Marseille is the second largest French city on the Mediterranean and capital of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. Unfortunately doesn’t have the best reputation, due to high crime rates and immigration.
From my travels around France, ALL the people I meet said to be very careful in Marseille or even not to go there.
I can’t say that Marseille is very safe, I could have been lucky because fortunately, I didn’t have any problems at all as a solo female traveller.
Its great to explore the city on foot, but I also recommend you to buy a bus card because the city is quite big.
Vieux-Port (Old Port)
The Old Port is located in the heart of the city and is a very popular place. The bay is packed with boats and yacht surrounded by cafes, restaurants, bars and hotels.
It is quite busy but still picturesque, with a mish-mash of styles and influences.
Notre-Dame de La Garde “La Bonne Mère”
The Notre-Dame de La Garde sits on the highest point in the city. The best part is to walk up the hill and the 360 panoramic views.
The basilica is ornamented with coloured marble, byzantine-style mosaics, and murals.
Chateau D’If Frioul
Is an incredible landmark because of The Count of Monte Cristo from Alexander Dumas. If the weather is good, you can go by boat to the island, from the Vieux Port (old port).
The fort is nice but to be honest not much to see, although the views are great.
La Major, Marseille Cathedral
It is a beautiful and at the same time unusual roman catholic cathedral built in the nineteenth century in Romano-Byzantine style.
The Cathedral of Marseille stands on the western edge of the old town above the Quai de la Joliette.
MUCEM Museum (Museum of Civilization in Europe and the Mediterranean)
The MUCEM, is an iconic museum mostly because of the structure of the building. It’s really a magnificent place and a fantastic playground if you like photography! I strongly recommend a visit even if is just to contemplate the remarkable building.
You can access, to both the courtyard of J4 and the ramparts of the fort, for free. To visit the permanent and temporary exhibitions is 9,50€.
The Virile Charité, located in the heart of Marseille’s Le Panier quarterwas built as an almshouse, although the beauty of the building doesn’t really give that impression with its neoclassical central chapel and elegant arcaded courtyard.
Today is home to a number of cultural institutions and museums.
The Fort Saint-Jean, is for me one of the best places in Marseille. The fort lies at the northern mouth of Vieux Port and was recently restored.
Its perfect for scenic strolls through its gardens, and to enjoy the views of the Mediterranean coastline.
If you go to the top of the gardens near the footbridge to MuCEM, you can see Marseille’s Cathedral, and admired the amazing views of Marseille and of the Mediterranean.
Natural History Museum of Marseille
The museum is inside the astonishing Palais Longchamp, which is worth a visit just to contemplate the architecture and the gardens. Not really worth to visit inside.
Les Docks Village
If you are into shopping Les Docks are a mid-19th century complex of shipping warehouses, that has been redeveloped and now includes shops, boutiques, galleries, cafes and restaurants.
The buildings are connected by creative courtyards. This alone can be good a reason to visit.
The quartier of Cour Julien walls are extravagantly painted for everyone to decipher and enjoy. A wonderful area with loads of quirky stores, cafes, restaurants nice bars, and colourful street art and graffiti covering most of the facades. Make sure you have the time to explore it!
A great place to buy fresh fruit and vegetables.
For some reason, Marseille also has a copy of the famous David from Michelangelo, placed in the middle of a roundabout near the Prado beaches.
photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha
Have you ever been to Marseille? What other places would you include here?
Albi is small and relatively off-the-touristy radar town on the Tarn River in southern France, conveniently located about an hour northeast from Toulouse.
Despite its size, Albi is incredibly rich in history and charm. For me is without a doubt one of my favorite small town in France.
Albi is covered in red bricks, what gives this town a charming and distinctive aspect. The best way to visit Albi is by wandering around the historic center. Through the small cobblestone streets and alleyways near the river.
The Cathedral is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. This place will take your breath-way, it’s imposingly tall and has a distinctive look for the use of brick to construct its exterior. I personally, never came across a construction of this size made of bricks.
This incredibly beautiful Gothic Cathedral is located in the middle of the lovely charming plaza filled with cafes, boulangeries, and other stores.
I found the interior as impressive as the exterior.
Maison du Vieil Alby
The Maison du Vieil Alby is a brick-half-timbered house covered in red-bricks. This house is one of the oldest-surviving buildings in Albi.
