La Ciotat is a small Provençal town in the very south of France east of Marseille. Among the French people it’s a popular vacation destination. The rest of the world seems not to know this place, me included. But when I heard about this town, I did some research about La Citotat. I found out that this town has some great claims to glory. At least those who know the game called pétanque could also know La Citoat. For this game was invented at this place. And if you’re a movie lover, you should know La Ciotat as well because the very first cinema was opened in this town. Therefore, I consider La Citotat an insider tip and was very glad to be here to show you some things to do in La Ciotat. So read on, folks.
1. Parc du Mugel
One of the best things to do in La Ciotat is to visit the Parc du Mugel. Someone calls this park a botanical garden. But in my opinion it’s rather a botanical park than a botanical garden. The reason for that is that a botanical garden is rather considered as a place where you find a lot of plant and flower collections to be used for education and recreation as well. Parc du Mugel though is in my eyes, rather a botanical park or a recreational garden if you will. It also contains a wide range of plants, shrubs and palms. But when you enter it, you don’t have a feeling you are in a botanical garden.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed Parc du Mugel a lot and visited it even twice. Here you will find some terraces to walk around, and shady places where you can enjoy a picnic. Besides that, at Parc du Mugel, you have the possibility to enjoy the viewpoint called “Le Grand Belvédère”. From that spot, you will get a great view over the sea. From the entrance to the viewpoint, you will need about 15 minutes to ascend.
Just step by and have a great time there!
Location of the park: In the south of La Ciotat at the foot of the “Massif du Cap de l’Aigle” which means translated Massif of the Cap Eagle. Click here to navigate to the location on the map which shows you the point of the entrance (in case you would like to walk there).
How to get there using a car: In case you arrive by a rental car*, you cannot drive directly to the entrance. Instead, there is a paid parking place about 450 m (apprx. 1500 ft) away from the entrance which is called “Parking Le Mugel”. Click here to navigate to the parking place. The parking meter accepts coins and credit cards as well. But attention: when I used my credit card, the parking meter wanted a PIN. So if you don’t know the pin, you need to use another method of payment like a normal banking card.
Opening hours: April – September: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., October – March: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Entrance fee: it’s completely for free!
Best time of the day to visit: during the summer I recommend visiting this place as soon as it opens because of the hot weather. I’ve been there at 8 a.m., and the air temperature was already 27° Celsius (apprx. 81° Fahrenheit). After I’ve been ready with my visit, about 11 a.m., the air temperatures was about 31° Celsius (apprx. 88° Fahrenheit)
2. Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Garde
After you’ve visited Parc du Mugel, the next point of interest awaits not far away from the park. I am talking about a chapel called Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Garde.
But visiting this place has two catches. The first one is that you cannot go there by car, and you don’t have a lot of possibilities to park your vehicle in one of the adjacent streets, as the parking lots there are reserved for the local residents.
The second catch is that this chapel is open only during the summer between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Of this doesn’t bother you, you will get in the chapel a brief historical insight about the meaning of this building which was erected between the years 1610 and 1613. In the past, this chapel was a strategic point for the maritime navigation. Therefore, you will find there a lot of votive pictures of the Provençal seafaring.
How to get there:
In case you arrive by a car*, you should stay parking at “Parking Le Mugel” and walk there to the Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Garde (check out the map below). You would need about 22 min to get there. Click here to start the navigation to the chapel.
Fake photos of the Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Garde La Ciotat on the internet
Attention please, folks. When I did the research about best things to do in La Ciotat, I found on some other blogs fake photos of the chapel which look like this one:
To be clear: This is not the Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Garde La Ciotat! The chapel you see above is also called Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Garde, but this one is located in north France! That’s what I use to call fake news, and it’s ashaming when someone is using wrong information just for the sake of content generation.
Therefore, you can be sure: when you visit Snoopy Alien, you will get always correct information.
3. The Old Port and the cranes of La Ciotat
According to my researches, the Old Port was built at the same time as Marseille, in the year 600 B.C.(!), and became a real shipyard in the beginning of the 17th century. From the 1830s, it grew to the dimension of an industrial port.
