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Guide To Marseille City France. (Where To Stay, Eat, See)

Updated: Oct. 30, 2021

Marseille fort in France on our Marseille Guide
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Marseille should definitely be on your list of places to visit in France. We had so many people, some who hadn’t even been, (including friends who lived in Bordeaux at the time) try to convince us not to go. Too dirty, too gritty, too ethnic. The list went on and on. Thank goodness we didn’t listen.

We found Marseille beautiful, the people really nice, and the history fascinating. You shouldn’t listen to the naysayers either. I always find it better to experience places for yourself. For instance, I didn’t love Amsterdam, definitely not as l had expected based on what others had told me, including Federico who had been at least a couple of times prior, but l am certainly not going to dissuade you from visiting. I can only relay my experience. Here’s is a kick-ass guide to Marseille City France :-)…

Guide To Marseille City France:

sunset in marseille ocean
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Sun setting as we cruised the Old Port of Marseille.
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Marseille France Weather: Mostly Awesome

Marseille has a great Mediterranean climate. Mild humid winters (average 54 degrees) lead to warm,  mostly dry, and hot summers averaging 81 degrees. It is also the sunniest major city in France, officially. You can see why it’s a desirable place to visit and live, even in the summer. Our visit to Marseille city happened in December. For us, it was a perfect time to enjoy this very vibrant and historic city. There were fewer tourists like us, so we didn’t have to fight crowds.

Getting to Marseille City:

There are plenty of options to get you to Marseille from anywhere in the world. From the U.S for instance, American Airlines, Turkish Airlines and Air France are just a few of the various airlines that stop in Marseille. A lot of times, the first stop on a vacation is the city of love, Paris and then an onward journey. If you are in Europe already, there are also plenty of budgets airlines that serve Marseille.

Our flight was with Ryanair. Another great option is to take a train from Paris to Marseille. The journey takes about 3.5 hours and if you book early enough, your ticket price can be as low as $25. I love the man in seat61 for all train related information. Everywhere! Coming from London? No problem, Eurostar operates a London to Marseille train for most of the year. With all these amazing options, getting to Marseille is pretty easy.

Getting from the airport to Marseille city itself is a breeze with the metro to the Old Port which was where we stayed. It was the perfect base from which to explore. The bus system was just as easy to use and was a great way to see things above ground. Each bus ride is less than 2 dollars if you don’t have the Marseille City Pass.

Where to Stay in Marseille:

We booked an AirBnB location right in the heart of the Old Port of Marseille and it was perfect. It was really close to a metro stop.  We would definitely recommend it. The host was really nice and organized. Little pamphlet of what to do and where to eat in the area as well as fast internet speed. Feel free to use our link to get $31 off your first stay as a new AirBnB client.

AirBnB Marseille: apartment bed at Vieux Port
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Where to stay in Marseille for AirBnB. Our cute accommodation in the heart of Vieux Port, complete with free iPad to use during your stay.
shower in marseille
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AirBnB to stay in Marseille. Great pressure in a superb historic building

Click here for the best prices for hotels in Marseille France

Hotels to stay in Marseille:

For those people who prefer staying at hotels, there are plenty of hotels near the Old Port of Marseille. Here is the one we would have booked had we not reserved the AirBnB flat.

Escale Oceania Marseille Vieux Port: A great option

With free WiFi and breakfast buffet in addition to the excellent location, you can’t go wrong. The price is not so bad either.

escale hotel old port marseille
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See what l mean about location? Right in front of the Old Port. Images source

room at escale hotel marseille
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buffet table
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Where to stay in Marseille for a bit of pampering. We recommend Escale Oceania Hotel Marseille.
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Marseille France Points of Interest: What Places to Visit

 

Notre Dame De La Garde:

notre dame marseille with tower
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Impressive history at the Notre Dame Marseille. Not to be confused with the one in paris.

