5 things not to miss in Marseille

With its old harbour, sandy beaches and picturesque neighbourhoods, the centre of Marseille alone is already well worth a visit. To complete your city break, take a boat trip to the islands off the coast or stroll along the magnificent calanques. Let yourself be enchanted by the charming Marseille!

Marseille - old port

The Old Port

A visit to Marseille is not complete without walking around the Old Port. The fish market sells the catch of the day every morning on Quai des Belges. This is where you can discover the best the Mediterranean has to offer. It might give you some inspiration for lunch later in the day too.

If you would prefer not to walk back the way you came, you can take the Ferry Boat between Place des Huiles and Marseille city hall. This is a short boat ride with fantastic views of the port and the many pleasure boats moored there.

For a lovely meal in the Old Port, we recommend 'Au bout du Quai', which is right at the end of the Quai du Port on the north side of the port, or – if you are looking for a more original setting – La Passarelle, an organic restaurant with a daily menu and a wonderful terrace along Rue du Plan Fourmigier (next to the Radisson Blu Hotel).

Here's why to visit the Old Port:

  • the fish market on Quai des Belges
  • a ferry boat ride
  • the organic restaurant La Passarelle
Marseille - Le Panier

Le Panier

The authentic blue-collar district 'Le Panier' is located to the north of the Old Port. The district's name, Le Panier, means 'the basket', so it is not surprising to find that this is where the market place was situated back when the Greeks founded the city under the name 'Massalia'. Nowadays, this district is a delight to visit because of the maze of streets with laundry hanging out to dry along colourful facades, and Marseille soap and pastis for sale in charming artisan shops.

Another Le Panier must-see is 'La Vieille-Charité', a former almshouse that currently houses the Museum of Mediterranean Archaeology and Museum of African, Oceanians and Amerindians Art (entry free of charge for both). The collections are small, making the museums perfect for a brief cultural interlude.

If you are partial to churches, we advise you to keep on walking towards Marseille Cathedral. This impressive cathedral is one of the few buildings in Le Panier that survived the bombings during World War II.

While on the subject of beautiful churches: if this is your thing, you should definitely include a visit to the basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde across from the Old Port. The suspended models of boats donated by grateful sailors make the interior of this fine example of Neo-Byzantine architecture a unique prospect.

Le Panier is worth visiting for:

  • its charming artisan shops
  • the museums in the 'Vieille Charité'
  • Marseille Cathedral
Marseille - Vallon des Auffes

Vallon des Auffes

This small, picturesque fishing port is tucked away in a bay along the Corniche, a 5-km boulevard that winds its way from Plage des Catalans to Plages du Prado along the Mediterranean coast. The small fishing boats and colourful houses create a relaxing environment that you would sooner expect in a fishing village than a major city.

Vallon des Auffes is certainly worth a visit around lunch or dinner time: Chez Fonfon offers the best bouillabaisse in Marseille, while on the terrace of Chez Jeannot you can enjoy some great pizza as you enjoy the fantastic view.

Visit Vallon des Auffes for:

  • the typical atmosphere of a fishing port
  • Chez Fonfon's bouillabaisse
  • Chez Jeannot's views and great pizza
Marseille - calanque

A stroll to the Calanque de Morgiou

Calanques are steep-walled inlets along the Mediterranean coast. The roads to the calanques are closed to traffic during the summer months, making a stroll to the Calanque de Morgiou wonderfully peaceful.

The starting point is the terminal for bus 21 (Luminy). From here, you can start your walk to the calanque through a rocky landscape flanked by pine trees. The walk is 2.6 km long and takes around an hour. It is no secret that it can become very hot along the way, so make sure to take plenty of water. Sturdy walking shoes are an absolute necessity.

The reward for your efforts is well worth it: you will find a magnificent bay with a small fishing port and fishermen's cottages along with some charming restaurants serving refreshing drinks and delicious dishes such as fresh sardines. After your meal, you can spend a lovely few hours around (and in) the crystal clear waters

Take a stroll to Morgiou for:

  • its rocky landscape flanked by pine trees
  • its delicious fresh sardines
  • its crystal clear waters
Marseille - Château d'If

Château d’If and Îles du Frioul

When you visit a city by a body of water, a boat trip is always a great idea. The Frioul If Express will take you from the Old Port of Marseille to the fascinating Château d’If in about twenty minutes. Until the end of the 19th century, this fort was one of the most notorious prisons in France. It became world famous for its (fictional) resident Edmond Dantès, the flamboyant protagonist of Alexandre Dumas’ book The Count of Monte Cristo.

A boat will then take you to the other Frioul islands, where you can enjoy a walk along the beaches, cliffs and creeks, dive into the clear waters or order refreshments and relax on a terrace.

Head to les Iles du Frioul for:

  • a relaxing boat ride
  • the Château d'If
  • a walk on its islands