Typically Mediterranean, Ajaccio is a city full of charm and sunshine: linger unhurriedly to discover its sublime beaches, picturesque harbour and colourful old town.
But the city, where Napoleon Bonaparte was born, is above all a unique place, where nature predominates and there are plenty of opportunities for boat trips and hikes. Also famous for being the first French city liberated during World War II, on 9 September 1943, Ajaccio is a city rich in history.
Between gastronomy, nature and heritage, Ajaccio is a city not to be missed, to be discovered without haste.
Having become the capital of Corsica thanks to a Napoleonic decree, Ajaccio retains a unique charm thanks to its palm-fringed seafront, its picturesque alleyways and its noteworthy museums.
In spite of the chaotic traffic and the cumbersome presence of a perpetually active port, Ajaccio leaves its visitors with an indelible memory, mainly due to the imposing and impregnable fortress that dominates the city, which remained closed to the public for a very long time.
The Genoese quarter is the oldest in the city: it preserves the atmosphere of the small maritime villages of Italy. Here we find the old buildings with colourful façades and narrow streets that contribute to Ajaccio’s charm.
The historical centre will allow you to retrace the history of this town, through its milestones, inscribed and guarded by its numerous monuments. You will thus have the opportunity to better admire its citadel, discover its pretty fishing port, visit its ochre-coloured church and even follow in Napoleon’s footsteps by visiting the house where he was born.
The Genoese quarter also concentrates many shops, bars and restaurants. It is the perfect place to stroll, photograph picturesque corners of the city, buy souvenirs of your stay in the many shops of local craftsmen, specialising in textiles, coral, jewellery.
On 15 August 1769, Napoleon was born in this ochre-fronted house on rue Saint-Charles. He spent most of his childhood in this building, which would later also house his heirs until Prince Victor Napoleon decided to donate it to the State in 1923.
The Bonaparte house today houses a museum, the most visited in Corsica, dedicated to the imperial family. It offers its visitors the opportunity to take a real journey back in time and discover the different rooms that make up the house, some of which are even furnished with period furniture. The interior is in fact a goldmine for history lovers: you can admire original objects, learn about the history of Napoleon and the family reign, discover his family tree and note down an incredible number of unsuspected anecdotes.
The old streets of Ajaccio run towards the port. It is impossible to visit the city without strolling along its colourful quays. The hulls of boats, from the most traditional to the most luxurious, are lulled by the lapping of the waves. The atmosphere is absolutely unmissable: the tops of the fishing boats hiss, the sails brush against each other, the alleys come alive from morning to night, young people crowd into the bars, regulars gather at the café to comment on news events, at night the movida comes alive.
And if you are an early riser, you can go to the harbour at the crack of dawn, when the fishermen return to the harbour and unload their nets overflowing with fish: a unique sight.
The Palais Fesch is a must-see for all art lovers. Built by Napoleon’s maternal uncle, Cardinal Joseph Fesh, who wanted to make it a place dedicated to art, to develop the artistic and intellectual education of the island’s young people, today it houses the Museum of Fine Arts .
Its collection of paintings includes masterpieces by great Italian artists such as Botticelli and Titian. It is one of the most important in France, just behind the Louvre museum in Paris. One section of the museum is dedicated to the Bonaparte family with several portraits and another houses Corsican paintings.
Founded by Napoleon’s brother Lucien in 1801, the Ajaccio municipal library has been a historical monument since 2011. Consisting of 3 rooms, the library is a real marvel furnished with wooden objects, antique tables and walnut shelves.
Library lovers will not miss the grand staircase topped by two lions, the 30-metre-long main hall housing almost 40,000 works, and the ancient and majestic interior.
The library counts among its most valuable works 27 volumes of the Encyclopédie de Diderot et d’Alembert dating back to the 18th century and 23 volumes of Blaeu’s 17th century Geographical Encyclopaedia. More recently, an autograph book by Gustave Eiffel and several letters written by members of the Bonaparte family and signed by Napoleon himself were discovered.