Related Blog Post: Notre Dame de la Garde visit

We visited the Notre Dame Basilica on the little train. From there, you had a panoramic view of Marseille.  With the pass which allows you to visit a bunch of places of interest (in addition to the metro and bus access). We visited a couple of museums from the extensive list, and they were very nice.

jesus on cross marseille notre dame
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We loved this image of Christ on the cross. lends a somber mood to the place despite the openness.
view from notre dame marseille of sea skyline
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The view from the top of Notre Dame is simply gorgeous.

Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilization:

museum of civilization marseille
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One of the few images we have since our computer crashed 🙁

The building itself is a work of art. The layout is also a treat in itself as the stairs and design lead you along in a square maze of sorts. There are arrows on the floor directing you, and it was fun to discover different artwork as you veered off the line. Make sure to pick up a free map at the tourist office right at the port. It’s quite handy when you get lost (which we did). Just hop on the public bus  and ride around till you figure things out.

Our French is rudimentary at best and consists of sign language :-), but the people were very friendly. As soon as l would start with my basic french, they would switch to English if they could. The policeman we stopped once even got his partner to use his mobile which had internet capability (yeah..don’t be like us, remember to carry a power charge bank ) to translate and ended up recommending a fabulous restaurant.

The Old Port:

fisherman chasing birds marseille old port
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A fisherman chases away birds that keep stealing the catch 🙂 . We love this image so much it is now hanging in our living room to remind us of our most excellent Marseille holiday.

History of Marseille:

Marseille is a very historic city. It was founded in 600 BC as a Greek colony. After years as an independent colony, it ultimately ended up under Roman rule after its defeat in Caesar’s Civil War and it thrived for a long time. The Great Plague of Marseille wiped out a huge portion of the population in 1720. Currently, there is an eclectic mix of locals and citizens from previous French colonies.

The resulting cultural mix is evident in the restaurants and shops at the Old Port especially. Numerous accents and cuisine and the way the people dress. I think Marseille gets a bad rap. Show me a place that doesn’t have the same issues with theft. For a nice seafood meal, check out the market right at the port. It doesn’t get any fresher than when the fishermen bring their  catch and the hawkers prepare it right there and then.

                                             

old port marseille ferris wheel
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Not sure if the ferris wheel at the Vieux Port is there all year long or not.

One of the best things to do in Marseille is to walk around the ancient areas of Old Port. It really does bring you back to the days of the pirates and stories of the vastly rich men and the poor people who had to serve them. There is so much history in this big beautiful city on the Mediterranean.

Longchamp Palace (Palais Longchamp):

Longchamp Palace Marseille France exterior
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What to see in Marseille. Beautiful Lonchamp Palace. Long hike up the stairs, but the view alone is definitely worth it.

A visit to the Longchamp Palace is also highly recommended. It is located in the 4th Arrondissement, so easily reached via metro, it has been in existence since 1869. It has a park of the same name and we saw a lot of locals having picnics or just enjoying the sun. It also seems to be very popular with fitness buffs.

Longchamp Palace is also home to the Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History (free entry also with the 48 hour pass). People were constantly running up and down the stairs (which are many by the way). At the top, you get a truly awesome view of the city. Beautiful! I’m positive it would be a nice area to live. It’s definitely worth visiting to people watch, picnic and to check out the museums.

Guide to Marseille City France.Longchamp palace france back view
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The back view of Longchamp Palace Marseille. You get a glimpse from the opening.  The museums are in each wing. The zoo used to be back there as well.

Marseille Cathedral:

marseille cathedral in france
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The Marseille Cathedral. Another place we wanted the inside of, but didn’t. It looks like it would be awesome.

The Marseille Cathedral is the current seat of the Archdiocese of Marseille and was designated as a Basilica Minor in 1896. It is still however, less famous than the Notre Dame. We tried to get in, but there were massive lines, so we skipped it. I would love to see the inside though, as l am sure it will be just as impressive as the outside.

