Most of the tourist that are heading to this Mediterranean city, will just see some main tourist attractions near the old harbor. And that’s a shame, because next to the bustling Noailles quarter is the quarter Cours Julien. Where street art, a fantastic bar and restaurant culture and multicultural street scenery are blending together. Let’s go to a southern French bohemian neighborhood!
The last decade Marseilles has been transformed into a hectic little metropole. One of the newer bohemian quarters is Cours Julien, situated next to Noailles and the Saint-Charles railway station, considered as France biggest street art quarter. Where now the Marseillais are enjoying nightlife, was until a few decades ago a market district, where locals bought there products from other Mediterranean countries as for example Algeria.
Since the eighties Cours Julien has great wall paintings between a lot of outstanding bars and restaurants. In the 1960’s, the city moved the market to another part in town. From that moment on, graffiti taggers and street artists expressed themselves at the local walls. Almost sixty years later, this quarter is, according to locals, considered to be the biggest street art quarter in the world.
During the last century, a lot of street art and graffiti tags were considered illegal. But the times are changing. In June 2014 the city council subsidized a street art project in this part of town with € 40.000. Thirty artists from the collective Massilia Graffiti created beautiful wall paintings along the pedestrianized streets and squares. Now people from all over France are admiring their work. I’ve been three times to Cours Julien and I didn’t noticed other foreign tourists.
But, for the regular Marseillais this quarter is a synonym for fun. Several days a week, people visit concerts at bars, taste local crafts beers and see the sun rising in the early hours at the other side off the hills. Because this quarter is blessed with the good things of life.
Bars and restaurants
These venues are my favourites:
- Bistronomie Yasmine, a Syrian restaurant. Excellent food from the Middle East at affordable prices. I highly recommend them! They’re located at the exit of the metro station Notre-Dame du Mont.
- O’Pakistan, a Pakistani restaurant. Good food for good prices. Situated at the Rue des Trois Rois.
- Bar Le Petit Pernod, at the Rue des Trois Rois as well. For Cours Julien standars just a random bar, but a cosy one. If you’re lucky, you’ll encounter groups of friends that are playing music at the terrace.
- Le Melting Pot, at the same street. This café has several local craft beers from tap.
- Le Couz’in, again at the same street. This small bar and restaurant offers an outstanding pisco sour (a Peruvian cocktail) and delicious and creative fushion kitchen dishes.
- Au Petit Nice, a typical French bistro at the Place Jean-Jaurès. They offer drinks and sandwiches at reasonable prices.
Another main attraction of Cours Julien as the square with the same name. From the end of the afternoon on, you can meet here old hippies that dance on reggae music while younger guys and girls are doing contemporary dance performances. Don’t forget to go to the Place Jean Jaurès (also called as La Plaine); since it has been pedestrianized.
How to get there? Get of the train at the Saint-Charles station, walk down the stairs and follow the Boulevard d’Athènes. Cours Julien will start 200 meters after metro station Noailles. You can go by metro as well and calling at station Notre-Dame du Mont. It’s at walking distance from Le Vieux Port, the old harbor, as well.
What to do? Just walk in the streets during daylight for admiring the street art and come back at night for discovering some interesting live music.
And after Cours Julien? Walk back to the busy quarter Noailles. During daytime you can enjoy the market, at night you can enjoy – after a couple of beers – an extremely good and cheap pizza from Pizzeria Charly at the Rue des Feuillants.