Your Ultimate Marseille Travel Guide 2023
Welcome to Marseille, the second largest city in France and one of the oldest cities in Europe! Known for its stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea, its vibrant port city culture, and its colorful local cuisine, Marseille is a city unlike any other. If you’re looking to get the most out of your trip to Marseille, then this guide is for you! Here, you’ll find all the insider tips and tricks to travel like a local in Marseille, from the best places to stay, to the must-see attractions, to the delicious local cuisine. If you are interested in Marseille, you may also be interested in our Barcelona travel guide!
Top 5 Things To See And Do In Marseille
- Vieux-Port: Marseille’s iconic old harbor is a must-visit for all visitors. Lined with colorful boats, restaurants, and cafes, it’s the perfect spot to grab a coffee or a seafood lunch while people-watching. You can also take a boat tour of the harbor for an up-close view of the city’s stunning coastline.
- Notre-Dame De La Garde: Marseille’s highest point is home to the stunning Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica. Built in the 19th century, this magnificent church is a true architectural masterpiece. Take a walk up to the top of the hill to enjoy panoramic views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea.
- Le Panier: This charming historic district of Marseille is the perfect place to explore on foot. The colorful buildings, winding streets, and local shops make it a great spot for an afternoon stroll. Don’t miss the opportunity to stop by the local soap factory, which has been producing traditional Marseille soap for centuries.
- Calanques: These stunning rocky cliffs and crystal-clear waters are a nature lover’s paradise. Located just outside the city, they offer the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of Marseille. You can take a boat tour of the calanques or hike the many trails for an unforgettable adventure.
- MuCEM: Marseille’s Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations is a must-visit for culture enthusiasts. With a focus on history, anthropology, and contemporary art, it’s a great way to learn about the city’s rich cultural heritage. Be sure to check out the rooftop terrace for stunning views of the city and the sea.
Where To Stay In Marseille
- Vieux-Port: This is the historic heart of Marseille, and is a great place to stay if you want to be in the middle of the action. You’ll be able to walk to many of the city’s top attractions, including the Old Port and the Panier neighborhood.
- Le Panier: Located just north of Vieux-Port, Le Panier is a charming neighborhood known for its colorful buildings and narrow, winding streets. It’s a great place to stay if you’re looking for a more relaxed atmosphere.
- La Joliette: If you want to be near the city’s modern attractions, like the MuCEM museum and the shopping district of Les Terrasses du Port, La Joliette is a good choice. This is also where the cruise ships dock, so it can get busy during peak tourist season.
- La Plaine: This neighborhood is popular with students and young professionals, and has a lively atmosphere thanks to its many bars, restaurants, and street markets. It’s a bit further from the tourist attractions, but is well-connected by public transportation.
- Cinq-Avenues: If you’re looking for a quieter, more residential area to stay in, Cinq-Avenues is a good option. It’s located in the hills above the city center, and has a relaxed, village-like feel. This is also a good neighborhood to stay in if you’re planning to rent a car, as there is plenty of parking available.
Top Marseille Hotels
- InterContinental Marseille: Hotel Dieu: This 5-star hotel is located in a 18th-century former hospital building, offering stunning views of the Vieux-Port and the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde. The rooms are elegantly furnished and come with modern amenities, including flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi. The hotel also features a spa, indoor pool, and Michelin-starred restaurant, Alcyone.
- Sofitel Marseille Vieux-Port: Situated in the heart of Marseille, this 5-star hotel overlooks the Vieux-Port and is within walking distance of the city’s top attractions. The rooms are stylishly decorated and equipped with comfortable beds and high-end amenities, including minibars and espresso machines. The hotel has a rooftop bar with panoramic views, a spa, and fitness center.
- Radisson Blu Hotel Marseille Vieux Port: This 4-star hotel boasts a prime location overlooking the Vieux-Port and within walking distance of the Palais du Pharo and Fort Saint-Nicolas. The rooms are spacious and modern, featuring amenities such as flat-screen TVs, coffee makers, and free Wi-Fi. The hotel has a rooftop terrace with a swimming pool, a restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine, and a fitness center.
- NH Collection Marseille: This 4-star hotel is located in the heart of Marseille’s business district, offering easy access to both the city center and the Calanques. The rooms are stylish and spacious, featuring comfortable beds and modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi. The hotel has a rooftop terrace with stunning views of the city, a restaurant, and fitness center.