Chateau D’If:

A roughly half an hour cruise on one of the many tourist boats will get you to the infamous prison for the rich made popular by the author Alexandre Dumas in the classic novel, The Count of Monte Cristo. Now l can say l have been to the original one as well as the one used in the movie filmed in Malta. Your Marseille pass includes the cruise and tour of the prison. The best part was that it also allowed us to skip the really, really long line once there which made for a better overall experience.

chateau dif marseille france
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Chateau D’If in Marseille , setting for the Count of Monte Cristo.

Related blog post:  Visit to the Chateau

Where to Eat in Marseille: (Food Guide Marseille)

I am lamenting the fact that l don’t have any images to share from the places we ate at. The fact that l have any images at all is a miracle :-). It just might be time to replace the computer. We have had two crashes so far on the 13 year old and counting beast. Thanks to our host and his superb guide book in the apartment, I had taken screen captures on my cell phone of the google map directions of where we ate. Here they are:

Le Comptoir Dugommier:

Le Comptoir Dugommier exterior
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Le Comptoir Dugommier is a great place to chow down while in Marseille.

Great place for breakfast or late lunch. Friendly staff and really tasty home cooked and authentic French food.

Friterie Belge:

belgian fries with beer Friterie Belge
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Belgian fries and beer is always good to soothe the soul.

Fast food, but really delicious. I think l like their Belgian fries better than the ones we had in Brussels 🙂 . You must try them. There’s a bunch of them so take your pick.

Sushi Street Cafe:

A bit pricey, but the sushi is absolutely fantastic. Melted in your mouth and l am salivating as l write 🙂 . It’s just a tiny little place and we had a bit of a wait, but it was well worth it.

sushi street cafe sushi marseille
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Sushi street cafe Marseille sushi variety.

Cafe Vian:

food plate cafe vian marseille
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How could you not love this? The presentation rocks!

Top notch food in a cozy and romantic atmosphere. We really enjoyed our meal there and definitely recommend it.

One place that we did not get to eat at, but got a favourable mention in our host’s book was Finecocott Restaurant located in the city centre and offers mouth watering fresh dishes at reasonable prices. Find them on Facebook here.

Guide to Marseille City France Food - fresh delicious cod accras
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Doesn’t that look yummy? Cod Accras with dipping sauce.

Tipping in Marseille:

Like most countries in Europe, additional tipping is not required. Your bill already has a 15% tip that is required by French law. This is called “service compris” and should state so on your bill, along with the included VAT (tax) amount. So, for instance, if your burger is 10 euro, it already includes the VAT and tip, no surprise when it’s time to pay 🙂 . This tip goes to the owners who use it to pay the staff salary, so not all goes to your waiter. That being said, if you liked the service, a 5-10% tip is recommended and very much appreciated. All other service workers like taxi drivers should be tipped.

These are just a few of the best things to do in Marseille in addition to the beautiful Marseille beaches and of course shopping. Plenty of cultural sites in Marseille. One of the best things to do at night in Marseille is people watch at one of the numerous outdoor cafes or grab a bite to eat and see how the people live. Discover why Hemingway liked Marseille and the history of Absinthe at any hardcore pub.

Have a worry free trip. Click here to find the best travel insurance cost.

Pin it for later reference:

Marseille France Guide #marseille #france #marseilleguide #visitmarseille #marseilleitinerary #marseillemustdo #marseillevisit #europeantravel #francetravel
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What do you think of our guide to Marseille City? Have you ever been to France? If not, would you visit Marseille or would it be Paris?

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35 thoughts on “Guide To Marseille City France. (Where To Stay, Eat, See)”

  1. It looks great to me!! I don’t discourage people from visiting places either. We all see places thru a different lens. I love the history you included. Interesting. It’s def on my list! The food looks yummy too.

    Reply
    • There really is no reason to discourage people. I think like you said, everyone sees things differently. One man’s food and all that 🙂 . I enjoy finding out about places l visit, whether it’s old history or newer, like in Bucharest. The food was really good too. We even had tapas one evening that was excellent.

