Come with us to Bastia – the city that lies between the Corsican mountains and the sea – and the city that refuses to sell its soul to please the tourists!

You may not notice it right away. Maybe you come to Bastia by ferry and hurry onwards and only see the city once more on the day you leave the island again and stand on the ferry looking inland.

It may also be that you visit Bastia while on the island to shop, eat, or because you are missing something for your stay on the island. Perhaps, you even choose not to spend time in the city at all. And then you won’t notice.

But it’s too bad if you don’t find out. How amazingly atmospheric the city really is.

We didn’t notice right away either. We have visited the city many times where we have shopped and eaten there, and trotted back and forth with our son, both when he was 3, 6, 9 and 12 years old to find a small toy for him. And we stood on the ferries and looked anxiously towards the city on arrival and with melancholy looked towards the city as we were to sail from the island again.

We saw Bastia, but we did not really discover it until this time we took the time to “see” and explore it. And it was then, that we ended up falling head over heels for the city and fell in love with it – madly in love.

Here’s what we fell for and what we recommend you go for next time you visit Bastia.

Discover the heart of Bastia - Citadelle de Bastia

It is not without reason that we choose to call this old part of the town Bastia’s heart, because it was here it all started – and not least here, that the city’s beautiful, old quarter today creates the breeding ground for the city’s pulse.

It is here, in the citadel, that the city first took root and it is clearly felt that the location at the foot of the mountains, overlooking the dangers of the sea, at the time has given the city’s residents a safe and strongly strategic place to live.

Inside the citadel of Bastia, you can sit at one of the sidewalk cafes and have lunch or a drink - and with great views.

As soon as you enter through the citadel’s huge city walls, a different life and a completely different atmosphere opens up from the city life outside the walls. The citadel’s high thick walls, which give way to views of the sea, have managed to create a tranquility without you feeling trapped and enclosed.

The citadel is steeped in history and it is clear how the city has been influenced by the immigrants from Genoa at the time. This is clearly seen in the way the houses are built – tall, square and pastel colored, and the narrow alleys between them.

If you, like us, enter the city walls at the Palazzu di i Guvernadori (Palace of the Governors), you will enter a square with restaurants and cafes with a maritime atmosphere mixed with Italian nuances that draw and lure you inside the alleys. The view over the Tuscan archipelago is unsurpassed in its beauty. Look forward to it!

The cafes here are located on the beautiful square Palazzo di in Guvernadori

The citadel, the medieval fortress, was founded in 1380 by the Genoese governor Leonello Lomellini, who chose to settle here. Over time, the city expanded outward to what we today know as Bastia.

The lanterns in Bastia are fine and beautiful up against the old houses.

The houses on the narrow streets, within the city walls, are bathed in pastels and you can find small shops and a few cafes and restaurants, but otherwise the district seems very quiet and genuine.

It is beautiful there in the old town of Bastia. Here Sebastian and Lise come walking in one of its narrow streets.

Le Palais des Gouverneurs (Palace of the Governors)

The first sight that met us as we passed through the great (and very high) city wall was the Palazzu di i Guvernadori, the Palace of the Governors, which towered up on our left side of the large open square with cafes.

Palazzo di i Governador - former governor's palace, prison and barracks - now museum

The palace was built in the time of Governor Leonello Lomellini, when the Genoese upon their arrival on the island felt a need to protect Bastia from invasions coming from the sea. They then began to build a bastiglia (moat) and a citadel – what today constitutes the citadel, the old town of Bastia.

The palace of the governors was then the seat of the Genoese power in the 15th century until the French conquest in 1768.

The palace of the governors has served as both a prison and military barracks throughout the years, and has since the beginning of the 20th century until today served as a museum. The palace was renovated after the bombings during World War II.

Palazzu di i Guvernadori - former governors' palace - now museum

Saint Marie Cathedral

In the middle of the narrow alleys of the Citadel we walked almost straight into the side of the large cathedral of Saint Maria Assunta. Peter and Sebastian were inside the church, while I was very busy photographing the incredibly beautiful alleys it was located right in the middle of.

The Cathedral of Saint Maria Assunta was built in the years 1604-1619. The great cathedral houses an extraordinary processional statue of the Silver Virgin dated from 1852, which is carried during the procession in the city streets every 15 August.

The cathedral entrance is next to a small square/street in front and is white and nicely decorated. In the picture below, the white front (at the corner of the building to the left) can be seen.

The large cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta in Bastia seen from the side.

