When a city is one of the oldest in Europe, you know it means business! But that doesn’t mean it’s an old fuddy-duddy. Marseille, first founded in 600 BCE, is now one of the busiest and most exciting and vibrant cities in France – and it’s certainly not as hard as making a soufflé to see why!
Saunter by the sea and revel in the view along la Corniche, enjoy an afternoon of leisure and lattés by the fountain at la Place Castellane, or get the adrenaline pumping with a rock climb on the Calanques.Discover the warm terracotta roofing, the earthy grit of the docks, the deep history ingrained within the architecture, the fusion of cultures and the energy of the crowds thronging the bars and clubs. Discover a real place, with real people. Discover Marseille.
Marseille’s Top 10
10. Vieux Port Soak up the salty atmosphere at the fish market auctions.
5. Stade Velodrome Football fans can watch Olympique de Marseille play and soak up the unique atmosphere.
9. Musée des Docks Throw on a toga and explore the remains of a fishing dock from Roman times. (Or, if the hotel won’t let you remove the bed sheets, just come as you are.)
4. Marzargues War Cemetery There is a sombre serenity at this cemetery dedicated to the soldiers who lost their lives in WWI and WWII.
8. Cours Julien The trendy area of Marseille. While the afternoon away with a coffee and a meander through the plethora of bookshops.
3. Noailles Be transported around the world in seconds in this bazaar-style marketplace chock full of the best Arabic and Indo-Chinese goods.
7. Escale Borely Sit back and watch the sunset on the beach with a glass of wine (the fancy French stuff) at one of the numerous ocean-view establishments.
2. Notre Dame de la Garde A glorious church with the most breathtaking view of the city. Fishermen once had their boats blessed here!
6. Le Panier The oldest part of Marseille (and that’s saying a lot!), complete with a fantastic central monument.
1. Boulevard and Palais Longchamp Follow the boulevard and imagine living the high life in the old buildings.
Marseille, France History
- Cathedral of Sainte Marie-Majeure – This church, made in the Romano-Byzantine style, was originally built in the 4th century.
- Porte d’Aix – This triumphal arch was completed in 1839 and marks an old entry point into Marseille.
- Old Port (Vieux Port) – This natural harbour has had an important role throughout Marseille’s history and contains many historic sites.
- Abbey of Saint-Victor – A 5th-century crypt holding the relics of medieval martyrs is one of the oldest sites of Christian worship in Europe.
- Unite d’Habitation – An interesting modernist apartment building designed by Le Corbusier containing 337 units across 12 stories.
Marseille, France Art & Culture
- L’Opera de Marseille – This opera company has operated out of Marseille since the 18th century and performs at various halls.
- Candlemas Festival – Every year, on 2 February, Christians carry a Black Madonna in procession along the Rue Sainte.
- L’Alcazar – Once a music hall, this building was remodelled and is now the municipal library.
- La Friche –Located behind the St Charles Station, this centre for the arts was once a match factory.
- L’Estaque – This seaside village was a favourite destination and subject for such artists as Cézanne and Renoir.
Marseille, France Shopping
- Prado Market – Stretching from the Castellane station to the Perier, this open-air daily market offers a variety of goods.
- La Chocolatiere du Panier – Hundreds of different kinds of chocolates are for sale at this unique chocolate shop.
- Marche aux Puces – This outdoor market offers various stalls of goods, from sweaters to live chickens.
- Rue Saint Ferréol – This street, along with Rue Paradis, makes up Marseille’s pedestrianized shopping zone and features local crafts and souvenirs.
- Centre Bourse – This large shopping centre has more than 60 shops selling all types of products.
Marseille, France Gay & Lesbian
- Le Trash Bar – A popular cruising spot in one of France’s most gay-friendly cities.
- Le Lust – This gay nightclub has go-go dancers and electro music every night.
- Mont Rose – This nude beach is the oldest gay beach in Marseille.
- Club XY – A sauna and restaurant all in one. Make sure to wait 15 minutes after eating before swimming.
- Le Bistro Vénitien – Thai and other international cusines are served up at this gay-friendly restaurant.
Marseille, France Outdoor
- Frioul Archipelago –Visit these four nearby islands made famous by the novel, The Count of Monte Cristo.
- Sainte Baume – Just east of Marseille, this mountain ridge rises high out of a deciduous forest with cycling and hiking trails that reach a holy cave.
