15 Best things to do in Martigues (France)

Martigues is a coastal town on Provence’s Côte d’Azur that became a gathering place for artists in the 19th century.

They were attracted by the clear light and canals, and Martigues soon became known as the Venice of Provence.

If that’s a fair description, you can decide for yourself, but you’re sure to love the little passages, houses, and bridges around the island of Bresson in the center of town.

It’s home to delicious Mediterranean cuisine, stunning coastal views, and a top-notch museum with works by famous artists who settled in Martigues.

On days relaxing in the sun, you’re never far from pristine sandy beaches or lovely old fishing ports.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Martigues:

1. Miroir aux Oiseaux

Miroir aux Oiseaux

The image that graces many Martigues postcards is the romantic scene of Quai Brescon.

It has an old wooden boat floating in the water next to a small rectangular pier.

The cobblestone waterfront is crammed with ramshackle homes painted in pastel tones.

For the cherry on top, the marina has quaint iron gas lamps, and at night you can gaze at the Galifette Canal and see the lights of the Church of St. Genest.

This place has captured the hearts of people for hundreds of years and is remembered by painters such as Félix Ziem, André Derain, Raoul Dufy and Camille Corot.

2. Le Quartier de l’Île

Le Quartier de l'Île

Saint Sébastien, Baussengue and Galliffet are the canals that make up the most beautiful parts of the city.

These surround Île Brescon and inspired Martigues’ nickname, the Venice of Provence.

Yachts, painted houses, bridges and restaurant terraces create an evocative backdrop for your stroll on the marina.

From the marina in Jonquières you can also take a free shuttle boat to reach Ferrières at the start of the Baussengue canal in 13 minutes.

You’ll make four stops along the way and get photogenic perspectives throughout town.

3. Église Sainte-Madeleine-de-l’Île

Église Sainte-Madeleine-de-l'Île

The Canal de Saint Sébastien at the end of the Canal de Saint Sébastien has the luxury of the Italian Baroque and is protected as a “Historic Monument”. Work was completed in 1680 and it contains some furniture dating back to the earliest.

One is the marvelous walnut pulpit built in 1694, and you must take a closer look at the frescoes in the church, painted in the same year by the Catalan-born French artist Michel Serre.

Serre was active in the Marseille region and was chosen by King Louis XIV as the official painter of the French kitchen.

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4. Côte d’Azur

Côte d'Azur

This length of the coast south and east of Martigues is where the pale limestone bodies of the Estac Mountains slide into the Mediterranean.

If you’re planning a day at the beach, you’ll come to a small cove on the Côte Bleue, an area that takes its name from the vivid blue of the Mediterranean on the rocks.

The exposed rock cliffs give it a rugged air, but also help protect the sand from wind and waves.

Just 15 minutes from Martigues, there are four Blue Flag beaches, as well as a range of quaint harbours and family resorts for you to explore on your excursions.

5. Parc de Figuerolles

Parc de Figuerolles

Berre Lagoon has a 131-hectare space where tourists and Martigues residents can recharge.

The small plains and valleys are covered with bushes and pine forests and are suitable for walking, horseback riding, jogging and mountain biking.

The municipal greenhouse is also here, with a designated plant path with 50 species of plants.

With tourist trains, an imaginative treehouse playground, an educational farm with 300 animals and pony rides from the equestrian center, it’s a little playground for the young.

6. Piazza Santa Croce

Holy Cross Square

One of Martigues’ four Blue Flag beaches, this small but perfect sandy cove is about ten minutes’ drive from the city centre.

You can park your car at the top of the cliff and walk through a forest of stone pine and follow stairs etched into the rock to this paradise beach.

Apart from the old Santa Croce church and restaurant, there are few signs of civilization.

The beach has fine sand, and although there are rolling waves, the gentle slope allows small children to paddle safely.

7. Zim Museum

Zim Museum

The fine arts museum in Martigues is located in the town’s converted customs barracks.

It was established at the beginning of the 20th century when Félix Ziem donated several works before his death.

Zim fell in love with Martig in the 1840s and moved into a workshop in the town so he could paint the picturesque canals that became his signature.

You can think of some of Zim’s Martigues landscapes, as well as his depictions of Venice and Constantinople.

