Marseille has been a Mediterranean getaway since the times of the Ancient Greeks, and with an average of over 300 days of sunshine a year, it's clear why that reputation has persisted over the millennia. A port city on France's southeastern coast, Marseille attracts visitors from all over the world for its warm climate and incredible beaches. If you're coming from the gray and gloom of London, Marseille is the perfect next stop to balance out your trip.
Because it's in the far south of France, the easiest way to reach Marseille from London is by plane. You can take a direct flight to Marseille, and tickets are usually inexpensive. However, if you have the time to go by train, it's a beautiful route and is the best way to experience the French countryside. If you really have a lot of time and want the ultimate freedom, try renting a car and driving yourself. You can break up the trip by stopping in a couple of French towns along the way.
How to Get from London to Marseille
|Train||7 hours, 30 minutes||from $73||Leisurely travel|
|Flight||2 hours||from $27||Getting there quick and cheap|
|Bus||21 hours||from $27|
|Car||13 hours||770 miles (1,240 kilometers)||Exploring France|
Traveling by train to Marseille is scenic, relaxing, and relatively fast—considering you're traveling across all of France in a matter of hours. It can also be affordable, but you'll need to book tickets in advance to take advantage of the best pricing. Buying train tickets is like flying, and seats get more and more expensive as the travel date gets closer.
There are a few train options you can take, depending on the time of year and where you want to transfer.
- Summer Direct Train: If you're traveling during the high season—which starts in mid-May and goes until early September—Eurostar offers a direct train from London to Marseille up to four times a week. It takes about seven and a half hours, and it's the fastest and cheapest way to travel by train to southern France, with stops in Lyon and Avignon before arriving in Marseille. However, at its peak, this route is only offered from Friday to Monday, and not at all outside of the summer months. So if you're traveling by train outside of that limited window, you'll have to use one of the other options.
- Easiest Off-Season Transfers: For travelers with lots of luggage, kids, or mobility limitations, the off-season route with the easiest transfers starts with a train from London to Lille followed by a train from Lille to Marseille. The transfer only requires a change of platform and the entire journey takes about eight hours total. You can look at schedules and ticket prices through Eurostar for the first leg and SNCF for the rest of the trip, or use RailEurope to book everything together for a small convenience fee.
- Fastest Off-Season Journey: The fastest journey takes a Eurostar train from London to Paris, from where you can then catch a direct high-speed train to Marseille. However, trains from London arrive in Paris at Gare du Nord station and you'll have to cross the city to Gare de Lyon station for the train to Marseille. You can take a local commuter train or a taxi, but it's an extra hassle that you should be aware of. Of course, the ideal option may be to spend a few days in Paris and then continue on to Marseille. You can look at schedules and ticket prices through Eurostar for the first leg and SNCF for the rest of the trip, or use RailEurope to book everything together for a small convenience fee.
- Cheapest Off-Season Journey: The most affordable option is almost the same as the fastest option, and starts with the Eurostar train from London to Paris. However, instead of booking the second leg through France's standard rail service, you reserve a seat on the low-cost train Ouigo. It's still a high-speed train, but also a no-frills journey where you can't choose your seat and need to pay extra for luggage. You can look at schedules and ticket prices through Eurostar for the first leg and Ouigo for the second leg of the trip.
As enjoyable as the train ride is, taking a plane is without a doubt the most convenient option for direct travel from London to Marseille. If you aren't interested in visiting the many cities between them, especially Paris, then a flight is both fast and affordable. Several airlines fly direct, such as RyanAir, Easyjet, and British Airways, so competition between them keeps prices down. Travel to Marseille is highly seasonal, so expect to see a jump in prices in the warm summer months and during the holidays when many Brits want to escape to the beach.
London has six international airports, some of which are quite far from the city center—especially Stansted (STN) and Southend (SEN) Airports. Make sure you research how long it takes to arrive at the airport before hastily booking the cheapest flight because an early morning departure time may be complicated by limited late-night transportation options.
Taking the bus on this long journey takes over 20 hours with a transfer in Paris. Tickets are pretty cheap through BlaBlaBus, but with how affordable plane tickets are, there aren't many realistic scenarios where you would want to take the bus. Even if you're making last-minute plans in the middle of the high season and flights and trains are prohibitively expensive, you're better off taking the bus to a closer destination, like Paris or Brussels.
It's a long drive to Marseille from London and you'll have to cross all of France from north to south to get there, but if you have the time to leisurely explore and spend a couple of nights in cities along the way, it's a beautiful drive and an experience you'll never forget.
If you want to see Paris, you can pass right through it and spend some time there before continuing south. However, Paris traffic can add a significant amount of time to your journey. Plus, while driving around France is easy, having a vehicle in the city of Paris is likely to be more of a headache than it's worth.
If you've already been to Paris and don't mind skipping it, you'll save time by driving farther east and passing through Reims in the Champagne region of France, a necessary stop for lovers of the world's most famous sparkling wine. Continue on and you'll eventually come to Lyon, another charming city worth a visit for at least a night.
Driving your own car brings with it all kinds of unique advantages, but don't embark on this route unless you know exactly what you're getting into. Apart from the car rental and gas, there are all types of other costs to factor in, including tolls. French highways use tolls based on the distance you drive, and since you'll literally be driving across the country, they will add up quickly. To cross from the U.K. to France, you'll also need to pay for your car to be shuttled across on the Chunnel train. If you're renting a car and not traveling back to London, be aware that most rental companies charge a hefty fee for dropping a car off in a different country from where you picked it up.
What to See in Marseille
Marseille has an edgy quality to it, and while some might see it as a dodgy city, for many travelers it's part of the Marseillais charm. Marseille has been seducing locals and tourists for over 2,600 years, and it's the oldest continuously populated city in France for a reason. Apart from the natural beauty of the cerulean sea and Mediterranean beaches, Marseille has also become a cultural powerhouse in the 21st century, with new museums, restaurants, and bars opening up all the time. The hip St. Victor district is one of the hotspots for new joints and the neighborhood to explore for tasty bites or trendy cocktails. Being by the coast, seafood is a must, and the region of Provence where Marseille is located is known for the rich and delicious fish stew bouillabaisse. Don't leave without trying a bowl.