Marseille Travel Guide

France  
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Best Things To Do in Marseille

Meandering through Marseille's past, whether it's through the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde or the Le Panier and Vieux Port districts – or even the mysterious island on which Château d'If sits – is one of the best ways to experience France's second-largest city. Taking a tour aboard one of the boats docked at the port to natural beauties like the Parc National des Calanques is a must, too. And if you encounter one of those uncharacteristic rainy days – or even just need a break from the sun – a stop inside MuCEM is highly recommended. 

How we rank Things to Do

Updated February 20, 2018

  • #1
    Le Panier
    View all Photos
    #1 in Marseille
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Le Panier – or the Basket – gives a glimpse of Old Marseille and real Marseille culture. From its narrow winding streets that spill into squares to its restaurants, ateliers (worskshops) and terraced homes, Le Panier is a delightful place to meander. It's also convenient to attractions, such as MuCEM and Cathedrale de la Major, among others.   

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  • #2
    Vieux Port
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    #2 in Marseille
    Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Vieux Port started docking ships and boats back in 600 B.C., and it was a vibrant hub of the city until steamboats became the preferred mode of transport and Vieux Port was considered too shallow. Later in WWII, the Germans bombed the port, and it was left in disrepair until the mid-1900s when a revitalization project restored the port. These days, it is back to its former self, with scores of bobbing sailboats and an array of restaurants, bars and shops located just ashore. 

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  • #3
    Abbaye Saint Victor
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    #3 in Marseille
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Abbaye Saint Victor is a working Catholic church, which was founded back in the 11th century as an abbey and named for the Roman soldier and Christian martyr Victor of Marseille. Much of the abbey was destroyed in 1794, with the austere church and crypts remaining.

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  • #4
    Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde
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    #4 in Marseille
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde – translated as Our Lady of the Guard – was built in the 1850s on the foundation of Marseille's ancient fortress. Today, this working Catholic basilica – filled with stunning marble, murals and mosaics – is a symbol of the city, the crowning point of its skyline and likewise, a wonderful place to enjoy sweeping views of the city below. You'll probably be able to spot it from the harbor, as a large, gilded statue of the Virgin Mary sits atop the bell tower. 

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  • #5
    Fort Saint-Jean
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    #5 in Marseille
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Built in 1660 by Louis XIV, Fort Saint-Jean is a well-preserved fortress guarding Marseille at the entrance to the Old Port. Interestingly, it was built not to keep invaders at bay but to tamp down a local rebellion. Later, in the 19th and 20th centuries, it was used by the French military until German military forces occupied it during WWII. Today, the storied fort is a tourist attraction, where travelers stretch their legs and relax rather than prepare for battle. 

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  • #6
    Parc National des Calanques
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    #6 in Marseille
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Visualize jagged limestone cliffs dropping into secret pebble beaches, which are lapped by the aquamarine waters of the Mediterranean Sea, and you'll start to get a picture of the Parc National des Calanques. Although many travelers view this national park from the sea, others say the hiking is absolutely magical too.  

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  • #7
    MuCEM
    View all Photos
    #7 in Marseille
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Mediterranée, which goes by its acronym MuCEM, is Marseille's history and cultural museum that leads visitors on an anthropological journey through Mediterranean history. Architect Rudy Ricciotti designed the contemporary building, which connects to the 13th-century Fort Saint-Jean via a footbridge. 

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  • #8
    Cathedrale de la Major
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    #8 in Marseille
    Churches/Religious Sites, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    Where the Abbaye Saint Victor is unembellished in its design, the Cathedrale de la Major is ornate. But it's also younger: The Cathedrale de la Major was built in the mid- to late 19th century, and its unique Byzantine design reflects a period in time where Marseille port was "the gateway to the east." Inside, visitors will find mosaics, statues and side chapels. 

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  • #9
    Château d'If
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    #9 in Marseille
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Château d'If is a 16th-century fortress, commissioned by King Francois I, set atop the smallest island in the Frioul archipelago less than a mile from Marseille. It was later used as a prison, considered ideal for its isolated, escape-proof location (similar to San Francisco's Alcatraz). Visitors to Marseille often travel by boat to this beautiful and mysterious monument, especially since it inspired the prison setting of Alexandre Dumas' famous book, "The Count of Monte Cristo." 

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