Guide to Marseille, a City Renewed

Visitor's Guide to Marseille

Marseille, France
Getty/Franco Origlia

France’s oldest city, founded 2,600 years ago, is an exciting and fascinating place. It’s got everything -– from Roman remains and medieval churches to palaces and some great avant-garde architecture. This bustling, industrial city is a working city, taking enormous pride in its own identity, so it's not predominantly a tourist resort. Many people make Marseille part of an itinerary along the Mediterranean coast. It’s worth spending several days here.

Marseille Overview

  • France’s second most populated city with over 840,000 inhabitants
  • Located in the Bouches-du-Rhone in Provence on the Mediterranean coast
  • France’s leading cruise port with over 705,000 passengers visiting annually
  • 4 million tourists annually
  • More than 300 days of sunshine a year
  • 57 kilometers of coastline
  • European Capital of Culture 2013

Marseille -- Getting There

Marseille airport is 30 kilometers (15.5 miles) north west of Marseille.

From the Airport into Marseille center

  • By coach: La Navette coaches run regularly to St-Charles railway station taking about 25 minutes.
  • By Taxi: Taxi's cost more at night.
    Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 42 88 11 44.
  • By train
    The main railway station is Gare St-Charles. There are frequent high-speed TGV trains from Paris non-stop taking just over 3 hours. Find out more about getting a Rail Pass.
    Tel.: 00 33 (0)8 10 87 94 79).
  • By car
    The distance from Paris is 769 kilometers, from Lyon 314 kilometers and Nice 189 kilometers. It is easily accessible as three motorways linking Spain, Italy and Northern Europe intersect at Marseille.
    Find out more about car hire and leasing buy back deals.

For detailed information on how to get from Paris to Marseille, check this link. You can travel from London to Marseille without changing trains on an express Eurostar train that also stops in Lyon and Avignon

Marseille –- Getting Around

There is a comprehensive network of bus routes, two metro lines and two tramlines run by RTM which make navigating around Marseill easy and inexpensive.
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 91 91 92 19.
Information from the RTM Website (French only).

The same tickets can be used on all three forms of Marseille transport; buy them in metro stations and on the bus (singles only), at tabacs and newsagents with the RTM sign. A single ticket can be used for one hour. There are also various transport passes, well worth buying if you plan to use public transport (12 euros for 7 days).

Marseille Weather

Marseille has a glorious climate with over 300 days of sunshine a year. Monthly average temperatures range from 37 degrees F to 51 degrees F in January to highs of 66 degrees F to 84 degrees F in July, the hottest month. The wettest months are from September to December. It can get very hot and oppressive during the summer months and you might want to escape to the surrounding coastline.

Check out Marseille weather today.

Check out weather throughout France

Marseille Hotels

Marseille is not primarily a tourist city, so you will be able to find a room in July and August as well as December and January. Hotels run from the newly renovated and very chic Hotel Residence du Vieux Port (18 que du Port) to the iconic Hotel Le Corbusier (La Corniche, 280 bd Michelet). 

You can get more information on Marseille hotels from the Tourist Office.

Marseille Restaurants

The residents of Marseille know a thing or two when it comes to eating. Fish and seafood are famous here with the major star being bouillabaisse, invented in Marseille. It’s a traditional Provencal fish stew made with cooked fish and shellfish and flavored with garlic and saffron as well as basil, bay leaves and fennel. You might also try mutton or lamb belly and trotters though that can be an acquired taste.

There are several districts full of restaurants. Try cours Julien or place Jean-Jaures for international restaurants, and the Vieux Port quays and the pedestrianised area behind the southern part of the port, or Le Panier for old-fashioned bistros. Sunday is not a good day for restaurants as many are shut, and restaurauteurs often take holidays in high summer (July and August).

An exhibit inside of MUCEM

TripSavvy / Paula Galindo Valle

Marseille -- Some Top Attractions

  • Around the Vieux Port. At the heart of Marseille life, the old port is a great place to stroll around with its bars and restaurants, shops, ship’s chandlers, mega luxury yachts and fishing boats. At the quai des Belges on the eastern side, fishing boats deliver their daily catch while ferries fill up with passengers to Chateau d’If and the Calanques.
  • Abbaye de St-Victor, Marseille’s oldest church. Looking more like a fortress than a church (it was built in a particularly vital strategic position), it’s worth going in for its scale and its ancient crypt.
  • Basilique Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde. You can't miss the huge golden statue of the Virgin Mary and Child on top of the 19th-century basilica, the emblem of Marseille. Go inside for a remarkable ornate Byzantine-style interior.
  • Jardin des Vestiges/Musee d’Histoire de Marseille. The remains of Marseille’s original Greek walls and a corner of the Roman port are preserved here in the garden. The adjoining museum offers a wonderfully eclectic collection of objects that make up the history of Marseille.
  • In a delightful 17th-century mansion, the Musee Cantini shows a remarkable collection of Fauve and Surrealist art.
  • MuCEM (Museum of the Civilisations of Europe and the Mediterranean) was opened in 2013 in a splendid modern building. At the entrance to the Old Port and facing the sea, it takes a vast subject, looking at the culture of a varied, diverse culture.
  • Chateau d’If. Take the boat trip out to the famous Chateau d’If where Edmond Dantes was wrongly imprisoned in The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Today it’s a good place to get away from the Marseille crowds. Combine it with a visit to the Iles de Frioul.

Read about the Top Attractions in Marseille

Tourist Office
4 La Canebiere
Official Tourist Website.