Free Things To Do in Marseille
- #1View all PhotosfreeLe Panier#1 in MarseilleFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME 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.
Visitors say that this district is full of character, highlighting the street art and local restaurants and boutiques. Others describe it as charming and a great place to wander for a few hours.
- #2View all PhotosfreeVieux Port#2 in MarseilleSightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME 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.
Recent visitors said you could easily spend hours strolling through Vieux Port, perusing various shops and restaurants to satisfy any taste – and even hopping aboard a Ferris wheel. History buffs will be entertained here too, as there are several historical structures still standing, including Église Saint-Ferréol les Augustins, a Roman Catholic church that dates back to the 12th century.
- #3View all Photos
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.
Visitors call the abbey simple – and somehow stunning in its stark design. Others highly recommend paying the 2 euros for access to the unique crypts.
- #4View all Photos#4 in MarseilleChurches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME 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.
Some visitors called the climb up to the top "tough," but the views worth it. Although travelers admit that the church is beautiful, they were most impressed with the panoramic views. However, several reviewers also warned of heavy crowds and potential pickpockets.
- #8View all Photos#8 in MarseilleChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Where the Abbaye Saint Victor is unembellished in its design, the Cathédrale de la Major is ornate. But it's also younger: The Cathédrale 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.
Recent visitors said the Cathédrale de la Major is as impressive inside as it is outside. They also appreciate its location in Le Panier, near other top attractions, such as MuCEM and Fort Saint Jean.
Explore More of Marseille
If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.