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2.5 days to kill in and around Marseille

I was wondering if anybody could provide tips on what to do in/around Marseille. I've got about 2.5 days free towards the end of a trip. Considering going to Nice, or day trip to Avignon/Arles, etc. Will be travelling by rail, if that's pertinent.

Thanks.

Posted by
4654 posts

Marseille itself has some interesting sections - around the Vieux Port and the "panier" district to the north, and the seaside areas just outside the centre. It's "gritty" in spots but not the no-go area that some people from other parts of France allege. (The murder rate is one of the higher by French standards, but it's mostly gangbangers shooting each other in the poorer suburbs, nothing that tourists are likely to get mixed up in unless they actively go looking for it.)

Marseille is actually much better than its reputation. Major updates the last years has turned it into a nice place to visit.
I like the Island outside with the prison, can remember the name now. The old port is pretty, and the church on the top is a good walk and has a great view.
Here's some good info on what to do: http://theprovenceguide.com/cities-and-villages/bouches-du-rhone/marseille/

There's a lot of day trip possibilities as well. If the weather is nice you could head to the beaches at Cassis or Bandol - just take the train for 30-45 minutes.

Aix en Provence is also just a bus ride (train as well I think, but for some reason I've always used the bus going there), and offers a lot!

I wish I had 2.5 days to kill in Marseille when I think about it.

Posted by
235 posts

Go to Cassis and take a boat ride to the Calanques.

Posted by
16770 posts

In addition to seeing Marseille while you're there, Cassis and the Calenques, 25 minutes by direct, regional train, then bus connection to the port, would be my top side trip, for sure. Aix-en-Provence is also only 45 minutes by direct, regional train.

Posted by
12 posts

Thanks to all for your help! Turns out it'll really only be about 1.5 days.

Laura---I'm debating between taking a boat tour of the calanques from Marseille the half-day I'm there, then spending the full day just exploring Marseille. Or would you recommend knocking out the main sights in Marseille with the half-day and spending the full day in Cassis (crossing Arles/Avignon off the list, as much as I want to see the Pont Du Gard).

Posted by
235 posts

With that short amount of time if you can get a boat from Marseille to the Calanques then do that and stay in Marseilles for the 1 1/2 days. No need to go to Cassis, other then taking a boat from there, if you are pressed for time, although the drive to La Route des Crêtes as described by Rick is spectacular.

Posted by
25 posts

The Calanques are beautiful and should not be missed if you have that opportunity.

Lin

Posted by
65 posts

Hi,
I was just in Cassis and enjoyed it, but it is very crowded this time of year and the beach is pebbles. I think it's probably difficult to get to Pont du Gard by train, though its a far better sight than Cassis. I saw the Calanques and they are interesting , but not a must see in my opinion. This area is best seen by car with which you could hit several of the hill towns or Le Beau and Avignon easily from Marseille. Just another idea for you, driving was easy with a Michelin map.
Regardless of what you decide, it will be fun.

Posted by
6809 posts

You haven't said when this trip is taking place. Fall or winter are much less crowded in Cassis--but also some shops and restaurants are closed until spring.

Peter is absolutely correct that Cassis is very crowded in summer. Everything is concentrated into a bowl on the side of the mountain that ends at the sea. You could see the Calanques from Marseille, but if you went to Cassis, OTOH, you'd see the spectacular Cap Canaille overlooking the town, as well. The town is very nice and the setting spectacular, when it's not overcrowded.

Otherwise, there is plenty to do in Marseille. Be sure to visit the St. Victor Abbey and its crypt. The other sites/sights are listed on the Marseille tourism website. I appreciate Marseille, having spent many months in the area.

Posted by
12 posts

Thanks to all for your advice.

Bets: The trip is later this summer, so I think I will skip Cassis and do a boat tour from Marseille. Seeing as you have some experience with the city, do you have any favorite haunts (cafes, bars, restaurants to have local specialties) that should not be missed?

Posted by
6809 posts

Sorry to say no special haunts. When we were in the region my kids were teens, so our diet when out was North African street food (you'll see windows open to the street at restaurants or cafes downtown), kabob or merguez sandwiches in baguettes topped with fries or wood-oven pizza. That's the local equivalent of our fast food. For a drink or ice cream, we'd just stopped anywhere. We stayed in Cassis, and had one regular, economical restaurant there we went to; we didn't dine in Marseille. However, I do suggest you read reviews carefully, as one poster here had a horrible encounter at a restaurant on the Old Port of Marseille. I looked the restaurant up and saw it was rated very low on Trip Advisor. Via Michelin on line will give you the top restaurants, or the Chowhound boards might be able to lead you to special dishes and places. Bon voyage and bon appetit.

Posted by
17 posts

Hi MW,
The suggestion for a boat ride to the Calanque is a good one. My wife and I were in Marseille last week and took that trip, it was truly a great trip. Just be sure to go early in the morning as the lines quickly gets longer. Cassis also is a good detour from Marseille, and as RS recommended, do not go there on weekends. If you are driving there, do take the scenic route along the coastal highway, magnificent view all the way.