      Reply
  2. Something about port cities especially in France. I’d love to spend some time in Marseille. Beautiful architecture, great food and thriving coastal culture. Sounds like fun.

    Reply
    • It was indeed fun. Way more than l thought. We actually checked out a few real estate windows because we thought it would be nice to spend an extended amount of time there for all the great reasons that you cite. As we travel, we make mental notes of where we could live and this qualifies, which is saying a lot :-).

      Reply
  3. Wow, such a stunning city! For some reason, I was never attracted by France and I though I’d gladly pick any other place in Europe over a city in France. But looking at how beautiful Marseille really is and reading the details about it, I do have to reconsider. It actually looks like a city I’d love to be! And the sushi place… YUM! It does look amazing, and another thing I’d surely love if I was there.

    Reply
    • It really is C. and l’m sure you would like it very much. I know Paris gets all the love, but there are so many other wonderful places too like this, and you can’t beat the weather. I just wonder how easy it would be to bring back my rusty French 🙂 . You should definitely consider it, though l’m not sure of internet speed, likely way lower than in Romania. The sushi was really good too :-).

      Reply
  4. Kemkem, Great guide. I Pinned it for future reference. It’s on the “maybe one day” list for sure. Seat 61 is a great recommendation for booking trains through Europe. He has never lead us astray. Thanks for the heads up regarding Amsterdam. We will be there in early May, and are renting a car and staying in the Hague. Want to see tulips, windmills,etc. Not much interest in the city itself, but will go in for a day just to see what the fuss is about.

    Reply
    • Thanks Suzanne. I hope you get there at some point :-). I do like Seat61 too. So much detail for every train ride. It makes life so much easier for us too. Haha! I like how you put “what all the fuss is about”. The flowers are so much better in my opinion..and gosh..pricy. I can’t forget getting insanely expensive sushi and then having to go get chips at a convenience store because the portion was so frigging small :-).

      Reply
  5. No shame. I now officially regret not including Marseille in our French Riviera tour from.Mougins. what a great history for the Port!

    Reply
    • Haha! No shame at all :-). As long as you had fun in the Riviera, that’s all that counts.

      Reply
  6. Marseille looks great.I love the architecture and the history and the water. Hope I get there someday.

    Reply
    • Glad you think so. It is a little gem of a city and we would love to go back. I hope you get there someday too :-).

      Reply
  7. What a great guide! I was there briefly once, and I remember the cathedral and the old port. But, clearly, there is much more to see and do and eat!

    Reply
    • It does have really nice things to occupy your time for sure. There are a few places we would like to see in addition to the cathedral still :-).

      Reply
  8. It’s been a few years since we visited on a cruise stop and I found it fascinating. We had also heard all the reasons why not to go (and we usually take those with a grain of salt) and are most happy we did go. Great review!

    Reply
    • Yeah.. I think people still have images of Les Miserables or something when they think of port cities in France :-). It was no more dangerous than anywhere else. Grain of salt is exactly the way to take it. Thanks for reading and the compliment :-).

      Reply
  9. I agree with you Kemkem that we can’t not visit a place based on other people’s impressions…I always like to make my own mind up about a place. I really enjoyed this post and will have Marseille on my wish list for sure. Your photos are beautiful and the food looks yummy 🙂 sounds like you had a great time there? France is so big and diverse I feel I need to explore a lot more of it.

    Reply
    • One’s experience is so unique. It’s insane to think everyone would like the same things. Food wise, looks wise etc. It’s always good to go and draw your own conclusions. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks for the compliment. The food was really good. I know, there is such a variety. I keep trying to see if we can make a quick run from here to any place, but till we figure out if we’re going to stay in this apartment or move at the end of the lease in March, I don’t want to make any plans. Hope you’re loving the retiree life still :-).

      Reply
  10. Marseille seems so charming and this is the ultimate guide I will be using when going there, Kemkem! Excellent tips and ideas which seem to offer a unique and unforgettable experience!

