Sandy beaches, a picturesque old port, an almost wild island and colorful calanques… the town of La Ciotat is an excellent destination for a short break or an entire vacation.
Here’s our guide to the must-do’s in La Ciotat, with lots of photos.
This guide is completely independent, based on our experiences. We visited the region anonymously, making our own choices and paying our bills in full.
1. Old port and pointed boats
To really get to grips with the city and its atmosphere, take the time to stroll along the old port. Here, the yachts aren’t 3 stories high, so you can discover a rather picturesque place, with the church standing proud. We love the atmosphere of the old port, which is why it’s one of our favorite towns on the Côte d’Azur.
On the water, don’t miss the old riggings with the signs explaining their history, and a little further on, all these colorful low boats are traditional boats of the region: they’re called “les pointus”. These are fishing boats, and their appearance dates back to the end of the 19th century.
On land, don’t miss the equatorial sundial and the statue of the fishing court.
See our article dedicated to the old port of La Ciotat.
2. Waterfront promenade
What we particularly appreciated about La Ciotat was the beautiful length of the bay. This makes for a long walk along the water’s edge and beaches.
From La Ciotat’s seafront promenade, we enjoyed the unobstructed views, especially as you head towards the city with Cap de l’Aigle at the end. It’s always quite surprising.
The walk is more or less close to the sea, but always very pleasant.
3. The narrow streets of the old town
Like all the old towns in the region, you’ll find narrow streets, colorful buildings and glimpses of the sea between the buildings in La Ciotat.
Some alleys are very lively, while others are much quieter. These old centers always offer a pleasant stroll into the past.
Here you’ll find fun little stores, chapels and colorful shutters…
4. Figuerolles cove
Outside the city center, the place not to be missed in La Ciotat is the Calanque de Figuerolles. This is one of the most beautiful beaches on the Côte d’Azur (in our opinion – see our list).
We fell in love with this colorful landscape where ochre rocks, eroded over millions of years, meet turquoise waters.
What’s more, it’s less than 30 minutes’ walk from the old port. To discover such a natural site almost in the city center is exceptional!
Find out more in our article on the calanque.
WHERE TO STAY IN La Ciotat
Option 1: Old port side
Enjoy the charm of the old town, the port and all the restaurants.
- Best Western Vieux-Port Hotel with rooftop pool – see prices, photos and availability
5. Tour de l’Île-Verte
Just opposite La Ciotat, as an extension of Cap de l’Aigle, lies Île-Verte. It can be reached by shuttle in just 15 minutes, with great views during the crossing (tickets purchased on the boat, in cash).
It’s a very small island. You can make the tour in less than an hour (between two shuttles): you’ll see two forts, bunkers, several coves, two of which have a small beach, and magnificent panoramic views all around.
See our article dedicated to Île-Verte
6. Beaches of La Ciotat
In addition to its calanques, La Ciotat also has beautiful sandy beaches with gentle slopes that are ideal for children. They’re also long enough to allow you to swim great lengths.
For example, there’s the Grande-Plage, the Plage Lumière, the PLage des Capucins…
All offer beautiful views of the bay, with Île-Verte and Cap de l’Aigle in the background.
What’s more, the Plage Lumière has a large Handiplage facility to accommodate as many different profiles as possible.
See our article dedicated to La Ciotat’s most beautiful beaches.
7. Water sports and adrenalin
The bay of La Ciotat is also an exceptional place to enjoy a wide range of sea and land-based activities. You can for example:
- Kayak to Île-Verte and Figuerolles cove – see program and availability
- Climbing at Trou du Souffleur – see program and availability
- Windsurfing and other water sports
- Experience paddle-boarding – see program and availability
- Discover the calanques from a different angle by caving – see program and availability
8. Calanque de Mugel
If, like us, you love the calanques landscape, there’s a second one to discover. It’s a little less impressive than Figuerolles, but just as beautiful, with a direct view of Île-Verte.
The water is azure and transparent, ideal for spotting fish, sea urchins and starfish.
You can also take a stroll around the park to enjoy nature right next to the city.
OUR TPS FOR RENTING YOUR CAR IN Provence
- Compare prices on our preferred platform: DiscoverCars – one of the best rated sites.
- Choose a car that is powerful enough (the roads are steep) but compact (some passages are narrow).
- Think of thecomplete insurance (some roads are tortuous and narrow).
- There is a lot of demand, book it early.
9. Frescoes in Notre-Dame de l’Assomption church
In the heart of the town, discover the Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption church. Impossible to miss as it dominates the port. We really appreciated its sober, elegant Romanesque architecture (built between 1603 and 1625). And once inside, the sobriety is shaken by a series of 3 modern frescoes, a biblical interpretation by a local artist. A quick but surprising visit.
See our article dedicated to the church.
10. View from Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde chapel
A little further out of town, you’ll find a small chapel on the cliffs: the Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde chapel, dating from the 17th century (but modified in the 20th). She’s the guardian of navigators. From here, you have a perfect view of the bay of La Ciotat and the Bec de l’Aigle.