In the 20th century, the Old Port of La Ciotat was the most important shipbuilding centre in the Mediterranean until was shut down in the 1980s. Back those times it was surely a drastic event for the people who worked there. But luckily, La Citoat could reinvent itself as a tourist destination. The Old Port is now a real attraction and is also is used as a shipyard for small boats and yachts.
But the actual attraction at the port for me was to see the old cranes. The government didn’t dismantle them but let them stand as an industrial monument wich is very impressive if you ask me. When the sun goes down, the cranes get lit from below by coloured spotlights.
Check out the pics of the cranes here:
Besides that, around the Old Port the “night life” is taking place. You will find the most cafés and restaurants of La Citotat there, and every evening the road is closed for the traffic so the people can walk around there.
How to get there:
You cannot miss it because the Old Port and its cranes are visibly very well from the far, and there are also signs in the town showing you the direction. But in case you need to use the GPS, just enter “Port de La Ciotat” or click here to switch go Google maps for the navigation to the closest parking place which is “Parking de la Tasse” (payable).
4. Visit the Île Verte
Translated, Île Verte means “Green Island”, and it’s located just a stone’s throw away from La Citotat. Check out the map below:
Things to do on île Verte:
Île Verte is good for walking around and exploring the nature. It would take you about 1 hour to walk around the island, and you would also get a great view on the Massif de Aigle wich is one of the landmarks of La Ciotat. Besides that, at Île Verte, you will find a small beach and a restaurant.
Best time of the day to visit Île Verte:
If you visit La Ciotat in July or August, try to get there as early as possible due to the hot weather. It’s not a pleasure to walk around under the burning sun and 31° to 34° Celsius (88° to 93° Fahrenheit).
How to get there:
The most comfortable way how to get to Île Verte is to book a boat trip. The shuttle boat and the ticket office for the Green Island are located in the Old Port. I marked the location on the map for you, and you can click here to navigate to that point. For the schedule and fares in detail, please visit the website of the operator.
If you like it more adventurous, you can rent a kayak or a stand up paddle, and paddle to Île Verte from La Ciotat. One of the operators is called ExpéNature and you can check the fares on their website. The office of ExpéNature is located at the 168 Avenue du président Wilson, about 15 minutes to walk from the Old Port. Click here to navigate there.
5. Stroll in the streets of the old town of La Ciotat
The old town of La Ciotat has the typical small streets and alleys which give you the feeling that your are in south France. Believe me or not, walking through the old town was for me one of the best things to do in La Citotat.
At first glance, the buildings in the old town appear a bit dilapidated and neglected. But the longer you walk through these alleys, the more you get the feeling that it has to be! For this is what makes you to feel the flair of the Provençe and the ease of life in south France. It’s difficult to describe with words. You just need to go there and feel it. Doing this, you will find there a lot of neat souvenir shops and boutiques, typical french bakeries and pastries, cafés and restaurants. I loved it, and I want you to feel the same!
6. Musée Ciotaden La Ciotat
This museum is dealing with the heritage of La Ciotat. You will find there more than 1500 exhibits in 15 rooms about the culture, religion, tradition, and of course, a lot of things about the maritime history of the town of La Ciotat. Besides that, you will find there some exhibits about the cinema, as La Ciotat is the official place where cinematography was invented. And last but not least, you will find there some exhibits about the game called pétanque which was also invented in La Ciotat.
Location of the museum: direct at the Old Port, not far away from the cranes under the address . Click here to navigate to that place.
Opening hours: from 1st September to 30th June: 3 a.m. to 6 p.m. From 1st July to 31st August: 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. The museum is closed every Tuesday.