A Catholic church with a small cozy cloister, perfect stop, to have a snack or to relax.
Palais de la Berbie
The Palais de la Berbie was a former Bishop’s Palace that serves today as an art museum dedicated to the artwork of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
The gardens behind it, are truly fantastic and the view of the Tarn River spectacular.
Old medieval bridge.
The special thing about the Albi bridge is that it’s also constructed with the same red brick from which all the buildings in the old town were made.
From the bridge, you get a great view over the rest of Albi and the city of Madeleine which is located on the other side of the bridge. The river itself is also quite pretty.
From the other side of town, you have excellent views of the cathedral and the the Pont Vieux along the Tarn River
It’s a small indoor marketplace, unfortunately with no vegan options.
where to stay and how to get there
Albi is a great place to visit but is really small. So its better to base yourself in the nearby big city of Toulouse and do Albi as a day trip. Toulouse as plenty of accommodation choices and Albi doesn’t.
Toulouse has plenty of hostels, hotels as well as a range of AirB&Bs to choose from.
Blabla car works really well in France and is a great way to meet local people.
Toulouse is a charming French town that surprises with its enchanting atmosphere, and location between the Garonne River and the mighty Canal du Midi, plus it’s still a bit off the radar to most people.
The ochre rooftops and coral-pink brick facades gave this sunny town the nickname ‘La Ville Rose’ (the pink city). I found Toulouse quite romantic, perfect for a couple.
Toulouse is an easy stop-off in the heart of the south west of France. Has plenty to do and see from ancient palaces to great food markets. Toulouse has two Unesco heritage sites, the Canal du Midi and the Basilica of St. Sernin, the biggest Romanesque building in Europe.
Toulouse is a “big small city“, where everything you may want to visit is quite close, plus the public transports are amazing, making it really easy to get around.
As I mention before this Basilique is a Unesco heritage site, and it’s considered one of the largest remaining Romanesque buildings in Europe. I found the bell-tower especially impressive, standing 64 meters above the ground.
The city is quite clean and many streets in the center are limited to pedestrians. Bikes are also everywhere. The Old Town not only is a concentration of monuments and old buildings but is also the place where the normal everyday life takes place.
It’s the majestic square in the heart of Toulouse, bordered by grand buildings made from Toulouse’s hallmark rose-red bricks.
The building itself is accessible to the public, and the entry is free.. Going inside is definitely worth it.
Musée des Augustins
Used to be a convent, nowadays is a fine art museum which houses some of the works from the French school between the 15th and 18th centuries. The medieval cloister and garden are especially magical, surrounded by salons filled with evocative statues and sculptures.
Also know as Toulouse Cathedral, it’s a Roman Catholic church built between the 13th and 17th centuries. The cathedral is a combination of northern and southern Gothic styles.
Canal du Midi
A picturesque canal whose waters flow throughout the southwest of France until exiting into the Mediterranean Sea, perfect for a stroll along the River Garonne during a sunny day.
The Pont-Neuf is the oldest and also the main bridge in town, a great place to walk along the Garonne river. The bridge was constructed in the 1500s.
Located in the north of the city near the Compans Caffarelli. On the day I visited the garden, there was virtually no one there, it’s a gorgeous place, that definitely deserves a visit.
Chapelle des Carmélites
It’s a stunning chapel that will absolutely take your breath away. Inside this chapel is covered in fresco painting, from the wall to the ceiling. The chapel is covered with religious depiction of the Heavens, definitely worth a peak.
Market of Saint Aubin
The Market happens every Sunday morning and is run by local farmers. It’s a great place to buy organics products, vegan street food, find local artists and books. Although Toulouse has several markets this one was my favorite
The Marché Victor Hugo, is quite big and well known for its gourmet stalls and restaurants but more is more suitable to non-vegans.
How to get there
Toulouse has its own airport, 20 minutes away from the city center. It also has great connections from the airport to the city.
Along the Rhine, there are plenty of charming towns that will make you step back in time. Bacharach is undoubtedly for me, one of the prettiest of the Rhine villages.
The last time I visited Bacharach was in February, and I was lucky enough to have a snow day. This small German medieval town is definitely a must during any season, but you can’t deny that the snow adds a little something else.
