Marseille is the second largest city in France and the capital of Provence. It has a unique Mediterranean character and is probably the most multicultural city in Europe.
Marseille is the capital of Provence bordering the French Riviera. It can not be missed when spending holidays in Nice or Cannes. Getting to Marseille is easy and the city is very interesting. It’s the second largest city in France – very Mediterranean and multicultural, and since it has always been a port city, open to the whole world, it differs from the others in the South of France.
A guide to Marseille
It’s worth staying for at least the weekend in Marseille. This will allow you to visit the city attractions and to discover the surrounding beautiful villages, such as Cassis or Aix-en-Provence. However, if you do not have time for this and you are on the Côte d’Azur, you can save at least 12 hours, rent a car in Nice and go to Marseille. You can also get there cheaper by bus.
Almost all the most important attractions of the city can be found in the vicinity of the Old Port, which is why you should go there. Attractions in the center of Marseille can be seen while walking, but remember that summer is very hot here and it will certainly be tiring. That is why it is worth using, for example, public transport, especially to enter the la Garde hill with the basilica. Headgear and a bottle of water are of course the basics when visiting the French Riviera in the summer.
What to do in Marseille?
What to do in Marseille? You will surely admire the beautiful architecture and great panoramic views and enjoy good food! The most important places that are worth visiting while being in the city include:
- The Old Port of Marseille (Vieux Port) – the center of the city and the beginning of discovering its attractions. Here you will also eat good food and rest in one of the many cafes.
- The Basilica Notre Dame de la Garde – on a hill overlooking the entire city. You can walk there, but it will be really tiring in the summer! I recommend taking bus 60 or the tourist train.
- The Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée (MuCEM) and the Fort Saint-Jean – two perfectly connected objects, one of which is ultra-modern and the other medieval. It is worth going there, even only for the views from the roof.
- The islands of the Frioul archipelago – with the island If and the Castle If where the famous Count of Monte Cristo resided, the main character of the novel by A. Dumas.
- The Longchamp Palace with the surrounding park – which is on the list of “important gardens of France”. The palace was built to celebrate the construction of a canal supplying Marseille with water.
- The Cathedral la Major – one of the largest churches in France.
- The Abbey of Staint-Victor – one of the first places of Christian worship in Europe.
- Craftsmen producing the famous soap from Marseilles, which you will find in the vicinity of the port.
- La Vieille Charité – a former shelter and hospice, and today an object used for cultural and social purposes.
- The Velodrome Stadium – the home stadium of the Olympique de Marseille football club.
- Le Corbusier building (Unité d’Habitation) – an iconic modernist building.
- The Calanques – also called the Mediterranean fjords.
If you do not know where to start, it is best to go to the Old Port and look around. Then it’s worth going where you like it the most.
Where to sleep in Marseille?
Marseille offers a lot of different hotels and apartments, so everyone will find accommodation here. Soon I will describe separately places where to sleep in Marseilles. Now, I invite you to check the best hotels in Marseille. You can also take advantage of the wide range of private Airbnb apartments.
What to eat in Marseille?
Marseille has its own local dish, which is worth trying. I’m talking about the famous Bouillabaisse fish soup, which can be ordered in many places, especially around the port. You can also eat typical Provencal dishes, Asian, French and Italian cuisine, as well as bakery products and kebabs. Everyone will find their favorite flavors and places in Marseille.
The famous Bouillabaisse fish soup is cooked with at least 5 fish species. This soup is so popular and so eagerly prepared in every place, that unfortunately its quality is mainly confirmed by its price. The best you can eat there, where you have to pay at least €40 per serving. In the most expensive restaurants, however, it costs even €65, but you can not order one portion. They serve it only if you order for two people (or two portions for yourself, which I do not recommend, because it’s a large dish). The restaurant Miramar (12 Quai du Port) is an iconic place for tourists with a wealthier wallet.
The Provencal fish soup is much cheaper, which is also significantly different from Bouillabaisse. By ordering this dish you will get a plate of mud-like liquid. This is a fish soup that has been ground before serving. An obligatory addition is a dried baguette, mayonnaise with the addition of dried red pepper (it is called rouille), grated cheese and sometimes a clove of garlic. We eat it as follows: rub the baguette with garlic (if served), spread the rouille, pour into the soup and sprinkle with cheese. We add as many pieces of baguette as we like. After a while, it will pleasantly absorb the soup – it is a sign that you can eat.
Personally, I like this dish very much, but not everyone likes it. Very good fish soup and at a good price you can order at Le 13 (13 Quai de Rive Neuve) also in the Old Port. This dish can be found there in the starters menu. It costs about 12 euros and is called La soupe de poissons, or just fish soup. The waiter will not be offended if you order only this soup (an appetizer) and a glass of pink wine (rosé). I guarantee that it is big enough for lunch.
Public transport in Marseille
Public transport in Marseille is well organized and easy to use. There are city buses, metro and trams available. There is one common ticket for everything, which can be bought in several ways. Tickets for public transport in Marseille can be purchased, among others in vending machines that are on every metro station just before the gates. A single ride ticket is called a SOLO ticket and costs €1,60. The same ticket bought from a bus driver, however, costs €2. A one-way ticket is valid for one hour and allows transfers, for example from a bus to the tram, but you can only enter the metro once.
You can find more information about the public transport in Marseille on the rtm.fr website.