Discover Romieu Garden

From the Old Port of Bastia towards the Citadel, you will pass through the Romieu Garden. Romieu Garden is a beautifully landscaped green garden, located just outside the city wall and down the slope. There is a long and steep staircase that snakes through green areas, beautiful buildings and not least beautiful views of the sea.

Sebastian and Peter have a little game every time we travel, which is to challenge each other by running up the stairs. They did that here too. I excused myself with the many exciting spots I had to photograph. In return, they also got the right to be out of breath.

Sebastian runs up the stairs at the Giardinu Romieu, Bastia

Discover the Corsican spirit in Bastia's Old Port

The real reason we chose to spend even more time at Bastia was that we had never experienced the Old Port. It was as we walked out towards this, that we suddenly discovered Bastia opening up and showing us her beating heart. How did we miss this part of town? We don’t understand it at all. We can’t help but let it be uncertain, the important thing is that we discovered how wonderful Bastia is, how charming it is – and that we fell head over heels for it.

Bastia's marina in the old town

The Old Port is located at the foot of the Citadel and is surrounded by old (very worn) Tuscan-style houses. As you walk around the port you can see the colorful houses reflected in the water and there is a wonderful and calm atmosphere that even the heaviest rain showers that drifted in from the mountains that day could not take away from us.

And even though the raindrops began to fall over our heads, it did not matter – we just walked into one of the port’s many cafes and had a little drink. Here we sat and shivered a little while studying the Corsicans, in their daily conversations around us.

One of the lighthouses that greets you as you sail into Bastia's marina

There’s just something about ports. This is always where we get our bearings best, if we are to find our way around a city. This is also where all the scents and dreams are awakened. And it is at the ports you can experience the true beauty of the country, and can feel the locals… and sometimes, you may be lucky enough to feel an authenticity that goes right into the heart and stays there.

I think that’s what we all felt here in Bastia’s Old Port, true Corsican tranquility and pride.

The man seems to enjoy the day and life here at Bastia's marina

Celebrate the summer solstice at L'église Saint Jean Baptiste

Not only are the old beautiful houses reflected in Bastia’s Old Port, so is the Church of L’église Saint Jean Baptiste. And this church is, to me, not just any church but a church that around our own time of Saint Hans (June 23) cultivates a slightly pagan tradition that is said to have been rekindled here. The church celebrates the summer solstice and their ”Saint John’s holiday” with bonfires.

Therefore, on June 23, you will be able to experience the lighting of a huge bonfire under the ramparts of the citadel, in the old port. And it is said to have regenerative properties if you take your first swim in the sea during this holiday. On June 24, the day of the holiday, the masses replace each other with the sound of the bell from the church, and you can experience a night procession in the city’s oldest quarter. Sounds like a fairytale, doesn’t it?

Ghjesgia San Ghjuvà Church is clearly visible from Bastia's marina

Napoleon Street

Napoleon Street is probably the street we know best from Bastia and the street that we have experienced every time we have visited the city. The pedestrian zone is cozy and filled with shops where you can buy all kinds of things. Here you will find everything from the big brands but also the small, cozy artisans, book shops and shops with local products that give the street a cozy atmosphere.

Some of the side streets are beautifully shaded by the trees of the street, which creates both charm and coziness around their cafes and restaurants.

Saint Nicolas Square

Saint Nicolas Square is a huge square that runs parallel between the ferry port and Napoleon Street. The Square is huge and open and is surrounded by an avenue of 100-year-old old plane trees, under which you, on one side of the Square, will find a large number of cozy cafes and restaurants.

Place Saint Nicolas, the large square that lies down to the ferry berth, but which is filled with cafes inside the avenue.

The site often invites people to several events all year round such as concerts and an ice rink in winter, fairs and markets. Every Sunday there is a market on the square, so make a note of it – we have unfortunately forgotten it every time we have visited Corsica. On the other hand, Sebastian has often played on the little playground… he has outgrown that now.

Statue of Napoleon Bonaparte Place Saint Nicolas

As written, the square is located near the ferry port. For me, this is a place that holds a lot of emotions. It both evokes memories of the joy I have felt when we came sailing to the city and excited (and tired) stood on deck and looked towards our beloved wild island and saw an exciting holiday ahead of us… but also the sadness with the times we have had to leave the island – and always – MUCH too early.

There are many ferries to Corsica. Here it is one of the Corsica ferries located in the harbor.

Bastia took us by storm and we are already looking forward to coming back again. Both Bastia and Corsica have so much to give! Every time we pick an adventure, a new one pops up around the corner. Some places are just like that. Do you also know of such a place in the world?

What remains to be seen in Bastia?

Please let us know if you have a tip on what we need to see in Bastia. Feel free to write in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you.

  Find Bastia here