Marseille has clement weather, charming ocean-front views, and gusts of cool air. It is the perfect getaway for those looking for a little adventure. Want to know the best things to do in Marseille? This post will outline all you have to know!
Know as the “secret capital” of France, Marseille is in stark contrast to Paris’s comparably busy streets. It is often overlooked when next to the better-known beaches of Nice. Yet, the daily fish markets and face-sized pizza slices, the crystal clear Calanques, and the old-school port are some of the many reasons that should draw anyone to Marseille when planning a trip around France.
Of course, I didn’t know any of this before going.
After spending 4 months cooped up in the brutal Parisian winter, I completely fell out of love with the city. In my mind, Paris has always equated to romantic candle-light dinners and seductive saxophone tunes.
However, the Paris I experienced was anything but. Aside from the melting slush and gloomy sky, I sustained a number of accidents that made me question my life choices.
When I decided against familiarizing myself with a newly awakened Paris in May, my friend dragged me towards the South of France and promised me that it will completely alter my distorted view of the entire country.
I reluctantly agreed.
The Journey to Marseille
Europe can be quite expensive, but unexpectedly affordable if you know where to look. For example, Ouigo is a great low-cost high-speed train service that operates on most major rail routes in France.
The catch is that unlike SNCF, Ouigo usually operates between secondary stations and requires a European bank card for online purchases. With a friend’s card in hand, I was able to grab a roundtrip between Paris Aéroport Roissy-CDG 2 and Marseille Saint-Charles for less than EUR 30!
We started our journey near Opéra Station. Including the bus ride to Paris Aéroport (about 80 mins), the entire trip to Marseille was around 5 hours.
The Best Things To Do In Marseille
Marseille is the second-largest city in Paris. As a historical cosmopolitan that sits on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea, Marseille is a short distance from Spain and just hours from the coast of Algeria. Following large waves of immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries, this port city has become a melting pot of culture and people.
There are lots of things to do in Marseille, especially for those seeking adventure. Below are a few must-dos!
Old Port of Marseille
One of the best things to do in Marseille is a walk along the Old Port. The Old Port first became the center for the area’s maritime trade in the 600 BC. In 2013, the Vieux-Port de Marseille was largely pedestrianized for the public. It currently serves as home to dozens of boats and yachts, as well as the local fish market.
There is something very charming about the Old Port of Marseille. Other than an unobstructed view of the Mediterranean Sea, you will spot colorful boats that rest peacefully along the marina. To the side, rows of red-rooftop houses line the streets and in the distance, the Basilique Notre-Dame De La Garde sits proudly atop a small hill.
Basilique Notre-Dame De La Garde
The Basilique Notre-Dame De La Garde is one of the most popular sites in Marseille. It is a popular Assumption Day pilgrimage and was constructed in 1821. Not only does it offer a panorama view of Marseille, but the interiors of the basilica also holds some breathtaking mosaics. There is a saying that the basilica serves as a protector for sailors, who are able to spot the bell tower when sailing out to sea.
To visit, head up the Quai de Rive Neuve to arrive at the basilica. The walk uphill can be quite tiring. If you prefer a bus, bus no.60 goes all the way to the basilica from the Old Port. The basilica is open every day and admission is free. I’d suggest you pack a picnic and enjoy the view!
The Palais Longchamp is a monument and is home to three facilities: the first being the château d’eau, the second is the Musée des Beaux-Arts, and the third is the Museum d’Histoire Naturellein. It was built in the 19th century to celebrate the construction of a canal that carried water from the Durance River to Marseille.
If you aren’t interested in the museums, simply head inside the garden and admire the delicate architecture from the outside. A bike ride or a walk along the trails is definitely worth the time!
Château d’If is a fortress and was a prison that sits on an island off the shores of Marseille. For those interested in literature, a visit to this Château is one of the best things to do in Marseille, as it served as setting in Alexandre Dumas’ adventure novel The Count of Monte Cristo. Château d’If was also hugely feared in France due to its imprisonment of various political and religious detainees. After its dissolution as a prison, the Château opened its doors to the public in 1890.
To visit, purchase tickets from an office at Marseille’s Old Port. A boat will take visitors to the island and back.
Massif des Calanques
A hike in the Calanques is definitely one of the best things to do in Marseille! The Massif des Calanques is a 20km stretch of spectacular view between Marseille and Cassis. There are a number of routes that will take visitors to different sections of the rocky hills and turquoise blue waters, and some of the most popular are the Calanques of Morgiou and Sugiton.
The Calanques are designated as a National Park and most sights require a lengthy hike and hours of sweat. Nonetheless, it is a wonderful opportunity to experience Marseille’s splendor, and I recommend to allocate a few days for your various Calanque treks!
Undoubtly, there are many things to do in Marseilles. I hope you enjoy the city as much as I did. Below are a few others tips and advice to make your trip easier!
What is the Best Time to Visit Marseille?
Located near the Mediterranean, Marseille has gorgeous weather year-round. The temperature in the summer months averages 30 degrees, while fall is closer to 20. The best time to visit Marseille is during the months in fall, when there are little tourists and the weather is still warm. In specific, September to November are great choices for those looking for a peaceful getaway!
How Much to Budget for Marseille?
There are many things to do in Marseille and as such, you may have to dish out a few extra EURs for attractions. However, the good thing is that there are also tons of free activities in the city that you can engage in.
When it comes to accommodation, Marseille offers hostel rooms from EUR 20 upwards, and hotel rooms EUR 125 and above (yes yes, their hotels are quite expensive).
Depending on what you eat, meals can range between EUR 3 and up. Yep! You can find really cheap, delicious pizza slices all around the city. And honestly, pizzas in Marseille are some of the best I’ve ever had!