11 must-do things to do in Marseille

Visiter Marseille

Planning a visit to Marseille? Then check out these 11 must-see things to do in the Phocaean city, which enjoys 2,900 hours of sunshine a year!

The city of Marseille, located in the South of France and bordering the warm Mediterranean Sea, is France’s 2nd largest city in terms of population, with 858,000 inhabitants. To visit Marseille is to enjoy a Mediterranean city steeped in history and rich in culture, inviting you to relax and discover.

The beaches, coves and monuments of this city of art and culture are sure to seduce you, but you’re not out of surprises yet. In fact, Marseille is a Provencal city that remains faithful to its traditions, an aspect you can discover through its gastronomy and local produce, legacies of the past. This destination promises you an exceptional vacation in the sunny south of France.

Discover our selection of the best things to do in Marseille!

For a visit to Marseille, opt for the City Pass, which gives you access to the city’s transport system, numerous museums and other advantages!

1. The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilization

MuCEM, Marseille

Photo credit: Flickr – Mat Distef

Opened in 2013, the MuCEM, or Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée, is a must-see if you’re visiting Marseille. Located at the entrance to the port, you’ll be seduced at first sight by the building’s unique architecture: an impressive cube of concrete lace.

Built on the site of Fort Saint-Jean, the museum’s fabulous exhibits invite curious travelers to discover the different civilizations that have shaped the identity of the Mediterranean, from prehistory to the present day.

2. The Old Port

Visiting Marseille also means enjoying the atmosphere of the Old Port, famous for its fish market, boats, period buildings in the background and the many restaurants and cafés lining the quays.

Take a seat at a table on one of the terraces, and enjoy the sun’s rays in front of a unique and typical show.

3. Take a boat trip

bateau-calanques

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Daniel Harwardt

After strolling along the quays of the old port, why not take the opportunity to rent a boat?

Finally, it would be a shame to visit Marseille without enjoying the beauty of its coastline. With 2,900 hours of sunshine a year, a boat trip is a great idea for an outing with family or friends. And if you don’t have a boating license, don’t hesitate to ask for the services of a skipper!

Renting a boat during your stay in Marseille will allow you to enjoy the scenery of the Mediterranean coast while filling up on vitamin D!

4. La Major Cathedral

Among Marseille’s many heritage monuments, the Cathédrale de la Major is a must-see. Its distinctive architecture alone, with its Romanesque and Byzantine influences, is well worth a visit.

While the exterior will charm you with its striped facades and splendid domes, the interior will surprise you with its impressive dimensions. You’ll also appreciate the arcades, statues, mosaics and an infinite number of small details that make the place so special.

5. The historic monuments tour

Notre Dame de la Garde, Marseille

Photo credit: Flickr – emmrichard

For starters, the ancient port will take you deep into Marseille’s history. Otherwise, most of the great religious buildings, such as the famous Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-la Garde, trace the history of the 19th century. Climb to the top of the « Bonne Mère », as it’s known there, for a panoramic view over Marseille’s rooftops.

Your historical tour continues in the 19th century with a visit to the Château de La Buzine, before moving on to the modern era with Le Corbusier‘s Cité Radieuse.

6. The Panier district

quartier-panier

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Zyankarlo

A must-see is the Panier district, Marseille’s oldest neighborhood and one of the most visited. It’s right in the heart of the city’s historic center, a stone’s throw from the Vieux Port.

You’ll immediately fall under the spell of its steep, hill-climbing streets, picturesque tall buildings and unique atmosphere. Here you’ll discover a veritable digest of the Marseilles postcard that inspired the hit TV series « Plus belle la vie ».

7. The coastline

Ile du Riou

Photo credit: Flickr – Jopa Elleul

Marseille offers exceptional diversity, but its coastline alone is worth the detour. Let yourself be seduced by its calanques, inviting you to relax and escape.

For family walks and swimming, head for the Prado seaside park, known for its many landscaped beaches, green spaces and skate park.

Alternatively, why not take a trip out to sea to the Frioul Islands, or enjoy scuba diving on the island of Riou.

8. Relaxation and well-being in the calanques

In the calanques, Marseille reveals its wild, natural side in all its splendor. The rugged terrain of the calanques conceals a number of magnificent little beaches that are just a short stroll away.

The calanques of Cassis are among the most beautiful in the Bouches-du-Rhône. They are located some twenty kilometers from downtown Marseille.

Enjoy hours of idleness on Morgiou beach or in the Calanque d’En Vau, or take a dip in one of these little corners of paradise that feel like the end of the world.

9. Flavors of Marseille

Bouillabaisse, Marseille

Photo credit: Flickr – N Wong

What to do in Marseille? Discover its gastronomy! Whether you’re a gourmet or a connoisseur, treat yourself to a little break and discover local specialties.

Freshly caught Mediterranean fish, southern vegetables, Provençal herbs and spices will tantalize your taste buds. The famous bouillabaisse and pistou soup are a must!

10. The Château d’If

Château

Photo credit: Flickr – Ralf Smallkaa

Visiting Marseille without visiting the Château d’If is a bit like depriving the city of its lilting accent. Classified as a historic monument with 100,000 visitors a year, the former prison fortress is accessible by shuttle and promises a breathtaking view of Marseille.

The same place that once inspired Alexandre Dumas to write his famous novel The Count of Monte Cristo. If you’d like to make the most of the experience, don’t hesitate to opt for a visit inside the Château: it promises a timeless interlude.

11. Make your own pastis

There’s nothing more local and original than making your own pastis here in Marseille! A real mine of information and a true enthusiast, your host Guillaume will guide you in the preparation of your own unique blend of pastis.

This workshop leaves plenty of room for creativity, in a friendly atmosphere. At the end of the workshop, you’ll leave with your own 700mL pastis.

How to get to Marseille

You can choose to travel to Marseille by car, train or plane, depending on your departure point. The TGV connects Paris to Marseille in just 3 hours, and you’ll arrive right in the center of Marseille, at Gare St Charles, which is very convenient. You can also fly, but you’ll arrive at Marignane airport, some 24 km from Marseille. However, there are numerous shuttle buses between the airport and Marseille. To find a cheap flight, you can do your research on the website of our partner Ulysse.

Where to stay in Marseille?

If you choose to visit Marseille, there are several neighborhoods to choose from! The Vieux-Port is ideal for visiting Marseille on foot, the noisy Canebière is close to everything, and the Plaine district is ideal if you’re looking for something young, central and festive.

And finally, if you’re looking for something more authentic and picturesque, the Panier district is sure to please. You can find a cheap hotel in Marseille by searching on a hotel comparator.

It’s easy to fall under the spell of Marseille, a destination that has it all. Whatever your preferences – beach, history, art, culture, gastronomy – the Phocéenne city is sure to satisfy. Still wondering what to do in Marseille?

Map of hotels and accommodation – Marseille,fr