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Marseille Tourism And Travel Guide
7.2° C / 45° F
April to September
3 to 5 Days
Marseille-Provence International Airport
Founded by ancient Greek sailors in the year 600 BC, Marseille is the second-largest city in France and also the country’s oldest. Located along the Mediterranean coast, Marseille was once an important trading centre of Europe and still enjoys the position of being the main commercial port of the French Republic. Originally known as Massalia by the Greeks and the Romans, Marseille has remained a prosperous city over the centuries and also became a major hub for immigrants from former French colonies, especially from North Africa.
Today, a blend of different cultures and historic vitality makes it a dynamic and colourful city that will beckon you to visit again and again. Marseille’s museums, harbours and sophisticated neighbourhoods only add to its charm and create an aura that contributes to the thriving tourism in the city. Read on to know more about tourism in this stylishly unique French city of Marseille, with the help of this travel guide.
How to Reach
Marseille-Provence International Airport, located 30 km from the city, serves as Marseille’s main connection to flying in from other countries around the world. Tourists travelling from India are required to book connecting flights to the city with one or two stopovers since no direct flights operate between India and Marseille yet. From the airport, travellers can avail buses to the Gare Saint-Charles railway station; trains depart every 15 minutes from the station to Marseille’s city centre. Alternatively, you can also choose to book a cab directly from the airport to your destination.
Marseille is most conveniently reached via train if you are travelling to the city from anywhere else in Europe. Gare Saint-Charles is Marseille’s main railway station and is located in the eastern part of the city. Visitors from Paris can reach Marseille via both the SNCF or the high-speed TGV rail network. The TGV also connects Marseille to Lyon, Nice, Geneva, Strasbourg, Frankfurt and Brussels.
Reaching Marseille via road is conveniently possible through several well-connected highway routes. The bus station is also named Gare Saint-Charles and operates daily buses to and from all European cities. The bus service Eurolines connects Marseille to Barcelona, Prague and Tangier. Cabs can be hired to reach Marseille as well, which takes around 8 hours from Paris, 2 hours from Nice and 3 hours from Lyon.
Weather & Best Time to Visit
Summer (May – August):
The most popular season among tourists for a trip to Marseille is the summer season. Ideal temperatures in the range of 25⁰C-30⁰C and minimal chances of precipitation make outdoor activities like boating and sunbathing on the beach the ultimate highlight of visiting Marseille during this season. However, since it is peak season, expect exorbitant rates in hotels and other commercial establishments.
Autumn (September – November):
The early months of autumn are a good time to visit Marseille since the temperature is still pleasantly warm and the peak-season tourists begin to leave, leaving you with ample opportunities to explore the city in an uncrowded setting. Hotel rates also go down considerably, which makes this a great time for budget-travellers as well. The temperatures during autumn range between 15⁰-21⁰C; the high chances of rainfall lasting almost throughout the season is the only downside to planning a visit during this time.
Winter (December – February):
Winters in Marseille do get cold but rarely ever drop to freezing levels. January is the coldest month of the year and the lowest temperature experienced during this month ranges around 3⁰C. The strong, cold north-westerly winds known as the mistral can make trips even more difficult during this season. While a visit can be planned to Marseille during any time of the year, it is preferable to exclude winters from it.
Spring (March – April):
Springs in Marseille experience weather conditions that are suitable enough to plan a trip during this time. A climate that grows gradually warmer after the chilly winters and temperatures that range between 15⁰C to 24⁰C makes for a pleasant holiday in Marseille without the overcrowded nature of the peak summer season. However, do remember to pack some warm clothes since nighttime temperatures remain cooler than the afternoons.
Things to Do
Enjoy Fresh Seafood at Vieux Port:
Vieux Port is Marseille’s oldest harbour that once served as the main commercial port of the city. Today, it mainly serves as a cultural reminder of Marseille’s history where tourists can catch a glimpse into the city’s rich heritage. Fishing boats and tourist yachts are main vessels usually docked here; fishermen bring in fresh catch to Quai des Belges each morning where you can shop for the freshest seafood in the area. The restaurants and cafes located nearby also make their purchases from these fishermen.
Sporting Activities in Calanques National Park:
Calanques National Park is a unique landscape around 15 km from Marseille that is formed by rocky cliffs made of limestone encircling pools of seawater, which can flow to and from the sea. These pools of water and the surrounding region is home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, some of which are rare varieties. Guided or private boat rides in the area are a popular activity among tourists, apart from cycling and kayaking for the more adventurous. Hikers can choose from several trails that offer brilliant views and idyllic surroundings for a truly satisfying outdoor sporting experience.
Visit the Museums:
MuCEM is Marseille’s most noted museum both for its distinct appearance and its exhibits. It is a fascinating structure dedicated to showcasing the Mediterranean and European civilisations and traditions. Palais Longchamp is a palatial building in Marseille that creates one of the most spectacular scenes on the city’s landscape. Originally constructed in celebration of the completion of the Canal de Marseille, the majestic building also houses two brilliant museums; Musée des Beaux-Arts and Musée d’Histoire Naturelle. The Fine Arts Museum boasts a fantastic collection of Italian, French and Flemish artworks from 16th to 19th-century, whereas the Natural History Museum displays accounts of the flora and fauna in the region. Stuffed specimens dating back to the 18th-century are some of the most interesting exhibits here.
Where to Shop
Like any other French city, Marseille has its own share of some excellent shopping spots. With the rise of tourism and commercialisation in Marseille, a huge new shopping complex known as Les Terrasses du Port was established in the city. With almost 200 shops and restaurants that are open 7 days a week, it is one of the top shopping destinations in Marseille. For some magnificent antique shopping, visit Quartier des Antiquaires.
Cours Julien is a colourful neighbourhood with numerous small shops by local artists, along with a Farmers’ Market that is held here every Wednesday selling organic fruits and vegetables, homemade jams and jellies, and other fresh local produce. Daily markets are some of the best places to purchase local goods here in Marseille, and the markets of the neighbourhood Noailles are a cacophony of spices and souks native to the North African cities.
Where to Eat
French food, irrespective of the city you try it in, will always leave you awe-struck with its hearty complexity. The food in Marseille is even more special for the derived influences from Spain and Italy, and French colonies like the cities of North Africa. Being a coastal city means there is plenty of seafood varieties to be enjoyed in almost every part of the city. Best known for being the birthplace of bouillabaisse – a hearty seafood stew that is a must-try – Marseille is packed with restaurants that serve this local delicacy. Head to Restaurant Chez Loury for the best version of this dish in the city; Chez Fon Fon, Le Rhul and Le Miramar are other well-known establishments for the same.
Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern cuisine is a big part of Marseille’s dining scene as well. Indulge in some authentic Arabic and North-African food in spots like Le Souk and Place Lorette.