Nestled in southern France on the Mediterranean Sea, Marseille is famously known as France's sunniest city. On average, it gets over 2,900 hours a year of rays—making it an ideal destination for beachgoers and water sports enthusiasts alike.
While they don't enjoy the acclaim of French Riviera favorites like Saint-Tropez or Nice, the best beaches in Marseille offer numerous ways to enjoy the sand, sea, and sun. Whether you dream of gentle swims in warm, easy waves; lying under a parasol and diving into a good book; or sailing, snorkeling, or diving, there's plenty of ways to make the most of your time here. Keep reading for our travel tips, including suggestions on what to do on and around each beach.
Plages du Prado
Probably Marseille's busiest beach, the Plages du Prado complex is also the largest in the greater urban area. It's great for families with children, and anyone else looking for safe, lifeguarded swimming.
Located south of the Old Port, the man-made beach stretches for 2.1 miles along the coast, and includes both sandy/rocky and grassy areas.
The swimming is reputed as safe and pleasant, but be aware that overcrowding on this beach is common, especially during the summer months. You can easily rent a boat to explore Marseille's nearby islands and calanques (see more below).
If you're after a snack or meal, there are plenty of food stands and restaurants to choose from, both on the beach and nearby. Also consider checking out the nearby Borély Park, with its manicured gardens, grassy lawns, and stately château.
Getting there: From the Old Port (Vieux Port) or city center, take bus line 83 or 19 to the beaches. You can also drive (around 25 minutes).
Plage du Prophète
Located in close reach of the Plages du Prado, this beach is another family-friendly option that's a well-loved among both tourists and locals.
Fine sand, lifeguarded swimming areas, and gentle waves perfect for beginners are some of the appealing features at this beach, which is situated just below the waterside promenade and road known as "La Corniche."
After spending some time sunning, splashing around in the waves, and perhaps enjoying a drink or meal at a waterfront restaurant, consider taking a coastal stroll along the La Corniche pedestrian path. It stretches for around 3 miles from the Old Port to the Prado beaches, and offers stunning views of the Château d'If, Frioul Islands, and other noteworthy Marseille landmarks.
Getting there: From central Marseille (Capitainerie station), take bus line 83 toward the Rond Pont du Prado, and get off at the Corniche Napoule stop.
Plage des Catalans
While the Plage des Catalans isn't known for being the prettiest beach in Marseille, it's an excellent place for a quick dip close to the Old Port and city center. The views over the Frioul Islands can be breathtaking, too.
The small beach features a number of volleyball courts, and is a go-to spot for enthusiasts looking to play a game on the sand. It's easy to fit in for a couple of hours of swimming, strolling down a coastal walking path, or lunch at one of the many waterfront restaurants or casual food stands in and around the beach.
Getting there: The beach is only a 30-minute walk from the Old Port, or you can take bus line 83 to get there in around 17 minutes.
Pomègues Island Beaches
If you're interested in exploring the Frioul Archipelago—a clutch of islands offshore from Marseille—make sure to check out the beaches and inlets of the Pomègues Island. In addition to crystal-clear blue water and lush hiking paths, the island is well known for its excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities.
The Pomègues beach that's generally considered the most beautiful is found in the rocky cove known as the Calanque de la Crine, sometimes referred to as the "Plage du Tahiti." If you enjoy long walks and don't mind the 45- to 60-minute hike from the Port on Pomègues to this pristine, idylllic beach, it's worth the time. Otherwise, the Plage de Saint-Estève is another of the island's picturesque beaches, and is located in close reach of the port.
Getting there: You can hop on a boat or ferry from the Vieux Port; the Frioul If Express shuttle offers daily services during high season. Consider stopping to see the Chateau d'If, a fortress and former prison famous for its appearance in Alexandre Dumas' novel "The Count of Monte Cristo."
Calanques National Park
The coastal area southeast of Marseille is home to one of the region's outstanding areas of natural beauty, the Calanques National Park. Stretching for more than 200 miles between Marseille, Cassis, and La Ciotat, the park is composed of dramatic sea coves and creeks, or calanques, which meander through steep cliffsides. Rocky inland areas dotted with trees and Mediterranean plants attract rock climbers and hikers.
Anyone who loves wild, unspoiled beaches and dramatic cliffside walks should reserve some time to explore the area. Snorkeling, boating, diving, and sailing are all go-to activities at the park. Here are a few of the most popular beaches and calanques there:
Calanque de Sormiou: The clear blue water and white sand beach are prized for excellent snorkeling, with many species of fish and other marine life reported in the seaweed beds and off the rocky reef.
Calanque de Morgiou: This tiny, intimate cove features calm, shockingly blue waters; pleasant, sandy terrain; and picturesque fishing boats off the beach.
Calanque de Sugiton: Featuring two small beaches, this area is ideal for hiking and panoramic views over the park, followed by a quick dip or two. The calanque is also one of the easiest to access without a private vehicle.
Getting there: From Marseille, there are numerous ways to get to the Calanques National Park. This webpage offers details on bus and train options to different areas of the park. However, do be aware that many of the calanques and beaches are only accessible by road.
Consider a day trip to the nearby port town of Cassis, known for its pristine beaches, clear azure water, and lush natural landscapes.
Only a few minutes from Marseille by train or car, Cassis boasts several good beaches. The Grande Mer Beach, located in the village center at the foot of Castle Hill, is the largest and most popular among them. It boasts lifeguarded swimming and a sandy/rocky terrain. Bestouan Beach is a rocky beach with clear blue water, located west of the port and town center.
Cassis is also a good gateway to the aforementioned Calanques National Park; from here you can explore some of the calanques further afield from Marseille, as well as embark on some beautiful coastal and cliffside walks.
Getting there: From the Marseille Saint-Charles train station, you can take one of several daily trains to Cassis, arriving in under 20 minutes.