In the vibrant coastal city of Marseille, families seeking a blend of cultural exploration, leisure, and nocturnal pursuits will find a plethora of options to indulge in! Whether you seek cultural immersion, family bonding, or an evening out on the town, this guide will equip you with the necessary information to make the most of your time in Marseille.

Join us as we delve into the 20 things to do in Marseille, catering those who are seeking a well-rounded adventure in this picturesque Mediterranean destination!

Is Marseille worth visiting?

Marseille, as one of France’s largest and oldest cities, holds a distinct position within the culture and history of the country. Its Mediterranean location, diverse architecture, and famous port contribute to its significance. Marseille is also home to several renowned museums that provide insights into the region’s rich heritage.

The city’s vibrant food scene, anchored in Mediterranean cuisine, offers a culinary exploration for those seeking gastronomic delights. Other than that, its stunning coastal landscapes appeal to everyone – especially nature enthusiasts.

Ultimately, whether Marseille is worth visiting depends on individual preferences and interests. The city’s unique blend of historical intrigue, natural beauty, and cultural vibrancy undoubtedly make it a destination worthy of exploration for travellers seeking an authentic glimpse into the heart of Provence.

What is Marseille famous for?

One of Marseille’s most renowned features is the Vieux-Port, a busy harbour that has been the heart of maritime activities for centuries. Framed by the crowded markets and dotted with seafood restaurants, the Vieux-Port encapsulates Marseille’s maritime legacy and offers visitors a glimpse into its trading history. 

Furthermore, Marseille is celebrated for its architectural landmark, the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, situated atop a hill with panoramic views of the city and the Mediterranean. This iconic basilica, built in the 19th century, is a notable attraction for those intrigued by religious and historical sites.

The city is also renowned for its culinary delights, particularly the famous Bouillabaisse – a traditional fisherman’s stew originating from Marseille. Characterized by a rich broth and an array of fresh seafood, this dish encapsulates the city’s maritime heritage and is a must-try for those seeking an authentic taste of Marseille!

How much time do you need in Marseille?

The amount of time one should allocate for a visit to Marseille largely depends on individual preferences and the depth of exploration desired. For a cursory overview of the city’s major attractions, a weekend stay can suffice! This timeframe allows visitors to cover landmarks such as the Old Port, Notre-Dame de la Garde, and the vibrant markets. 

However, those inclined towards a more comprehensive experience and a nuanced exploration of Marseille’s diverse neighbourhoods, historical sites, and cultural offerings might find a weeklong stay more appropriate. Additionally, travellers planning to delve into the city’s rich culinary scene and partake in various outdoor activities, such as water sports along the Calanques, may consider extending their visit. The flexibility of a longer stay also accommodates unforeseen factors like weather variations, ensuring a more relaxed and enjoyable experience!

20 things to do in Marseille

From exploring historic landmarks to indulging in culinary delights and immersing oneself in vibrant street scenes, this guide offers a glimpse into the many experiences awaiting visitors in France’s dynamic port city. 

Things to do in Marseille for families

Embark on family-friendly adventures in Marseille, where a blend of cultural exploration and outdoor pursuits is waiting for you!

Visit the Old Port

Photo of the Old Port in Marseille.

Marseille’s historic Old Port stands as a central hub offering a blend of tradition and modernity. Families can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the waterfront, taking in picturesque views of the harbour and the iconic Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde overlooking the city. The Old Port is also surrounded by seafood restaurants and shops, providing a relaxed atmosphere for families to experience Marseille’s maritime charm.

Explore the Marseille History Museum

Delve into the rich history of Marseille at the city’s history museum, located in the Centre Bourse. Families can engage with interactive exhibits showcasing Marseille’s evolution from ancient Greek and Roman times to the metropolis it is today. The museum offers a fascinating educational experience for both adults and children, providing insights into the city’s cultural heritage.

Discover the Calanques National Park

For families seeking outdoor adventures, a visit to the Calanques National Park is a must. These stunning limestone cliffs and turquoise coves offer a picturesque setting for hiking and exploration. Families can embark on various trails suitable for different skill levels, immersing themselves in the natural beauty of the Mediterranean landscape.

Aerial view of the Calanques, near Marseilles.

To reach the park by car from Marseille city centre, follow the A50 motorway eastwards towards Aubagne. Take exit 5, signposted “La Valentine,” and merge onto the D559 road. Continue on the D559 for approximately 5 kilometers, then turn right onto the Avenue de la Martheline. Follow this road for about 2 kilometers until you reach the Calanques National Park entrance.

