Soccer team Olympique de Marseille, pastis and bouillabaisse remain the local icons, but the Gallic gateway to the Orient becomes the European City of Culture next year and is lavishing nearly €900m on the year-long culturefest. To prepare for this momentous event, the city is undergoing an extensive and ambitious facelift and notable additions are around every corner. The spectacular Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisation, for example, is taking shape at the entrance to the Vieux Port and will open next year.
1 La Maison du Pastis
108 Quai du Port, +33 (0)4 91 90 86 77, www.lamaisondupastis.com
This aniseed liqueur built the fortune of Pernod Ricard and is forever associated with the city. Take a guided tour of the shelves which feature 75 varieties of pastis(and absinthe). An essential partner for a leisurely game of boules.
2 Bateau to Château d'If
Try some short-haul seafaring from this world-famous seaport with a trip from the Vieux Port to the historic Château d'If. Climb up to the famous château that inspired Alexander Dumas to write his classic The Count of Monte Cristo.
Unlike his story, nobody escaped and survived the Marseille Alcatraz. These days you can be there and back in a morning.
3 La boîte À Sardine
7 Boulevard de la Liberation, +33 (0)4 91 50 95 95 www.laboiteasardine.com
Seafood is the staple of the Marseille diet. Feast here on good honest, fresh and flavoursome fish, where the menu revolves around catch of the day including oursin (sea urchin), lobster or sea bass. Garnish your fish with their classic garlicky aioli for the ultimate in local taste.
4 Mama Shelter
64 Rue de la Loubiere, +33 (0)4 84 35 20 00, www.mamashelter.com
The edgy backstreets of Marseille were chosen as the first outpost of this Philippe Starck design hotel which originally launched in Paris. Rooms are petite but light and airy, its trademark is "unfussy and functional" without design flights of fancy - plus cheery staff thrown in. The bar-restaurant is now the address for the bright young Marseillaises and everyone will feel special breakfasting on the urban garden terrace. This is French cool at its best.
5 Chez Etienne
43 Rue de Lorette
No phone, no credit cards, no reservations and no menus: at Chez Etienne, your order is at the whim of the waiter. On the edge of the edgy Panier, this Marseille institution is very much the heart of this charming old part of town and a great experience.
6 La Licorne
34 Cours Julien, +33 (0)4 96 12 00 91, www.savon-de-marseille.com
One souvenir that the good people of Marseille will attempt to foist upon you is a bar of their signature soap. Don't succumb to a tourist offering; go instead to this outlet which is a boutique workshop making soap perfumed with lavender, verveine and mimosa.
34 Quai du Port, +33 (0)491 90 36 64 www.lacaravelle-marseille.fr
An unbeatable view of Notre Dame de La Garde, Caravelle's long first-floor balcony is a crow's nest overlooking the bustling Vieux Port and the bobbing masts of sleek yachts. Head there for an apero at sunset where drinks are served with amuse bouches of tapenade and anchovies.
8 Plus Belle La Vie
56 Rue Ste Françoise, +33 (0)9 51 85 54 29, www.boutiqueplusbellelavie.com
Take home a souvenir from the gift shop in the gritty heart of the Panier district where France's favourite soap opera Plus Belle la Vie - beamed daily into millions of homes - is set.