Bastia at a glance
Gateway to wild, unspoiled Cap Corse, Bastia is a capital in all but name, the second-busiest French port with café culture to match.
Café-lined Place St-Nicolas, looking immediately out to the Port de Bastia, is where locals meet, greet and commune.
You probably didn’t know
The French only gained domination of Bastia and the rest of Corsica from the Genoese in 1769 – the same year that Napoleon was born on the island.
Honorable Bandit: A Walk across Corsica (Brian Bouldrey, 2007).
- Population: 43,000 (2013)
- Annual visitor numbers: 1.25 million (2015)
- January mean temp: 9°C
- August mean temp: 24°C
Things to do in Bastia
La Table du Marché Saint Jean
Prominently placed on the square and by the market it is named after, La Table du Marché Saint Jean excels in fresh fish – best sampled in the catch of the day, just ask your busy waiter. In season, it’s best to reserve as tables on the shaded terrace will be at a premium. For the setting and quality of fare, prices are reasonable, and desserts are as beautifully presented as the mains.
La Tomate Noire
La Tomate Noire – note the striking red-and-black colour scheme – is a friendly, unpretentious spot to sample local cuisine that has been given a little pizzazz and a Moroccan feel. Fish couscous and vegetable tagine are two stand-out examples. Confectionery is another speciality. The terrace overlooks a busy street lined with boutiques.
Chic Bastiais still dine at Le Cosi, partly because of its panoramic view ten metres from the waterfront, partly because of its faithful yet fresh renditions of Corsican cuisine. The fish soup here is as tasty and authentic as most anywhere in Bastia. If prices for dinner seem steep, there’s always the lunchtime menu to fall back on.
Café des Palmiers
Right on Bastia’s showcase square, overlooking the port, the Café des Palmiers has been a rendezvous spot for generations. Its busy terrace helps create the amiable buzz of Place St-Nicolas, from first coffee to early evening apéro. A debating society holds sessions here and you might find older followers of local football team Sporting Club Bastia gathered around another table.
Set in from the waterfront close to Bastia’s Old Port, Le Pulp cuts a rug three long nights a week, all year round. This is not a place to pose and preen – this is a dance club, for (mainly) locals to get down, and if it takes a Prince tribute night or Halloween theme to get them moving, so be it. Regular DJs include Titi Salducci and Seb Schillaci.
Right on focal Quai des Martyrs de la Libération, the Alba Club deals in mainstream dance, with perhaps a cabaret act, a live duo or a floor show to spice things up. There’s no dress code but punters tend to be of the cool, older, urban variety.
U Muntagnolu has been specialising in locally sourced, artisanal products since 1982. Prosciutto, here known as prisuttu, is sold by the whole hock or in delicate slices. Long strings of salciccia, twisting fingers of figatellu (Corsica’s particular pork liver), are the stock in trade here.
A delicatessen and a small, busy eatery, U Paisanu specialises in all things culinary and Corsican. This is where to come for charcuterie, cheeses such as U Marsulinu and U Falasorma, and bottles of Corsican red. You may even decide to sit and sample à table. Tucked down a quiet alleyway behind the Old Port, it provides a cooling retreat in summer.
Théâtre Municipal de Bastia
It’s not only local-language drama staged at the venerable Théâtre Municipal de Bastia, beside the Town Hall. Dance performances, musicals and films are also programmed. For shows with a bit more edge, sister venue the Centre Culturel Alb’Oru has recently staged acts like controversial rapper Abd Al Malik and Marseille trip-hop collective Chinese Man.
Museum of Bastia
Opened in the Genoese Governor’s Palace in 2004, the Museum of Bastia illustrates the town’s urban development – but its main attraction is the 50 or so paintings from the 16,000 strong collection that once belonged to Napoleon’s uncle, Cardinal Fesch. These are displayed on a rotating basis with the larger sister gallery in Ajaccio, here the focus being 17th- and 18th-century Baroque.
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