Adjacent to the Museum of Fine Arts, the Imperial Chapel, also known as the Palatine Chapel, is a church built in 1859 at the request of Napoleon III: the statesman wanted to respect the last wishes of his uncle, Cardinal Fesch, who wanted to reunite the tombs of the Bonaparte family in one place.
The Chapel, classified as a historical monument since 1924, thus houses the tombs of several members of the famous Bonaparte family such as Cardinal Fesch himself or Napoleon’s parents, Charles and Letizia Bonaparte. Inside, the dome and stained glass windows are particularly noteworthy.
The Ajaccio market takes place in Place Foch and offers a colourful panorama of the best Corsican gastronomic tradition: cold meats, regional cheeses, wines, jams and a wide range of local products. Here you will find everything you need to prepare a good picnic or buy souvenirs to take home.
From April to October, the market is open every morning. From November to March, every morning except Mondays.
Built between 1583 and 1593, the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Ajaccio (or Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption) is where Napoleon I was baptised on 21 June 1771. Small and colourful, Ajaccio Cathedral has an unusually original architectural appearance, very different from what we are used to seeing in the rest of France.
Classified as a historical monument in 1906, the small cathedral is dedicated to Our Lady of Mercy, who saved the city from the plague. It is interesting to discover its atypical style, its nave and its interior paintings, including one by Eugène Delacroix, The Virgin of the Sacred Heart.
Also known as Place du Diamant, Place de Gaulle is a kind of ‘border’ between the old town and the new quarters of Ajaccio, centrally located, not far from the Casino and facing the sea.
As its name suggests, the square contains a monument associated with General de Gaulle, a stele commemorating the liberation of Ajaccio during World War II and a statue of Napoleon Bonaparte on horseback, surrounded by his 4 brothers.
Beyond these historical monuments, Place de Gaulle is the starting point for many walks in the city centre, as it is connected to several shopping streets with a high concentration of bars and restaurants. Concerts, festivals and events punctuate the life of this pretty square in summer while in winter it hosts the Christmas market.
To discover Ajaccio’s foreigners’ quarter, you will have to stroll along two large and majestic boulevards, the Grandval and General Leclerc, lined with elegant buildings leading to Place d’Austerlitz. Built in the 19th century, the Foreigners’ Quarter owes its name to the first English, German and Swiss tourists who made Ajaccio their favourite holiday resort at the end of the 19th century.
The atmosphere and architecture of the Belle Époque can be breathed throughout the quarter, particularly thanks to its former luxury hotels, now converted into private residences or offices. Along the Grandval courtyard, you can discover prestigious buildings such as the Grand Hotel, the Château Conti, the Cyrnos Palace, the Anglican Church or the Hotel Germania. It is a beautiful neighbourhood in which to stroll and discover the vestiges of this prosperous period.
If the city is rich in history and cultural attractions, the surroundings of Ajaccio boast an enchanting natural landscape, to be discovered on foot, by car or by sea, to admire truly spectacular views.
The Customs Trail is undoubtedly one of the best hikes in the region. It runs along the Corsican coast for about 4 kilometres: the walk, accessible to all, starts at the tip of Parata and offers breathtaking views of the Gulf of Ajaccio.
Along the way, you can admire the thousands of shades of blue of the Mediterranean, the Sanguinaires Islands and the jagged cliffs of the coast, which contrast with the wild green landscape of the maquis. Perhaps the most scenic spot is a small stretch of the bay of Capo di Feno, with its paradisiacal beaches.
Opposite Ajaccio is an archipelago of four wild and rocky islands, one of the most visited places in the region. A protected natural site, the Sanguinaires Islands are home to an incredibly diverse flora and fauna, including cormorants, peregrine falcons, seagulls and 150 different species of plants.
The only way to discover these wonders of nature is to take the boat from Ajaccio. This sea trip will allow you not only to photograph these islands, but to admire the Gulf of Ajaccio and its citadel from a different perspective. During the excursion, you can stop off at Mezu Mare, the main island of the archipelago, to capture the beauty of the island, the remains of its lazaret, its lighthouse and, if time permits, dive into its clear waters.