The Marseille school is represented by Lupin, Gigu and Jean-Baptiste Oliver, as well as landscape paintings by Fauvists such as Picabia, Derain and Dufy.

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8. History Gallery

History Gallery

To learn about Martigues’ rich history, come to City Hall.

The ground floor has been turned into a small museum with 500 square meters of exhibits explaining the different stages of the town’s development.

There are interactive displays, models, some artifacts and photos, all matching the description.

The oldest works date back to 11,000 BC, and you’ll travel back to the present day to learn about the city’s future projects.

Probably the most striking part is about the 1800s, when Martigues became fashionable with painters like Zim.

9. Verdun Beach

Verdun Beach

Just off a headland in Sainte-Croix is ​​the slightly larger Plage du Verdon.

In its neighborhood where adults relax, this beach is even better if you have teenagers and kids.

It sits at the bottom of a bay hundreds of meters inland, which helps keep currents and winds at bay.

The beach is supervised throughout the summer, with ample facilities such as bars and restaurants, volleyball courts, and a place to rent pedal boats and take small cruises around the bay.

Like Sainte-Croix, Verdon has been awarded the Blue Flag for several years in a row.

10. Chapelle Notre Dame des Marins

Our Lady of the Chapel

Winding paths through the Mediterranean woodlands are home to a small church that has been a pilgrimage site for Martigues since the 1600s.

Dedicated to “Our Lady of Sailors”, it is the place where sailors go to pray and leave offerings before starting their voyage.

The chapel is charming enough and documents Martigues’ past.

But your main motive for standing here has to be the panorama.

The Berre Lagoon, the Martigues with its canals and the Estaque Mountains unfold before you.

11. Carlo

Carlo

Carro is a beautiful old fishing port in a creek on the Côte Bleue.

It has a rich seafaring history and you should get up early to visit as there is a fish market every day at 08:30 in the dock area. Caro is home to a special way of tuna fishing, where several boats press a shoal into a smaller space.

You can learn more about this heritage in the exhibition “Entre Mer et Collines” on the ground floor of the Cercle des Pêcheurs building.

This little attraction documents Caro’s agricultural and fishing history with artifacts, photographs, and testimonies.

12. Water sports

cape curona

Therefore, all the beaches on the Côte Bleue are well protected.

But you only have to stand in places like Cap Couronne to feel the full brunt of the winds hitting the coast in more exposed places.

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It’s music to the ears of windsurfers as they ride the waves at La Couronne and Les Arnettes.

Under the right conditions, waves can reach heights of several meters.

But many of those long creeks that cut into the coast are built for less demanding activities, like stand-up paddle boarding and snorkeling in clear waters.

13. Carry-le-Rouet

Carry

You don’t have to take more than 15 minutes to reach this family seaside resort on a chic palm-fringed marina.

Carry-le-Rouet can be a springboard to escape the natural beauty of the Côte d’Azur.

Chemin des Douniers is a coastal path built in the 18th century to deter smugglers.

The main diving center of the region, Carry Plongée, is located at the marina: they will take you on an underwater adventure in the many creeks of the Côte d’Azur, where wildlife is protected by a marine reserve.

You might be interested to know that Carry-le-Rouet is where Nina Simone spent the last years of her life before her death in 2003.

14. Marseille

Marseille

When France’s second largest city is only half an hour down the road, it’s a shame not to call.

In the old port, you will dream of historic ships, merchants, ship owners and the Count of Monte Cristo.

The depth of history may make you giddy, as this is the first place in France to be colonized by the ancient Greeks, back in 2,600 BC. As ever, it is a city with a cosmopolitan personality that will win you over at African street markets, bars, clubs and art galleries.

Go a little further and you’ll see Calanque’s cinematic seascape, where the mountains drop straight down to the Mediterranean.

15. Local Food

Putag

If you want to dine like a Martégal, you have to order some poutargue, an odd delicacy that has been consumed in the town since at least the 1700s.

Poutargue is salted mullet roe that is packaged and left for several weeks, usually coated with beeswax to keep air out.

In martigues it is used as an aperitif or aperitif, sliced ​​with lemon juice.

Poutargue pairs very well with white wines from Cassis, Côtes-de-Provence or Muscadet.

As with all the coastal towns in the area, fish bouillon is something you must try at least once.

Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Martigues, France
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