    Reply
    • Thanks Agness. It really is a charming little city and was so glad we liked it way better than we thought we would. I’m glad you like the guide :-).

      Reply
  11. I spent a week in Marseilles a few years ago, mostly because it was cheap to fly to from Amsterdam and because it was warm, and I was missing the sun. I was surprised to see what an interesting and friendly city it is: just the opposite of most people’s preconceptions. As for sightseeing, I like seeing medieval sights, so the Church of St. Victor was my favorite stop.

    Reply
    • I’m glad to hear someone else had a great time in Marseille. Haha! It must have been really cold in Amsterdam and don’t blame you for a little respite. We luckily had good weather when we visited over your way. Look at that, another place we have to check out on our next visit. Thanks for that, and for the comment :-).

      Reply
  12. Great post. I love Marseilles. I’ve found it much, much cheaper than Paris. Always get my French Connection II vibe when I visit! Also, like you, I did not enjoy Amsterdam all that much.

    Reply
    • Thank you for such a nice compliment :-). I’m so glad you also liked the city. It definitely is cheaper than Paris. I have to watch that movie then. Haha! I am gratified that you didn’t find Amsterdam all that either. People look at me like l have 2 heads when l say that..but..hey..we can’t all like everything :-).

      Reply
  13. I’ve been to France several times, but never to Marseilles. It looks like a fascinating place to explore, especially Chateau D’If , the setting for the Count of Monte Cristo. Looking forward to visiting in the future.

    Reply
    • We did the same. Kept going back to Paris, but then one day decided to give Marseille a go thanks to the air fare cost and we were happy 🙂 . D’If was nice as l really enjoyed the movie (I have yet to read the book). I think you would like it.

      Reply
  14. I very much enjoy reading this piece KemKem. Marseille doesn’t have the best reputation, but you have written a comprehensive post that would change the mind of any sceptical reader. Including myself!

    I’ve been to France many times. I had already planned a summer in France, but we’ve postponed it until 2019, and just hoping that it won’t be too hot!

    A really cool post!

    Reply
    • Thanks Victoria. I know Marseille has gotten a really bad, lingering reputation. It always takes time to shake off nasty ones doesn’t it? I’m glad l was able to swing you the other way :-). I guess as long as you don’t g in the full on summer, you should be okay..haha! Or you could go to Marseille and have wonderful weather or pretty darn close to it 🙂 .

      Reply
  15. Very nice and I’m happy you debunked the usual “French are unfriendly” mantra you see everywhere. When you try, others do as well and the French are no exception.
    Yes, the great Mediterranean climate – we have it here in Split as well and it might be the best climate in the world.

    Reply
  16. Loved your guide, Kemi and I pinned it for my future travel list. Marseille, for all its rep as a gritty and even dangerous place, has always appealed to me because of its fascinating history. And now you’ve added some lovely photos of fabulous landmarks to visit as well. The Longchamp Palace is knock-your-socks off gorgeous! Isn’t it funny how some places leave you with a “Get me out of here” feeling or wondering what all the fuss is about and others that are seemingly off the radar have you sad to leave and vowing to come back. Sounds like Marseilles was like that for you! Anita

    Reply
    • Yeah. I always find it awesome to love places that people seem to hate or are put off by based on what they hear. It’s something if you have no desire to see a place, but to be swayed by others is not really good. One can not predict how everyone will feel about a place. How boring would it be if we all liked exactly the same thing and did exactly the same things. I keep looking at flights back there, but there are other places l want to see for the first time too, so it gets harder and harder. I do know for sure, we will return. Knowing you, I think you guys would enjoy it.

      Reply
  17. I want to live here! So peaceful and I love the parks! Hope to be there again someday soon.

    Reply
    • Yeah.. I wouldn’t mind living there myself. It is a beautiful place and l am so glad we chose not to listen to the negative people 🙂 . Hope you get your wish.

      Reply

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