The Côte d’Azur Resort Bandol, located near the east coast of Marseille and Cassis, is not as well-known among foreign tourists as nearby Cassis. While its name means wine to most of the world, Bandol is also a well-developed seaside resort town. It offers many activities for many people, from boating enthusiasts, wine lovers to beach holidaymakers.
Bandol is about 30 minutes of driving from another seaside resort La Ciotat, where we stayed for one week during our two-week southern Provence trip. Originally, Bandol was not on our itinerary. We bought several Bandol wines during our stay in La Ciotat and found out that they all tasted surprisingly good. Curious about how the town looks like, we visited the place on the day before we drove back to Germany.
- Seafront promenade shaded by palm trees
- A harbour with a capacity of 1600 places
- The centre of Côte d’Azur Resort Bandol
- Plage de Renécros Beach Walk
- History behind the Île de Bendor (Bendor Island)
- The magic Bandol Wines
Seafront promenade shaded by palm trees
Bandol’s old port is a massive gray parking lot today. Our visit to Bandol started with the waterfront promenade, the Quai Charles de Gaulle, at the exit of the parking lot. We joined summer tourist crowds and strolled down the bustling double boulevard that runs along the seafront.
Most of the shops, bars, and restaurants are lined up on Quai Charles de Gaulle. Some restaurants place their tables in the centre line of the boulevard. It was quite a difficult job for the waiters to run back and forth and serve the guests in the centre. Further down the promenade, some street artists were drawing pictures on the ground, and each of them had a dedicated area. Most of them were not on site, leaving their belongings unattended.
A harbour with a capacity of 1600 places
The harbour, lined with small colourful traditional fishing boats and big private yachts, can accommodate 1600 boats and is one of the largest in France. To take some pictures of the Bandol seafront, we walked on the wooden bridges as far as we could.
It was nearly lunchtime, and the sky was as blue as the sea. The white yachts reflected the harsh sun rays that I could not open my eyes. I could imagine that the coastal view would be more colourful when the evening came. In the summer high season, the harbor was nearly full. Several technicians from the harbour authority were checking an incoming yacht. The other staff was doing regular control of the harbour area.
The centre of Côte d’Azur Resort Bandol
The centre of the traditional village of Bandol is around a square called the Place de l’Europe immediately behind the promenade. It is a series of three squares separated by raised terraces where a large fountain, shady plane trees, lively cafes combine with the view across the harbour, typical traditional Provencal squares.
At the top of the square is one of the most important historical monuments in Bandol, the Church Saint-Francois de Sales. The streets around the square are also interesting to explore, for example, the Allée Jean Moulin with some shops, bars, and restaurants.
A local street market held on that day. Owners sold local specialties and fresh catch of the sea. There was also ready-made food to eat on-site. It was still in the morning, but most foods were already gone.
Plage de Renécros Beach Walk
Beach lovers have a wide choice of beaches in Bandol, including several sandy beaches in the town itself as well as smaller rocky bays and creeks, mostly reached by following a short coastal path. We went to Plage de Renécros, a lovely circular beach that is just west of the Côte d’Azur Resort Bandol.
To find the entrance to it was challenging. We had to pass a living quarter to find the stairs down to the beach. Plage de Renécros is nearly encircled, so the waves are pretty calm, great for family holidaymakers. The beach has even an indoor public shower place. We exited the beach near the Hôtel Plein Large where we could spot the Île de Bendor (Bendor Island).
History behind the Île de Bendor (Bendor Island)
Paul Ricard, born in the city of Marseille to a family of wine merchants, decided to give his name to a drink he just created at not even 22 years old. Ricard is a pastis, an anise and licorice-flavored aperitif. Subsequently, he had made an enormous fortune and became an industrialist. In the 1950s, Paul Ricard purchased Bendor Island. He liked to share the islands with as many people as possible for holidays. The Ile de Bendor was also the meeting place of great artists.
To get there we had to take the boat shuttle, just seven minutes from the coast to the island, and even within swimming distance. The island has two museums and an art gallery. Exposition Universelle des Vins et Spiritueux contains thousands of bottles of booze from all over the world. A separate collection has displays of bottle labels, menus and recipes. And, it would only take half an hour to just walk round the island.
The magic Bandol Wines
Followed the road Corniche Bonapart, passed two parking areas, we were back to the waterfront promenade after a few hundred metres further walking.
Bandol wines are not as well-known as the wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy. Most vineyards are on steep and stone terraces. Because of the locations and the AOC regulations, winemakers have to harvest Bandol grapes by hand. Besides, the soil is not fertile, and so the vines are not high-yielding. Therefore, the local wine growers only produce a small quantity of high-quality wine.
We went to a local supermarket to buy several bottles carrying home. If you are unsure what to buy, then join a tour from either Marseille or Aix-en-Provence offer the visit of the vineyards including wine tasting:
- Aix-en-Provence: Half Day Wine Tour in Bandol and Cassis
- Bandol and Cassis: Full Day Wine Tour from Marseille
But if you visit Côte d’Azur Resort Bandol on your own, you could go to Oenothèque / Maison des Vins at the eastern end of the coastal boulevard, where you can discuss, sample, and buy wines from a range of local makers at vineyard prices.
How to get there
- By rail: Take the Marseille-Toulon-Hyères line and get off at Bandol (Click here for the train timetable). The train station in Bandol is relatively close to the centre of town: 900 metres, an easy ten minutes walk. Besides, several local buses also run between the station and the marina.
- By car: Bandol is just off the A50 motorway between Marseille and Toulon. Take exit 12, and you arrive virtually in the middle of town.
- By air: Marseille-Provence airport is 76 km, and Nice is 158 km.
Where to stay
Several hotels have the best locations in the town. My top picks are: