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What to see and do in Marseille

Hallo we will be in Marseille for 2 weeks in July. Any suggestions for more non-touristy food / drink tours, things to do to experience local culture? TIA

Posted by
27021 posts

From notes I prepared prior to a 2017 trip to that part of France. Marseille doesn't get tons of foreign tourists, so you won't have to work hard to avoid touristy areas.

  • Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde: mosaics; on hilltop. Best views. Free. Bus 60.

  • Le Panier: oldest district, with tenements and artists. On north side of the old port; probably the most touristy areas.

  • Area south of the Old Port was much less touristy. The area between the port and Notre Dame is a nice area to wander around while pretending you're a local.

  • Area around cours Julien is alternative neighborhood with restaurants and boutiques.

  • Le Canabiere, no longer rough, now the heart and soul of the city

  • Corniche President-J-F-Kennedy: 4 km promenade past villas and gardens facing the Mediterranean.

  • Cathedrale de la Major, esplanade de la Major. 19C, with bastardized Romanesque-Byzantine exterior. Intricate interior. Free. Hours vary. Beside it is the small and beautiful 11C Ancienne Cathedrale de la Major with 11 C reliquary altar. Metro: Vieux Port. Note: Les Halles de la Major gourmet food hall (with tapas bar) in this area.

  • FRAC: Contemporary regional art museum

  • Cite Radieuse: modern architectural landmark by Le Courbusier.

  • Musée Cantini: 17C house with Picasso and Miros. Good temporary exhibitions. 19 rue Grignan.

  • Musée des Beaux Arts, Palais de Longchamp, Blvd Longchamp: Not a great museum by French standards (which are quite high). Tram: Longchamp.

  • Palais Longchamps is really a folly around a fountain rather than a palace.

  • Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations, 1 esplanade du J4. This was a major disappointment to me, but perhaps it will have good exhibitions at the time of your visit.

  • Vieille Charite: Magnificient 17C poor house, now museums. Old town’s finest bldg.

  • Musée Grobet-Labadie, 140 bd Longchamp. Finest house in Marseille, with one of most unusual interiors in the region. Holds furniture, tapestries, 17C-19C paintings, and other items of interest.

  • Musée de la Faience, 157 avenue Montredon. Ceramics in 19C Chateau Pastre.

  • Vallon des Auffes: Movie-set-like tiny fishing village along the coast S of the Old Port. I enjoyed this area. I walked all the way, but I'm sure a bus would get you close.

  • Boat trips to the Calanques (also possible from the picturesque coastal town of Cassis, which you should visit; accessible by train but station is way uphill from the port, with some bus service).

Posted by
6859 posts

That's a very good list!

I see the Calanques mentioned. They are great as a boat tour in summer. They are also prime hiking terrain but there is no shade and no drinking water there, so you have to plan accordingly. They get HOT. And Calanque de Sugiton, arguably the most beautiful calanque on the Marseille side, now requires a permit in summer (it is only a 45 minute there, 60-75 minute back hike from the end of the B1 bus line).

With 2 weeks, there are plenty of day trips, too. Aix-en-Provence and Arles would be my top choices, Aix by bus or train and Arles by train. For somewhere coastal, Cassis is easy by bus (the train is a bit of a trap IMO, it leaves you high and dry 2 miles from the village, although there's a summer shuttle), and La Ciotat is also interesting (by train + bus).