Marseille is a mixed city. I often heard that this is the most dangerous city in Europe, and there’s nothing to “see”. On the streets there are only blacks who will immediately drag you into the gateway. But my travel experience did not allow me to believe it, therefore, for a couple of days I stopped in Marseille to see with my own eyes what was true and what wasn’t.
We visited Marseille with a guide on the excursion and in three hours we visited all the most striking sights of the city (except, perhaps, the Notre-Dame de la Garde Cathedral, where we went on the morning of the second day on our own). The sights of Marseille have important cultural and historical significance for the whole of France. I advise you to mark these places on the map before traveling to the southern part of France, or download my ready-made tags for the navigator (bonus at the end of the article).
Marseille map with landmarks
What do we know about Marseille?
Marseilles was founded by the ancient Greeks in 600 BC It stands on the shores of the Gulf of Lyon (the largest commercial port in France), and is part of the so-called Cote d’Azur. Schematically, Marseille is divided into 16 quarters, each of which is distinguished by its architecture, population and traditions. The prosperous bourgeois has been living in the south of the resort for many years, and the north has been “reserved” for the no less famous Marseille ghettos. If you want to see a vibrant vibrant city, the traffic in which never stops – you are in French Marseille!
Marseille attractions: what to see in 1-2 days
The sights of Marseille (France) include several dozen authentic objects. I will mention only the most famous of them.
This is a symbol of the city, its business card. Locals say that the true spirit of France lives here. If you do not visit the harbor, then you have not felt the city.
The port is always crowded and noisy. Street musicians often play here, the atmosphere is festive.
In the mornings, fishermen set off to catch the vessel, “wake up”. At lunch, everyone vying offers boat trips, the trade in delicacies boils. In the evenings, you can watch the beautiful sunset at the port, sitting in some restaurant and tasting the incomparable dishes of local cuisine, for example, traditional bouillabaisse (Marseille fish soup).
If you live outside the center, it is easiest to get to the port by metro. Exit at Vieux-Port Hotel de Ville Station. We stayed at the ibis Styles Marseille Gare Saint-Charles hotel at the train station, reaching the Old Port in about 12 minutes.
The next attraction is the oldest area of Pannier. Look for him north of the port. The quarter was built from the XVI to the XVII century. Translated from French, the name means “basket”. Indeed, the narrow streets are ornately intertwined, which resembles a large basket. In Pannier, there is the Cathedral of St. Mary Major, the Museum of Old Marseille, cozy cafes and shops.
What else to see in Marseille? Museum complex in the Pannier quarter – Viel Charite. The name translated from French means “almshouse.” Date of construction – XVII century. The Baroque-style building was once a haven for the poorest inhabitants of Marseille. Today the complex consists of a central building, a picturesque courtyard with arcades and a neoclassical chapel. It hosts temporary exhibitions, various seminars and festivals. Activities are paid, and admission to the territory is free.
You will find it at: Cathédrale La Major, Place de la Major. The building order was given personally by Napoleon III. In the architecture of the cathedral, Byzantine motifs are clearly traced. Exquisite rounded domes and balustrades look majestic, while the stripe wall decoration custom for France is striking. Many murals and mosaics both outside and inside the building. The total length of the cathedral is 142 m, height – 70 m. Admission is free. Come on any day except Tuesday, from 10:00 to 17:30.
Museum of the History of Civilization
Do not ignore the collection, which is dedicated to the life and culture of the peoples of the Mediterranean. It covers the period from the Neolithic to the 21st century. The exhibits are the most diverse: clothing, household items, tools, etc. You can see all this in the museum of the history of civilization. He, by the way, has the status of the first national museum of France, which is not in Paris. Opening date – 2013. Entrance ticket – € 9.50. Schedule: daily, except Tuesday, from 11:00 to 19:00.
Notre Dame de la Garde
The magnificent 19th-century basilica occupied the highest point in Marseille. Built on a hill with a gorgeous view of the city.
