Discover Marseille: My top 10 places to visit

Marseille is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway or a few days out, all year round. Nestling on the shores of the Mediterranean, France’s second-largest city offers a wealth of things to do and see. Between the Calanques on the horizon, the magnificent cathedral that testifies to the cultural richness of the region, the picturesque Vieux Port where the city’s maritime soul is still in full swing, and the enchanting atmosphere of the South that envelops every street corner, Marseille is my favourite city in the South of France! Wondering what to do and see when visiting Marseille ? In this article, I’ll be revealing my top 10 things to do and see in Marseille.

 

What to see in Marseille? Here are my 10 favourites


Walking around the narrow streets of the Panier

Le Panier is my favourite district! Located right in the heart of Marseille, a stone’s throw from the Vieux Port, it’s an authentic area that has managed to retain its charm. You’ll find great shops and restaurants of all kinds (try the savoury pannisses!). The narrow streets are lively, colourful and decorated, and you can stroll up and down them. This is Marseille’s oldest district, and it’s super popular. What also makes it popular is the TV series “Plus belle la vie” (which is due to resume in 2024). In short, it’s well worth the diversions!

Stroll around Marseille’s Old Port

The Vieux Port is the centre of Marseille. It’s easy to get to, not far from the Marseille tourist office. Lively and calm at the same time, I let myself be transported by the bewitching atmosphere that hangs here… This emblematic place is famous for its lively fish market, its gently dancing boats, its period buildings in the background and its string of restaurants and cafés lining the quays. If you take your time, you can sit at one of the terrace tables, letting the sun’s rays caress your face and enjoying a unique and authentic spectacle that embodies the essence of Marseille. I can still see myself there, can’t you?

Visit the Mucem and the Fort Saint Jean

 
 

Since it opened in 2013, the MuCEM (the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations) has become a must-see when visiting Marseille. Nestling at the entrance to the port, its unique architecture is impossible to miss. Constructed from iron, the building creates poetic shadows thanks to its cut-out walls. Built on the site of Fort Saint-Jean (which you can also visit with the same ticket), the museum offers exhibitions that invite curious minds to explore the various civilisations that have forged the identity of the Mediterranean, from prehistory to the present day. I took advantage of the Marseille citypass (which I’ll talk about below), which includes a visit to the MuCEM, to see 2 exhibitions there, and I really enjoyed it. But even if you don’t go inside, the view from outside is well worth the diversions, as is the rooftop restaurant with its lovely views.

Take a diversion to the Vallon des Auffes

A lovely discovery on my bike ride along the coast: the Vallon des Auffes. Valon des Auffes is a small port nestling in the shelter of the cliffs and close to a viaduct. It’s a small Provençal fishing village that exudes authenticity and picturesque charm, and really gives you the feeling that you’re no longer in the city (and that’s what I love about Marseille, this feeling of sometimes being in a small village). If you’ve got your swimming costume on, you can take a stroll along the Plage des Catalans, and if you’ve got the time, it’s said that Bouillabaisse from Chez Fonfon is a culinary experience not to be missed in Marseille.

Climb up to the Basilique Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde

As soon as you arrive in Marseille, especially if you arrive by train, you’ll see the one that dominates the city: the Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde. This incredible monument is truly the city’s emblem, perched at an impressive height of over 150 metres above the city. Nicknamed the “Good Mother”, the basilica can be reached in a variety of ways: by car, on foot or even by taking the little tourist train (also included in the Marseille CityPass). But once at the top, what I loved most was the 360-degree view of Pareille!

Cycle along the seafront

Marseille is a very big city and even though it’s easy to get around on foot and by metro, I was pretty tired after the first few days. After noticing that there were some great cycle paths along the coast, I decided to hire a self-service bike (there are several) to go for a ride and discover Marseille from a different angle. The verdict? I loved it! The cycle paths run all along the coast, but if you want you can go even further… It was a great time and I’d highly recommend it.