- Hotel C2 Marseille: This 5-star boutique hotel is housed in a 19th-century private mansion in the heart of Marseille’s city center. The rooms are individually designed with luxurious furnishings and state-of-the-art amenities such as free Wi-Fi, iPod docks, and Nespresso machines. The hotel also features a spa, fitness center, and rooftop terrace with a plunge pool and panoramic views of the city.
Where To Eat In Marseille
Marseille is known for its vibrant food culture and cuisine that has been influenced by its history and Mediterranean location. From local seafood to flavorful spices, Marseille’s restaurants offer a diverse range of dishes that are sure to satisfy your taste buds. Here are the top 5 places to eat in Marseille:
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- Chez Fonfon: This traditional brasserie is located on the waterfront and is famous for its bouillabaisse, a classic Marseille fish stew. Chez Fonfon also offers a range of other seafood dishes and delicious pastries.
- La Cantinetta: For an authentic Italian dining experience, head to La Cantinetta. The restaurant is small and cozy, serving delicious pizza and pasta made with fresh ingredients. Their tiramisu is also a must-try.
- L’Aromat: This Michelin-starred restaurant offers a modern take on classic Provençal cuisine. The menu changes seasonally, but always includes dishes like lamb shank with olives and garlic cream. The sleek decor and friendly staff make for an enjoyable dining experience.
- Les Arcenaulx: Located in the historic Panier district, this bookstore and restaurant combo serves hearty, homemade dishes like beef bourguignon and grilled octopus. The restaurant has a charming atmosphere with a lovely outdoor seating area.
- Le Grain De Sel: This cozy restaurant is tucked away on a side street but offers delicious and affordable cuisine. The menu includes dishes like ratatouille, grilled fish, and roasted duck. The friendly staff and laid-back atmosphere make it a great choice for a casual dinner.
No matter where you choose to eat in Marseille, you are sure to enjoy the flavors and ambiance of this vibrant city.
How To Get Around Marseille
Marseille is a bustling city with a variety of transportation options to choose from. Here are some of the best ways to get around Marseille:
- Metro: Marseille has two metro lines that run throughout the city. They are efficient and affordable, with trains arriving every few minutes during peak hours.
- Bus: Buses in Marseille are also a convenient option for getting around. There are over 80 bus lines that cover the entire city, making it easy to get to any destination. They operate from early in the morning until late at night, and you can buy tickets at bus stops or from the driver.
- Tram: The Marseille tramway is another convenient and affordable option for getting around the city. It runs along three lines, with stops at many of the popular tourist destinations.
- Taxi: Taxis are available in Marseille, but they are generally more expensive than other transportation options. It’s best to call a taxi or use a ride-hailing app to avoid being overcharged.
- Bike: Marseille has a bike-sharing program called Le Vélo. You can rent bikes from stations located throughout the city and return them to any station when you’re done. It’s a great way to see the sights while getting some exercise.
- Walk: Many of the best attractions in Marseille are located within walking distance of each other, especially in the historic Old Port area. Walking is a great way to see the city and take in all the sights and sounds.
No matter how you choose to get around Marseille, be sure to plan ahead and leave plenty of time to reach your destination. Traffic can be heavy at times, especially during rush hour, so plan accordingly. And don’t forget to enjoy the scenery along the way!
Marseille has a Mediterranean climate, with hot summers and mild winters. Here’s a breakdown of the weather in each season:
- Spring (March-May): Springtime in Marseille is warm and pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 10°C to 20°C (50°F to 68°F). Rainfall is moderate during this time, but it’s still a great time to visit as the crowds are lower and the city is in full bloom.
- Summer (June-August): Summer is the busiest time in Marseille, with temperatures averaging around 30°C (86°F) and up to 35°C (95°F) on the hottest days. It’s a great time to hit the beaches and enjoy the outdoor cafes and bars, but be prepared for the crowds.
- Fall (September-November): Fall is a popular time to visit Marseille, as the weather is still mild and the crowds have thinned out. Temperatures range from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F), with occasional rainfall.
- Winter (December-February): Winter in Marseille is mild but can be chilly, with temperatures ranging from 5°C to 15°C (41°F to 59°F). Rainfall is moderate, and there’s a chance of occasional mistral winds, which can be quite strong.
Overall, the best time to visit Marseille depends on your personal preferences and what you want to do. If you’re looking for beach weather, visit in the summer, but if you want to avoid the crowds, visit in the spring or fall. Winter can be a good time to visit if you don’t mind the cooler temperatures and want to explore the city without the crowds.
Best Time To Visit Marseille
Marseille is a year-round destination, but the best time to visit depends on your preferences and interests. Here’s a breakdown of the best time to visit Marseille based on different factors:
The weather in Marseille is pleasant throughout the year, but summers can be hot and crowded. The best time to visit Marseille for pleasant weather is from April to June and from September to October when temperatures are milder, and crowds are thinner.
