There are many things to do in Bastia. We will speak about the second largest and most important city in Corsica. Bastia lies at the entrance to the Cap Corse peninsula on the northern side of Corsica. Bastia has been traditionally one of the most important gateways of the island because of its port. The city has grown up facing the Gulf of Liguria, and therefore in front of the very vivid ports of the rest of France (Nice, Toulon and Marseille) and Italy (Genova, Livorno…). Having a special and strategic location in the Mediterranean sea has fortunately skipped so far being the center of the world.
What is Bastia about?
Bastia is indeed the main port of Corsica with more than 2 million passengers per year. And that is remarkable for an island whose interior is mainly a huge mountain range. In addition, Bastia is known to be one of the few industrial centers of Corsica. The port environment permeates the entire city and that is its main attraction. Bastia lives towards the sea, with its still living working class people. There are still many cheap cafés and proper local life, but day after day the pressure of the tourism economy threatens to turn Bastia into something more global and tasteless.
Corsica was for centuries under the influence of the italian republics, first Pisa and the Genova. After that and from the 18th Century the French arrived and stayed, but the previous identity which was already a mix of many cultures prevailed. That multicultural past created a specific culture, a language and a unique national feeling.
Things to do in Bastia, Corsica
You can check our recomended itinerary in Bastia on our map:
Vieux port de Bastia – Portu vechju di Bastia
The Old Port of Bastia is the main tourist attraction in town. It is simply beautiful and very picturesque. The port is filled up with restaurants all around the circular path the visitor can walk admiring the old buildings around. You will be able to spot old small boats, and a mixture of French and Italian looking like architectural styles with Baroque buildings.
Cathedral of Saint Jean Baptiste
Bastia stands out for its 16th and 17th century baroque churches, its convents and oratories, all in the same style. The best known is the Cathedral of Saint Jean Baptiste built between the XVII and the XVIII. The shape of the cathedral is visible from the old port and it is the main icon of the town.
Oratoire de l’Immaculée Conception in Bastia
The oratory of the Immaculate Conception, in Bastia, is a church in Rue Napoléon in the district of Terra Vechja of Bastia. It is very close to the Place du Marché. It was classified as a historic monument in 20001 and It is famous for the richness of its Baroque decorations in the interior.
The lighthouse of Bastia
It is a small and colorful lighthouse. Nothing else actually, but very cute. It is worth to manage to arrive to it in order to take the best pictures from the port of Bastia.
There are still some parts of the defensive structure which defended the city in the old times. Actually what the locals call La Citadelle is the ancient Genovese quarter. The city was indeed founded by the Genoese in 1378. They finished the walls in 1480 and in 1530 the construction of the main tower and the Palace of the Governors. It is very worth it to go up and take a stroll. It is not big and inside there are not many tourist assets such as bars and restaurants, but nothing is really very far in Bastia.
Palais des Gouverneurs
Next to the Citadelle we find one of the most important monuments: Palace of the Governors, a magnificent and unique Genoese 15th Century palace-fortress. Nowadays it is even a Museum that honestly needs some improvements not to be forgettable. It is a 5 euros entrance fee which you can pay in case of extreme boredom. IN exchange, just in front of the building you can enjoy the magnificent views and taste proper Corsican food in any of the cute restaurants around.
The Romieu Garden, built in 1890, will be rehabilitated to communicate with the citadelle and to recover its function of entertainment and strolling. Currently, you have still to figure out how to enter. Ask the locals for the stairs to climb up to it when you finish your visit to the citadelle and you are already thinking about to come back to the downtown.
Place du Marché
Another of the most picturesque places is the Market Square (Place du Marché). This a very vivid place on the market day. It is popular to go to taste and buy cheeses, fruits and vegetables, charcuterie and all the traditional Corsican products.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, the upper Genoese city was enlarged following the parameters of the Italian Baroque, a grid plan and straight streets. These squares are coming from those primitive urban plans.
Place Saint Nicolas
Place Saint Nicolas is a big empty square with a charismatic monument. It is part of the vibrant seafront. The square features a weekend flea market perfect to show you up and wander around the stalls looking for antiques in the pure French style. I was not very lucky looking for old Tintin Comics on our visit but I guess the stroll was worth it anyhow.
The Napoleon street in Bastia is a recently renovated commercial street which is open and welcoming for everybody with money to spend. It is not outstanding but it manages to treasure the fame of the best street for shopping in town. You could take a look or walk it along. You have nothing to lose.
Beaches in Bastia
We don’t mean for beaches in Bastia the impressive beautiful beaches you would be able to find by car some kilometers out of the city. We will mention here the beaches you can reach from the city, like if you were a local and you wanted to take a quick bath after getting out of the office.
There are two realistic options: Toga Beach, which is walking distance from the North of the town. This is a small and not picturesque beach but it works to put yourself into the water on a hot summer day.
One more option is Arinella Beach. This is far, almost 45 minutes walking from the center but the beach is worth it. Arinella Beach has proper sand and it is beautiful and picturesque.
How to get to Bastia, Corsica
Several ferry companies link the city with Provence and the Côte d’Azur, the Italian island of Elba, Liguria and Tuscany. Many cruise ships that visit Elba, Genoa, Sardinia, Nice or Marseille stop at Bastia, so this may be another possibility to get to Bastia.
Bastia Poretta airport is located 20 km south of the city. Well connected to the rest of the airports in France. There are direct flights from Barcelona with Vueling.
Getting to Bastia from Ajaccio (3 hours) by road, for example, is quite an adventure since crossing the island means enjoying a splendid landscape and also spending a long time on inefficient narrow roads’ traffic jams and getting amazed by their ridiculous speed limits. Regardless, you would need lots of patience hiring a car is still the best option to move around.
Where to stay in Bastia
The city is turning into tourism but still there are not as many options you might expect from a city like Bastia is. The main offering of accommodation is thought for beach tourists who want to stay in a lonely cute cove. Even so, you will be able to check your chances on our map and search engine.
Enjoy our discounts in the place
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4 Replies to “The best things to do in Bastia”
Indeed, this is a very nice destination!
Since we probably won’t ever get to visit Bastia, we appreciate you sharing it with us via your wonderful post!
Thanks so much, Mike!
It’s such a beautiful place! I’m really happy that we had the chance to visit it.