The wild Parata peninsula is an impervious and lonely place, but it is also one of the most beautiful places in Corsica.
The site is off-limits to cars, so you will have to leave your vehicle in the pay car parks or park your car along the road. To discover the breathtaking nature of this enchanting peninsula, you can take 3 magnificent walks:
For detailed information on the trails, please contact the information office located near the car park.
Unlike the Customs Trail, The path of the ridges requires more specific preparation and training. In fact, the walk runs along the coast for 10 kilometres, with some fairly steep and stony passages. It is therefore necessary to remember to bring comfortable shoes and enough water to hydrate throughout the walk, particularly during the summer period.
The trail starts from the Bois des Anglais, almost in the city centre, and allows you to get away from the noise and crowds and find yourself in a calm and quiet environment in the midst of nature. This superb excursion will let you discover the flora of the maquis and breathtaking views of the Gulf of Ajaccio.
Calculate between 3 and 5 hours to walk the entire trail. On the way back, if you are too tired, you can take a bus back to town.
About 20 kilometres from Ajaccio is a park dedicated to turtles, the cupulatta, which means turtle in the Corsican language: almost 3 hectares to learn all about this marine animal.
The park is home to more than 170 species of turtles and 3,000 animals from all over the world. During the visit you will discover how each species evolves in its natural habitat and learn a lot about the animals. It is a perfect excursion for families.
Like all Corsican cities, Ajaccio boasts beautiful beaches within a very limited radius, within easy reach of the Corsican capital.
Accessible directly from the city centre, Plage de Saint-François16 is undoubtedly the one that requires the least effort to reach. Located opposite Place des Diamants, it is very busy during the summer, but still has the advantage of being close to the main shops and restaurants. It is overlooked by a lovely promenade lined with palm trees and you will also enjoy a superb view of the Ajaccio citadel.
Also Plage de Trottel17 is a nice sandy beach facing the road, a stone’s throw from the city centre.
Plage de Barbicaja18 is a small bay with some large rocks, where you can also find restaurants and nautical activities.
Plage de Capo di Feno19 is one of the most famous beaches in Ajaccio. With the Mediterranean maquis in the background, it is a favourite spot for surfers. The beach is divided into two distinct parts, the Grand Capo and the Petit Capo, which are smaller but less crowded.
La Plage d'Argent20 is a paradisiacal cove, voted one of the most beautiful beaches in Corsica, while Plage de Terre Sainte21 is undoubtedly the most beautiful in the area, with several small sandy coves and large rocks at the water’s edge. There is also a monument paying tribute to Corsicans who died for France during the First World War.
Also not to be missed are Plage de Marinella22, a beautiful beach with turquoise water and tourist facilities, l'Ariadne Plage23, a sandy beach located on the Route des Sanguinaires, where you can have lunch in Ajaccio’s oldest hut, and finally Plage de Ricanto24, 3 km long, located between the city centre and Ajaccio airport.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
Depending on your budget and needs, Ajaccio offers hotels, B&Bs, campsites and rented houses: you are spoilt for choice.
The old town is the most picturesque district of the imperial city, where most of the attractions are concentrated. It is therefore an excellent place to stay. Sleeping in the heart of Ajaccio means fully immersing yourself in the life of the city, enjoying the evenings at the port, the restaurants and its lively atmosphere.
To save money, choose accommodation in the neighbouring areas, such as the Casone district: here you will find less expensive accommodation without being too far from the old town.
If, on the other hand, you are looking for beaches, nature and relaxation, then we recommend the natural areas west of Ajaccio. Wonderful cliff views, an intense scent of pine trees and crystal-clear beaches await you. In Barbicaja, Scudo and Vignola you will find campsites and charming rooms. This long road to the Genoese tower of Parata, with its view of the sea, offers many places to sleep in the mountains and near Ajaccio.
What's the weather at Ajaccio? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Ajaccio for the next few days.
The capital city of Corsica is located on the western side of the island, surrounded by a wonderful unspoilt natural landscape.