The Guide to Marseille

The history

Marseille is a commune in southeast France, the capital of the Bouches-du-Rhône department and the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.

Marseille is the second largest city in France, with 861,635 inhabitants, and the third largest metropolitan area with 1,956,787 inhabitants. 

Among the oldest cities in France, Marseille was founded under the name of Μασσαλία (Massalía) around 600 BC by settlers from Phocaea, or present-day Foça, Turkey.

Marseille, since Antiquity, has been an important trading port. In the nineteenth century, it experienced considerable commercial growth, becoming a thriving industrial and trading town.

The Grand Port of Marseille (GPMM) and the city’s maritime economy are still at the center of regional and national commercial activity. Marseille remains the leading French port, the second largest in the Mediterranean and the fourth largest in Europe.

Marseille’s location, with its access to the Mediterranean sea, has made it a cosmopolitan city and a place of economic exchange with southern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. 

Getting around

In Marseille

The best way to discover Marseille is definitely on foot as most of the interesting things to see are directly in the center of Marseille and near the port.   

If you need to travel greater distances, there are subway lines and buses to help you get there.

All the necessary information can be found on this web site :http://www.rtm.fr/en

Related maps are located here :http://www.rtm.fr/en/travellers-guide/getting-around/maps

Pay close attention to the schedules as they are sometimes different on the weekend.

Around Marseille

When traveling to or from the suburbs of Marseille or to visit places outside the city, there are two preferred options.

The first one is to rent a car.

You can easily find a rental agency on Google map with the research text “location de voiture à proximité de Marseille”.

There are plenty of car rental agencies, so just pick the nearest one based on your location.

Tip:  Marseille is a crowded place and it could be challenging to get around during the rush hours (7 – 9 AM and 5 – 7 PM).

The second solution for travel outside the city is by bus or train.

For trains, here’s a link :https://www.sncf.com/en#

Points of interest

The ultimate guide

If you would like to organize your visit, you can go to the tourism office website:http://www.marseille-tourisme.com/en/

A lot of information is available on this website to help you discover what’s to see and give you ideas. 

The classics

Here are the main points of interest, including ways to be sure to see the maximum number of sights without having to prepare anything.

On foot

In addition to giving you some exercise, walking is certainly one of the best ways to discover Marseille.

The possibilities are infinite, but let me suggest some tours with a departure point at the “Vieux port.”

Here is a map to visualize the different routes :https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=12UlCper-c2bvViu93syWzjlLHjJ4aO07&ll=43.280337449600324%2C5.361824200000001&z=14

(Uncheck the options which you are not interested in). 

  • Mucem

This first stroll is an easy one.

You will walk along the most lively part of the port (with a lot of restaurants) to the Fort Saint Jean

You can walk between the fort and the sea and see the entrance to the Vieux Port, which is in fact the tourism port (the commercial port being a little bit further away).

If you feel up to it, you can continue on to the Cathedral of Saint Mary Major, one of the largest churches in Marseille.

It’s easy to get there as it’s visible from the Mucem museum.

  • Pharo

This stroll is quite easy, too.  

You will walk along a less animated part of the port to the Pharo.

Take the time to have a look at the Saint Victor Abbey on your left.

See the Pharo palace and enter inside the park where you’ll have an incredible view of the port of Marseille.

  • Anse de Malmousque

Start with the Pharo itinerary and follow with this one.

You will pass the small “Vallon des Aufres” where you’ll have a view of what was a small traditional fishing port. 

From here you’ll be able to go down and enter the port. It’s a really nice experience.

Push on a little bit further to reach the “Anse of Malmousque”.

  • Corniche 

This stroll can be combined with the Pharo and the Anse de Malmousque itineraries.

The main interest of walking along the Corniche is to enjoy an extended stroll with very nice view of the sea. 

Check out the chic villas on the other side of the road, too.

It’s one of the most posh and expensive areas in Marseille.

  • Notre Dame de la Garde 

This stroll is a separate one.  

If you have time to do just one stroll, it’s definitely this one.

The route is not very interesting in itself but the reward is upon your arrival.

You will get one of the best views that you can have overlooking Marseille (and appreciate how large the city really is).

Parks

There are not so many green spaces in Marseille.