Marseille can get crowded during peak tourist season, which is from June to August. If you prefer fewer crowds, visit Marseille in the shoulder season (April-May and September-October). However, keep in mind that some tourist attractions and restaurants may have limited operating hours during the off-season.
Marseille is a vibrant city that hosts many events and festivals throughout the year. The most famous one is the Marseille Jazz Festival, which takes place in July. If you’re interested in art, visit Marseille in September during the International Festival of Contemporary Art or in December for the Marseille Festival of Lights.
Marseille’s beaches are a major attraction during the summer months (June to August). If you’re a beach lover, visit Marseille during these months when the water is warm, and the sun is shining. You may also want to consider the beaches in Saint-Tropez, Cannes and Nice. Keep in mind that the beaches can get crowded during peak season, so arrive early to secure a good spot.
Overall, the best time to visit Marseille depends on your preferences and interests. Whether you want to avoid the crowds or experience the city’s vibrant events, there’s always something happening in Marseille.
How To Stay Safe In Marseille
Like any other major city, Marseille has its fair share of safety concerns. But with some simple precautions, you can easily avoid most of them and have a safe and enjoyable trip.
Here are some tips to help you stay safe in Marseille:
- Be Aware Of Pickpockets: Pickpockets are a common problem in Marseille, especially in crowded areas and tourist hotspots like Vieux Port and Notre-Dame de la Garde. Keep your valuables like wallets, passports, and mobile phones in a safe place, preferably in a bag or pouch that you can keep close to your body.
- Avoid Walking Alone At Night: Marseille can be a bit sketchy at night, especially in certain areas like La Belle de Mai and La Plaine. It’s best to avoid walking alone after dark, and instead take a taxi or public transportation to your destination.
- Use Common Sense: As in any big city, it’s always a good idea to use common sense when out and about. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash, don’t leave your belongings unattended, and be wary of strangers approaching you.
- Stay Alert: Marseille can be a bit chaotic, with traffic, street performers, and crowds of people everywhere. Stay alert and aware of your surroundings at all times, and avoid distractions like texting or using your phone while walking.
- Stay Away From Demonstrations: Marseille is known for its politically charged atmosphere, and demonstrations and protests are not uncommon. If you happen to come across one, it’s best to avoid the area and find a different route.
By following these simple safety tips, you can enjoy your time in Marseille without worrying about any potential safety issues. Remember to use common sense, stay alert, and enjoy all that this beautiful city has to offer.
Marseille Customs and Etiquette
When visiting Marseille, it’s important to be aware of the customs and etiquette in the city. Here are some tips to help you navigate the local culture:
- Greetings: In Marseille, it’s customary to greet people with a kiss on each cheek, starting with the right cheek. This is known as “la bise.”
- Dress Code: Marseille is a relatively casual city, but it’s important to dress appropriately for certain occasions. When visiting churches or other religious sites, make sure to dress conservatively and cover your shoulders and knees.
- Tipping: Tipping is not expected in Marseille, but rounding up to the nearest euro or leaving a small amount for exceptional service is appreciated.
- Dining: In restaurants, it’s common for the server to bring a small basket of bread to the table. Don’t be afraid to ask for more if you need it. Also, it’s polite to keep your hands visible on the table during the meal.
- Language: French is the official language of Marseille, but many locals also speak English. It’s always a good idea to learn a few basic phrases in French, such as “Bonjour” (hello), “Merci” (thank you), and “S’il vous plaît” (please).
By following these customs and etiquette, you’ll show respect for the local culture and be able to fully immerse yourself in the Marseille experience.
Other Things To Know About Marseille
Marseille is a vibrant port city located in the south of France. The country of France uses the euro (EUR) as its official currency. Marseille’s official language is French, but many locals also speak a dialect known as Provençal.
The time zone in Marseille is Central European Time (CET), which is 1 hour ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+1). Daylight Saving Time is observed in Marseille from late March to late October, when the clocks are set 1 hour ahead to Central European Summer Time (CEST).
When traveling to Marseille, it is also important to know that many businesses may close for a lunch break from around 12 pm to 2 pm. Additionally, smoking is prohibited in most public places, including restaurants and cafes.
To stay connected during your trip to Marseille, you may need to purchase a travel adapter for your electronics. The electrical outlets in France typically accept Type C and Type E plugs, which have two round pins. By knowing these basic facts about Marseille, you can ensure that your trip runs smoothly and that you are prepared for any cultural differences or expectations.
