a grand entrance

New York’s Grand Central Station has its iconic constellation ceiling that entices even the most harried commuters to look up. The lofty iron roof at Paris’ Gare Saint-Lazare is captured in Monet’s masterpiece, in which his impressionist clouds and steam capture the romance of train travel. Here in Marseille, the Gare Saint-Charles has a grand staircase that spills into the city. Flanked by majestic statues and palm trees with rows of Art Nouveau bronze dolphin lampposts cascading down the middle, the escaliers make you feel like a royal descending into a ball, even when lugging an awkward suitcase. There’s so much architectural eye candy the stairs are a destination in its own right. Here’s some backstory for my fellow history buffs. 

community supported beer

When the desire to grow hops was thwarted by a lack of land, Part Faite’s owners, Gonzalo and Laure, came up with a clever plan. They gave seedlings to their neighbors, forty-seven to be exact, to cultivate them in their gardens and on their balconies in the Urban Hops Marseille Project. The fruits of these amateur growers’ labor was bottled as BHUM, the Bière Houblon Urbaine Marseille. It took a village, á la Hillary Clinton, to make this beer. As is fitting for this organic microbrewery that is centered on community.

le café throwback

Word of mouth is my favorite way of finding out about a new spot—a personal recommendation beats any guidebook. When said words come from la bouche of Marseille’s oldest, and best, coffee roaster, André Luciani, you know that a fine cup of café is bound to be had. And Monsieur Madame pours it in one of the most delightful settings.

it's an antique family affair

The legendary restaurateur Danny Meyer says, “A great restaurant is one that makes you feel like you’re not sure whether you went out or you came home. If it can do both of those things at the same time, you’re hooked.” At Mademoiselle Fifi, the just-opened spot nestled in the new Puces de Fifi, you feel like you’re dining at your friend’s home…which also happens to be an antique shop.  

oui takoyaki!

In the multicultural melting pot that is Marseille, a Japanese joint feels right at home. When it serves takoyaki, the fried octopus balls that make foodies squeal, and taiyaki, a fish-shaped, waffle-like dessert, Tako-San feels like it was made for this seafaring city. 

take a walk on the wild side

Marseille’s Quartiers Nord stretches across four arrondissements, from the beaches of l’Estaque to the ancient village of Château-Gombert. The vast district comprises 25% of the city’s population and brims with history (Musée de Terroir Marseillais), nature (the canal de Marseille), and agriculture (Tour des Pins farm and fromagerie) and industry (the original Ricard factory). Sadly, the sordid reputation of the area's projects keeps both locals and visitors away - the Quartiers Nord is conspicuously omitted from any tourist maps. The Hôtel du Nord is here to change that. 

a craft cocktail oasis

For a culture centered on epicurean enjoyment, the French have been slow to the cocktail game outside of Paris. Some say it’s because booze isn’t a traditional tipple. The lack of an essential ingredient, ice, is a factor, and with all that good wine, can you blame them? Others lament that the sugary concoctions of the 90’s (see: Sex On The Beach) have left a bad taste in France's mouth. Luckily, there's nothing but palate pleasers at Gaspard. 

catch of the day

Like my former stomping ground, Seattle, Marseille has a surprising lack of decent fish restaurants for a city centered on the fishing industry. There are tourist traps that dish overpriced bouillabaisse and bistros that serve fish drowning in fanciful sauces. Yet, when fish is freshly plucked from the sea, it simply needs a glug of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and a dash of salt and pepper. Luckily, there is Boîte á Sardine.

living la vida modern

At NYU, inspired my cosmopolitan campuses in NY and Paris, I incorporated Urban Studies into my made-to-order major. I was, and still am, fascinated by how cities tick both architecturally and anthropologically, and particularly how their design affects the daily lives of their inhabitants. So when I learned that Marseille is home to Le Corbusier’s first and most famous foray into modernist apartment living: la Cité Radieuse, I was delighted. I was downright thrilled to discover the Radiant City still buzzed with the community spirit Le Corbusier intended. Visitors can tour an historically-preserved apartment, check out a bookstore, a rooftop museum MAMO, dine at a gastronomic restaurant, and even bunk at the hotel within the building’s walls. My fellow fans of architecture, design buffs, and curiosity seekers – this spot is for you!

the godfather and good mother of pizza

LeFooding--the indispensable guide to French restaurants--claims that La Bonne Mère boasts  France’s best pizza. I second that emotion. It’s so tasty there's nothing else on the menu to distract you from keeping your eye on the prize, er, pies. 

Everyone is treated like family at La Bonne Mère, whose walls are plastered with pizza-themed drawings by local kids. The cozy 25-seat bar á pizza is a little slice of Italy hidden in the hills of Vauban, with posters from old Italian films, waiters wearing aprons in red, white, and green, and a Faema Legend espresso machine. 

good vibes, great coffee

In French, le café refers to both the drink and the place where you sip it. While the French excel at latter--it is as intrinsic to the country as bread with every meal-- the beverage itself is surprisingly awful for the gastronomically inclined Gauls. Luckily, the third wave of coffee and its small batch, indie goodness has hit France. In Marseille, that wave has crashed with Coogee.