This is a must see in Marseille for 1 day. The architectural style is Romano-Byzantine. Notre Dame de la Garde is decorated with colorful marble, frescoes. Locals call the cathedral La Bonne Mère (“Kind Mother”). On the 41-meter tower you can see the bell tower, whose height is 12 m. On the bell tower stands a 9.7-meter sculpture of the Virgin Mary with the Baby in gilding. It looks, of course, impressive. The crypt of the temple is made in the Romanesque style, generously decorated with bright patterns. In the early 2000s, the cathedral was reconstructed, and today it is the most visited tourist place.
Getting to Notre-Dame de la Garde is easy. A bus number 60 goes right from the center of Marseille (travel – € 2), a stop Notre Dame de la Garde, the bus has a sign, but in fact, this is the final stop of this route. Schedule of the basilica: daily, from 7:15 to 18:15 in the winter and an hour longer in the summer. Entrance to the temple is free. Remember to dress appropriately. Short shorts and skirts, blouses and dresses with bare shoulders are unacceptable. There are souvenir shops and cafes next to the basilica. Prices are above average.
See also “TOP-15 sights of Nice”
If Castle (Château d’If)
Remember Alexander Dumas novel about the Count of Monte Cristo, which dealt with the mysterious and impregnable fortress-prison? This is If castle. He is the next attraction of Marseille. On the map is 4 km from the coast. You can see the castle from the Basilica of Notre Dame, and even from an airplane on approach to Marseille.
The fortification was erected in the middle of the XVI century in order to protect Marseille from attacks from the sea. For many years it was a prison in which especially dangerous criminals were isolated: the Huguenots, the leaders of the French commune. In the XIX century, the castle became a museum, and in 1926 received the honorary status of a French architectural monument. Entrance fee is € 6 ( buy online ). Schedule: from 10:00 to 17:00. Boats run regularly from the Old Port to the castle. In summer – every 15 minutes, in winter about one hour passes between flights. Round-trip fares will cost you € 10.80.
The main attraction of Marseille is the city hall, built in 1653. The three-story building looks elegant, even pompous, as befits baroque monuments. The second and third floors are reserved for the work of city officials. An interesting detail: the staircase leading from the first to the second floor is not provided for indoors. If you need to go to the city hall (well, all of a sudden!), First go to the building located behind the town hall, then follow a special passage to the second floor.
The building of the Marseille Exchange is located on the main street of Canebière (the beginning of construction – 1852, the end – 1860). It was designed by the chief city architect Pascal Coast. Very beautiful building! The facade is decorated with five monumental arches. Above them are ten exquisite columns. In the center are antique clocks. The names of great explorers are engraved on a decorative wall: Cook, Columbus, Vasco da Gama and others. At the top is a spectacular sculpture depicting the coat of arms of Marseille and figures symbolizing the Mediterranean Sea and the ocean. Today, the building houses the Provence Chamber of Commerce, a branch of the Maritime Museum and a library with an excellent collection of books.
Marseille is a port city, which means that fish dishes are incomparably prepared here. You can try the freshest seafood in the cafe, which are compactly located in the northern part of the Old Port. The culinary symbol of the city is bouillabaisse fish soup. It is very common in Marseille and, in principle, in Provence. They say that the ancient Greek goddess Aphrodite often cooked bouillabaisse to her beloved Hephaestus. The technology for making soup is simple. A strong broth is made from water and several varieties of sea fish. Shredded tomatoes, fennel, onions, garlic are separately fried. Vegetables are seasoned with saffron, wine, orange zest. Then it is all mixed and served hot along with garlic bread. Often, expensive seafood, caviar is added to the soup, the taste of the dish becomes more refined. The cost of the dish can reach € 200 per serving!
