Marseille is often referred to as the new Barcelona. But while it shares the same dazzling Mediterranean shores, Marseille's attractions are generally much less touristy and much more affordable.
Marseille has a strong sense of its own identity - it is, after all, the home of La Marseillaise, the French national anthem - and, on the cultural frontier between southern France and North Africa, it offers bold art, lavish history and succulent gastronomy.
France's second-largest city has something for everyone. Whether you're spending a single day in Marseille or looking for fun and unique places to see in the city, we've got you covered with the following short guide.
Climbing the steps of Notre Dame de la Garde
The Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde is the tallest building in Marseille. King François 1st decided to build it 150 meters above sea level to protect Marseille from potential occupiers.
The Virgin Mary who is at the top is supposed to watch over all the inhabitants of the city. This is one of the first places to visit in Marseille, to get an overview and see how the surrounding mountains and sea have molded the city.
Visit the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (MuCEM)
The MuCEM is a must-see in Marseille for all ages. It's an impressive waterfront building and the showpiece of Marseille's redevelopment from a forlorn waterfront city to a modern Mediterranean destination.
Inside, you'll find temporary and permanent art displays on topics as varied as soccer, recycling habits, love...
Discover the walkways of Fort Saint-Jean
Louis XIV built this fort in 1660 at the entrance to the port after noticing that the people of Marseille "love old fortresses", although it had been a military outpost since the 12th century.
Occupied by the Germans during World War II and bombed by the Allies upon liberation, Fort Saint-Jean has been completely renovated and an amazing pedestrian bridge connects it to "Le Panier", Marseille's oldest neighborhood.
Visit Le Panier, the oldest district of Marseille
Located between the Old Port and the new district of La Joliette. One of the best things to do in Marseille is to walk the narrow winding streets, stop to admire the view and photograph the frescoes on the sides of the buildings and think about how old Marseille was.
Complete this half-hour walk with a visit to the majestic La Major Cathedral. Built between the 12th and 19th centuries, La Major's Byzantine domes and towers are breathtaking, as are the murals and mosaics. The walkway below has recently been renovated with a gourmet concept café-cuisine called Les Halles de la Major. Ideal for lovers of
architecture, history, and gastronomy.
Discovering the old port
The enormous port of Marseille has been a place of commerce for 2,600 years and is more of an entire neighborhood than a single sight.
On three of its sides are quays with wide promenades surrounded by old warehouses, most of which date back to the 18th century.
It seems that almost every one of them has a cafe, fish restaurant, or bar on the first floor, with outdoor seating, so you can watch the life of this charming town go by while you sip a pastis.
The industry has since moved to the modern docks north, and most of the boats in the old port are for recreational use.
But at the Quai des Belges, the most inner harbor, the last of the catch is still brought ashore to be sold each morning at the waterfront fish market.
The Calanques National Park
The southern and eastern districts of Marseille skirt an area of exceptional natural beauty.
The Calanques are white limestone cliffs and coves reaching breathtaking heights and abruptly dropping to the sea.
You can discover these wonderful rocks by land or sea.
If you want to go hiking, you will have to be adventurous, because the GR 98, which connects Marseille to Cassis, takes about 11 hours and leads you through difficult landscapes. But the scenery compensates for the effort.
There are also mini-cruises departing from the Vieux Port, as well as guided kayaking adventures.
If you can, try to reach the beautiful Calanque d'En Vau.
Marseille has a lot to offer and we prefer that you discover it for yourself.
We hope to see you soon!