Welcome to Ajaccio cruise port, Corsica, France! (Post updated: January 2024)
Ajaccio is the capital of the French island of Corsica, the fourth-largest island in the Mediterranean and one of the 18 regions of France. Known as the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte, the city of Ajaccio lies on the west coast of the island, around 210 nautical miles (390 km) southeast of Marseille. Due to its rich cultural and historic heritage, stunning beaches and breathtaking nature, Ajaccio is a frequent stopover in Mediterranean cruise itineraries. In this article, read about:
- Ajaccio cruise port (Ajaccio cruise terminal, getting around, useful tips)
- Top 12 things to do in Ajaccio & Ajaccio shore excursions
Ajaccio Cruise Port
The port of Ajaccio is nestled in the Gulf of Ajaccio and is located within a short walking distance (approximately 0.5 km/0.3 miles) from downtown Ajaccio. Ajaccio cruise terminal (Gare Maritime in French) is situated at Quai L’Herminier, located between a charming marina and a small fishing port (Port de Plaisance et de Pêche Tino Rossi) in the southern part. The cruise terminal is small and offers basic facilities such as telephones, restrooms, and a taxi rank.
The ferry terminal, located right next to the cruise terminal, offers daily ferry trips to mainland France (Marseille, Nice, Toulon) and occasionally to Italy (Porto Torres – Sardinia).
Helpful info & links:
- Ajaccio city center is easily explored on foot. Upon exiting the terminal, turn left and after a few hundred meters you’ll reach the city’s main landmarks, shops and eateries. The area is flat and accessible to people with walking difficulties/wheelchair users.
- The currency in Corsica (France) is EURO (€). Credit cards and local currency are widely accepted.
- The main shopping areas in Ajaccio downtown are centered around Rue Fesch, Rue Bonaparte, and Quai Napoleon. Some must-try items of interest include Corsican wines, cheeses and souvenirs related to Napoleon Bonaparte.
- The majority of shops, banks, information services and businesses are open all day (typically from 8 am/9 am to 7 pm) Monday through Friday. However, some shops may be closed from 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm during lunch break. Some shops may be closed on Monday mornings, opening during afternoon hours only.
- The Tourist Information Center is located at 3, boulevard du Roi Jérôme, near the main square Place Foch, approximately 250 meters south of Ajaccio cruise terminal (upon exiting the terminal, turn left and you’ll reach it in less than 5 minutes’ walk).
- A taxi rank is available outside the terminal. Taxis can be quite expensive and feel free to negotiate the price. The drivers may not speak English as the official language in Corsica is French.
- Public transport is available. Ajaccio bus station (Gare Routière d’Ajaccio) is located right outside the cruise terminal and the buses stop around the city. However, the buses to more remote places on the island are not that frequent, so make sure you check the up-to-date timetable from the local Tourist Office.
- Ajaccio train station (Gare d’Ajaccio – Gara d’Aiacciu) is situated only 600 meters north of the bus station and the cruise terminal. You can find the timetables and fares on the official website https://cf-corse.corsica/
- Petit Train d’Ajaccio is a little tourist train that departs from Place Foch (300 meters south of the cruise terminal) and offers 2 circuits: Circuit Ville offers a 45-minute commentated ride around the historic center with a 15-minute stop at Grotte Napoléon/Mémorial; Circuit Sanguinaire offers a 1 hr 40-minute ride around the historic center and the city’s outskirts to the scenic Sanguinaires Islands (Iles Sanguinaires), with a 15-minute stop at Grotte Napoléon and 10 minutes at Iles Sanguinaires. For more information, check out Petit Train Ajaccio’s official website http://www.petit-train-ajaccio.com/
- Ajaccio Vision is a double-decker open-top bus that also departs from Place Foch and offers 2 circuits, around the historic city and to the beaches, Sanguinaires Islands and Grotte Napoléon. Find more information on the official website http://www.ajacciovision.fr/
- Ajaccio Napoleon Bonaparte Airport (Aéroport Ajaccio Napoléon Bonaparte) is the international airport in Corsica and is located 5 km/3 miles (a 10-minute drive) east of Port Ajaccio.
- Corsica enjoys the Mediterranean climate with hot summers and relatively mild, rainy winters, however, it may get colder in the central parts of the island which are mostly mountainous. For useful cruise packing tips, check out my article What to Pack for a Cruise – Top 55 Cruise Essentials
- Explore the best Ajaccio tours and activities
- Book a private transfer to/from the port of Ajaccio
- Search for hotels in Ajaccio
12 Best Things to Do in Ajaccio Cruise Port
The majority of Ajaccio attractions are located in the old town area, located a 5-minute walk from the cruise terminal. It is very easy to get around as they are all within a short walking distance of each other.
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1. Ajaccio Cathedral
The Cathedral of the Assumption of Saint Mary (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de l’Assomption de Ajaccio in French) was built in the 16th century and is one of the most iconic historic landmarks located in the heart of Ajaccio’s old town. Dedicated to ‘La Madonuccia’, or Little Madonna, the city’s patron saint who is believed to have spared the town from the plague, the cathedral is famous for Napoleon Bonaparte’s marble baptismal font, where he was baptized in 1771. Inside the Chapel of the Madonna of Pianto, visitors can admire “The Triumph of Religion”, the famous painting by Eugène Delacroix.
