Reserve, known for its basalt and The granite rock formations are much loved.
Back home, the sight of the park’s towering cliffs and creeks dropping hundreds of meters into the sea will linger in your mind.
Your captain will drop you off for lunch at a beachside café, and if you’re lucky, you might spot dolphins, monk seals, and birds of prey on the cruise.
Many operators also stop at a small cove for you to spend an hour or so swimming in the crystal rock pools.
14. Lac de Tolla
Located 30 kilometers inland from Ajaccio, Lac de Tolla is an artificial lake created by the EDF dam in the 1950s.
There are five square kilometers of cool water in a bowl of mountains, with chestnuts, walnuts, holm oaks and pine trees on the slopes.
There are campsites on the shore and a dock for renting pedal boats, canoes and paddleboards in summer.
Tolla also serves as the starting point for your hike to Prunelli Canyon, with its sheer cliffs and glistening rock pools at the foot of waterfalls.
If you don’t mind hairpin turns over 100 meters, you can also take the road.
15. Food Tours
In Corsica, honey has a European Protected Designation of Origin, and if you’re curious about where your food comes from, there are seven “beehives” or apiaries within easy reach of Ajaccio – although one may be enough! You can also visit a dairy farm that makes sheep and goat cheese, or visit a farm that makes its own vinaigrette and mustard.
Ajaccio also has its own AOC, with vineyards on sunny hillsides growing only sciaccarello to make bold red wines with spicy aromas.
Where to stay: The best hotels in Ajaccio, France
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