Take a day trip to the Frioul islands

 
 
 

It took me 3 visits to Marseille to convince myself to venture to the Frioul Islands off the coast of the city. And what a wonderful getaway it was! Accessible by ferry from the Vieux-Port in just 30-40 minutes, the Frioul Islands are a haven of tranquillity. The main island, Ratonneau, boasts crystal-clear waters, beaches and hiking trails. I spent a perfect afternoon there, relaxing on the beach and taking a short stroll to unwind from the morning’s sightseeing. The water is beautiful and clean and the arid landscapes add to its charm. You can also visit the Chateau d’If on the island of If, but I haven’t had the chance to go there yet.

Hike in the Calanques from Marseille

Marseille’s calanques are certainly worth the trip on their own, especially if you love nature and hiking. I was lucky enough to go there twice, from Cassis and from Marseille, to discover the beaches and creeks, but also to hike in this landscape that is so typical of Marseille. The beaches of Morgiou and the Calanque d’En Vau are the best known, but by choosing other hiking trails, you can access other hidden beaches where you find yourself almost alone in the world. Hiking in the calanques gave me the chance to discover a different side of Marseille, one that’s wild, natural and unspoilt, a side that I really appreciate… probably my favourite of my favourites.

Take a break at sunset in Les Goudes

After finishing my hike in the Calanques, I arrived at Les Goudes. Perched at the entrance to the calanques, Les Goudes is the perfect spot for a picnic or a drink at sunset. The atmosphere is peaceful, a haven of tranquillity where time seems to slow down. Walking along the coastal paths, soaking up the sea air and surrendering to the serenity of the place are all invitations to contemplation.

Take a relaxing break on the beach

Once you’ve explored Marseille and the Calanques, there’s only one thing left to do: relax on one of Marseille’s beaches. After all, what makes Marseille so special is that it’s right on the sea and you can stroll along the beach or relax there practically whenever you like. The best-known beach is the Prado, a stretch of fine sand where you can play a game of pétanque and drink a pastis at the end of the day (not at all cliché, you might say 🙂 ). All in all, Marseille is a city to discover, but above all to experience!


Practical information for visiting Marseille


How do I get to Marseille? 

There are several ways of getting to Marseille from different regions: by car, train or plane. Your choice will depend on your point of departure. If you’re travelling from Brussels or Paris, the TGV is a fast and convenient way to get to Marseille. In just 3 hours, the TGV will take you from Paris to Marseille, arriving in the heart of the city at Gare Saint-Charles.

If you’re planning to travel by plane, Marignane airport is your destination. Although it’s around 24km from Marseille, there are reliable shuttle buses between the airport and the city. If you’re looking for low-cost flights, check out the website of our partner Ulysse for the best deals.

How many days do I need to visit Marseille?

I think you can visit Marseille in 1, 2, 3 or 4 days… and more if you like.
In reality, it all depends on what you want to do. I’ve spent a few days there several times, which enabled me to discover different facets of the city and to visit several different places. But I still haven’t had the chance to do and see everything, including visiting the Palais Longchamp or going to see an OM football match at the Velodrome (guaranteed atmosphere, it seems).

How to visit Marseille ?

  • I’d like to extend my warmest thanks to the Marseille Tourist Office, which offered me the 72-hour Marseille Citypass, a card that enabled me to travel by bus and metro, visit several places in Marseille (such as the Mucem) and go to the Frioul Islands. There are several “Passes” from 24h to 72h and I think it’s really the best way to visit and discover Marseille.
  • I recommend going to the Marseille Tourist Office to pick up a map of the city or book one of the guided tours (there are 1 or 2 a day) or simply buy a CityPass (see here to buy online or see what’s included), which is really worth it for the price and all the advantages.

Where to sleep in Marseille ?

There are several accommodation options for visiting Marseille, and it all depends on what you want to do.
The Vieux-Port is an ideal place to visit Marseille on foot, and the Panier district is not too far away and is a very authentic and picturesque place. Alternatively, finding accommodation near the Prado means you’re close to the sea and the Calanques, and you can easily reach the centre of Marseille by bus or bike.

To find accommodation, I recommend you look at the  suggestions of accommodations in Marseille on Booking.


Booking.com

 

 

 

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