Parking facilities are available near various trailheads, allowing convenient access to the park’s stunning limestone cliffs and hiking trails. Please note that routes and parking availability may be subject to seasonal variations and local regulations, so it’s advisable to check for any updates before embarking on your journey.

Enjoy Family Time at the Palais Longchamp

Palais Longchamp, a historical monument and park, provides an ideal space for family outings. The park features vast greenery, playgrounds, and a charming waterfall. Families can relax in the serene surroundings, and children can play in designated areas. Also, the grand architecture of Palais Longchamp itself adds a touch of cultural significance to the visit.

Take a Boat Trip to the Frioul Islands

A short boat trip from Marseille’s Old Port leads to the Frioul Islands, offering a delightful escape for families. Explore the picturesque landscapes, visit the historic Château d’If, and indulge in water activities. The islands provide a tranquil retreat from the city buzz, with ample opportunities for family bonding amidst the scenic beauty of the Mediterranean.

Things to do in Marseille at night

As night falls over Marseille, the city reveals a diverse range of activities for those seeking evening entertainment!

Stroll along the Old Port

Marseille’s historic Old Port comes to life at night, with its waterfront promenades full of life. Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the quaysides, where you can soak in the ambiance of the illuminated harbour, watch fishermen unload their catches, and sample fresh seafood at the waterfront restaurants.

Experience the Panoramic Views from Notre-Dame de la Garde

Affording panoramic vistas of Marseille and its glittering city lights, Notre-Dame de la Garde is an iconic hilltop basilica that beckons visitors even after dusk. Witness the city’s illuminated skyline from this vantage point and admire the stunning architectural features of this landmark.

Indulge in Nightlife at Cours Julien

For those seeking vibrant nightlife, Cours Julien offers a dynamic atmosphere with bars, cafes, and live music venues. Navigate through the narrow streets adorned with colorful graffiti and discover eclectic bars where you can unwind with a drink and immerse yourself in Marseille’s contemporary cultural scene.

Attend a Performance at the Opera House

The Marseille Opera House, with its grand neoclassical façade, hosts a variety of performances ranging from ballets to operas and classical concerts. Delight in an evening of cultural enrichment as you watch captivating performances staged within the opulent interiors of this architectural landmark.

Discover Marseille’s Hidden Speakeasies

Uncover Marseille’s hidden speakeasies and cocktail bars tucked away in clandestine locations, and embrace the mystery of these secret establishments as you sip cocktails and revel in the unique ambiance each venue presents.

Fun things to do in Marseille

From cultural explorations and outdoor adventures to gastronomic delights and scenic strolls, the city’s multifaceted offerings ensure there’s something for everyone!

Indulge in Local Cuisine at the Vieux-Marseille

No visit to Marseille is complete without savoring the local cuisine! Head to the Vieux-Marseille district, where you’ll find many traditional seafood restaurants and markets. Sample the true bouillabaisse, or enjoy fresh seafood.

Picture shows a bowl of bouillabaisse, the famous seafood stew from Marseille.

Discover the Le Panier District

Wander through the narrow streets of Le Panier, Marseille’s oldest district. This area is known for its colorful buildings, artisan shops, and vibrant street art. Explore local boutiques, cafés, and galleries, appreciating the authentic character of this historic neighbourhood. Don’t forget to visit the Vieille Charité, a former almshouse turned cultural center, showcasing art and archaeology exhibitions!

Embark on a Calanques Cruise

Join a scenic boat tour and marvel at the stunning landscapes of the Calanques, with opportunities for swimming, snorkelling, and hiking. Typically departing from the Old Port, these boat excursions take you along the rugged coastline, offering panoramic views of the Mediterranean waters juxtaposed against the towering cliffs.

Discover the MuCEM and Fort Saint-Jean

The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM), an architectural marvel designed by Rudy Ricciotti, is dedicated to exploring the civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean. With a diverse range of exhibits, including artifacts, artworks, and multimedia displays, the museum offers an in-depth understanding of the region’s cultural evolution. Connected to the MuCEM by a footbridge, Fort Saint-Jean is a historic military structure dating back to the 17th century, and visitors can explore the fort’s ramparts, courtyards, and dungeons while enjoying beautiful views of the Old Port and the Mediterranean.

Take a Stroll through La Corniche

Enjoy a leisurely walk along La Corniche, a scenic coastal road offering breathtaking views of the Mediterranean. This picturesque route is ideal for a relaxing day out, with ample opportunities for seaside dining.

Aerial view of La Corniche, in the Provence region.

