Is Marseille worth visiting? We share some of the best things to do in Marseille, France, so you can decide if this is the destination for you!
Marseille, often referred to as the “Gateway to the Mediterranean,” is a city that captivates the hearts of travelers with its rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning landscapes.
Nestled on the picturesque coastline of the South of France, Marseille offers an unparalleled city break experience that combines the allure of a bustling metropolis with the tranquility of the Mediterranean Sea.
In this Marseille travel guide, we’ll take you on a journey through this enchanting city, revealing the hidden gems, cultural treasures, and culinary delights that should have you putting Marseille on your France Bucket List.
Is Marseille worth visiting? Reasons to visit!
Exploring the Old Port (Vieux-Port)
Your Marseille city break adventure unfolds from the very heart of the city, which is none other than the iconic Old Port.
This historic harbor has served as the beating heart of Marseille for countless centuries, its significance deeply ingrained in the city’s identity. As you step foot into this vibrant and timeless locale, you’ll find yourself immersed in a captivating world of maritime history and modern-day charm.
The Old Port, or “Vieux-Port” in French, exudes a unique and enchanting atmosphere that beckons you to explore its storied past.
Centuries of trade, tales of maritime exploits, and the ebb and flow of life itself have all left their mark here.
Lining its perimeter is a lively assortment of cafes, restaurants, and shops, each inviting you to take a seat, savor the local cuisine, or indulge in some retail therapy.
As you explore the Old Port, the waterfront promenade guides you along the quays. The promenade itself is a testament to the fusion of old and new, with its wide, welcoming pathways offering a glimpse of Marseille’s contemporary spirit while still preserving its historical charm.
One of the most enchanting sights along this promenade is the spectacle of colorful fishing boats and luxurious yachts gently bobbing in crystal-clear waters.
The reflection of the azure sky in the water, the gentle lapping of the waves, and the camaraderie of locals and visitors alike make this an idyllic spot to relax, soak up the atmosphere, and watch the world go by.
Whether you choose to enjoy a leisurely meal at one of the waterside restaurants or simply take a tranquil moment to appreciate the beauty that surrounds you, the Old Port invites you to immerse yourself in the timeless allure of Marseille, a city that seamlessly marries its rich heritage with the vibrant energy of the present.
The old town is a gorgeous place to visit and a reason to visit France, answering YES to Is Marseille worth visiting.
Marseille boasts a rich cultural heritage that is evident in its diverse neighborhoods and landmarks.
One of the city’s most iconic symbols is the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, a stunning hilltop basilica that offers panoramic views of Marseille and the surrounding coastline. The interior of the basilica is equally impressive, adorned with intricate mosaics and stained glass windows.
For a deeper dive into Marseille’s history, a visit to the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM) is a must.
This striking contemporary museum is housed in a remarkable building designed by architect Rudy Ricciotti, and it explores the connections between Europe and the Mediterranean through a fascinating collection of artifacts and exhibitions.
Marseille’s charm lies in its diverse neighborhoods, each with its own unique character. The historic district of Le Panier is a maze of narrow streets, colorful buildings, and charming squares.
It’s the perfect place to get lost while discovering hidden boutiques, local artisans, and vibrant street art.
Another must-visit neighborhood is Le Cours Julien, known for its artistic and bohemian atmosphere.
Here, you’ll find a vibrant street scene with eclectic shops, lively cafes, and a thriving arts community. It’s an ideal spot to soak in the local culture and enjoy a coffee or glass of wine al fresco.
Calanques and Natural Beauty
When planning a trip to France, don’t forget the incredible beauty you need to discover.
Beyond the city’s urban allure, Marseille offers breathtaking natural beauty in the form of the Calanques. These rugged limestone cliffs and turquoise coves are a paradise for hikers, rock climbers, and nature enthusiasts.
A short boat ride or hike from the city center will transport you to this pristine wilderness, where you can enjoy swimming in crystal-clear waters and picnicking in the shade of pine trees.
Marseille’s cuisine is a reflection of its multicultural heritage, blending Mediterranean flavors with influences from North Africa and Italy.
The city’s markets, such as the Noailles Market, offer a sensory feast of spices, olives, and fresh produce. This is a must-visit place during a weekend in Marseille.
Be sure to try “pastis,” a traditional anise-flavored aperitif, and indulge in some “navettes,” a local biscuit often flavored with orange flower water.
For a taste of Marseille’s diverse culinary offerings, head to Le Panier or the Vieux-Port, where you can savor seafood platters, North African specialties like couscous, and traditional Provencal dishes. Dining in Marseille is an experience that will leave your taste buds tingling with delight.
How to plan a trip to Marseille
Before embarking on your Marseille city breaks, here are some essential tips to ensure a smooth and memorable trip:
- Language: While French is the official language, English is widely understood in tourist areas.
- Currency: The Euro (EUR) is the currency used in Marseille.
- Weather: Marseille enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with hot summers and mild winters. The best time to visit is during the spring or early autumn when the weather is pleasant for outdoor activities.
- Transport: Marseille has an efficient public transportation system, including buses and trams, making it easy to navigate the city. The Marseille-Provence Airport provides excellent international connections.
- Safety: Marseille is generally safe for tourists, but it’s always advisable to take standard precautions like safeguarding your belongings.
- Accommodation: Marseille offers a range of accommodation options, from luxury hotels to boutique guesthouses and budget-friendly hostels. Book your stay in advance, especially during the peak tourist season.
- Local Etiquette: When interacting with locals, a few basic French phrases can go a long way in showing respect. Additionally, it’s customary to greet with a kiss on both cheeks as a sign of friendship. Learning and practicing these social norms can enhance your experience in Marseille.
Marseille, with its fascinating blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, is the ultimate city break destination in the South of France.
Whether you’re exploring the historic Old Port, immersing yourself in the city’s diverse neighborhoods, or embarking on outdoor adventures in the Calanques, Marseille promises a magical experience that will leave you with unforgettable memories.
- We LOVE this camera for our travel photography.
- For a cheap, easy, and compact camera, we use this to vlog and take photographs.
- We use this microphone for all our Youtube voiceovers.
- We use this travel drone (but make sure to check drone laws in your chosen destination first).
- This is our favorite travel insurance because it covers so many activities and travel situations that could arise on longer trips but also offer year coverage.
What to pack
- No matter where we travel, I always take these trusty hand sanitizers and a mini first aid kit.
- We love these toiletry bags (especially great for smaller bathrooms) and choose a laptop bag like this as our hand luggage.
- We keep our devices charged on long travel days with these lightweight battery packs and bring these worldwide travel adaptors on all our trips.
- I still struggle not to overpack so stick to using an expandable suitcase like these and always take my trusty luggage scales to avoid being charged at the airport.