Entrance fee: Adults pay 3,50 EUR, children and teens pay 2,- EUR
7. Cinéma Eden-Théâtre – the oldest cinema worldwide
If you are a movie fan, you need to visit this place! As I already mentioned, La Citoat was the place where cinematography was invented. And the Eden Theatre was the place where the very first moving pictures were presented to the public by the Lumière Brothers. The name of the film was “L’Arrivée d’un Train en Gare de La Ciotat in 1895” which means “The arrival of a train at the train station of La Ciotat”. Sure, it’s not what you would consider these days as blockbuster. But back those days it must have been a real sensation. Pictures that move, unbelievable, magic!
The Cinéma Eden-Théâtre was constructed in the year 1889, and closed in 1995. In the year 2013 an EU commission named Marseille the European Capital of Culture 2013. Therefore, the local authorities finally agreed to renovate the Cinéma Eden-Théâtre which also happened in the year 2013.
Now you can again enjoy movies there with knowledge that you’re indeed sitting inside of the oldest cinema of the world (all movies there are of course in French). Check the programme at the official website of the Eden Theatre. The address of this cinema is 25 Boulevard Clémenceau, and if you click here, you can navigate to that spot.
8. Visit some boutiques in La Ciotat
Some other bloggers recommend to visit the so-called Marchè Nocturne which is the night market in La Ciotat at the old port.
But my recommendation is not to waste your money on the useless crap sold there. If you would like to spend your money more appropriate, I recommend you to purchase some good quality clothes in the boutiques in the old town. In those boutiques you will find really good fashion stuff. I know, this recommendation is addressing more to my female readers. But we all know that men don’t like to do shopping 😉
One of those boutiques I can recommend is one called “La Fontaine”. You will find this store at 12 place Sadi Carnot, 13600 La Ciotat. Just click on the link to show the address in Google Maps. The name of the lady who owns the boutique is Caroline, and you can check her profile at Instagram. In case you drop by, say hello from Max from Snoopy Alien.
Things NOT to do in La Ciotat
Other bloggers recommend to visit the beach in La Ciotat. I don’t do this because of two reasons.
First of all, the beach in La Ciotat is located directly at the main street. If you ask me, it’s not a perfect location where to spend time on a beach by breathing exhaust fumes from the traffic.
The second reason is that I spoke to some people living in La Citotat. They told me that in the ground of the coast there are some “unhealthy” substances remained from the industrial ships back to the time as the port was active. Of course, I cannot prove if it’s really true.
But nevertheless, in the face of that, I’d rather recommend you to visit the beach at another place called Saint-Cyr-Sur-Mer which was also recommended by the people from La Citotat.
Where to eat and drink in La Ciotat
There are a lot of restaurants and cafes in La Ciotat, as well as in the Old Town as along the Old Port. But there are two cafés and two restaurants I kept in my mind
There is the “Café de l’Horloge“, not far away from the boutique La Fontaine, and the vegan café called “VegaSpix“, close to La Fontaine. Check them out, folk. To navigate to the position of Café de l’Horloge, click here. To find VegaSpix, click here.
If you would like to have a dinner, I can recommend a small restaurant to you very close to the church Église Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption. It’s called “Red Sea” and you can navigate there by clicking here. At “Red Sea” you have to try the mussels which is a specialty in France.
I’ve read some negative reviews about the “Red Sea”, but I cannot agree with that. I have to admit that the female boss there can appear a bit rough and temperamental because she doesn’t seem to like wasting a lot of time with speaking. That’s why I called her the “chop-chop lady”. But If you ask me, she is just acting professionally, and you can see that she has a great passion for her restaurant. So if this doesn’t bother you, you will get some lovely dishes there.
If you would like to have something complete different, I can recommend you a Thai restaurant not far away from the Old Port. It’s called Ô Mets Thaï. Usually, I don’t recommend asian restaurants in Europe, because all sauces there seem to have the same taste. But in France, I surprisingly made another experience and was glad to discover this place. Click here to navigate there.
Where to stay in La Ciotat
I enjoyed the B&B called La Maison d’Odette which I can fully recommend. If you would like to know more about that B&B, read my article about it here.
Okay, folks. I hope, I could give you some useful information about best things to do in La Ciotat and wish you a great time in this town.
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