Marseille is a city in the south of France, nestled between Montpellier and Nice. It's a five-hour drive from Barcelona in Spain, making it an easy weekend getaway. Both coastal cities have access to superb Mediterranean beaches, but each offers something unique in terms of cuisine and culture.
The fastest method of transport is taking the plane, which is a quick flight of just over an hour. However, once you take into account all the time it takes to travel to and from the airport, check in, go through security, and wait at your gate, it really isn't much faster than the train, which takes almost five hours and treats passengers to unobstructed views of the Mediterranean Sea. The bus takes significantly longer but may be the most affordable option if you're making last-minute plans. If you have your own vehicle, you could also drive yourself and visit other cities along the way.
How to Get from Barcelona to Marseille
|Train||4 hours, 57 minutes||from $44||Enjoying the scenery|
|Bus||8 hours||from $19||Last-minute plans|
|Flight||1 hour, 10 minutes||from $28||Traveling on a time crunch|
|Car||5 hours||315 miles (507 kilometers)||Exploring the area|
The high-speed AVE train from Barcelona to Marseille takes nearly five hours. Spain and France have some of the best railroads in the country, making trains a more comfortable and faster option over buses or cars. Even compared to flying, the train is nearly just as fast considering it takes you directly from city center to city center and skips all the hassles involved with airports (an extra benefit is that it's also the best option for the environment).
There is one daily train from Barcelona to Marseille that's jointly operated by Renfe of Spain and SNCF of France, and you can reserve a seat on the same train using either company. Tickets start at roughly $44, but quickly get more expensive as seats sell out and the travel date gets closer. Last-minute reservations can shoot up to over $150 for a one-way journey, so finalize your plans as soon as possible if you want to use the train.
Barcelona and Marseille each have multiple train stations, so regardless of what website you use to look for tickets, make sure you're starting from "Barcelona Sants" and heading toward "Marseille St. Charles."
For the quickest journey from Barcelona to Marseille, a plane gets you there in just over an hour. Of course, total travel time is much longer once you factor in all of the other hassles involved with airplane travel. It takes about 30 minutes to get to and from each airport by train from the city center, so transit alone adds another hour to your trek. All in all, taking a plane probably saves you a negligible amount of time compared to the train.
However, flights are usually very affordable since the low-cost airline Vueling covers the route, with tickets as low as about $25. If you procrastinated in booking your flight and tickets have gone up in price, try looking a few days before or after your set travel date; if you're even a little bit flexible with your plans, it's usually possible to find a better deal.
If you're OK with spending all day—or all night—seated on a bus, then you can save a lot of money if you make spur-of-the-moment plans to visit Marseille. Bus rides through FlixBus or BlaBlaBus start around $19, and you can even find same-day reservations for that low price. However, even last-minute plane tickets during the low tourist season can be very affordable, so don't assume the bus is your only option before comparing prices.
The trip lasts between seven and a half and eight and a half hours, but it's at least a scenic ride through France's southern coastline. Buses pick up in Barcelona either from the centrally located Sants or Nord train station and drop off in Marseille at the main St. Charles station.
The 310-mile (500-kilometer) drive from Barcelona to Marseille takes about five hours, traveling mainly on the AP-7 and A9 roads along the south of Spain and crossing the border into France. Keep in mind that AP roads have tolls, so it's best to bring some euros in cash and coins to pay during your road trip. If you're not from Spain, don't worry, it's still very easy to rent a car for the drive. Plus, main rental car companies like Hertz, Budget, National, and Alamo are almost always available, especially if you pick up the vehicle at the airport.
Although there are many gorgeous seaside towns along this route, consider spending some time in Figueres. Just 90 minutes outside Barcelona (near the border of Spain and France), Figueres is a picture-perfect hamlet known for its Salvador Dali Museum.
If you don't plan on returning to Barcelona, be aware that rental companies often charge a hefty fee for picking up a vehicle in one country and dropping it off in another.
What to See in Marseille
The bustling port town is the second biggest city in France behind Paris and is also the oldest city in the country, dating back 2,600 years. Because of its long past, there are many historic sites to see, from Roman ruins and medieval churches to opulent palaces. The city is famously known as the place where bouillabaisse—French seafood stew—originated. You can't visit without trying this fresh fish dish for yourself.
Getting Around Marseille
Once you get to Marseille, the public transportation within the city is easy to manage for those who want to take the bus or train. There are many bus routes as well as two metro lines and two trams run by RTM—all of which are cheap and simple to figure out (even if you don't speak French). You can buy a public transit pass at any metro or bus station in Marseille, and that ticket works for the bus, metro, and tram. If you opt to buy a single ticket, remember it can only be used for one hour before it expires. For those staying in Marseille longer, it would be wise to purchase a week-long pass that is valid for seven days and only costs about $15.