Marseille travel guide
If you are looking for a typical tourist destination with crowds of visitors dutifully herding through museums, then Marseille is perhaps not what you have in mind. But if you are interested in an exciting and unique port city with its own personality then you have come to the right place. The capital of Provence and the second largest city in France after Paris (852,000 inhabitants), Marseille offers a Mediterranean climate and a blend of cultures to give visitors the experience of a vibrant albeit edgy metropolis. The streets are not the cleanest but the warm apricot color of the buildings in the bright sun and North African-flavored atmosphere bring a distinct vitality to the place. The city certainly has its share of poverty, grit and crime: you have the impression people struggle simply to get through daily existence and you might not feel completely safe walking home at night through some neighborhoods. But exploring the city can be an experience you won't forget.
Marseille is well-connected by train and if you arrive to Gare de Marseille St.-Charles you can wander down through the Belsunce quarter, where you might feel as if you are in a Moroccan rather than a French city. Sit and have coffee across from the Alcazar, formerly a music hall, now a public library. Continue on down to the Vieux Port, the old harbor of Marseille, crowded with ships and bustling with life. The seafarers of the city are traditionally protected by the Notre-Dame de la Garde, the basilica that dominates the skyline. From here you get a spectacular view of the city and the sea. Walking down from here into the seventh district you can explore the hills and quiet streets of a more residential area. Each section of the city has its own character and plenty to discover, while the surrounding coastal region offers hiking and plenty of opportunities to enjoy the landscape.
For music lovers Marseille is best known for its opera house, built in the nineteenth century, and for its hip hop scene. Art afficiandos can choose between several art galleries, including the contemporary art museum, with its collection of works from the 1960s onward. By the harbor is the national theater La CRIéE
, but viewers might opt for a more intimate experience and catch a performance of La Grande Comedie de Marseille where the actors interact with their audience.
Wining and Dining
Marseille offers plenty of good food and drink and on a nice evening the cafes and bars by the port are full of people enjoying an apperitif in the late sunshine. For a little jazz stop in la Caravelle, or for excellent mojitos and tapas try the Havana Cafe. Any of the restaurants around the harbor are worth a try, especially for seafood and the local specialty: bouillabaisse.
Map of Marseille with accommodations
The blue markers shows the location of various accommodations in Marseille. The letter in the marker describes the accommodation types: H for Hotel, A for Apartment, R for Resort, B for Bed & Breakfast and O for Other (e.g. pension, villa). Click on the blue marker for more information on the accommodation.