Planning a trip to Marseille? Get some inspiration on what to do while you’re there with our idea of a perfect three-day itinerary. History, culture, entertainment, restaurants… Pack it all in at a comfortable pace and don’t miss a thing!
The gateway to the Mediterranean, Marseille is France's second largest city. It has a very strong identity, forged over thousands of years, an identity which is very different to that of the capital. But for Marseille, its identity also means being open and all embracing. Being a port city, Marseille’s arms are permanently wide open, inviting you to explore the beautiful, ancient city of Massilia, under the watchful eye of the Bonne Mère; Marseille is one of the treasures of the Mediterranean.
Everything begins with the Old Port, and this is the natural place to begin your day. A veritable symbol of Marseille, the oldest port in France forms the foundations of the city’s identity. A centre of maritime activity since ancient times, although industrial port activity now goes on further north, the original port remains the central focus to life in Marseille. Today the harbour is a place where the people of Marseille come together to chat and debate the issues of the world, especially at the tables outside at La Samaritaine.
Next, head towards the nearby Abbey of Saint Victor. This magnificent eleventh century building is an important hub of Catholicism in southern France. You will discover a fifth century altar table and crypts which house remains from the early Middle Ages. A few metres away, treat yourself at the Four des Navettes, one of Marseille’s oldest bakeries, specialising in the manufacture of navettes, boat-shaped biscuits that are a Marseille tradition.
In the afternoon, make your way to the Panier district, the oldest part of the city, and the site of the first Greek colony. In these narrow streets, you will discover a neighbourhood which is popular with both visitors and locals, an area that welcomes the immigrants who arrive in the city and therefore represents Marseille’s cosmopolitan side perfectly.
Follow the water’s edge and you will find the Cathedral of La Major, an imposing nineteenth century building which features a rather unique architectural combination: it is Byzantine in decoration, Romanesque in elevation and Gothic in plan.
In the evening, return to the Old Port to enjoy some of the city’s best bouillabaisse at the Miramar.
The next day, it's time to pay tribute to the protective mother of the city, Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, which the Marseillais affectionately refer to as la Bonne Mère (the Good Mother).
Perched 150 meters above sea level, the basilica has protected sailors and fishermen for 800 years. From here, you can admire a magnificent panorama of the whole city.
Then descend to the city centre using the steps that will lead you to the Pierre Puget garden, then continue through the courtyard of the same name that passes in front of the Palais de Justice, a beautiful nineteenth century building.
In the afternoon, visit the Mucem, the Museum of Civilization in Europe and the Mediterranean, a recent but fascinating museum dedicated to preserving Mediterranean heritage. The building, designed by Rudy Ricciotti, has already been hailed as one of Marseille’s key architectural monuments, embodying the economic and cultural revitalisation which has been taking place in the city since the late 1990s.
In the evening you can dine in a place with a friendly atmosphere high up in Endoume. Le Baron Perché is a Provencal restaurant that offers typical dishes from the area, and is very popular with locals.
The next day, enjoy a bit of the Mediterranean by visiting the calanques (coves) dotted along the coast over a 20 kilometre stretch. This is a lovely place to spend some time whether it's rock climbing, diving, kayaking, walking, swimming, or just watching the daredevil divers. It is also possible to rent a boat to explore the calm waters of the Mediterranean a little further from the shore.
In the afternoon, after lunch at the Cantinetta, an Italian restaurant with a lovely shady patio, you can complete your trip with a walk in the Valmer park which offers a beautiful view of the city and its harbour.
For your last night in Marseille, choose from among the most famous bars in the city, including the ever energetic Petit Nice, or one of the most famous nightclubs, including the TrolleyBus on the Old Port or El Bodegon for a fiery Latin atmosphere. For a drink, the Red Lion offers the warmth of an authentic English pub combined with a relaxed, Mediterranean way of life.
In three days in one of the most beautiful cities of the Mediterranean, you may not have had the time to see everything, but no doubt you have already begun to appreciate the pace of life in Marseille, the relaxed mood and the pleasant way of life. If you have the opportunity to spend a little more time in the city, take the opportunity to explore some of the neighbourhoods that you have not yet seen and which have their own particular character, such as Belsunce, the area between the station and the Old Port, or visit the Belle de Mai for a contemporary image and sound experience or the Aygalades district.