Things to do in Marseille, France
We recommend spending two or three days in Marseille. Read about the best things to do in Marseille, France.
1. MUCEM & Fort Saint-Jean
The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisation is a thing to do in Marseille for all ages. The two striking modern buildings at the water’s edge are home to galleries and exhibitions. The museum is connected with a 115-meter-long bridge to the ancient Fort Saint-Jean that is free to visit.
2. Cathedral de la Major
One of France’s largest cathedrals is close to MUCEM and in between the Old Port and Le Panier: Cathedral de la Major. Its spectacular dimensions are similar to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, with materials used like mosaics from Venice and stones from Florence.
3. Creative Cours Julien
Cours Julien is known as the street art neighborhood of Marseille, but it’s so much more! The colorful square and streets are taken over by great bars, restaurants, and musicians. It’s lively, creative, cool, and the perfect place to spend your afternoon on the terrace.
Follow the artsy staircase (Les Escaliers du Cours Julien) to the bridge or the metro entrance.
4. Old Harbor (Vieux Port)
Vieux Port (The old harbor) is the symbol of Marseille. This is where the stylish hotels, waterfront cafes, and seafood restaurants are situated. At sunset, go for a stroll over the boulevard and along the water to really taste the atmosphere of this city with musicians playing and small food stalls on the street.
5. Le Panier
Next up is Le Panier, the city’s oldest quarter. The narrow and pastel-colored streets and steep staircases are often referred to as Marseille’s historical and cultural heart. Le Panier is a former working-class area, and nowadays, that is still reflected in the Algerian restaurants and boutique shops. Prepare for a great stroll in this part of Marseille.
6. Gare Saint Charles
It’s not often we recommend visiting a train station; however, Gare Saint Charles has a grand staircase that leads towards the city and is a must-see while in Marseille. The train station is a historical monument station and dates back to 1848!
7. Notre-Dame Basilica
The enormous Basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde stands on the highest point of Marseille (150 meters above sea level). It’s the city’s landmark that you can spot from pretty much anywhere in Marseille. Even better is the view from the top, on the surrounding mountains.
Visit the basilica either by walking up the hill or using the small train that runs daily from the old harbor.
8. Palais Longchamp
Palais Longchamp is one of the things to do in Marseille! In the 19th century, an 85 kilometer-long canal had to be created in order to bring drinking water to everybody. The stunning palace was built to celebrate the completion of this project after 30 years. You can easily spend half a day here visiting the botanical gardens, the Natural History – or Fine Art museum.
9. A day trip to Cassis
Cassis is a charming fishing village about 30 minutes from Marseille. It is popular for its incredible beaches and small-town vibe with an extensive market with locally produced products.
Cassis is like wandering around in a painting, with the pastel-painted buildings and restaurants on the charming harbor. The white-sand beaches of Cassis easy to access and a popular escape for many of the people living in Marseille.
Calanques National Park
However, Cassis is most visited for Calanques National Park, an area of diverse landscapes, unique hiking trails along the sea cliffs, and unmatchable beaches along the way. The first two beaches (Port Pin and Port-Miou) are easy to reach.
You can either opt to stop at one of those two and relax or to follow the trail for 90 minutes to the most secluded beach of them all, named Calanque d’En Vau. Tip: Wear good shoes for following the trail.
Alternatively, join an electric biking tour and venture deep into the national park.
How to get to Marseille
Even though Marseille is in the deep south of France, it got great over-land connections to many cities all over Europe. If you’re visiting by car, be aware that you’re visiting an extremely busy city with very limited space. Parking a car can cost up to 30 euros a day in a parking garage in the city center.
Renting a car allows you to visit Marseille’s outskirts much easier. We recommend renting a car at Sunny Cars as they work with local car rental companies in France. When booking through Sunny Cars, all insurances are included, no surprises when collecting your car. Book your local rental car here.
Marseille has its own airport, with international flights arriving from many destinations. The airport is 27 km northwest of the city center. Get there by using an airport shuttle bus from Saint Charles train station. Search for your flight option here.
Getting Around Marseille
Marseille is best to discover on foot since most of the things to do are close to each other and the city is pretty pedestrian-friendly. To cover larger distances, you can use the metro and tram lines that stretch out to most parts of the city.
Just like Bordeaux, there is also a good city bike system that you can purchase online here. Get a week ticket for just 1 euro. Every time you take a bike, the first 30 minutes are free. The bikes can be found and put back almost anywhere in Marseille.
Best Cafes and Restaurants in Marseille
Only within the city center of Marseille is a huge amount of cafes and restaurants to chose from. These were our favorites:
- Don Gobi (Mediterranean)
- L’Infusion (Tea & delicous bites)
- Green Love (Vegan restaurant)
- Why Not Us Coffee (Vegan cafe)
- Chez Marquis (Italian)
- Jour Vieux Port (Great salades!)
Where to stay in Marseille
We stayed at Best Western Hotel Marseille Bourse, which was at an excellent location near the old port.
Best time to visit Marseille
Marseille is best to visit from April to June or September to October. This is when the beaches aren’t too crowded and the temperature is pleasant so you can explore the city without dripping in sweat.
Your travel budget for Marseille
A weekend to Marseille will cost you around 160 euro a day including accommodation. Average prices in the city are;
- Hotels: 80 – 180 euro / night
- Hostels: 40 – 90 euro / night
- Price per meal: 10-20 euro
- Transport: 5 – 15 euro (bike+tram)