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Things to do in Marseille

Things to do in  Marseille

Welcome to Marseille

France’s second-largest city and most important port, bustling Marseille offers visitors vibrant old neighborhoods and historic sights. Roughly 482 miles (775 km) south of Paris on the Mediterranean coast, Marseille, a major transportation hub, serves as an ideal base for exploring the French Riviera and Provence. Half-day and full-day guided tours show off Marseille’s shore, wine, and neighboring regions. Take a walking tour of Marseille’s historic center around the Old Port (Vieux Port) to learn about the city’s Greek and Roman roots. Travel through time with a visit to the Abbey of Saint Victor to see its fifth- century crypts; and stop in the 19th-century Neo-Byzantine Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde, one of Marseille's most recognized monuments. Climb on an electric bike to glide along the pretty road known as Corniche Kennedy, plus stop for panoramic coastal views. Tour the opera house, and score tickets to a performance. Day trips take you beyond the city on a tour of the Calanques National Park, a stretch of rugged coastline near Marseille; or to the gorgeous natural landscapes around the Luberon Massif. Take a day tour of Provence to see Avignon, charming Aix-en-Provence, and Arles. Or head to soak up the sun along the French Riviera, with stops in Cannes and Nice. For coastal charm closer to the Marseille’s city center, join a tour to the UNESCO-listed inlet of Cassis, which features magnificent views from its dramatic sea cliff, Cape Canaille.

Top 15 attractions in Marseille

Marseille Cruise Port (Terminal Croisières Marseille)

Marseille is France’s largest and busiest port, welcoming over 1.5 million cruise passengers to its shores each year. As the gateway to Provence and the south of France, Marseille is a popular stop on Europe cruise itineraries, and offers ferry connections to Corsica, Sardinia, Algeria, and Tunisia.More

Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica (La Bonne Mère)

Perched atop the city’s highest hill, the magnificent Notre-Dame de la Garde, which is visible from all over the Marseille, is one of the city’s most striking landmarks. The Romano-Byzantine basilica dates back to the 19th century and is best known for its grand bell tower, which is capped with a gleaming gold statue of the Virgin Mary.More

Palais Longchamp

The grand baroque colonnade and gardens of the Palais Longchamp are home to Marseille’s Natural History Museum and Fine Arts Museum. The imposing buildings and spacious park are popular with tourists and locals alike.More

Calanques National Park (Parc National des Calanques)

As Europe's only protected park to contain land, water, and semi-urban areas, Calanques National Park (Parc National des Calanques) is a mecca for outdoor adventurers. Whether you want to snorkel and sail, kayak and climb, or hike and watch out for wildlife, France's answer to the Garden of Eden has it all.More

Abbey of St. Victor (Abbaye Saint-Victor)

This Roman abbey in Marseille has a long and interesting history dating back 1,500 years. Visitors come to tour the basilica and learn more about the building and the community of monks that once lived here.More


Located in southwest Provence, the Camargue is one of France’s wildest and most scenic landscapes. Protected as a regional natural park, the expanse of wetlands, beaches, salt pans, and rice paddies is known for its herds of white Camargue horses and Camargue bulls, all tended to by localgardians (cowboys).More

Palais du Pharo

The Palais du Pharo in Marseille was built for Napoleon III and was once home to the city’s medical school. The palace is now used for municipal events and conferences and is famous for great views over the Mediterranean Sea from the palace gardens.More

Marseille Cathedral (Cathédrale La Major)

One of Marseille’s key religious landmarks, the city’s cathedral (known locally as the Cathédrale La Major stands just steps from the water’s edge. Built in the 19th century, the neo-Byzantine church is distinctive for its striped facade and vibrant interior; it’s not to be confused with the hilltop Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde.More

Vallon des Auffes

With its charming jumble of fishing boats and fishermen’s cabins clustered around the small harbor, and framed by the arches of a stone-brick bridge; visiting Vallon des Auffes feels like stepping back in time. Located along the Marseille Corniche, the historic port village is a world away from the bustling city and makes a tranquil detour for those traveling along the coastal road.Despite its diminutive size, Vallon des Auffes punches well above its weight when it comes to gastronomy and its handful of waterfront restaurants are well known for serving delicious fresh fish and seafood. Top restaurants include Chez Fonfon, L’Epuisette and Chez Jeannot, while the most celebrated dish is Provencal specialty bouillabaisse.More

La Corniche

Winding along the Mediterranean coast along the South of France, La Corniche is a waterfront roadway that stretches five kilometers through Marseille. As both a walkway and a road for cars, it offers wonderful views of the sea and coastline. It was a particularly popular promenade for residents of Marseille in the 1920s. From there you can also see the Iles du Frioul, elegant villas of the late 19th century, and the Prado beaches. The Chateau d’If (of the Count of Monte Cristo fame) is also visible.Along the way sits the Maregraph Building, which took measurements over thirteen years to determine France’s sea level elevation. The bench of La Corniche runs three kilometers between the Pont de la Fausse-Monnaie and Hotel Sofitel Palm Beach, making it the longest bench in the world. Part of the roadway is named after President Kennedy, who was assassinated during its construction.More

Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (Le Mucem)