Wondering through Bacharach by itself is already an amazing experience. Bacharach is a charming small town behind a 14th-century wall, with narrow cobblestone streets, and historic buildings with half-timbered mansions involved by imposing vineyards.
The Stahleck Castle marks it’s presence up from the hill, with a breathtaking view of the Rhine river.
There are several paths leading up to the castle and down to town. It can be a bit steep and slippery in places with the snow and the ice, but the views are worthy. The courtyard of the castle overlooks the Rhine and the valley of Lorelei.
The tiny Bacharach is easily reachable by train. The train journey stretches along the Rhine river, and the journey is simply amazing dotted with castles, vines and, small historical towns.
The Rhine Gorge is like something out of a fairytale with castles dotted as far as the eye can see, medieval towns, and great wine.
Personally, I recommend Bacharach as a day out. Because there will be more and better options for accommodation and food elsewhere, plus the train journey is easy, comfortable and the views a delight.
If you do decide to overnight, there are plenty of options including the castle. Yes! it’s true, they transformed the 12th century fortified castle into a hostel.
Cologne is mostly known for its beautiful Gothic cathedral and crazy carnival, and I was lucky enough to experience both. Cologne is also a major cultural center.
After Düsseldorf I took the train down to Cologne, the largest city of the German Bundesland of North Rhine-Westphalia, during carnival time (Karneval).
Carnival is a big deal in Germany, and the city of Cologne was unrecognizable when I arrived. There was a festive spirit in the air, lots of alcohol, music, fun, noise, crowds and thousands of people dressed up. Cologne’s Carnival is the biggest in Germany and has a long and rich history which I did not know much about, until then.
The City of Cologne
Cologne is a fairly walkable city, but if you are more of a bus person, a single ticket costs €2.80 a day pass is €8.60. Cologne also has a dense network of bike routes along the Rhine.
The river runs through the heart of old town so you can also take a cruise along the river.
Altstadt (The Old Town)
Cologne doesn’t really impress with its old town since only a tiny area of historic streets survived the World War II. The reman streets are colorful and great for a wander around.
The Köln’s Dom
The world-famous Gothic cathedral, is located right next to the train station, in the center of Köln, is the fourth-tallest in the world, and luckily survived the war. The construction and details are quite impressive, and I do recommend going in the morning before everyone else arrives. Visiting the cathedral is free.
The South Tower, is 157 meters high, with 533 steps, (4€) if the weather is good you have a great panoramic view all the way over and around Cologne and the Rhine river.
The Belgian Quarter
Located outside old town, is kind of a pot mixing bits and pieces of France, Belgium and Germany. Here all the street are named after cities in Belgium, like Brüsseler Platz, a beautiful scare surrounding a church.
There is a huge variety of local and international boutique shops, ethnic markets, restaurants, and local cafes to discover.
It’s another area outside old town that deserves to be explored. A few years ago some well-renowned covered Ehrenfeld with stunning murals.
Art Museums & Street Art
Cologne has a number of excellent museums, like The Ludwig Museum with an impressive Pop Art collection with work from the well known Warhol and Lichtenstein, and great street art to be found around the city. For instance, in Ehrenfeld, or Eigelstein, the key is to leave old town and walk around back streets, side streets and all the roads in between the main ones.
Some other museums are quite unusual, such as the German Olympic Museum the Chocolate Museum or the perfume museum.
If you do like museums, its best to buy the MuseumsCard (€18)
This is one of twelve gates of the medieval city wall located in Rudolfplatz.
Skulpturen Park Köln (sculpture park)
It is a relaxing and interesting place that combines art and nature. Artists have been commissioned, to create work that interacts creatively with the surrounded nature. The entry is free, and the park combines permanent and temporary exhibition.
Located in the north of the city, next to the zoo. It’s a great place to visit during summer and spring. The park is very well maintained, and the entrance is free.
Cologne’s streets are home to an exceptionally large number of flea markets, there you may find amazing and affordable vintage items. Even if you don’t want to buy something, it still is a nice place with a special atmosphere, to walk through looking at the antiques. If you are there to buy bargaining is a must, most of the markets also have food and beverage stalls.
The panorama tower, Köln Triangle
this impressive high-rise KölnTriangle offers a good 360-degree panorama view of Cologne, to go up they charge a €3 fee.
Love Lock Bridge
The Hohenzollern Bridge or Love Lock Bridge is completely covered with tens of thousands of padlocks, each one engraved with names, dates or something romantic.
