My husband and I will be on a cruise in September with one day in Marseille. Would the time be better spent for that one day seeing Marseille or nearby Aix-en-Provence, which I have heard is prettier and less "seedy"?
This is not a qualified replay as I have only passed through both. Definitely Aix though. It's near the top of places I would like to go to.
What you have heard is about right..... go to Aix
I have been to both and they are completely different. Marseille is a port town and definitely has that gritty, seedy feeling, but I did enjoy wandering around the port. I would not return except to fly out, but glad I saw it. As far as Aix, it is much prettier, but it was also a bigger city than I thought it would be. I had a car so it was a bit of a problem parking, etc. but I did have a beautiful lunch there and enjoyed some shopping... actually I found my favorite fragrance there that I have been wearing ever since, so it does have nice memories for me. Again, I would not need to return. Is there any other town/village that you could go to? A typical french village or are those your only choices? I would opt for a more quaint location if possible.
No brainer--skip Marseille and go to Aix.
Stephanie, which do you like better... Oakland/Port of Oakland or Carmel/SF?
I would pick Aix also, but I have to say that I enjoyed Aix more at night than during the day and if you are on a cruise you probably will not be able to experience the evening. I found the city much more charming after dark. There really is not much as far as sightseeing is concerned in Aix. What about Cassis?
Aix-en-Provence for sure. We went there on our own and loved it, spent the whole day there. Returned later on a different trip on a cruise and stayed in Marseille and after a couple of hours got back on the ship. Not much to see or do there other than the walking tour in the RS guidebook.
Apples/oranges comparison of big city to university town. It's worth noting that Marseille is this year's European city-of-culture with many initiatives to smarten the place up. http://marseillecityofculture.eu/
I lived in Aix for a year many years ago and have returned a few times since. It is a beautiful city, with the main street, Cours Mirabeau, dotted with old fountains and shaded with trees, lined with sidewalk cafes. The cathedral and cloister are lovely, and you can walk through the old city enjoying small streets, large outdoor market, fountains, as well as many little shops. If you decide on Marseille, I would recommend the area around the port, which includes an outdoor museum of ancient Roman ruins. I avoided it completely when I was living in Aix, but have spent a couple of nights there on a more recent trip.
I'm not a fan of Aix but haven't spent much time in Marseille - still I'd vote for Marseille!
We did a cruise and went to the town square in Marseille and took a public bus 6 euros or so to Aix. Loved it. When we got off the bus in Aix we saw the excursion bus parked that had picked people up from the cruise. We just paid a lot less. It was an easy trip to take.
I am delightfully overwhelmed with all the wonderful responses to my post. I thank each and every one of you for sharing your experiences/thoughts with me. So now, the decision... which will most likely be made when we get there.
Ugh, these responses. For starters, Oakland is far more interesting than boring, stodgy, Carmel. And why would a tourist visit the port of Oakland? that's just stupid. That's like saying one shouldn't visit San Francisco because it also has a working airport/port area that has nothing to offer a tourist. But I don't find it surprising that the Oakland/Marsielle comparison was made - both scarily are inhabited by immigrants and diverse cultures! We wouldn't want to venture into that, would we? Anyway, to the OP, I enjoyed both places, but you have to travel further to get to Aix from the cruise port. Marsielle gets a bad rap - from boring people. It's a beautiful city with a fascinating history. It's also a real working city. I don't think that interferes with it's charm, but rather adds to it, but apparently lots of Americans feel differently. Let's put it this way: I'm glad I saw Aix, but I'd love to return to Marsielle.
A few years ago we were working next to Marseille for six months while one of our kids was living in the university dorms and studying in Aix, so we went both places frequently. Aix is more relaxing and easy to visit, while Marseille is a real city with wonderful layers of civilization and diversity going back 2,600 years. I found the museums, the St. Victor basilica, the Greek temple in the Veille Charite astounding. Read M.F.K. Fisher's "Two Towns in Provence" for a taste of both. You may want a relaxing, strolling day, or a day where you rush around to see very old monuments and objects in situ. Marseille will take on a different cache with the US audience once RS publishes what he's writing about its virtues.
Hi all, Stephanie here! Thought you might be interested to know that I ended up by staying put in Marseille. I found a wonderful group called Provence Greeters who have volunteer tour guides. My husband and I were fortunate enough to be "greeted" by Christian-Marie Regina who spent close to four hours with just the two of us showing us around the Panier District, the historic heart of Marseille. He was charming, knew his stuff, gave me a wonderful book about the area and even pointed out a hat shop where I later purchased two beautiful berets. This group is dependent upon donations to keep it up and running which I was more than glad to contribute to. As an aside, I spoke to other folks later on my cruise who had opted for an excursion to Aix-en-Provence which amounted to an expensive bus ride. Hope this follow-up can assist someone else down the line.
Stephanie - thanks so much for the update!