The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (Le Mucem)—or Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée, in French—is a national museum in Marseille, France. It was inaugurated in 2013, the same year Marseille was designated as the ‘European Capital of Culture,’ and is dedicated to showcasing the multifaceted history of the Mediterranean and its different landscapes, cities, and shores.The museum is built on reclaimed land at the entrance to Marseille’s harbour. Its exhibits are devoted to European and Mediterranean civilizations in the Mediterranean basin, taking an interdisciplinary approach to presenting the different societies who have called this area home throughout the ages and in modern times. It is the first museum in the world to focus entirely on the cultures of the Mediterranean, and it includes all the social sciences: anthropology, political science, sociology, history, archaeology, and art history. In addition to the Mucem’s permanent collections, there are also rotating temporary exhibitions and seminars, feature films and documentaries, and performances focusing on the Mediterranean’s current affairs.More

Marseille History Museum (Musee d'Histoire)

Following extensive renovations back in 2013, the Marseille History Museum (Musee d'Histoire) is now one of the largest history museums in Europe and it’s a fitting homage to France’s oldest city, showcasing a fascinating array of archaeological finds. Exploring the interactive exhibitions and multi-media displays, visitors can follow the evolution of Marseille from its founding by the Greeks back in 600BC, to the early Christian settlers, through to medieval times and the redevelopment of the city under Louis XIV.Notable highlights include an impressively preserved 3rd-century Roman cargo boat, a remarkable collection of 13th century pottery and a series of architectural works by Pierre Puget. Also worth a visit is the open-air Jardin des Vestiges, which displays excavated remains, including a paved Roman Toad, necropolis and antique Greek walls.More

Cap Canaille

Soaring 394 meters over the beaches of Cassis, Cap Canaille is France’s highest sea cliff and it’s a dramatic sight, with its steep grey and ochre colored cliffs jutting out into the ocean. Located between La Citotat and Cassis on the Mediterranean coast, the rugged headland has long drawn visitors from both towns, and offers spectacular views that span the glittering Cote d’Azur, the Calanques and the Gulf of Cassis.The easiest way to take in the views is to follow the 15km ‘Route des Crêtes’, a dizzying serpentine road that curls its way along the coastal cliffs and climbs to the highest point – head there at sunrise or sunset for the most breathtaking views. Alternatively, adventurous travelers will find ample opportunities for hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing.More

Calanque de Sormiou

The calanques are narrow and steep inlets along the limestone coast of southern France, the most impressive ones being located along the little stretch of coastline between Marseilles and Cassis. They are romantic, wild and, being surrounded by huge cliffs, often protrude fjord-like into the landscape. While many calanques require hours of hiking or kayaking to reach, the Calanque de Sormiou is more easily accessible and still provides a true visual spectacle for visitors.After a 15 minute drive or 45 minute walk from the main road down the hills, a sandy beach awaits next to the bright blue Mediterranean water. A couple weekend homes dot the landscape and then there is Le Château, the modest but immensely popular bouillabaisse restaurant that requires a phone reservation well ahead of time to snag a seat.As sparse as the landscape might appear, Sormiou actually serves as a habitat for a rich flora and fauna. Over 900 plants grow here and birdwatchers will find many rare birds nesting in the steep cliffs. Swimming and sunbathing is popular, but the area is also crossed by numerous hiking trails, some more demanding than others, and the little bay is also a popular destination for visitors arriving by boat.More

Centre de la Vieille Charite

Once an almshouse and now a museum, the Centre de la Vieille Charité in Marseille is home to a number of museums and also hosts cultural events covering a wide range of themes.More

Trip ideas

Provence Tours from Marseille

Provence Tours from Marseille

Food and Wine in Marseille

Food and Wine in Marseille

Top activities in Marseille

A Day in Provence Small Group Tour from Marseille
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Calanques Trilogy Electric Bike Tour from Marseille
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Marseille Food Tour - Do Eat Better Experience
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Aix en Provence Private Tour

Aix en Provence Private Tour

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All about Marseille

When to visit

Marseille’s Mediterranean climate, along with music festivals such as Rock Island and Marsatac, draws vacationers south in the balmy summer months. For the best deals, visit in late September, when the summer hordes have left, but it’s still warm enough to hit the beach or take a day trip to the French Riviera.

People Also Ask

What is Marseille famous for?

Marseille is set on the Mediterranean coast and is famously sunny, both in weather and culture. A less-bourgeois, laid-back kinda place, the city blends the culture of southern France with French tradition; think pastis liqueur and pètanque (lawn bowling), bouillabaisse fish stew, and yachts bobbing at the Vieux-Port.

How much time do you need in Marseille?

The city is large, but two days gives enough time to check off Marseille must-sees such as Chateau d'If, Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica, and Old Port of Marseille. To discover the surroundings, take a long weekend and explore the coastline of Calanques National Park.

Is Marseille a walkable city?

Yes. Marseille’s key sights are mostly within walking distance, with the Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica, atop a steep hill, being an exception. Active folks may like the hike, but others can take a bus or the Petit Train Marseille to the parking lot.

Are there beaches in Marseille?

Yes. Many of the beaches are southeast of the Old Port of Marseille, starting with the small, pleasant Plage des Catalans. Beach lovers have options, from the soft sands of Plage de la Pointe Rouge, to the popular shores at Plages du Prado, to the wilder inlets of the Calanques.

Is Marseille good for nightlife?

Yes. While it’s not a hedonistic party capital like Barcelona or Berlin, Marseille’s nightlife is decidedly fun. Especially in spring and summer, when the evenings are balmy and the revelry shifts outside. Expect beachside DJ sets, alfresco dining, and festival-style concerts organized by the Mucem.

What is there to do in Marseille for free?

Discover the city’s international vibe at Marché des Capucins, a bustling central market where African spices are sold. For respite, head to Parc Borély or the Prado beaches for some people watching, or head to the rooftop at the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations for views of the sea.


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