Marseille: The Gorgeous City Break


Updated On: November 08, 2023 by   MariseMarise

Marseille, a port city established 2,600 years ago, is still a sparkling metropolis on the Mediterranean Sea despite years of decline, especially after being named the European Capital of Culture in 2013. France‘s second-largest city is returning with some of its rough edges smoothed down and even a few new museums and Michelin-starred restaurants.

Its lengthy, vibrant history, hilly terrain, gritty streets, and whitewashed buildings that tumble to the yacht-filled waters all contribute to Marseille’s allure. As gives off the vibe that it’s a location where it would be possible to find something secretive, something special, something not mentioned in tour guides.

Best Time to Visit 

The most excellent time to visit Marseille is from September to November, when the beaches, attractions, and lodging are accessible for visitors who come during the high season from May to August. The low season, which lasts from December to March, is marked by temperatures that typically hover in the 40s. Another excellent time of year is April, when visitors may find lower airfares and hotel rates coupled with pleasant weather and few other people around.

Top Attractions

The multiethnic heritage of the city makes it a perfect place to visit. Learn more about the top attractions you should visit and how you can spend time there with our list of top attractions in Marseilles.

Le Panier

Le Panier, also known as the Basket, offers a taste of authentic Marseille culture and Old Marseille. Le Panier is a charming spot to explore, with its cafés, ateliers (workshops), terraced homes, and winding, tiny lanes poured into its public squares. 

Additionally, it is close to sights like Mucem and Cathedrale de la Major. Visitors praise the street art, independent shops, and eateries for giving this neighbourhood a flair. Everyone thinks it is a pleasant and superb location to explore. Le Panier may be found on the hill behind Vieux Port and is free to enter.

Vieux Port

Marseille: The Gorgeous City Break

Before steamboats became the dominant method of transportation and Vieux Port was deemed too shallow, ships and boats had been docked there as early as 600 BC. Vieux Port was a bustling centre of the city. The harbour was attacked by the Germans later in WWII, and it was neglected until the mid-1900s when a redevelopment initiative brought it back to life. 

It resembles its former glory today, with many bobbing sailboats, restaurants, bars, and shops on the shore. Recent visitors say Vieux Port is easily walkable for hours, with various stores, restaurants, and rides to satisfy any taste. History enthusiasts will also enjoy the area’s remaining historic structures, which include the 12th-century Roman Catholic church Église Saint-Ferréol des Augustins. 

The port area is always open and free to enter. The port is hidden between Fort Saint-Jean and Fort Saint-Nicholas at the end of La Canebière. You can board an environmentally friendly ferry boat that travels from one side of the port to another many times every day to see the harbour from the water. These boats leave from the town hall.

Abbaye Saint Victor

city breaks - Abbaye Saint Victor

The functioning Catholic church known as Abbaye Saint Victor was established as an abbey in the eleventh century and is named after the Roman soldier and Christian martyr Victor of Marseille. 

The austere church and crypts were all that remained of the abbey after it was destroyed in 1794. Visitors describe the monastery as basic yet strangely lovely in its austere architecture.

The church is free to enter. However, it costs two euros ($2.50) to enter the crypts. The basilica and burials are accessible until 7 p.m. Additionally, there is a 9 a.m. Saturday Mass. If you wish to learn more as you explore the Abbaye Saint-Victor in Vieux Port, you can download a free audio tour (available in English) on your smartphone.

Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde

city breaks - Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde

On the ruins of Marseille’s historic citadel is the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, often known as Our Lady of the Guard, which was constructed in the 1850s. Today, this active Catholic church is a symbol of the city, the highest point on its skyline, and a great place to take in the expansive views of the city below. It is decorated with exquisite marble, paintings, and mosaics. 

On top of the bell tower is a massive golden statue of the Virgin Mary, so you can probably see it from the port. Several visitors said the sights made the “difficult” journey to the top worthwhile. Even though visitors agree that the chapel is stunning, they were more taken aback by the expansive vistas. Many critics did, however, caution against the large crowds and potential pickpockets.

From April through September, the basilica is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. from October to March. At the same time, it might be closed to tourists during Mass, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. The basilica is fewer than two miles south of Vieux Port; therefore, many visitors choose to walk there. 

Fort Saint-Jean

city breaks - Fort Saint-Jean

Fort Saint-Jean, a well-preserved fortification guarding Marseille at the entrance to the Old Port, was constructed in 1660 by Louis XIV. Interestingly, it was built to suppress a local uprising rather than repel invaders. The French military utilised it during the 19th and 20th centuries until German forces controlled it during World War II. The famous fort is now a tourist destination where visitors can stretch their legs and unwind instead of getting ready for a fight.

