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Corsica (Ajaccio) Cruise Port

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Port of Corsica (Ajaccio): An Overview

No doubt about it: Ajaccio is my kind of cruise port -- easily explored on foot; crammed with good restaurants and well-stocked, unusual shops; and blessed with a harbour so pretty that local artists jostle with each other for a good spot from which to paint it.

On a sunny, Mediterranean morning, the harbour sparkles like sapphire-tinted cut glass. On arrival, it won't take even the more ...
No doubt about it: Ajaccio is my kind of cruise port -- easily explored on foot; crammed with good restaurants and well-stocked, unusual shops; and blessed with a harbour so pretty that local artists jostle with each other for a good spot from which to paint it.

On a sunny, Mediterranean morning, the harbour sparkles like sapphire-tinted cut glass. On arrival, it won't take even the poorest history scholar long to work out who Ajaccio's favourite son was. A stone pillar that welcomes visitors into the port is adorned with two portraits of Napoleon Bonaparte, who was born there on August 15, 1769 -- just a few months after the island of Corsica was finally claimed by the French, after being ruled for more than four centuries by the Genovese.

You'll still find Italian influence here in some street names and in the local cuisine, which, though essentially French, has a spicy undertone and features pork as a popular ingredient.

In terms of shops and restaurants, Ajaccio feels 100 percent French. Expect pretty patisseries, stylish fashion shops and chemists' windows, packed with every beauty accessory known to woman -- but at prices so high they would make a Parisien gasp. This is an island, after all; everything has to be imported, and that's reflected in the price tags. So be warned: This is not the place to make major purchases. less

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Things To Do
Port Reviews
Shore Excursions

Hanging Around

Unless you have time to hire a car or take a ferry along the coast (not recommended on a short cruise ship call), you don't need to hang around the Gare Maritime. Head left outside the tender pier, and keep going straight along the road to get to the heart of Ajaccio's action -- the pretty market square, the hotel de ville (town hall), the lovely Genovese old town and the best shops.

Don't Miss

The Palais Fesch is arguably Ajaccio's best museum. Its art collection -- amassed by Napoleon's uncle, Cardinal Fesch -- includes some wonderful Flemish and Dutch paintings and an array of Italian Old Masters (Botticelli, Titian), unsurpassed on French soil outside of the Louvre in Paris. Unfortunately, the Palais is closed for renovation until autumn 2009 (50, rue du Cardinal Fesch, two streets inland of the Gare Maritime, tel. 04 95 21 48 17).

Ajaccio's main market is pungent, colourful and stacked with great local goodies like fig, myrtle or plum liqueur, prettily packaged maize and honey cakes, spicy Corsican sausage and melt-in-the-mouth beignets (sugared doughnuts). You'll find the market opposite the Tourist Information Centre on Boulevard du Roi Jerome. (Head left from the pier, past the Gare Maritime, and you can't miss it.)

Ajaccio Cathedral, which dates from the 16th century, houses both Napoleon's baptismal font and a Delacroix painting entitled "Vierge au Sacre-Coeur." Tall and high-vaulted, the Cathedral (which lies on Rue St. Charles, to the left as you head toward the beach) is a cool haven on a hot day, and its elaborate chandeliers and white marble altar -- donated by the Empress Josephine -- are well worth a look.

Napoleana is everywhere in this town. As well as statues of the diminutive Corsican, you'll find his birthplace in Place Loetitia, off Rue St. Charles (open 9 a.m. until 12 p.m.; 2 to 6 p.m. in summer; closed Sunday and Monday afternoons; tel. 04 95 21 43 89; free). And, off the pretty, tree-lined square -- called Place Marechal Foch (to the left as you exit the port) -- you'll find a Musee Napoleon in the hotel de ville (town hall). It costs just under € 3 and is open 9 to 11:45 a.m. and 2 to 5:45 p.m. in summer. It's closed on weekends.