Please note that the parking lot is tiny and the surrounding lots are private. We recommend that you come on foot.
11. Eden-Théâtre cinema
Another special feature of La Ciotat is its connection with the cinema.
Don’t miss the Eden-Théatre cinema. It is considered the world’s oldest commercial cinema. It was built in 1889. It was here in 1895 that Louis Lumière demonstrated the cinematograph with the arrival of the train at the station. And on March 21, 1899, the first commercial cinema screening took place, with 250 spectators.
Sightseeing tours are organized and last 1h30. Find out more.
12. Route des Crètes: views of La Ciotat and Cassis
We’d also advise you to get some height. The Route des Crêtes between La Ciotat and Cassis offers spectacular scenery. This is one of the most beautiful roads in Provence.
At the start of the route, you can stop several times to admire the bay of La Ciotat. Then views turn to the Bay of Cassis, with its impressive cliffs.
It’s an effective 30min drive, but longer to take in all the sights.
What’s most surprising about La Ciotat is that between this picturesque town and these impressive rock formations lies a shipbuilding yard still in operation today! To find out more about 150 years of shipbuilding history, visit the museum. You’ll discover the techniques, tools and materials used, as well as numerous model boats.
See museum news here.
14. Ciotaden Museum
The town’s other museum is dedicated to the town of La Ciotat. In 13 rooms, you’ll discover different aspects of the town’s history: amphorae found on the seabed, the first pétanque balls, sacred art in the region, the history of the Lumière brothers and, of course, lots of information about shipbuilding.
See our article dedicated to the museum.
15. La Ciotat Great Arch hike
And finally, here’s another more natural activity.
We’re not in Utah, but you can still see a magnificent natural arch near La Ciotat. It is also known as the “Terrevaine Natural Bridge”.
It is visible from the Route des Crêtes, but can be reached on foot.
There’s not too much signposting and different ways to get there. The hike also takes you to another rock formation called the Dent du Chat.
Here’s the Alltrails path you can follow.
And if you don’t want to do it alone, you can join a guided hike – see details.
A LITTLE MORE patience
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Best things to do in La Ciotat: other ideas
City garden and statues
As you turn down one of the city streets, you may come to the garden. If so, take 10 minutes to visit the 4 works of art that tell the story of La Ciotat’s historic heritage:
- The bronze Locmotive statue depicts the arrival of the train in the station, in reference to Louis Lumière’s first film.
- The bronze statue “L’Arroseur Arrosé” in reference to Louis Lumière’s 1895 film.
- The statue of a pétanque player, a tribute to this sport born in La Ciotat in 1908.
- The statue of Michel Sinon with his guenon Zaza. This popular actor loved this city with a passion.
Chapelle des Pénitents Bleus
Not far from the Eden-Theatre is another chapel. It, too, is quite sober. It was built in 1626 in a baroque style.
Exhibitions by local artists are held inside. Don’t hesitate to come in and admire its surprisingly high arches and openings.
What to do in La Ciotat when it rains: La Halle Lumière
Being in the city of cinema, why not take the time to go and see a film. The Halle Lumière, built in 1895, was a covered market. But it soon became a cinema in 1913!
What a historic location for a new 7th art experience!
La Ciotat with children: Games
La Ciotat is a very pleasant town with children: the beaches are gently sloping, the town is easy to explore on foot…
On the marina side, you’ll find a lovely playground where children seem to have a great time, and parents can enjoy beautiful sea views.
Things to do near La Ciotat
The region is full of pretty towns, villages and magnificent landscapes. Among our favorite activities:
- Discover the calanques between Marseille and Cassis by boat, either from the old port of La Ciotat or from Cassis.
- Visit the charming town of Cassis with its picturesque harbour and superb views of the Soubeyranes cliffs – 30 minutes drive
- Discover the old port of Sanary-sur-Mer and its traditional boats – 30 minutes away
- Explore Marseille with its many museums and religious heritage – 45 minutes away
- Toulon and its harbour with warships – 35 minutes away
- Aix-en-Provence, with its historic streets and the inspiration it provided Cézanne – 1h drive
Visiting La Ciotat: tips & frequently asked questions
Where to eat in La Ciotat
La Ciotat has a great choice of restaurants in all categories. Among our favorites:
- Restaurant Couleurs de Shimanti (book well in advance) – Japanese-Mediterranean fusion
- Kitch & Cook restaurant for tasty homemade food
- Restaurant Les 3 Secs for excellent value for money
See our selection of the best restaurants in La Ciotat (coming soon).
Where to park in La Ciotat
The easiest parking is next to the marina. It’s outdoors. But there’s also a large underground parking lot: Parking Le Vieux Port, which is also centrally located.
Is La Ciotat worth a visit?
Yes, La Ciotat is well worth a visit, and even a stay. It’s a town that keeps a low profile, but one that has really managed to enchant us: the charm of its port, dominated by an elegant church, its long golden sandy beaches and its calanques accessible on foot!
La Ciotat has a peaceful atmosphere that we recommend if you’re looking for a little more authenticity.
PLAN YOUR TRIP TO THE Côte d’Azur
- Where to stay