Marseille is a gorgeous city by the sea; a stunning blend of old and new. It is the oldest city in France and was founded 2,600 years ago. The atmosphere, vibes, history-woven neighborhoods, the jagged and dramatic coastline, azure water and the gorgeous sunsets will just make your heart sing.
If you’re planning a trip to Southern France, don’t forget to pencil in Marseille to your itinerary. Here are our insider tips: the best things to do in Marseille.
How to Reach Marseille
Marseille is well connected by rail, road, and air with all major cities of France and Europe.
Plane | You can fly to Marseille from Paris / London or any other major hub.
Train | Eurail Pass or Interrail Pass are good options if you are planning to visit multiple cities and countries. There are also high-speed trains like Thalys from Brussels/ Amsterdam and Paris to Marseille every Saturday. You can book Thalys at a discounted rates if you have Eurail/ Interrail Pass. There are a lot of perks – Free Wifi, delicious food, drinks, access to the lounge and spacious comfortable seats. You can watch our video on youtube. Thalys is a faster option to reach to the South of France on a train.
Car | You can hire a car from any city and drive to Marseille.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN MARSEILLE
Hang out at the Old Port of Marseille (Le Vieux Port)
The Old Port of Marseille is hard to give a miss. It was built in the 6th century BC.
Today the Old Port of Marseille is used as a Marina. You can find new and old boats docked in the harbor. The pedestrian street is punctuated with cafes, bars, and restaurants. The fish market is set up every morning where you can buy the fresh catch from the Mediterranean Sea. You will also find tour boats to Calanques, Chateau D’If and many other places from here.
Explore Le Panier neighborhood
Take a stroll around the picturesque Marseille’s Old Town and get to know more about the Greek settlement. The neighborhood is an interesting mix of old and new.
Admire the stunning Cathédrale de la Major ( Marseille Cathedral )
A national monument of France, Marseille cathedral is a beautiful structure that was built in the 12th century. The cathedral was restored in the mid 19th century and was built in Byzantine-Roman Revival style. The green and white limestone used have a striking resemblance to some of Florence’s Duomo but the interiors have an alternating layer of red and ochre. It one of the largest cathedrals in all of France.
It is quite close to the Old Port of Marseille and entry to the cathedral is FREE of cost.
Enjoy your time at La Corniche
The winding road that skirts the seafront is a great way to drive, walk or cycle whilst enjoying the sea view. It is dotted with pretty cafes, rocky beaches, and numerous restaurants.
Take in the breathtaking view of the city from Notre-Dame de la Garde
This 19th-century basilica is probably the best-known symbol of Marseille. The basilica is also the most visited site in Marseille. Located in the south side of the Old Port of Marseille, the basilica is situated atop a hill. The Neo-Byzantine church has a 41 m tall bell tower on which is an 11.2 m tall statue of Madonna and child made of copper and gold. The statue is visible from the Old Port as well. The view from Notre- Dame is stunning.
The bus 60 goes from Old Port of Marseille to Notre-Dame. There is also a tourist train which runs from Old Port to the church.
Visit Chateau D’If
This 16th-century fortress on the tiny island of If just off the coast of Marseille. The island happens to be the smallest island in the archipelago. The fortress which was later turned to a prison is famous for being featured in the Count of Monte Cristo. There are ferries every 30 mins which leave for the island from the Old Port of Marseille.
Hop on a boat to explore Frioul Islands
Mostly a natural reserve, Frioul islands are another attractions. Ferries run daily from the old port to the islands. Be sure to wear something comfortable as it may involve a lot of walking.
Enjoy the sunset from Fort Saint-Jean
Built in the 17th-century at the entrance of the Old Port, this fortification was built for the defense of the local governor. During World War 2 the fort was occupied by the invading German forces. Today, the fort is part of MuCEM. It is a nice place if you want to catch the sunset and enjoy the view.
Know more about the past at MuCEM
If you want to know more about the Mediterranean culture, art, photography and historic artifacts, don’t forget to hop in the city’s best MuCEM.
Other interesting places to visit
Palais Longchamp – It’s an Art museum and home to some of the paintings from the 17th century. It also has a beautiful park.
Cours Julien – Once a run-down neighborhood; It is now considered one of the coolest street full of restaurants, bars and full of street art.
La Canebière – Another pretty neighborhood.
Day Trips from Marseille
You can rent a car or hop on a train to explore the nearby Provencial towns like Valensole, Aix-En-Provence and coastal towns like St. Tropez, Cannes or Nice.
Calanques National Park
Calanques is one of the most beautiful national parks in France. The park consists of beautiful limestone peaks, secluded and pristine beaches. There are two ways to see Calanques, one via trekking from Casis and the other by a boat.
You can book a trip to Calanques from the Old Port of Marseille. There are also guided kayaking tours and private boat experiences available.
During the warmer months, it is advisable to cross-check before starting the hike due to the risk of fires from 1st June to 30th September.
From Cassis, you can easily reach Port Miou, Port Pin and En Vau on foot. En Vau is a bit challenging though out of three. To visit Calanque de Sugiton which is the easiest one of all the Calanque to visit without a private vehicle, you have to take bus 21 from L’avenue du Prado at Castellane and hop off at the terminus in Luminy. You can find more details HERE.
It was crazy hot when we visited Marseille ( in July ) so we opted for the half day boat tour which covered all the 12 Calanques in 4 hours. We would highly recommend hiking so that you can enjoy some insane views.
Hop on a train and travel west to visit this beautiful sea-side town.
Distance: 36 Km
Les Goudes is a little fishing village just before the Calanques national park. You can take the 19B bus or a car from Marseille.
Distance: 15.2 KM and will take around 30-35 minutes.
Vendon Gorge & Lac De Saint Croix –
One of the most beautiful lakes in the world and the fourth largest lake in France — Sainte-Croix is a man-made lake built in 1974. You can spend an entire day swimming, kayaking and picnicking at this gorgeous place.
Distance: 159 Km
WHAT TO EAT/ SHOP
Don’t forget to sample Bouillabaisse – A fancy fish stew and Navettes – Cute boat-shaped biscuits in a variety of flavors.
Shop for Marseille soap or Savon de Marseille. It is a traditional hard soap made from vegetable oils that have been produced around Marseille, France, for about 600 years. It contains no dyes, preservatives or fragrances and is manufactured in a traditional way.
Shop African herbs and spices at Marché Capucins.
For fine dining, Gérald Passédat’s Le Petit Nice is one of the finest.
WHERE TO STAY
You can check on Airbnb ( Use our code and get discount on your first booking ) or find hotels on Booking.com and compare prices on Hotelscombined.com
What to Know
Getting around – There are trams, trains, buses, open top buses and touristy trains to take you around all touristy places.
Weather – It’s hot and sunny 365 days of the year. Don’t forget your sunscreen, hat and hiking boots if you’re planning to visit Calanques national park.
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Joanne @ Travel Visa UKSeptember 18, 2018 at 5:36 am
Looks great, Thanks for the tips on things to do!
Semon SehalSeptember 19, 2018 at 6:51 am
Gorgeous city! really good experience of the “Marseille” trip through your Blog. This is really an amazing city for the travellers.
Thank you for sharing this wonderful article.
AgnessJanuary 4, 2019 at 10:22 am
Hello Swati and Sam, this is a lovely post. Can you suggest things to do in La Canebiere for half a day tour?
Chalta PurzaFebruary 6, 2019 at 12:29 pm
Hello Swati and Sam your blog is really nice and this was one of the best article that i have read about marseille.
The Tales of a TravelerFebruary 6, 2019 at 4:35 pm
Glad you liked it 🙂