I would nevertheless recommend these places :

  • Parc Longchamp

You can find it by searching for “Parc Longchamp, Boulevard Jardin Zoologique, Marseille” on Google maps.

It’s a former zoo and some cages are still in place with some kinds of modern art around.

A place to see, to be combined with a visit to Longchamp Palace (just near the park) which is perhaps one of the most interesting architectural  sights in Marseille.

You can take the metro to go there and I recommend this option since the station is just near the park.

  • Parc Borely

You can find it by typing  “Parc Borely, Marseille” in Google maps.

It’s a large and relaxing place. Somewhat animated during the weekend but as the place is quite big there is always the possibility to find a quiet place somewhere.

You’ll have to take the metro or bus to go there.

Notice that it’s not so easy to go there from the port but it’s worth the trip.

  • Prado beaches

It’s a park and a group of beaches.

You can find it by typing this search “Plage du prado, Marseille” in Google maps.

Like the parc Borely, it’s a large and relaxing place. 

If you are a skate board fan or free style bike addict there is there a well-known skate parc with some accomplished riders sometimes. 

Even if you are not a big fan, it’s still interesting and fun to see.     

If you’re there on a windy day, you can consider yourself lucky as you will be able to see some windsurfers and kite surfers.

Besides this, there’s plenty of space to take a pleasant stroll on the beach.

It’s still possible to find some restaurants around, too.

Like the Borely Park, it’s a little bit tricky to get there (Go back to the bus section if you want to get a map and more information).

Outside the city

  • Frioul island

A definite must do and an interesting place to see. No trees but a nice landscape which is typical of what you can find in the area. There is a fish farm on the island, some ruins and related stories.

Think to take a bottle of water when you go there … there are a few restaurants there if you want to eat something.

The place is easy to reach from the vieux port of Marseille. You can check the following link in order to get more details.

  • Cassis

Very nice small port but a little bit crowded during the weekend. 

One of the most beautiful sceneries in the region as the town is just near an impressive red coastal cliff.

See the section about renting a car to get there.

  • Ciotat

Nice small port, too. 

The town has a shipbuilding history.

Recently, the place has shifted its activity to luxury boat maintenance.

If you want to see some incredible boats, that’s the place to be. 

See the section about renting a car to get there.

  • The blue coast train 

A great outing and wonderful scenery.

The train leaves from the St Charles station and makes various stops all along the west coast and the sea. 

You can get all the information here :

https://www.ter.sncf.com/paca/loisirs/lignes-touristiques/train-cote-bleue

Eating and drinking

It’s quite easy to find a place to eat in Marseille, thiugh the quality is variable.

Mainly the restaurants are around the port. No need to go too far.

You can look around the following places as there are a lot of restaurants in these areas:

  • rue Saint-Saëns
  • Place Thiars
  • Notre Dame du Mont (there is a subway station there)

Shopping

Small commerce

If you are looking for some small shops, there are mainly two streets to see : Rue paradis and Rue Saint Féréol.

Shopping mall

One mall is just near the port. It should be possible to find everything you want there. Nevertheless, not necessarily the most typical things of Marseille. Check the link below to get more details : https://bourse.klepierre.fr/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=gmb

The second one is a little bit further but it could be an opportunity to see some interesting things on the way. Perfect to combine a small stroll with your shopping. Check the link below to get more details : https://www.lesterrassesduport.com/

Art and culture

  • Street art

There is a lively street art scene in Marseille.

Two places to see :

Panier : it’s not a street but a neighborhood. Just wander around and get lost in the art.

Fontaine du Cours Julien:Wander around and don’t hesitate to explore the small side streets. It’s the temple of street art in Marseille

  • Movie Theaters

Marseille is not a big place in terms of movie theaters. They are scattered and sometimes not so easy to reach. 

Forget the original versions in France if you want to see a foreign film and especially in Marseille. However, it could be a fun experience to see a French movie. One web site to check :http://www.allocine.fr/salle/recherche/?q=MarseilleA lot of links and information on this web site.

  • Museums

There plenty of good museums in Marseille. Check the well known following web site :https://www.tripadvisor.com/

and type Marseille museums in the search bar (You will get a lot of options).