Vapiano Marseille – France’s most important port city has lots to see
Since 2014, Marseille has had one more sight to add to its portfolio. Our local Store Manager Vincent Astier reveals what it is, who dines there and what’s particularly popular on the menu.
Marseille is nestled on the Mediterranean coast. As well as being home to France’s most important port, its second Vapiano restaurant with two huge roof terraces opened last year. Local Store Manager Vincent chatted to us about the city’s latest attraction and the unique history surrounding the original Vapiano which first opened in 2011. He also has a few insider tips about this inimitable Mediterranean city in the South of France.
Hello Vincent, thanks for taking the time to chat to us. What do you think is Marseille’s best feature?
Personally, I love this city because it’s so close to the Med. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. Because it looks out over the ocean, there’s a very special kind of light throughout the whole city. But it’s the people that make this place so unique too. I think they’re much friendlier than in some other French cities.
Can you go into more detail? And is there anything that locals are passionate about?
Marseille is very cosmopolitan. The people who live here come from all walks of life and a range of ethnic backgrounds. And they’re all proud of their city. For some of them, this pride is linked to the city itself, while for others it’s a pride in sporting achievements’ – or to be more precise – in football! That’s one subject that you can hear some heated discussions on. Whatever you do, don’t mention “Paris Saint-Germain”!
Thanks for the heads up! What are the must-see sights if you only have one day in Marseille?
Well, one day is nowhere near enough time to get a feeling for Marseille and to discover all it has to offer. But let me think. Everyone should climb the “Notre Dame de la Garde” or “La Bonne Mère” as we call it here. It means “The Good Mother”. From the top of this church, high up on the hill you can see the whole of the city and the nearby islands. It’s Marseille’s top attraction!
What’s your favourite spot in Marseille? Something away from the usual stream of tourists?
My favourite place is actually one of Marseille’s top sights but it’s a long way from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. It’s known as “Les Calanques” – a series of wild rocky inlets on the Mediterranean coastline. Small lagoon-like bays separate them and the colour of the water is simply indescribable!
Sounds amazing! Do you have any other tips for those wanting to explore Marseille by night?
In the warmer months from May to September there are a number of music, dance and theatre festivals dotted around Marseille. Rooftops are transformed into super hip locations throbbing with people and loud music. One other place you can’t afford to miss is “Les Terrasses du Port”. It’s an enormous, high-end shopping centre that opened in 2014 at the city’s port. Our second Vapiano restaurant is located right at the heart of it with a huge roof terrace for diners to enjoy the fresh air on.
Let us into a secret. Which one of the two restaurants do you prefer?
The nice thing about Marseille’s two Vapiano restaurants is that they are so different. Although the original one is situated at the centre of town, it has a calmer, more relaxed atmosphere. Lots of our guests are neighbours and locals. But it wasn’t always as quiet!
Sounds like there’s a story coming! Tell us about the history of Vapiano in Avenue du Prado?
The building used to be a police station. But it wasn’t the criminals that made it notorious; it was the legendary head commissioner! His name was Georges Nguyen van Loc, but everyone called him “le Chinios” or “the Chinese man”. He wrote an autobiography about his life as a police officer that was later made into a TV series. He even played the starring role!
And this historical building is now home to Marseille’s first ever Vapiano. Wow. How can the new restaurant compete with that?!
Well, the second restaurant is brand new and part of the vast, ultra modern “Les Terrasses du Port” shopping mall. It has two large terraces with breathtaking views over the ocean. This branch has become one of Marseille’s dining hot-spots in summer and we often have celebrities here as guests. Football players, politicians, musicians. I’m awful at recognizing people though!
Are there any dishes that are particularly popular in Marseilles?
People here love pasta. It’s a bestseller in both Vapiano restaurants. We make a lot of “Crema die Funghi” and “Carbonara Salmone”. I’m more of a pizza fan though, especially with pesto and spinach.
Vincent, we’re already looking forward to our next trip to the South of France! Thanks for chatting to us and for the invaluable tips.