- Notre-Dame de la Garde – Climbing (or riding the bus) to the basilica gives a great panoramic view of Marseille.
- Palais du Pharo – This area contains a large auditorium, several halls and gardens through which to stroll.
- Plongee Phoceene Formation – Learn to scuba dive in the Mediterranean.
Marseille, France Sport
- Watch the Olympique de Marseille, the city’s most popular professional football team.
- Sail the the warm Mediterranean waters off the coast of Marseille.
- See outdoor sporting events at the Stade Velodrom, which seats more than 60,000 spectators.
- Play golf at the Salette Golf Course, one of the three major golf courses in the city and just 10 minutes from the port.
- Cheer on the Marseille Vitrolles Rugby, a semi-professional rugby team based in Marseille.
Masquerade your way into Marseille’s Carnaval in mid-March and dance up a storm.
Devour the local produce to your heart’s (or belt buckle’s) content at the French Winegrowers and Farmers Spring Fair in late-March.
Breathe in the spirit of the ocean and see the sailing world’s finest at the annual International Mediterranean Nautical Week in April.
Explode into the festivities at Marseille’s Bastille Day (14 July) celebrations. Do they have fireworks? Do they ever!
Float along to the annual Festival of the Wind in September. It’s about kites, not indigestion, by the way.
When To Go
Summer in Marseille is divine, with the sun beating down and the Mediterranean wind in your hair.
Spring and autumn in Marseille can be a little damp, so make sure you pack your jacket!
Marseille’s winter is very dry compared to the rest of France.
Public transport in Marseille includes buses, trams and a subway. All are reasonably reliable and offer value for money.
Taxis are a good way of getting around, but take care that they don’t take you for a figurative ride as well!
The best – and by far the most beautiful – way to discover Marseille is to hire a bicycle and ride around at your leisure.
The Côte d'Azur city with 1.5 million people is spread over one of the most picturesque parts of France. Flanked by craggy coastline and mountains, Marseille is a bustling Mediterranean metropolis.
The city is France's oldest, with foundation in 600 BC by Greeks from Phocaea, whose main intention was to establish a seaport. A good choice indeed, since today Marseille is the largest commercial port in France.
In terms of human settlement, Palaeolithic cave art near the city pre-dates the Greeks by more than 25,000 years. Just further proof that Marseille, thanks to a fortunate position on the Mediterranean coast, has always had a certain pull.
Marseille has enough historic attractions to keep you busy for days. The Château d'If had a memorable role in the classic tale The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas. Built in the 16th century, the castle fortification was also the notable prison of French Revolution hero Mirabeau.
The Palais du Pharo was the 19th century summer retreat of Napoleon III. In proper despot style, the interior is the epitome of opulence.
St. Victor Abbey, built in the 5th century, is the oldest church in Marseille. The structure contains an impressive network of crypts and catacombs.
The Centre de la Vielle Charité is one of the most impressive landmarks in the city. Site of the excellent Archaeological Museum and the Musée des Arts Africains, Océaniens and Amérindiens, the former 17th century hospice has a beautiful courtyard.
Superb museums in the city include the Museum of Old Marseille, Musée des Docks Romains, which exhibits excavated remains of the city's port under the Roman Empire, and Fashion Museum.
Parc Borély is the principal recreation area in Marseille, with ponds, botanical gardens and palm trees. The proximate Corniche district features some of the most pristine beachfront in the city, from Plage des Catalans to Plage du Prado.
Festival season in Marseille kicks off in March with the Spring Fair, with the best produce and wine from nearby farms and vineyards. A similar harvest fair takes place in November.
International Mediterranean Nautical Week in April draws some of the best sailboat competitors from around the world.
The Marseille Festival, held in June, is a celebration of contemporary dance, theatre, classic cinema and music.
The Festival of the Wind is a kite festival on Plage du Prado which provides a kaleidoscope of colour to the Mediterranean sky in September.
In September and October the Marseille International Fair features eclectic exhibits from all over the globe, in addition to cultural performances.
With moderate winters and long, hot summers, Marseille's Mediterranean climate is just about ideal for tourism any month of the year.
- Winter (November to February) 3-14°C
- Spring (March to April) 6-18°C
- Summer (May to September) 13-30°C
- Fall (October to November) 6-21°C
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