Marseille Travel Costs
Traveling to Marseille can be both a memorable and affordable experience. The costs associated with your trip to this French city will depend on your style of travel, preferences, and budget.
- Accommodation: Accommodation costs vary greatly, with budget hostels starting from as little as €15 per night. If you’re looking for a more luxurious experience, high-end hotels can cost upwards of €200 per night. For mid-range options, expect to pay around €60-100 per night for a hotel or apartment.
- Transportation: As for transportation, Marseille has an efficient public transport system. The metro, buses, and trams all operate on the same ticket system, with a single ticket costing around €1.60. Alternatively, you can purchase a day pass for €5 or a 3-day pass for €10. Taxis and Ubers are also available, but they are a bit pricier.
- Food And Drink: Food and drink prices can range from cheap to expensive, depending on your tastes and preferences. You can find a hearty sandwich or pizza for as little as €5-7, or opt for a fancy dinner in a high-end restaurant for €40 or more. Wine is also affordable in Marseille, with a glass costing around €5-7 and a bottle between €15-25.
- Activities: Visiting popular attractions can add up, but there are also many free things to do in Marseille, such as exploring the Old Port or taking a walk up to the Notre Dame de la Garde basilica. Admission to museums and galleries ranges from €4-10, depending on the exhibition.
In general, Marseille can be an affordable destination if you plan and budget accordingly. It’s a good idea to research and compare prices beforehand, especially if you’re traveling during peak season. With some careful planning, you can have a fantastic time in Marseille without breaking the bank. Bon voyage!
Finding Affordable Flights To Marseille
Getting to Marseille doesn’t have to be expensive! Here are some tips for finding affordable flights to this French city.
- Use Flight Search Engines: Start your search by using popular flight search engines like Skyscanner, Kayak, or Google Flights. These websites compare prices from various airlines, so you can find the best deals available.
- Be Flexible With Your Travel Dates: Prices for flights can vary significantly depending on the day and time of your departure. Be open to adjusting your travel dates to find a more affordable flight.
- Book In Advance: Booking your flight early can often result in lower prices. Try to book your flights at least three months in advance to get the best deals.
- Consider Connecting Flights: Direct flights to Marseille can be expensive. You might be able to find a cheaper option by considering connecting flights that have layovers in other cities.
- Sign Up For Airline Newsletters: Stay up-to-date with airline deals and promotions by signing up for their newsletters. You may be able to score a great deal on your next trip to Marseille.
Remember, finding affordable flights to Marseille takes time and patience. Be diligent in your search and consider all options available to you. With a bit of planning, you can make your trip to this beautiful city both enjoyable and budget-friendly.
Backpacking Marseille Suggested Budgets
Backpacking in Marseille can be an affordable option for travelers who are on a budget. To help you plan your trip, we’ve put together a list of suggested budgets that can help you estimate your expenses.
Low Budget: €20-€40 per day
If you’re on a tight budget, you can still enjoy Marseille without breaking the bank. There are several hostels and budget-friendly accommodation options in the city that won’t cost you a fortune. You can also find affordable food options, such as street food and local markets. Public transportation is also cheap, with a single metro ticket costing just €1.50.
Mid-Range Budget: €50-€80 per day
For a slightly higher budget, you can enjoy more comfort and convenience. You can stay in mid-range hotels or private rooms in hostels. You can also enjoy more dining options, including sit-down restaurants and cafes. Public transportation remains an affordable option, and you can also consider renting a bike to explore the city.
Luxury Budget: €100+ per day
For a luxurious experience in Marseille, you can opt for high-end hotels and fine dining options. You can also take guided tours and enjoy exclusive experiences. Private transportation and taxis can also be more comfortable options, but they come with a higher price tag.
Keep in mind that these suggested budgets are just estimates, and your actual expenses will depend on your travel style, preferences, and itinerary. By doing your research and planning ahead, you can find ways to save money and make the most of your backpacking trip in Marseille.
Marseille Money Saving Tips
While Marseille is a beautiful and exciting city to explore, it can also be a little pricey. However, there are plenty of ways to save money during your trip. Here are some money-saving tips for your visit to Marseille:
- Choose Budget-Friendly Accommodations: Look for affordable hotels or hostels in areas outside of the city center. You can save a lot of money by staying a few subway stops away from the popular tourist areas.
- Use Public Transportation: Marseille has an excellent public transportation system that includes buses, trains, and subways. The cost of a ticket is much cheaper than taking a taxi, so make sure to take advantage of it.