From Old Town, you can cross one of the numerous bridges that separate the two parts of the city. From this side, there’s a great view of old town and the Cathedral.
If you have time:
Take a train and pop into some of the many picturesque towns outside of Cologne along the Rhine.
Drachenfels has a spectacular castle, called the Dranchenburg Castle. 1 1/2 hours by train.
Aachen is a university-town great for history-lovers, and it is close to Belgium. 1 hour by train.
Koblenz, is a town full of ancient history, 1.5 hour by train.
Mainz, its a nice little university town with a medieval center and an impressive cathedral. 1.5 hours by train.
Marburg is picturesque medieval hill town with narrow cobbled streets and half-timbered houses. 2.5 hours by train.
Mainz stretches along the Rhine at its confluence with the River Main. It’s a small university city that is more charming, beautiful and vibrant that the famous neighbors of Cologne and Frankfurt.
Mainz is part of one of the most scenic train rides in all of Germany, to say the least. So travel by train is mandatory. You really can’t miss it, I assure that the ride will be one of the highlights of your trip to Germany.
The train journey is along the banks of the river, its a relaxing journey that dazzles with its ruins of old fortresses, beautiful castles, small medieval towns, and countless vines. Most of the towns in this line are worth a visit if you have the time.
A good way to visit them is to stay in Mainz and do a return day journey to visit some of the most historic towns along the river.
Mainz has a charming and inviting Old Town, easily explored by foot. The historic streets impress mostly with it’s fantastic architecture, cobbled streets, beautiful half-timbered houses, small boutiques, appealing open squares, restaurants, wine bars, rustic taverns and interesting museums and churches.
The atmospheric square, where the weekly farmers market takes place is the place where the impressive Roman Catholic church from the 10th century is located. The beautiful Mainz Cathedral – Dom is perfectly situated in the heart of the city, facing the Gutenberg Museum.
This museum is one of the oldest printing museums in the world and was founded over 500 years ago. The exhibition is a journey through the writing and printing history.
Unlike the Dom, the Gutenberg museum is not free. The ticket is 5€ for adults.
From the museum when walking through the pedestrian street “Augustinerstraße” (Augustinerstrasse), you can still see some details of the magnificent cathedral. This street leads to a Roman theatre.
The St. Stephen’s Church It’s another church that deserves a visit, for its world-famous Chagall windows. They have that name because of the ethereal stained-glass created by the Russian-Jewish artist Marc Chagall, as a symbol of the Jewish–Christian reconciliation.
A walk on the promenade along the Rhine River banks is also great.
Mainz old town is a bit more than one kilometer from the train station.
Cycling is also an option in Mainz, you just need the install an app to use one of the many public bicycles around town.
Ryanair links several European airports with Frankfurt-Hahn airport, which is closer to Mainz than Frankfurt.
To reach the airport from the city or the city from the airport buy online a ticket from one of the low-cost bus companies. The bus is direct and takes 1.30h.
If you’re a fan of Carnaval you should go in February to take part in the traditional carnival festivities.
But destiny (and cheap flights) made me end up there, and I didn’t miss the opportunity to visit 🙂 I had no expectation about Düsseldorf. It had never really crossed my mind going there, so I was kind of surprised how pretty it was, and how Düsseldorf’s art scene was so amazing.
Dusseldorf is very close to the famous city of Cologne and is the capital of the German state North Rhine-Westphalia.
>> Düsseldorf old city center
Dusseldorf has a small charming area that is intact in the old city center (Altstadt), the rest of the city was mostly rebuilt after the war.
Passing over the Stadtgarden you can make your way into the old city and the boardwalk that runs along the Rhine River.
To explore the area is better by foot. Just walk randomly through the web of lanes. This district is known as “the longest bar in the world”, because the small Old Town has more than 300 pubs.
In the Old City Center, you will not miss the Marktplatz square with the Town Hall and the equestrian statue of Elector John William II. During the Carnaval and Christmas, this place is full flow.
The Castle Tower right on the banks of the Rhine is another important stop, as it’s the only remaining piece of the old castle that used to dominate the area.
Düsseldorf’s biggest church is called St. Lambertuskirsch. It’s not the Cologne cathedral but still beautiful and quite impressive, you will recognize it for its twisted tower.
