Marseille: The Complete Guide

Visit Marseille

Established around 600 BC as Massalia, it quickly became a pivotal port for the ancient Greeks, serving as a crucial trading hub between Mediterranean civilizations and those in Gaul and northwest Europe. Throughout the centuries, its strategic location near the Rhone River’s mouth cemented its status as one of France’s foremost ports, overshadowing its potential as a tourist destination compared to Mediterranean counterparts like Barcelona or Valencia.

Unlike typical seaside resorts, Marseille’s coast near the Old Port is rocky, with beaches like Plage du Prado situated further south. Despite this, Marseille’s rich history, cultural tapestry, and vibrant port life make it an ideal spot for short stays and day trips, especially when the rest of northern France is less favorable weather-wise.

History of Marseille

Marseille, France’s oldest city, has a rich and complex history that spans over 2,600 years. Founded around 600 BC by Greek settlers from Phocaea (now modern-day Turkey), it was originally known as Massalia. Its strategic location along the Mediterranean coast made it an important trading hub, connecting the Greek and later Roman worlds with Gaul (ancient France).

Ancient History Marseille quickly became a prosperous city due to its role in trade and commerce, especially in commodities like wine and olive oil. As a Greek city, it was unique in Gaul, serving as a cultural and economic bridge between the Mediterranean civilizations and the indigenous tribes of Western Europe. The city maintained its independence until 49 BC when it was captured by Caesar’s forces during the civil wars that marked the end of the Roman Republic.

Middle Ages After the fall of the Roman Empire, Marseille faced numerous invasions and periods of economic decline but managed to preserve its autonomy as a free city under the protection of the Holy Roman Empire and later the kings of France. During the Middle Ages, it became a significant port for trade with the Middle East and the rest of Europe.

Renaissance and Early Modern Period The Renaissance brought renewed prosperity, as Marseille expanded its trade networks to include new markets in the Levant and North Africa. However, this period was also marked by significant challenges, including the plague, which struck the city multiple times, most devastatingly in 1720, killing a large portion of its population.

19th Century The industrial revolution and the establishment of the French Empire under Napoleon revitalized Marseille’s economic significance. The construction of the Suez Canal in 1869 further boosted its status as a major port by shortening the sea route to Asia.

20th Century to Present In the 20th century, Marseille became a refuge for immigrants from former French colonies, especially during and after the Algerian War of Independence. This has made it one of the most ethnically diverse cities in France. The city has also faced challenges, including economic decline and social unrest, but has seen a revival in recent decades, particularly as a cultural and tourist center. Major projects like the renovation of the Old Port and the celebration of Marseille as the European Capital of Culture in 2013 have helped rejuvenate the city.

Marseille’s history is a testament to its resilience and its ability to adapt and thrive amidst changing economic and cultural landscapes. Its rich historical tapestry continues to make it a fascinating city to explore and study.

Visiting Marseille for the first time and wondering what are the top places to see in the city? In this complete guide, I share the best things to do in Marseille on the first visit. To help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!

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25 Best places to See in Marseille

This complete guide to Marseille not only tells you about the very best sights and tourist attractions for first-time visitors to the city but also provide insights into a few of our personal favorite things to do.

This is a practical guide to visiting the best places to see in Marseille and is filled with tips and info that should answer all your questions!

Musée d'Archéologie Méditerranéenne (MAM)

Musée D’archéologie Méditerranéenne, Marseille
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Onceinawhile
The Musée d’Archéologie Méditerranéenne (Mediterranean Archaeology Museum), located on the first floor of La Vieille Charité in Marseille, is divided into two main sections: one dedicated to Egyptian antiquities and the other to classical antiquities. The museum’s regional archaeology collection was previously housed here but has since been transferred to the Marseille History Museum at […]
Location: Musée d’Archéologie Méditerranéenne, Rue de la Charité, Marseille, France | Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. | Price: Free | Website | Distance: 0.30km
Visiting Musée d'Archéologie Méditerranéenne (MAM)

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La Vieille Charité

Chapelle Et Hospice De La Vieille Charite
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Charliemoon
La Vieille Charité, originally constructed between 1671 and 1749 in Marseille’s historic Panier quarter, has evolved from its initial function as an almshouse into a vibrant museum and cultural center. This remarkable building is crafted from pink and yellow-tinted molasse stone quarried from Cap Couronne, forming a rectangular structure (112 x 96 meters) without outward-facing […]
Location: Centre de la Vieille Charité, Rue de la Charité, Marseille, France | Distance: 0.30km
Visiting La Vieille Charité

Explore Marseille yourself with our self-guided walking tour!

