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.
Updated February 20, 2018
- #1View all PhotosfreeLe Panier#1 in MarseilleFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
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.
- #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...Read More »
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.
- #3View all Photos#3 in MarseilleChurches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
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.
- #4View all Photos#4 in MarseilleChurches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
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.
- #5View all Photos#5 in MarseilleMonuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMonuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
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.
- #6View all Photos#6 in MarseilleHiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDHiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
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.
- #7View all Photos#7 in MarseilleMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
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.
- #8View all Photos#8 in MarseilleChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
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.
- #9View all Photos#9 in MarseilleMonuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMonuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
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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