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French property watch: coastal charm of Bouches-du-Rhône

Glorified in films and books, this department is a true gem for those who are looking for sun, sea and bright cultural life.

Clockwise: views of Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, Arles and La Ciotat Pic: Pani Garmyder; RossHelen; Alexey Fedorenko; Boris Stroujko / Shutterstock

Departmental capital: Marseille

Main cities/towns: Aix-en-Provence, Martigues, Arles, Aubagne, Istres, Salon-de-Provence, Vitrolles, Marignane, La Ciotat, Miramas, Gardanne

The most populous department in the hugely popular Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (Paca) region of south-east France, the Bouches-du-Rhône (literally Mouths of the Rhône) is home to more than two million of the five million or so people who call Paca home. 

Its capital, Marseille, is the second-largest city in France, and has been an important harbour since before Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul. The Roman presence left numerous monuments across the department.

It is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution in 1790. It was created from the western part of the former province of Provence and the principalities of Orange, Martigues and Lambesc. Three years later, it lost part of its territory, including Orange, when the Vaucluse department was created.

It is not wall-to-wall sunshine here, but it is not far off. It does not rain much – only around 65 days see rainfall of more than 1mm. But when it does rain, it is hard and heavy, usually in the spring and autumn, which accounts for the bulk of its annual 700mm average rainfall. Even so, some areas are particularly dry, with the Côte Bleue, the Calanques and the bay of La Ciotat averaging 450mm of rain per year.

Properties in the department benefit from the so-called coastal bounce, which means prices are higher than for equivalent inland properties. Prices for property in Salon-de-Provence in need of some renovation can start from €2,935 per m², while a house in Plan-de-Cuques will be valued even higher at €3,428 per m².

Related stories:

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French property watch: Drôme - an idyllic ‘gateway to the south’

French property watch: Location makes Eure a prime spot for buyers

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