>> The Japanese quarter
Dusseldorf has the third largest Japanese community in Europe, and the Japanese culture is very present around the Japanese quarter, centered around Immermannstr.
As a tourist destination, this area lacks in charm or atmosphere but you can find here Japanese shops, restaurants, tea shops, travel agencies, appliance stores, grocery stores, etc.. its kind of a little Tokyo or Japantown.
>> The Königsallee (King’s Alley)
This famous shopping street has beautiful stone walkways and a picturesque canal in the backdrop. It is literally a shoppers’ paradise, and for people like me, a place for a nice, long walk.
It’s called Kö by the locals, and it’s a great staring point to discover the city. Where the Königsallee Boulevard converges with the Hofgarten promenade, you have the sinuous Kö-Bogen; a large-scale office and retail complex. The Hofgarten promenade it’s a relaxing place to read a book, drink a coffee or do a picnic near the lake.
No matter which side of the Rhine you choose to walk through; the views are amazing. The Burgplaz marks the beginning of the promenade, wandering along the Rhine River from the Altstadt towards the Rhineturm, is a fantastic walkway ,watching the ship’s and tourists boats up and down the river and the surrounding architecture.
Rhine Tower (Rheinturm)
The Rheinturm is a 240.5-meter high concrete telecommunications tower, in the head of a modern district on the river. From the top, you have an overall look of Dusseldorf.
The Japanese Garden is a wonderful place for meditation, despite the distance from the city center, you can easily cycle there. The Volksgarten is another great park perfect for a summer picnic. It has a small beer garden open during summer months.
Have you ever been to Düsseldorf?
What did you like the most? Do you have any recommendations?
Düsseldorf’s Carnival is a massive over-the-top event, It’s crazy how Germans are into it.
Düsseldorf has a completely different vibe during the celebrations. There’re lights, music, costumes, ‘home-made’ floats, rides, fireworks, street food everywhere, parades, and lots and lots and lots of alcohol.
Who would guess that Carnival is such a big deal in Germany and that German people are really into it?
Sure that doesn’t have the glamour, weather, music, rhythm and the tropical vibe from Brasil but still is a massive event.
In Germany, the dispute is between Cologne’s carnival and Düsseldorf’s carnival, but best is not to ask around which one is the best one, since its a sensitive topic for some people. Apparently, they are eternal rival cities.
This may surprise you but Cologne’s Carnival is among the biggest in Europe, but someone said, what Düsseldorf lacks in size it makes up for in alcohol consumption.
There are several variations of Carnival throughout Germany. But the celebrations kick-off on November 11th at 11:11 am everywhere. But the crazy parties don’t really begin until February, also referred to as the “crazy days”
Dusseldorf is one of the fortresses of the Rhineland Carnival and drinking from early morning is part of the fun, during the week-long carnival, bars and pubs know no closing time.
What to Expect
The dates of the carnival vary from year to year but always starts on a Thursday before Ash Wednesday. This day is called Altweiberfastnacht (Women’s Carnival Day). And is when the ladies take over the City Hall and cut off men’s ties. Women in witch costumes “kidnap” the mayor and take control over the city. Followed by a street carnival in the Altstadt (Old Town)
If you think this is too crazy I’m afraid I need to say that this is just the beginning 🙂 From this point onward, it steadily gets more crazy, crowded, and loud.
On Saturday, is the Jugendumzug (Youth Procession), at Düsseldorf city center more oriented for families.
On Sunday is the “Karneval Sunday” in Konigsallee people start drinking and parting early in the morning, and locals get creative with ways to carry around their alcohol, have spectacular costumes and small ‘home-made’ floats
Rosenmontagszug or Rose Monday Parade
The parade comprises thousands of people in costumes marching around the city for hours, they include a giant decorated floats and people marching on foot through the city center and down Dusseldorf’s shopping street, Königsallee. Many of the floats from the Dusseldorf parade are political and often controversial.
It’s important to memorize the word- Helau, the local word for the Karneval greeting in Dusseldorf if you want to catch candies, chocolates, crips and other trinkets that they threw at the crowds, while you shout “Helau” and wave your hands.
Have you been to a carnival parade in Germany? What were your first impressions?
Do you have tips about Dusseldorf’s Carnival? Share in the comments below.
Now you just need to figure out what you’re going to wear next year…