They say that the best bouillabaisse in Marseille is at Chez Fonfon, you can book at least a couple of days through thefork.com
Read also “TOP 50 Paris Attractions”
Marseille attractions: what to see in two days
If you decide to spend a vacation in a dynamic French city, the list of what to see in Marseille in 2 days or more is expanding. The architectural monuments, which I’ll talk about now, are no less spectacular than the TOP-10.
Museum of Fine Arts
You will find the oldest museum in the Lonschan Palace at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Marseille, Rue Edouard Stephan. In it you can see the works of talented, but little-known masters in Russia (D. Buren, H. Ben, Arman and others). In total – 47 thousand exhibits, most of which belong to representatives of France. Also there are works of Italians, Spaniards. Separately, it is worth highlighting the collection of paintings by artists from the Provencal school of painting (one of the best in all of France). A distinctive feature of the museum is sculptures, drawings, paintings by the French painter Pierre Puget, who lived a significant part of his life in Marseille. On the territory of the complex there is not only a museum, but also a library, a cinema hall, an elegant park.
The museum’s official website says that from September 23 to December 12, 2019 the building will be closed to prepare for a large-scale exhibition. Standard work schedule: 10: 00-18: 00 every day except Monday. For admission, pay € 6.
Marseille Museum of History
Where do history buffs go in Marseille? Remember this address: Marseille, rue Henri Barbusse, 2. It houses an interesting museum with a total area of 15 thousand m². Here is a collection of 13 chronological exhibits telling about the founding of Marseille to this day. You can follow several stages of the development of the city: the foundation by the Greeks, the city under the rule of the Romans, the Middle Ages, the entry into France, etc. Visitors are offered to inspect a variety of objects – religious, domestic, construction, marine. There are a lot of bright clothes, jewelry, jewelry, so I think that beautiful women will not get bored in the museum either. You are expected from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9:30 to 18:00. Permanent exhibition admission ticket – € 6. Entrance is free every first Sunday of the month.
This elegant palace Napoleon III wanted to give his wife Empress Eugenia. The construction began in 1852. The complex in classical style is surrounded by a picturesque garden, directly above the Old Port. For the construction of a three-story building they took pink stone, from the windows – a magnificent view of the sea. The total number of rooms is 500. All of them are decorated in an elegant Empire style. The emperor and his wife did not have time to settle here. By the time the construction was completed, Napoleon III was stripped of power, and the palace passed into the possession of the municipality. Today, there is an exhibition hall, conferences are held, a restaurant. In front of the palace, in a beautiful park, picnics are allowed.
Saint Victor Abbey
This monastery in Marseille was founded in the V century. It is schematically located in the VII city district. Tourists can visit the existing temple and crypt with sarcophagi, which are several centuries old. The main shrine is a figurine of the Black Madonna. Entrance ticket to the abbey – € 2. Open to visitors from 9:00 to 17:00. From the Old Port there are bus routes No. 82, 83.
A vibrant park complex in the IV city district – a must-see in Marseille. Lonshan Palace – the place of “deployment” of several museums, observatories, zoological gardens. The building itself was erected in the 19th century. The surrounding area has a beautiful sculpture park. Come to: Marseilles, 4e Arrondissement.
Fort Saint Jean
Emperor Louis XIV, in response to numerous uprisings by local residents, gave the order to build a fort at the entrance to the Old Port. The guns in it were aimed at the city. The complex consisted of towers, defensive and utility rooms. For many years there was a military garrison in it to maintain order in Marseille and protect the imperial power. In 1964, Fort Saint Jean became an architectural monument. In its eastern part, a memorial was erected in honor of the victims of Nazism, and a museum was opened in the east. Here you can see the ruins of the barracks, chapel, lighthouse. Opening hours: from 10:00 to 18:00 every day, except Tuesday. Free admission.
Fort St. Nicholas
Another interesting fort and attraction of Marseille is the Fort of St. Nicholas. Opening – 1660. It stands opposite Fort Saint-Jean. From 1823 until the end of World War II, the complex was used as a prison. Tourists can enter the citadel through the east gate for free. The central part of the fortress is closed to the public. The schedule is the same as in Fort Saint-Jean.