To reach La Corniche by car from the centre of Marseille, commence your journey by heading southwards on Boulevard Dugommier. Subsequently, take a right onto Rue de la République, following the signs for the A50 motorway. Merge onto the A50, and continue for approximately 3.5 kilometers. Take exit 5 toward La Plage, and then merge onto Corniche Président John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Follow this scenic coastal road, known as La Corniche, for about 5 kilometers, and you’ll arrive at your destination. 

Places to go shopping in Marseille

Explore Marseille’s diverse shopping scene, where modernity meets tradition amidst historic streets and contemporary complexes.

Les Terrasses du Port

Located at the heart of Marseille’s revitalized waterfront, Les Terrasses du Port stands as a modern shopping destination. This expansive shopping complex houses a diverse range of retail outlets, from international brands to local boutiques. Visitors can explore a multitude of fashion, electronics, and lifestyle stores, all within a contemporary architectural setting that mirrors Marseille’s urban renewal.

Centre Bourse

As one of Marseille’s oldest shopping centres, Centre Bourse offers a mix of tradition and modernity. Nestled in the historic district, it hosts a collection of shops catering to various tastes and budgets. From fashion and accessories to homeware, this shopping hub provides a convenient and eclectic retail experience, enriched by its location in the midst of Marseille’s cultural and architectural heritage.

Rue Saint-Ferréol

For those seeking a traditional shopping street, Rue Saint-Ferréol is a lively pedestrian thoroughfare in the city centre. Lined with an array of shops, including renowned brands and local shops, this street offers a mix of high-street and boutique shopping. 

La Joliette

In La Joliette, Marseille’s business and shopping district, visitors can discover Les Docks Village, a shopping precinct set in refurbished warehouses, offering a unique shopping experience. From chic fashion boutiques to artisanal stores, La Joliette provides a sophisticated and contemporary backdrop for retail therapy.

Marché de la Canebière

Marseille’s iconic Canebière hosts a traditional market that caters to those with a penchant for local products. The Marché de la Canebière features an array of stalls offering fresh produce, spices, and regional specialties. Beyond the typical retail experience, visitors can immerse themselves in the local culture, making it a distinctive shopping destination that blends commerce with Marseille’s rich culinary style.

Frequently asked questions

How to get to Marseille?

Travelling to Marseille is optimally facilitated by hiring a car, offering both convenience and flexibility to explore the city and its surroundings!

For those arriving from the United Kingdom, particularly London, a drive through the Channel Tunnel or a ferry crossing to Calais provides a direct gateway to the European road network. From Calais, the journey to Marseille spans approximately 1,000 miles, with well-maintained motorways and scenic routes along the way. Hiring a car for this journey ensures comfort and control over your schedule, allowing for pit stops in charming French towns or notable landmarks en route.

From Paris, the drive to Marseille covers approximately 775 kilometers via the A6 and A7 motorways, typically taking around 7 hours, depending on traffic conditions. Alternatively, if flying into Marseille is the preferred option, the Marseille Provence Airport serves as a major transportation hub! The distance between the airport and Marseille’s city center is around 17 miles, with well-signposted routes ensuring a straightforward drive.

Is Marseille a walkable city?

Marseille has a varied landscape with certain areas being more conducive to pedestrian exploration than others. The Vieux-Port and Le Panier district are made of narrow, winding streets that lend themselves to leisurely strolls. The historic charm of these areas, with their vibrant markets and cultural sites, encourages visitors to explore on foot. However, it is essential to note that Marseille’s topography is characterized by hills and uneven terrain, particularly in some neighbourhoods. Navigating the city centre on foot can be rewarding, but those venturing into more distant districts may find the use of alternative modes of transportation a practical choice for a more comprehensive exploration.

Are there beaches in Marseille?

Marseille boasts several beaches along its coastline, offering visitors the opportunity to indulge in the Mediterranean sun! Among the most renowned is the Plage du Prado, a spacious stretch of sandy shores that attracts both locals and tourists alike. Situated within the Prado Park, this beach features amenities such as showers, lifeguards, and water sports facilities, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable experience for all beachgoers.

Additionally, the nearby Plage des Catalans provides a more intimate setting, nestled between rocky cliffs and offering stunning views of the Mediterranean waters. Both beaches are easily accessible from the city centre, making them popular destinations for residents and visitors seeking a refreshing escape from urban life.

Furthermore, Marseille’s coastal landscape is dotted with numerous other beaches, each with its own distinct character and appeal. From the rugged beauty of the Calanques beaches to the tranquil ambiance of the Pointe Rouge beach, there is no shortage of options for those seeking sun, sea, and sand in Marseille.

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