Follow me for a guided tour of the city of Bastia! Take the opportunity to discover the city’s 12 must-see sites, with its rich architectural heritage, anecdotes, history, fine dining and shopping! Above all experience the joy of discovering a Corsican city that is creative, modern, welcoming and full of emotion and that faces firmly towards the future!
And if, despite all these travel tips, you get lost in the city’s alleyways...Believe me, there will always be something new for you to discover here!
1. Saint Nicolas Square, the lungs of Bastia, where all major events take place
Let’s start at the beginning, with Saint Nicolas Square, the lungs of the city: bordered by plane trees, this is one of Europe’s biggest squares and where all of Bastia’s major events are held. Saint Nicolas Square is also an irresistible invitation to sit down, in summer and winter alike, to eat or drink on one of the many cafe or restaurant terraces and enjoy a moment of tranquillity. If you’re lucky, you may witness a little “macagna”, humorous verbal jousting to which old Bastians hold the secret. And if you’re very lucky, the Municipal brass band might strike up a tune in the bandstand, which was built back in the 1900s.
2. Rue Napoléon, where you can enjoy shopping and find fine Corsican wares
On rue Napoléon, which runs off Saint Nicolas Square: boutiques showcasing the wares of Corsican creators vie with the biggest brands. With jewellery, home decor and clothing for sale, the “made in Corsica” offering showcases ever more talent. And how can you fail to comment on the timeless, old-world shops that have endured through the century, giving this old street additional charm. Special mention must be made of the Christmas season, when the lights turn the street into a magical wonderland. Finally, we advise you to give in to temptation and indulge yourself with a little cake, canistrelli or chestnut sponge, given how many excellent gourmet food shops can be found on rue Napoléon.
3. The Old Port and its fishermen...under the benevolent eye of Saint John the Baptist
On your left, when you reach the end of rue Napoléon, you’ll find the Old Port and its fishing boats: Overlooked by Saint John the Baptist Church, a listed historical monument, and its two bell-towers that you absolutely must visit, the old port is still home to a few fishing boats. Do as I do: go to meet them, ask about the day’s catch, then, when it’s time for lunch, enjoy the delicacies of Corsican gastronomy: I recommend Bastian anchovies or pasta with lobster or cured fish roe, all famous local dishes.
4. Discover the tranquility and silence of the Romieu Gardens
Located below the Governors’ Palace, the Romieu Gardens can be accessed via the grand Romieu staircase, near the Old Port’s south quay . Sheltered from the bustle of the city, these gardens are the perfect place to enjoy a stroll, especially in springtime when nature has been replenished and the scent of flowers fills the air. And the view of the port’s lighthouses will add even more beauty to your walk.
5. The Citadel Quarter: a place steeped in history and emotion.
When discovering the Citadel Quarter, one tip will help the lazier among us: Some months ago, Bastia acquired something a little out of the ordinary: a lift linking Terra Nova (in the Citadel Quarter) with Terra Vecchia (the lower city). This is a godsend for those weary from frenetically roaming the city’s streets! As a neighbourhood rich in history, the Citadel is one of Bastia’s must-sees. On stepping out of the lift, you’ll find yourself right beside the Mantinum Space. Recently opened, this cultural site above the port hosts concerts, plays and similar events. A little higher still is Donjon Square and the Governors’ Palace housing the Bastia Museum
, which offers a fascinating glimpse of the Bastia of yesteryear. The city is one of art and history, and it displays its most precious treasures with pride. The Citadel is a neighbourhood I’m particularly fond of. Everyone here knows everyone else, and there’s a real village atmosphere. You should also wander over to Guasco Square with its pretty trees and benches which are perfect for those who need a rest.
6. ... An exceptionally rich religious heritage
To the left, a narrow street leads to the Cathedral of Saint Maria Maggiore, whose silver statue of the Virgin Mary is the pride of the Bastiais. Religion has a very important place in Corsica throughout the year, and is particularly important to its Easter celebrations. Below, Sainte Croix Church and its Black Christ statue reveals its flamboyant baroque on what is, incredibly, Vatican land...
7. The Aldilonda: a promenade above the waves, facing the Tuscan archipelago
Every citadel has its Gunpowder Store and Bastia is no exception! In fact, the city’s is the starting point for the most invigorating of promenades...If you love the sea, if you love to walk and if you love the unusual, this trip is for you! Christened the Aldilonda
, this walkway above the waves is 450 metres long and looks onto the Tuscan archipelago, with the islands of Elba and Capraia a stone’s throw away. Made of stone and iron and merging with the sea, this promenade has very quickly become the place to be. It never fails to create a buzz on social networks, with people only too keen to post the selfies they’ve taken on it.
8. The Puntettu Quarter: iconic heart of Bastia
Near the Old Port, the iconic but long overlooked Puntettu neighbourhood and historic heart of the city has recently been rehabilitated, and with great success! If, like me, you love narrow streets and the simple life of a typical neighbourhood, this is the place for you. The quarter is home to houses that are registered historical heritage sites, as well as Place de l’huile (Oil Square), which is one of the town’s oldest squares. If you’re observant, you might just catch glimpses of the Mediterranean between buildings...And note the houses joined by flying buttresses.
9. At Piazza di u Mercà (Market Square): give way to temptation!
Market Square with its produce sellers is a temple of Corsican cuisine: give way to temptation and enjoy beignets au brocciu made while you wait! Sweet or savoury: why choose? Try both! But be patient, as the wait can be rather long, although worth it for the reward! Cold meats, honey, onion or Swiss chard pastries, ambrucciate and migliacci are also for sale!
10. Let’s go shopping!
The rue César Campinchi is for shopping and nothing but! Step through the doors of concept stores and discover boutiques displaying the wares of the most prominent Corsican artists of the moment and treat yourself to jewellery, bags, scarfs, ceramics and more... Devoted fashionistas will also find the latest pieces from major brands.
11. Boulevard Paoli, Bastia’s main shopping thoroughfare
Running parallel to Saint Nicolas Square, boulevard Paoli is the city’s main shopping thoroughfare. Some do their shopping there, others work there, high schoolers meet there and personally, I go for walks there! The boulevard runs up to the city Court, hidden behind its formidable gates. And I can’t forget the iconic Old High School where whole generations of Bastians studied, and the famous “Caffe di u Liceu” (high school cafe) that faces it, itself immortalised in song by the band I Muvrini.
12. A Scala Santa, the Holy Staircase: an invaluable piece of heritage from the sixteenth century
To round off the tour of Bastia, I suggest an exceptional excursion, twenty minutes by foot from the city centre...The Chapel of Our Lady of Monserrato, dating from the sixteenth century, is an absolute must-see because of its Holy Staircase, considered extremely rare because there are only 10 such staircases worldwide. This Holy Staircase (or Scala Santa in Corsican) is a replica of the one climbed by Jesus in the Court of Jerusalem before being tortured in the prisons of Pontius Pilate.
The beaches as a bonus!
If you're tempted by a beach getaway: Arinella Beach at the entrance to the city has free parking and offers water-leisure activities. The pebble beach of Ficaghjola along the spassighjata, is about a 15-minute walk from the old town. The beaches of the Marana, some of which offer leisure activities, are very easy to reach.
Organize your stay in Bastia ... our travel advice