Realistically, it's hard to see much outside of Ajaccio with only a few hours to spend ashore, as the Corsican interior -- though spectacularly craggy and densely forested -- is not easy to negotiate. But, if you do decide to venture further afield on your own, allow plenty of time to get back before your ship sails.

Bastelica, a traditional Corsican mountain village, set 2,500 feet up in the foothills of Monte Renoso, lies 40 km east of Ajaccio. A taxi ride there is spectacular.

Getting Around

There are taxis at the port, but most aren't metered, so be prepared to haggle. Given high local prices, a fair price would be around € 30 per half-hour for a cab carrying up to four people -- but see if you can do better.


Corsica is one port where it's definitely worth taking your bathers ashore. St. Francois Beach -- a lovely horseshoe-shaped stretch of honey sand -- is just a 10-minute walk (heading left) from the tender drop-off.

And that's not all. Beach babies will be spoiled for choice in Ajaccio, as there are more than 20 sandy havens within 20 km of the port. Plage du Picanto (4 km away) and Plage d'Ariadne at Villanova (5 km away) are both recommended for families.


If you want a true taste of Corsica , try Brocciu, the pungent local cheese (used to flavour savoury pastries or mixed with chopped pork and stuffed into artichoke hearts).

Wild boar, blackbird and thrush pate are also local specialties. The squeamish may prefer the island's pork-based charcuterie; Corsica has more than 60,000 free-ranging pigs, whose acorn and chestnut diet gives their meat a distinctive flavour.

If you're a veggie and find all this disgusting, stick to fritelli (doughnuts made with chestnut flour).

Restaurants abound in Ajaccio -- you'll stumble across a whole pile of them as soon as you leave the tender pier. Just head along the Quai Napoleon toward the main town and the beach, and you'll find plenty of options from there to the town hall.

There you'll find a wide array of restaurants, open from noon until 2:30 or 3 p.m. Some -- like S'Alba -- offer basic cafe fare of paninis and crepes, while others -- like the Brasserie du Port, Les Champs de Ble and L'Espirit du Sud -- offer more varied menus.

The attractive restaurants are endowed with enclosed eating areas outside on the pavement (though heavy traffic could make eating out there a bit of an ordeal). They also offer prix fixe tourist menus, advertised on boards outside.

Restaurants with a view of the harbour -- along the Quai de la Citadelle at the end of Quai Napoleon -- are slightly more expensive, but it's fun to watch fisherman cleaning and untangling their nets as you dine (provided you're not put off by the smell).

Where You're Docked

Your tender will bring you into a berth right next to the Gare Maritime, a big building that houses booking desks for a host of local ferry companies -- including SNCM Ferryterreanee and Corsica Ferries -- and local car-hire firms, including Autocars R Ceccaldi (tel. 04 95 21 38 06). The Gare Maritime also has toilets and telephones but no ATM's, though there are plenty a short walk away (see above).

Watch Out For

Heavy traffic! The French will not be parted from their cars, and the Corsicans have obviously been infected by their passion. Given that Corsica is one of the most under-populated islands in the Mediterranean, the level of traffic in Ajaccio defies belief.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The currency in Corsica is the Euro, and credit cards are widely accepted. You can check currency conversion rates at or

You'll find plenty of banks in town -- head left from the tender berth along the Quai Napoleon, hang a right, and you'll find most of them one street inland on the Rue Bonaparte (as I said, Napoleon is an obsession!).

Business hours (Monday through Friday) are 8:15 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1:35 to 4:45 p.m. (4 p.m. on Fridays); banks are closed on weekends, but most have ATM's outside, so you can get cash at any time.


French is the official language of Corsica, but there is a local dialect -- called U Corsu -- which sounds rather similar to Italian (hardly surprising, given the island's Genovese heritage). Locals will speak some English in Ajaccio but less in the more rustic, outlying villages.

