Vitreolles is lying on the eastern shore of the Etang de Berre, just a stone’s throw from Marseille-Marignane airport and in the middle of the Salon de Provence, Aix en Provence, Marseille triangle.
Vitrolles is, without a doubt, ideally situated at the crossroads of several major thoroughfares.
Urban development has taken place rapidly in Vitrolles, with rather unattractive modern buildings in the centre and more residential areas on the periphery.
Vitrolles is proud of having one of the largest commercial districts in the region and one of the largest industrial zones in Europe.
Vast commercial areas extend for kilometres - fast food outlets, discount stores and industrial warehouses with motorway link-roads for ease of access!
This is very practical for shopping but is of little interest to the tourist...
So let us quickly leave these commercial and industrial areas and travel east to the old Vitrolles where you’re in for a few surprises...
Old Vitrolles is a little breath of Provençal air above modern-day Vitrolles. Renovated and restored with great care, you will enjoy walking through the little mediaeval lanes.
Originally, the village was surrounded by ramparts and traces of these can still be seen today. Right at the top you will see the 30-metre-high rock towering above the village and, at the summit, a Romanesque chapel and defensive tower which dates from the 10th-11th century.
At the foot of the rock, the village lies peacefully like the backdrop of a Provencal crib scene: winding cobbled streets, rows of narrow cottages, flower-bedecked windows - all the elements of an authentic Provencal village.
A circular walk with numbered markers takes you on a tour of the village’s historic heritage. The tour is most interesting - it is only short, since it is concentrated in just a few lanes, and includes around thirty numbered buildings.
Vitrolles is bordered to the west by the Etang de Berre (the largest salt lake in Europe) where you will find an artificial beach (Plage des Marettes) and can enjoy sunbathing, games on the beach and swimming (check the quality of the water).
Not far away is the bird reserve of Les Salins du Lion which is home to numerous species of birds, including some pink flamingos.
You can also explore the countryside of the Arbois Plateau, a large natural plateau between Aix and Vitrolles, which is laid out with footpaths and mountain bike trails. South of the town is the Parc Griffon, 2,000 m² of parkland laid out for recreation - with picnic sites, children’s playgrounds and sports facilities.
There is a pleasant walk to the Infernet-Cadiere spring (upstream from the Parc Griffon) and to the little Lac de la Tuiliere where you will encounter people fishing and pensioners enjoying a gentle stroll or sitting on a bench, chatting about the good old days...
What to see
In the old village.
The rock. Remains of the old ramparts.
Maison de la Reine Jeanne (Queen Jeanne’s house), known as the Chateau (16th century).
Church of St Gerard (18th century)
Porte Notre Dame (gate at the south entrance to the village) 17th century.
12th-century Saracen Tower on the rock.
Romanesque chapel of Notre Dame de Vie.
Griffon Inn (1666). Chateau de Montvalon (1697).
Le Luxembourg (outbuildings and former Montvalon oil mill).
Market on Thursday mornings (old village).
Walking and mountain biking on the Arbois Plateau.
Stadium. Several sports complexes. 3 swimming pools. Tennis. 2 riding centres.
Sailing on the Etang de Berre. Fishing on the Lac de Tuilière.
Climbing. Potholing. Archery. Karting.
Concerts. Exhibitions. Summer events.