2. Bonaparte House
Maison Bonaparte is the house where Napoleon Bonaparte was born and raised. The house was almost continuously owned by members of the Bonaparte family from 1682 to 1923, including the legendary French military leader who was born here on August 15, 1769. Today, the house serves as a national museum where you can explore portraits, documents, the original furniture and memorabilia that belonged to the Bonaparte family.
3. Place Foch
Foch Square or Place du Foch is a beautiful tree-lined town square facing the harbor front. The square is dominated by the building of Hôtel de Ville, the town hall that nowadays houses Salon napoléonien where you can find various Napoleonic paintings, statues and memorabilia of the imperial family.
The square is known for the statue of Napoleon wearing a Roman toga, sitting above a fountain of four lions. Here, you can find numerous cafes and eateries overlooking the charming marina.
4. Place du Gaulle
Piazza de Gaulle is the vast central square in the city boasting incredible sea views and overlooking the beautiful Plage Saint-François. The square features the Monument to Napoleon and His Brothers (Monument à Napoléon et ses Frères) where Napoleon is dressed as the Emperor of Rome, surrounded by his four brothers.
5. Cours Napoléon
Cours Napoléon is the main shopping street that starts north of Place du Gaulle and runs parallel to the harbour. Here, you’ll find clothing stores, souvenir shops, eateries, cafes, hotels, pharmacies and everything you may need for your stay in Ajaccio. This street is not a pedestrian-only zone, so beware of vehicles.
6. Citadel of Ajaccio
Citadelle d’Ajaccio was built on a strategic site by the Genoese in 1492 to protect the city from attacks coming from the sea. Today, you can wander around its ramparts, enjoy stunning views of the Gulf of Ajaccio, or even sunbathe on the small beach below the fortress.
7. Place d’Austerlitz and Grotte Napoleon
Place d’Austerlitz is the place where, according to the legend, Napoleon liked to play as a child. Grotte Napoleon refers to the large sheltered rocks behind the square where he used to play and dream of conquest and glory, fascinated by the great characters of history.
Nowadays, the square is dominated by another impressive statue of Napoleon standing on a white granite pyramid, erected in 1938. The monument is known as Monument commémoratif de Napoléon 1er, or Le Casone, and depicts Napoleon in a military uniform he wore in the Battle of Austerlitz. This monument is located around 1.5 km/0.9 miles (a 20-minute walk) from Ajaccio port.
Note: There is also a cultural and interpretation center “La Grotte Napoleon” located on 4 Rue Saint-Charles in Ajaccio downtown. This center offers a cultural, visual and tasting experience where you’ll have an insight into Napoleon’s life. Don’t mix it with Grotte Napoleon on Place d’Austerlitz.
8. Fesch Museum
Fesch Museum (Musée Fesch) is the city’s finest art museum housed in Palais Fesch, a remarkable palace that belonged to Napoleon’s uncle, Joseph Fesch. The museum boasts a vast collection of Italian paintings including works by European old masters and features Chapelle Impériale which was the Bonapartes’ funeral chapel. Napoleon’s parents, Carlo and Letizia, and other family members are buried in the crypt. Fesch Museum is located right across from the cruise terminal.
9. Saint-François Beach
Plage Saint-François is a beautiful sandy city beach located near the Citadel and Place du Gaulle, only a 10-minute walk from the Ajaccio cruise terminal. The wide beach is backed by a palm-lined promenade on Boulevard Lantivy and is easily accessible on foot.
Other popular beaches are Trottel Beach (a 5-minute drive from the terminal), Marinella Beach (a 15-minute drive), Ricanto Beach (a 10-minute drive), Porticcio Beach (a 15-minute drive), and others. Cruise lines normally offer shore excursions/transfers to some beaches for an additional fee.
10. Sanguinaires islands
Known as Îles Sanguinaires and Archipel des Sanguinaires in French, the Sanguinaires islands are an archipelago of four tiny rocky islands of magmatic origin composed of dark and light rocks, located at the entrance to the Gulf of Ajaccio, just off the coast of Corsica. The islands are home to colonies of seabirds out of which more than 150 species inhabit Mezu Mare, the main island known for a scenic 19th-century lighthouse (Phare des îles Sanguinaires).
While there, you can admire the most spectacular views of the Corsican coastline and the Mediterranean Sea from a couple of viewpoints, including Pointe de la Parata where you can visit Tour de la Parata (La tour génoise de la Parata), a Genoese tower dating from the 16th century.
Translated into English, Îles Sanguinaires means “The Bloody Islands” due to their rich and mysterious past, so a good way to visit this place would be on a guided tour. Boat tours from Ajaccio are also a popular way of visiting this incredible place.
11. Prunelli Gorges
If you want to explore the spectacular mountainous landscapes and natural treasures of Corsica, book a trip to the Gorges du Prunelli, situated in the island’s vast pine and beech forested mountains. On this unique journey, you can discover authentic Corsican villages, the breathtaking Lake Tolla, the Prunelli River, and other natural beauties of the island while learning about its fascinating past. Prunelli Gorges is situated northeast of Ajaccio, approximately a 40-minute drive from the port.
12. Les Calanques de Piana
For nature lovers, the Corsican Calanques located in the commune of Piana (between Ajaccio and Calvi) is another must-see destination on the island. Located in the Gulf of Porto, about a 1 hr 30-minute drive north of Ajaccio cruise port, Calanques consist of massive red rock cliffs and unusual rock formations towering the azure seas of the Mediterranean Sea.
Corsica is an island of breathtaking beauty and however you choose to spend the day, an unforgettable time is guaranteed! While there, make sure you try delicious Corsican wines and local dishes!
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