Although not well-known, even disregarded by some, 26 kilometres from Marseille the Mediterranean city of La Ciotat has a few claims to glory: the invention of the game of pétanque in 1910, being the birthplace of cinema in 1895 with the very first moving picture ever made, Arrival of a Train in the Station of La Ciotat by the Lumières brothers, having the oldest movie theatre in the world, the Eden Theatre, and being the location of the some of the highest sea cliffs in Europe.
When its 500 year past as a port city came to an end and its dockyards closed, La Ciotat revamped itself in the beginning of the 2000s as an important pleasure boat harbour with the biggest elevator for mega-yachts in Europe. Shops and restaurants began to flourish and the casino has since reopened.
Add to that its beautiful beaches, its many sports and water activities and the many churches and historic monuments and it's clear why La Ciotat is on its way to becoming a very popular vacation destination.
The port of La Ciotat
Panorama over La Ciotat and the gulf
Ganteaume Quay in La Ciotat
The Ciotaden Museum
Ile Verte off the coast of La Ciotat
The Gulf of La Ciotat and the Bec de l'Aigle cliff
The Bec de l'Aigle cliff and Capucin Rock, La Ciotat
The Route des Crêtes between La Ciotat and Cassis
City life is centred around the charming old port with its pretty 17th century houses. Very lively, its friendly restaurants, cafés and wine bars await you and reserve for you a warm and authentic Provençal welcome.
But holidaymakers and sportspeople will be looking even more towards the sea.
A shuttle boat leaves the old port for the Ile Verte. 400 metres off the coast of La Ciotat, this uninhabited island covered in the lush vegetation that gives it its name, the Green Island, has three beaches where you can bathe in the clear waters of the Mediterranean while admiring the relief of the shoreline.
Stretching over 30 miles, the coast of La Ciotat presents the most varied of landscapes.
To the west of the city centre, the Parc Muguel is 16 hectares of Mediterranean plants, succulents, cactus and agaves leading up to the Bec de l'Aigle cliff.
With the richness of its undersea life and its rocks and reliefs, the Calanque de Figuerolles cove is a renowned spot for scuba diving. It is dominated by the Rocher de Capucin rock, also called Tête de Chien (Dog's Head), with the only access being by way of the sea or by climbing 87 steps.
The panoramic and untamed Route des Crètes (Crests Road) leads from La Ciotat to Cassis, passing Cap Canaille and the Soubeyranes cliffs with the Bau Rous, which culminates at 394 metres, the highest sea cliff in France. Absolutely breathtaking views are in store for you.
To the east of the centre, you will find the really nice sandy beaches, such as the Lumière beach with the Tourism & Handicaps label (wheelchair access), the first non-smoking beach in Europe and the Capucins beach where you can bring your dog.
Around the big new marina with its 850 moorings are many restaurants and hotels worthy of a prestigious seaside resort.
La Ciotat may be on the water but is also well grounded, with some lovely parks and gardens, real havens of peace, laid out in the city centre, such as the Jardin de la Ville, the Espérance gardens, the Bastide Marin and the Voie Douce.
The old town also has some interesting historic sites:
- The Grimaldi-Régusse mansion (1603, listed as a historic monument) and other houses from the 17th century
- The old Town Hall (1864) with its campanile, today the Ciotaden Museum (local and marine history)
- The 17th century Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption parish church
- The Notre-Dame de la Garde Chapel (1610)
- Eden Theatre (1889)
- The chapels of the White and the Black Penitents