- Eat Like A Local: The best way to save money on food is to eat like the locals do. Head to small family-owned restaurants, where you can get authentic and delicious cuisine for a fraction of the cost of fancier restaurants.
- Take Advantage Of Free Activities: Marseille has plenty of free activities to offer, from walking around the historic neighborhoods to hiking the trails in Calanques National Park. These activities will give you an opportunity to explore the city and its surroundings without spending any money.
- Shop At Local Markets: Marseille has several open-air markets that sell fresh produce, bread, and cheese. Shopping at these markets is a great way to save money on food, as well as experiencing the local culture.
By following these money-saving tips, you can make the most out of your Marseille adventure without breaking the bank.
What To Pack For Marseille
When packing for your trip to Marseille, there are a few essentials you won’t want to forget. Here’s a quick guide on what to pack:
- Comfortable Shoes: Marseille is a city best explored on foot, so be sure to bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes.
- Sunscreen: Marseille gets plenty of sunshine, so protect your skin with a high-SPF sunscreen.
- Light, Breathable Clothing: The Mediterranean climate means it can get hot and humid, so pack light, breathable clothing to stay cool and comfortable.
- Swimwear: Marseille has some beautiful beaches, so don’t forget to pack your swimsuit.
- A Day Bag: Bring a small backpack, garment bag or tote bag to carry essentials like water, sunscreen, and a map while exploring the city.
- Camera: Marseille has some stunning scenery, so don’t forget to bring a camera to capture the beauty.
- Adapter: The electrical outlets in France use Type E plugs, so bring an adapter if necessary.
- Cash And Cards: Marseille is a cash-based society, so be sure to have some euros on hand. Most places also accept credit cards.
By packing these essentials, you’ll be well-prepared for your trip to Marseille. Enjoy your travels!
Can You Drink Tap Water In Marseille?
If you are wondering if you can drink tap water in Marseille, the answer is yes, you can! Marseille has good quality tap water, and it is safe to drink. The water is treated and regularly tested to ensure its safety. However, if you prefer, you can also buy bottled water in the local supermarkets or convenience stores. It’s always good to have some water with you when you are out exploring the city.
It’s important to note that the tap water may have a different taste from what you are used to. This is due to the different mineral content in the water, which varies depending on the location. Some people find that the tap water has a slightly chlorinated taste, but it’s nothing harmful. Overall, it’s safe to drink tap water in Marseille, and it’s also an eco-friendly option. So, fill up your water bottle and enjoy your stay in Marseille!
Other Things To See And Do In Marseille
While there are countless things to do in Marseille, here are some additional options to add to your itinerary:
- Calanques National Park: Marseille’s stunning Calanques National Park is the perfect destination for hikers, nature enthusiasts, and beach lovers. Located just outside the city, the park features a series of rocky inlets and cliffs that plunge into the clear turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
- Le Panier: The oldest and most picturesque neighborhood in Marseille, Le Panier is a maze of narrow streets, colorful houses, and charming boutiques. This historic district is also home to several important landmarks, including the Vieille Charité museum and the impressive Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure.
- Musée d’HistoireDe Marseille: For a deep dive into the city’s rich past, head to the Musée d’Histoire de Marseille. This fascinating museum traces Marseille’s evolution from ancient Greek colony to bustling port city, with interactive exhibits and archaeological artifacts on display.
- Vieux-Port: Marseille’s Old Port is the heart of the city, a bustling hub of activity and a great place to soak up the local atmosphere. Watch fishermen haul in their daily catch, peruse the stalls at the lively market, or enjoy a leisurely stroll along the waterfront.
- Basilique Notre-Dame De La Garde: Marseille’s most iconic landmark, the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde is a stunning hilltop church that offers sweeping views over the city and the sea. Admire the intricate mosaics and sculptures, and take a moment to light a candle or say a prayer in the chapel.
Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or just soaking up the local ambiance, Marseille has plenty to offer beyond its top tourist attractions. Don’t be afraid to explore the city’s many hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path destinations!
The Bottom Line
Marseille is a vibrant city with plenty to see and do, whether you’re interested in history, culture, or simply soaking up the sun on a beautiful Mediterranean beach. As a popular tourist destination, Marseille can be a bit overwhelming at times, but with these insider tips and tricks, you can travel like a local and get the most out of your trip. From the top sights and attractions to the best hotels and restaurants, we’ve covered everything you need to know to plan the ultimate Marseille vacation. And with our budget-friendly tips and advice, you can make your money go further and enjoy all the city has to offer without breaking the bank. So whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, we hope our Marseille travel guide has inspired you to explore this incredible city and make some unforgettable memories. Bon voyage!