People of all ages gush over Fort Saint-Serene Jean’s surroundings and breathtaking vistas. They also point out that, thanks to ramps and elevators, it is surprisingly accessible. To access Fort Saint-Jean, visitors must go through the adjacent Mucem and pay the 9.50-euro ($11.60) museum admission fee. It opens from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. from 2 May to 7 July and from 4 September to 5 November.

It opens from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. from 6 November to 30 April and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. from 8 July to 3 September. Both attractions can be found in Le Panier. 

Parc National des Calanques

Marseille: The Gorgeous City Break

The Parc National des Calanques can be imagined as craggy limestone cliffs that plunge into undiscovered pebble beaches caressed by the Mediterranean Sea’s azure seas. Although many visitors observe this national park from the water, others claim that hiking through it is truly magical.

Recent visitors gushed that the Parc National des Calanques’ cliffs, inlets, and beaches are stunning and that images don’t do justice. While visitors reported observing residents sunning on remote beaches, rock climbing, rappelling, and trekking, time-constrained visitors might have to settle for a boat trip. 

The tourism board endorses several travel operators, including Levantin and Croisieres Marseille Calanques. For example, a brunch trip with Levantin costs 69 euros in the low winter season and 79 euros in the high summer season. On the D559 motorway, the Parc National des Calanques is situated less than 9 miles south of Marseille. 

Although free parking is available at the park’s entry, visitors report that it is not that much, so it may be preferable to pay a few euros to park higher up on the main road. Remember that there are only additional amenities at the park as a snack bar close to the parking area.


city breaks - Mucem

The history and cultural museum in Marseille, known as the Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée, or Mucem, takes tourists on an anthropological tour through the history of the Mediterranean. The modern structure, connected by a footbridge to the 13th-century Fort Saint-Jean, was created by architect Rudy Ricciotti. According to visitors, this museum provides a thorough grasp of the past and present of the area. 

They also emphasise the rooftop gardens of the Mucem, claiming that the views are some of the nicest from these vantage points. The Mucem is situated next to Fort Saint-Jean on the lake. It costs an entrance fee of 9.50 euros, which is $11.60.

If you have a City Pass, you are not required to pay to enter the museum. You can also benefit from free access if you go on the first Sunday of the month. You will pay 14 euros (about $17) for museum admission and a one-and-a-half-hour guided tour. 

For an additional 3.50 euros (about $4.25), you can get a multimedia guide available in five different languages, including English. The museum’s opening hours change seasonally, but often it opens its doors to visitors around 10 or 11 a.m. and closes between 6 and 8 p.m. Three bookshops and a rooftop café are on-site amenities.

Cathédrale de la Major

city breaks - Cathédrale de la Major

The Cathédrale de la Major has an extravagant design in contrast to the Abbaye Saint Victor’s simple architecture. The Cathédrale de la Major was constructed in the mid to late 19th century, and When Marseille port was referred to as “the doorway to the east,” its distinctive Byzantine style harkens back to that era. Inside, visitors will see mosaics, statues, and side chapels.

Recent visitors remarked that the inside of the Cathédrale de la Major is just as impressive as the exterior. Additionally, its location is highly valued in Le Panier, close to other popular destinations like Mucem and Fort Saint-Jean.

Château d’If

city breaks - Château d'If

King Francois ordered the construction of the 16th-century stronghold Château d’If, located atop the smallest island in the Frioul archipelago, less than a mile from Marseille. It was eventually used as a prison because of its remote, inaccessible location. This stunning and enigmatic monument is frequently visited by tourists in Marseille, especially considering that it served as the model for the prison in the renowned novel “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas.

Visitors can explore Château d’If at their own pace after arriving on the island. Recent visitors praised the location for being fascinating because of the old history on display and the breathtaking sea views with Marseille in the distance. Since the island only has one outdoor cafe, some people wish there were more restaurants or gift shops, even if only to escape the island’s chilly winds and pass the time before boarding the ferry back to the city. 

Many visitors take a Frioul If Express shuttle boat from Marseille’s Vieux Port to Château d’If. A round-trip boat ticket is 10.80 euros ($12.80) per person, while it costs 8.10 euros ($9.60) for families of four or more. Young children under four take the ride for free. Be aware that the fortress admission costs an additional 6 euros, or roughly $7.

Best Restaurants

Marseille welcomes millions of visitors every year. It is renowned for its tourist destinations and top-notch restaurants; here is a list of some restaurants you want to try during your visit.