This is a public municipal park in the south of the city with an area of 17 hectares (the largest park in Marseille). Open for visits daily, from 6:00 to 21:00. It is divided into 3 zones: French garden, English garden, hippodrome. There is a lake, a rose garden, a children’s playground, many sculptures and fountains. Free admission.
9.6 km from the center of Marseille you will find a network of free pebble beaches under the same name – Prado. They were created artificially in the middle of the 20th century. The coastline stretches for 4 km. The water is not very clean, although water sports are developed on the beaches of Prado. There are many volleyball and soccer courts along the coast. The infrastructure as a whole is excellent: toilets, showers, changing rooms, a rescue tower and a medical aid station work.
Unusual places of Marseille
In a separate section introduced the original sights of Marseille, which are also popular among tourists.
4 km west of Marseille is the picturesque archipelago – Friulian Islands. Among them – the island with the castle If. Belong to the VII city district. In 2002 they became a marine park. Only 86 people live on 4 islands. You can admire the beautiful scenery by boarding a ship in the Old Port.
On Edmon Rostan Street there are a huge number of shops selling antiques. This is a paradise for lovers of antiquity. Here you can find furniture, books, coins, paintings and all sorts of other things at affordable prices. You can walk around the antique dealership all day long, and it’s not enough to go around all the shops!
What to see next to Marseille.
The French port city is a good start for short trips around the area. What to see next to Marseille? I tell you.
Calanques is a large national park founded in 2012. The word translated from French means “bays.” They occupy an area of 520 km². Marseille is about 14 km away. Calanques are Provencal fjords, limestone cliffs, some of which reach a height of 400 m. Wild beaches with clear azure water, evergreen trees and huge fields of wild flowers. Mountains, cliffs, gorges, which are thousands of years old – all these are Marseille Calanques You can view them by ship or car, hiking trails are laid. I found information on cruises on the website https://www.calanques-if.com/ Their office is located in the Old Port, you can buy a ticket at their kiosk. You can also buy a cruise online .
Watch a very beautiful video:
This is a city in the south-east of France, 20 km from Marseille. Between them excellent transport links. From Marseille to Cassis, you can get by train (15 minutes on the way, travel € 5.30), bus (90 minutes, € 2.10), by rented car or taxi.
Cassis is famous for its coastal cliffs and amazing tasting wines that are produced in its vicinity. In the center of the city is a castle built during the Middle Ages. Go inside will not work, but the photos on its background will be beautiful. Another attraction in Cassis is worth noting an art museum with a good collection of paintings, oratorios (houses of worship), two sandy beaches. Inspect all of this is real in one day.
Another city on the Cote d’Azur 21 km from Marseille. The headquarters of the French army of legionnaires is located in Aubagne, and they also produce magnificent colorful ceramic figures, traditionally based on Christmas themes. Here you can see the gates of the XIV century, the bell tower of a non-standard shape, the ancient chapel of the Penitent of Sinners. All these attractions are not far from each other. The fastest way from Marseille to Aubagne is by train (direct flight, 10 minutes, € 4).
Aix-en-Provence is a cozy Provence town, which is, in combination, the university center of the entire Cote d’Azur. Paul Cezanne was born here – the famous expressionist artist. The city is located 30 km north of Marseille (train ticket – € 7, travel time – 12 minutes). In Aix-en-Provence, you will certainly be interested in the Cathedral of St. Savior, built in the XII century. It is located on University Square. The architectural style is Romanesque and Gothic. The complex reaches a height of 46 m, a length of 70 m. Admission is free. Another interesting attraction is Mirabo Boulevard with a length of about 500 m. The busiest place in the city. Chestnuts grow along the boulevard, cafes and shops are located.
In the photo, the sights of Marseille look beautiful, but believe me, in life they are even better! I hope my review will help you spend a rich and vibrant vacation. Wish you a good trip!