Best Souvenir

Napoleon famously said that, even far out at sea and blindfolded, his nose would tell him when he was approaching his native land. Myrtle, lavender, rosemary, fennel, honeysuckle, thyme and broom are just some of the fragrant plants that thrive on this island, and their perfume is captured in handmade soaps and bath products. If bathroom smellies are too rich for your blood, take home some delicious local honey instead. Though at € 8.50 a jar, it really is liquid gold.

Or, look for Corsican craftware, particularly art galtique (pictures formed from pebbles or small pieces of wood). A mark saying "Casa di L'Artigiani" is an endorsement that the work is genuinely local and of good quality. You'll find shops on Quai Napoleon and at the market.

For More Information

Tourist Office, 3 bd du Roi Jérôme Bp 21, Ajaccio (tel. 04 95 51 53 03)
On the Web: Corsica Tourism Agency and Ajaccio Tourism
Cruise Critic Message Boards: Mediterranean
The Independent Traveler: France Forum

--by Maria Harding, Cruise Critic contributor
65% Loved It
Popular Itinerary:
Southampton -> Cruising -> Vigo -> Lisbon -> Gibraltar -> Cruising -> Monaco -> Florence (Livorno) -> Rome (Civitavecchia) -> Corsica (Ajaccio) -> Cruising -> Seville (Cadiz) -> Cruising -> Cruising -> Southampton
84% Loved It
Popular Itinerary:
Rome (Civitavecchia) -> Florence (Livorno) -> Cannes -> Corsica (Ajaccio) -> Naples -> Cruising -> Mykonos -> Istanbul -> Kusadasi -> Athens (Piraeus) -> Cruising -> Venice -> Venice -> Venice -> Dubrovnik -> Cruising -> Salerno -> Rome (Civitavecchia) -> Florence (Livorno) -> Toulon -> Barcelona -> Cruising -> Cruising -> Cruising -> Azores Islands -> Cruising -> Cruising -> Cruising -> Cruising -> Cruising -> Cruising -> Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
67% Loved It
Popular Itinerary:
Southampton -> Cruising -> Cruising -> Gibraltar -> Cruising -> Corsica (Ajaccio) -> Rome (Civitavecchia) -> La Spezia (Cinque Terre) -> Marseille -> Barcelona -> Cruising -> Lisbon -> Cruising -> Cruising -> Southampton
66% Loved It
Popular Itinerary:
Southampton -> Cruising -> La Coruna -> Cruising -> Gibraltar -> Cruising -> Corsica (Ajaccio) -> Florence (Livorno) -> Monaco -> Barcelona -> Cartagena (Spain) -> Cruising -> Cruising -> Cruising -> Southampton
88% Loved It
Popular Itinerary:
Monaco -> Monaco -> Genoa -> Florence (Livorno) -> Rome (Civitavecchia) -> Naples -> Corsica (Ajaccio) -> Marseille -> Marseille -> Palamos -> Barcelona -> Barcelona -> Palma de Mallorca -> Cartagena (Spain) -> Mediterranean Sea (Cruising) -> Gibraltar -> Seville (Cadiz) -> Portimao -> Lisbon -> Lisbon -> Atlantic Ocean (Cruising) -> Tenerife -> Atlantic Ocean (Cruising) -> Atlantic Ocean (Cruising) -> Atlantic Ocean (Cruising) -> Atlantic Ocean (Cruising) -> Atlantic Ocean (Cruising) -> Atlantic Ocean (Cruising) -> Atlantic Ocean (Cruising) -> Key West -> Miami
Clean and picturesque Read more
Short train trip around town helped to give us lay of land Read more
We took a taxi and walk through the town Read more
We just walked around the port Read more
The port of Ajaccio is just a short walk from the ship so, if you do not want a guided tour of the area, it ... Read more
An excellent port as we docked right on the quayside. Read more
Nice steep walk up to Napoleon Statue Read more
Read 172 Corsica (Ajaccio) Cruise Reviews

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