Le Petit Nice Passedat 

This hotel restaurant was established in 1917 by Chef Gérald Passedat’s family, and he took over management in 1985 and turned it into one of the top seafood establishments in the world. The cuisine varies daily depending on what the fisherman brings in, and the dining area with white tablecloths boasts expansive ocean views. 

In dishes like sea bream carpaccio with caviar and bottarga, sea anemone beignets with seaweed sauce, and sea bass in herb broth with chopped tomatoes, Passedat’s simple culinary style highlights the fresh fish and shellfish.

Les Bords De Mer

Chefs Tatiana and Katia Levha, the sisters of Le Servan, one of Paris’ top modern bistros, created the cuisine for this chic restaurant with breathtaking views of the Mediterranean in a restored art deco hotel. 

Their innovative southern French specialities include:

  • A financier with pepper, sorbet of citrus, and clementines.
  • Carrots with grilled duck breast in a sweet and sour sauce.
  • Ravioli stuffed with sauteed Cevennes onions, saffron butter, lemon, and sage.


Near Marseille’s eye-catching Mucem, or museum of Mediterranean cultures, in Le Panier, Scottish chef Malcolm Gardner prepares a daily blackboard menu in the open kitchen that looks out onto his laid-back eatery. 

Gardner is a shrewdly innovative chef whose novel cuisine always upholds the natural tastes of the fresh fish and shellfish he cooks with. Gardner was raised in a Scottish fishing community and moved to Marseille after following a lover there. 

Some items to look forward to are sea bream carpaccio with mango, avocado, ginger, and monkfish-filled cappelletti with pork sauce. You can also try Chinese cabbage, chanterelles, and grilled turbot with smoked celeriac and veal stock.

Top-Rated Hotels

As a tourist destination, Marseille has a variety of hotels serving all purposes. Here are some hotels tourists enjoy staying at and their facilities.

Suite privée du balcon du vieux port Marseille 

Suite privée du Balcon du Vieux port Marseille offers lodging with a bar, a 24-hour front desk for your convenience, and a terrace. It is situated 1.3 km from Plage des Catalans. There are flat-screen TVs, living rooms with sofas, well-equipped kitchens with eating areas, and private bathrooms with showers, slippers, and bathrobes in each air-conditioned accommodation. A coffee maker, a kettle, a microwave and a fridge are also available, as well as free Wi-Fi.

The Palais du Pharo, Saint-Ferreol Street, and the Vieux Port Metro station are all within walking distance of Suite privée du balcon du vieux port Marseille. The lodging is 28 kilometres from Marseille Provence Airport, the closest airport.

Les Floralies Canebière 

Les Floralies Canebière has free WiFi, air conditioning, and home conveniences like a dishwasher and kettle; it is in the heart of Marseille, close to the Vieux Port Metro station and Marseille Saint-Charles Train Station. The property has a terrace, two bedrooms, bathrooms, bed linens, and towels. Views of the ocean are all included in the apartment’s amenities. Visitors can go hiking, snorkelling, and cycling; also fishing is available nearby.

Saint-Ferreol Street, the Castellane Metro Station, and the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations are all within walking distance of the flat. Les Floralies Canebière has a chargeable airport shuttle service, and Marseille Provence Airport is 25 kilometres away.

Les Toits du Prado

Les Toits du Prado in Marseille, which is 2.4 kilometres from Plage du Prado Sud and 2.6 kilometres from Plage du Prado Nord, provides free WiFi and air conditioning. Petit Roucas Blanc Beach is 2.7 kilometres from the property, while Castellane Metro Station is 1.2 kilometres away. The apartment is furnished with a dining area, a fully functional kitchen, a flat-screen TV, bed linens, towels, one bathroom, and a balcony with views of the garden.

The Orange Velodrome Stadium, Marseille Chanot Exhibition and Convention Centre, and Rond-Point du Prado Metro Station are all close to the property. Additionally, Les Toits du Prado is 29 kilometres from Marseille Provence Airport.

Hotel C2

A 19th-century private estate was transformed into HOTEL C2, which debuted in April 2014, situated in Marseille’s Pierre Puget courtyard. With a minimalist, modern touch, it retains the original marble and parquet flooring, columns, bas-relief sculptures, frescoes, and bronze bannisters. The spacious, light-filled guest rooms each include a private bathroom, designer furnishings, and a spacious area.

Facilities include an indoor pool, a bar, a meeting room, and a spa with a relaxing area. The hotel offers the beach package, which provides for the use of its specially chartered boat, which departs from the Vieux Port. The hotel also features performances and exhibitions of photography and art each month.

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