Marseille is the second-largest city in France, so it’s no surprise as to why this beautiful destination has so much to offer. Sitting near the Rhone River, on the Mediterranean coast, Marseille is the biggest port for cruise ships, freights, and commerce.
Interestingly enough, this city only opened for tourism in the twentieth century.
While travelers may think their visit will be full of oceanside activities, the shore is a bit rocky, without much sand.
Don’t let this fool you, though. Between trendy restaurants, lively bars, and inspiring museums, there is no lack of fun to be had here.
The Best Things to do in Marseille
1. Old Port
Old Port is the most photogenic area of the city. With 2,600 years of trading, this port is filled to the brim with ships, boats, and people to observe. Old Port is also home to a fresh fish market, where travelers will find a delicious array of wild-caught fish.
Are you looking for a piece of history among the sights? You’ll want to head to the famous Sainte Marie lighthouse, as well as the accessible Roman Catholic Church. Both of these landmarks will bring you right back to the rich beginnings of trade and immigration.
A fun thing to do: Ferry boat, Phare de Sainte Marie lighthouse.
2. Stade Velodrome
Stade Velodrome is the second-largest stadium in France, located on the Mediterranean coast. It was built in 1937 by the architect Henri Ploquin. The venue is currently being enhanced with new VIP suites, a modern roof, and media facilities. Even before these additions, Stade Velodrome has a large capacity of 70,000 people.
This comes as no surprise as hosting a FIFA World Cup (1998), and a Rugby World Cub (2007) calls for a large crowd of fans.
Fun things to do: VIP halls, press gallery.
3. Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde
While it’s nearly impossible to miss this place, you’ll still want to make sure a visit here is on your itinerary. This magnificent Catholic church overlooks the entire city of Marseilles – and towers quite high while doing so. There is also a small museum inside the church about the Basilica’s history.
Fun things to do: Climb to the top of the tower.
4. La Corniche
La Corniche is a long strip of land reaching along the shoreline between the Old Port and the city’s quaint neighborhoods. May travelers enjoy taking strolls along this path, as it not only provides breathtaking views of the ocean, but lovely shops, bars, and museums as well.
One of the neatest aspects of this path is the built-in bench which stretches across the entirety of the road, making it an excellent option for sitting back to truly soak in the sights.
A fun thing to do: the Blancs Sablons Beach.
5. Musee d’Histoire de Marseille
Since Marseilles is the oldest city in France, it has a very dense past. The Museum of Marseilles immerses its visitors into the 26 centuries worth of history this port town has experienced, and it does so in a very high-tech and eye-catching way. From artifact-filled rooms to heartwrenching memorials, this stop’s 4,000 exhibits offer something for everyone.
A fun thing to do: Search for the maps and models of Marseille.
The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations has made the list of the 50 most-visited museums in the world. With its incredibly odd, yet intriguing, architectures – designed by Rudy Riciotti – this museum hosts an endless amount of exhibits which take a deep dive into the history of the Meditteranean.
Plus, the building was built right over the sea and connects to the land by two bridges, you can’t get much more Mediterannean than that.
Fun things to do: Photography exhibitions, art, historical artifacts.
7. Le Panier
Le Panier means “the basket,” which is the oldest quarter of Marseille. This place is a major tourist attraction because it is almost like a history lesson in itself. Anyone who walks these streets, filled to the brim with gorgeous old-world touches, will leave feeling as though they have truly had the real Marseilles experience.
Don’t forget your camera, as you’ll find flower-covered paths, stone staircases, and much more.
Fun things to do: Creative street art, Passage Lorette, Place de Lenche, Church Montee des Accoules.
8. Calanques National Park
The southern and eastern ends of Marseille meet up to bring you Calanques National Park – a park just brimming with natural beauty. Visitors will bask in white limestone cliffs reaching up to the heavens.
If you’re looking for a place to reflect and clear your head, this is a winner. However, keep in mind that Calanques is closed in the hot summers due to the risk of fire.
During available months, you can embark on boating, swimming, or hiking adventures.
A fun thing to do: Take part in any available hiking excursions.
9. La Plaine and Noailles
This area, located at the East of Old Port, will give you a feeling of everyday Meddietteranean life. The streets are full of markets, boutiques, and fresh local finds. Noailles, the area where Africans settled right after Algeria became the territory of French, is open every day of a week except Sunday.
As soon as you arrive, you’ll be met by the aroma of Middle Eastern food, especially kebabs.
On the other hand, La Plaine is the most trendy part of the further eastern side. It opens on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and offers stalls full of anything you could think.
Fun things to do: Boutiques, bars, looking for fresh produce.
10. Cite Radieuse
Cite Radieuse is an apartment building that was built between 1947 and 1952. Le Corbusier, a Swiss architect, designed this 18-floor building to provide a peaceful environment to its residents. The design of this building went on to inspire many residential buildings throughout Europe and is a UNESCO protected site.
This fantastic building is renowned for providing stunning views of the mountains and coasts – you should see it for yourself.
A fun thing to do: Go to the rooftop terrace.
Overall, Marseilles is undoubtedly worth a visit. There are so many amazing sites to see. You need to book your hotel in advance because the number of tourists is increasing there.
Marseilles truly is a must-see place in terms of history and culture.
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