10 things to do in Marseille

Heading to Marseille for a couple of days? Follow your tastes and desires... I have created 4 suggested routes for exploring and rediscovering Marseille, the Phocaean city.

  • Laurence Edelson


    Rédaction OUI.sncf

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Here are the 10 things you must do when you arrive in Marseille...

1 – Walk around the old port and historic Panier district

Life in Marseille starts at the Vieux Port, which has been here since ancient times! Neighbouring the port, the Panier district is the historic area of the city. Entirely refurbished, it has nevertheless retained its characteristic little streets. Artists moved in, establishing workshops beside the traditional soap factory, shops now occupy stone houses, and you’ll keep running into historic buildings as you walk: The Observatory and the Préau des Accoules host exhibitions, La Vieille Charité houses museums...

2 – Take a little train to visit the Bonne Mère basilica

Perched high, she can be seen from all around and has been protecting the residents of Marseille for two centuries... I’m talking about Bonne Mère! In fact, her real name is the Notre Dame Basilica. I recommend taking the little train to avoid the tiring climb through the streets and up stairs, leaving you with plenty of energy to visit the inside of the Basilica and its roof. From the top, the panoramic views of the entire city with the blue sea and ochre port are breathtaking.

3 – Visit the MUCEM

The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations, known as the MUCEM, is a stunning architectural attraction which covers the Saint-Jean fort (a 15,000 m2 historic site), and is connected to the new Rudy Ricciotti building by a walkway measuring 115 metres. It’s home to semi-permanent and temporary exhibitions. A must-see!

4 – Try bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse is THE Marseille speciality par excellence, so you mustn’t miss it. This recipe is based on a fish soup with garlic croutons, Provencal sauce and potatoes. You can try the traditional or modern versions as it’s a staple part of the local diet and features on the menus of a wide range of restaurants.

5 – Picnic in the Vallon des Auffes

The Vallon des Auffes used to be a neighbouring village, but now it has become a charming district of Marseille; a picturesque port sheltered in a cove. You can picnic on the shore, beside the fishing boats and huts before losing yourself in the little streets.

6 – Walk the Massif de Calanques

The Massif de Calanques is an easy train ride from Marseille, giving you a change of scene in no time. The coast between La Madrague de Marseille and the village of Cassis allows you to enjoy one of the most beautiful areas of France, with its jagged coastline, its untamed wildness, its incredible light and azure waters... stunning!

7 – Sip pastis on a terrace

Marseille is home to a multitude of terraces worth the detour. The local climate means you don’t have to think twice about sitting outside, settling in and ordering a lemonade or a coffee, a bite to eat, relaxing for a while, getting to know the locals... and if you want to really look at home, sipping a pastis (in moderation)!

8 – Pretend you’re the Count of Monte Cristo at the castle of If

A boat picks you up from the port and takes you to the Frioul Islands, where the castle legends in the dungeon will simply captivate you! Then head to another island and/or make the most of the beaches and the protected landscape of this archipelago.

9 – Support OM

Forget your team while in Marseille and play along, become an OM fan! The new Marseille Vélodrome stadium is worth a visit! You can explore the wings, changing rooms and boxes

10 – Own the night

Marseille evenings are warm... and lively. Select which district you want to explore and discover the characteristic singsong accent of Marseille festivities. The Vieux Port area is home to plenty of bars and places to listen to all kinds of music (from every period), the La Plaine district is the scene for fashionable cafés while terraces and rooftop bars are scattered between the Corniche and Goudes.

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