Cathédrale de la Major (Marseille Cathedral)

Marseille - Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Fred Romero
Also known as Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille, the site comprises both the old and new cathedrals. In the late 19th century, Napoleon III, the Emperor of France, decided to replace the 12th-century Provencal Romanesque cathedral known as “Vieille Major.” He demolished almost all of it, saving only the choir and one bay of the nave […]
Location: Marseille Cathedral, Place de la Major, Marseille, France | Hours: Daily 7 am to 6 pm | Distance: 0.50km
Visiting Cathédrale de la Major (Marseille Cathedral)

Porte d'Aix

Marseille - Porte DAix
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Marianne Casamance
Porte d’Aix, also known as Porte Royal, is a majestic triumphal arch that historically served as the gateway to the city from the road leading from Aix-en-Provence. Designed by Michel-Robert Penchaud, the arch’s architecture is reminiscent of the majestic triumphal arches from the Roman Empire, with its main facades beautifully adorned with scenes from significant […]
Location: Porte d'Aix, Place Jules Guesde, Marseille, France | Hours: 24 Hours | Price: Free | Distance: 0.50km
Visiting Porte d'Aix

Church of Notre-Dame-des-Accoules

Marseille Paroisse Notre-Dame De La Major Tour
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Zairon
The Notre-Dame-des-Accoules church and its bell tower, designated as a Historic Monument on July 7, 1964, stand as significant historical relics. These structures are what remain of the medieval church demolished in 1794. The site also features a Calvary established in 1820 and a newly built church completed between 1824 and 1826. According to legend, […]
Location: Église des Accoules, Place Daviel, Marseille, France | Distance: 0.50km
Visiting Church of Notre-Dame-des-Accoules

Musée des Docks Romains

Musée Des Docks Romains
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Robert Valette
The Museum of Roman Docks in Marseille is an extraordinary archaeological site, prominently featuring the well-preserved remains of a Roman commercial warehouse. Discovered in 1947 during the post-war reconstruction of areas destroyed by German occupation, these significant historical remnants were preserved on-site, largely thanks to the efforts of Fernand Benoit, a distinguished historian and archaeologist. […]
Location: Musée des Docks romains de la Ville de Marseille, Place Vivaux, Marseille, France | Hours: Daily 09:00 - 18:00 Closed Mondays | Price: Free | Website | Distance: 0.60km
Visiting Musée des Docks Romains

Église Saint-Cannat (Saint Cannat Church)

Marseille église Saint-Cannat
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Marianne Casamance
The Église Saint-Cannat is a Roman Catholic church located in the 1st arrondissement of Marseille, one of the city’s 16 districts. This majestic church is dedicated to Saint Canus Natus, a revered French Roman Catholic saint from the fifth century. Its construction began on December 31, 1526, and the church was consecrated on May 18, […]
Location: Église Saint-Cannat, Rue des Prêcheurs, Marseille, France | Distance: 0.60km
Visiting Église Saint-Cannat (Saint Cannat Church)

Maison Diamantée (Diamond House)

Maison Diamantée
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Guiguilacagouille
La Maison Diamantée, standing just behind the City Hall in Marseille, is one of the city’s oldest residences, akin to the Hôtel de Cabre. The exact date of its construction remains uncertain, but it is estimated to have been built between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. Positioned on the site of the former […]
Location: Maison Diamantée (La), Rue de la Prison, Marseille, France | Distance: 0.60km
Visiting Maison Diamantée (Diamond House)

Jardin des Vestiges (Ruins Garden)

Jardin Des Vestiges Marseille
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Carl Ha
The Jardin des Vestiges is a remarkable garden in Marseille that preserves the archaeological remains of the city’s ancient port. Located in the 1st arrondissement, behind the Centre Bourse shopping arcade, this site was classified as a French historical monument after its excavation in 1967 and was officially opened to the public on October 17, […]
Location: Jardin des Vestiges, Rue Henri Barbusse, Marseille, France | Distance: 0.70km
Visiting Jardin des Vestiges (Ruins Garden)

Hotel de Ville (City Hall), Marseille

Marseille-Hotel De Ville
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Bjs
The Hotel de Ville in Marseille is not an accommodation facility but the city’s town hall. Constructed in 1656, it has served as the civic heart of Marseille since its completion, taking over from the “Maison de Ville,” which had fulfilled this role since the 13th century. This building is made of pink stone and […]
Location: Ville de Marseille, Place Villeneuve-Bargemon, Marseille, France | Hours: It can not be visited, except for official business. | Distance: 0.70km
Visiting Hotel de Ville (City Hall), Marseille

Le Musée d'Histoire de Marseille (MHM)

Musée D’histoire De La Ville De Marseille
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Cover 2020
The Marseille History Museum, dedicated to preserving the rich history of Marseille, was established in 1983 and underwent a comprehensive renovation, reopening on September 14, 2013, to coincide with the Marseille-Provence 2013 event. Situated in the Center Bourse close to the Old Port, the museum is home to the site of the Ancient Port and […]
Location: Musée d'histoire de la Ville de Marseille, Rue Henri Barbusse, Marseille, France | Hours: Daily 09:00 - 18:00 Closed Mondays | Price: Free | Distance: 0.70km
Visiting Le Musée d'Histoire de Marseille (MHM)

Église of Saint-Ferréol les Augustins (Church of Saint Ferreol)

Eglise Saint-Ferreol Les Augustins
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Georges Seguin (Okki)
The Church of Saint Ferreol in Marseille is a Roman Catholic church steeped in rich history. Originally under the ownership of the Knights Templar, the church was handed over to a community of Augustinian hermits in 1369. Driven by a commitment to their faith, these hermits began constructing a new church in 1447, which was […]
Location: Église Saint-Ferréol les Augustins, Quai des Belges, Marseille, France | Distance: 0.80km
Visiting Église of Saint-Ferréol les Augustins (Church of Saint Ferreol)

Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM)

Mucem-Villa-de-la-Mediterannee-Marseille
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Sébastien Bertrand
The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée), located in Marseille, opened its doors on June 7, 2013, coinciding with the city’s designation as the European Capital of Culture for that year. This prestigious institution was honored with the Council of Europe Museum Prize in 2015 for […]
Location: Mucem - Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean, Esplanade J4, Marseille, France | Hours: Daily 10 a.m. — 6 p.m. Closed Tuesdays | Price: €11.00 | Website | Distance: 0.90km
Visiting Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM)
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Eglise Saint-Laurent (Saint-Laurent Church)

Marseille Eglise Saint-Laurent
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Zairon
Situated at 16 Esplanade de la Tourette, Saint Laurent Church is a historic site in Marseille, constructed in the Provence Romanesque architectural style. Initially established as a parish for fishermen, it stands on the foundations of what was once a temple dedicated to Apollo. While direct evidence of Apollo’s temple is scarce, a significant discovery […]
Location: Eglise Saint Laurent, Esplanade de la Tourette, Marseille, France | Distance: 0.90km
Visiting Eglise Saint-Laurent (Saint-Laurent Church)

Vieux Port (Old Port), Marseille

Vieux Port (Old Port), Marseille
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Zairon
The Vieux-Port (Old Port) of Marseille, nestled at the base of the iconic Canebière, stands as one of the city’s quintessential symbols, alongside Notre-Dame de la Garde. This historic hub is a gathering place for major events, celebrations, and fireworks, embodying the spirit of the people of Marseille. Tracing its origins back to the ancient […]
Location: Vieux Port, Rue Breteuil, Marseille, France | Distance: 1.00km
Visiting Vieux Port (Old Port), Marseille

Fort Saint-Jean

Marseille - Fort Saint-Jean
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Christophe.Finot
Fort Saint-Jean, established in 1660 by Louis XIV at the entrance of Marseille’s Old Port, stands as a historic fortification built on centuries of legacy. Its construction incorporated two earlier structures: a 12th-century Commandry of the Knights Hospitaller of Saint John of Jerusalem, initially a monastic hospice during the crusades, and a 15th-century tower erected […]
Location: Fort Saint-Jean, Promenade Louis Brauquier, Marseille, France | Hours: Daily 10 a.m. — 6 p.m. Closed Tuesdays | Price: €11.00 | Website | Distance: 1.00km
Visiting Fort Saint-Jean

Palais du Pharo (Pharo Palace)

Palais Du Pharo Et Vieux-Port
CC BY-SA 1.0 / Benoît Prieur
The promontory on which Pharo Palace stands is aptly named “Pharo,” taking its name from the western bay. Historically, the hill was known as “Tete de More.” Situated at the entrance of Marseille’s Old Port, the Pharo Palace is a grandiose structure originally intended as an imperial residence. The concept for the palace began in […]
Location: Palais du Pharo, Boulevard Charles Livon, Marseille, France | Hours: The Pharo garden is open all year round to the public from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. | Price: Free | Distance: 1.30km
Visiting Palais du Pharo (Pharo Palace)

Fort Saint-Nicolas

Fort Saint-Nicolas Marseille
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Ainars Brūvelis
Fort St-Nicolas, a star-shaped fortress from the 17th century, stands watch over the southern side of Marseille’s harbor. Built by Louis XIV, this formidable structure was designed to guard the city and, notably, to keep its occasionally rebellious citizens in check—a fact underscored during the Revolution when locals attempted to destroy it. History of Fort […]
Location: Fort Saint-Nicolas, Montée du Souvenir Français, Marseille, France | Hours: Approx: Winter: Saturday/Sunday Summer: Wednesday - Sunday 12 p.m. - 10 p.m. See their website. | Price: €12 Booking Required | Website | Distance: 1.30km
Visiting Fort Saint-Nicolas

Abbaye Saint-Victor

Abbaye Saint-Victor, Marseille France
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Philippe Alès
South of the Old Port, perched above the sea, stands the historic Abbaye Saint Victor, a site that has been spiritually significant since around 415 AD. Tradition holds that the abbey was established by the monk John Cassian, who is said to have founded separate monasteries for men and women across the old harbor. These […]
Location: Abbaye Saint-Victor, Place Saint-Victor, Marseille, France | Hours: Daily 09:00 - 18:00 | Price: €2 to visit crypts | Distance: 1.40km
Visiting Abbaye Saint-Victor

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Marseille

Palais Longchamp
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Vicuna R
The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Marseille stands as one of the primary cultural institutions in Marseille, located in the picturesque Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. Housed in a dedicated wing of the majestic Palais Longchamp, the museum showcases a rich collection of paintings, sculptures, and drawings spanning from the 16th to the 19th centuries. This diverse assortment […]
Location: Musée des Beaux Arts de Marseille, Palais Longchamp Aile gauche, Rue Edouard Stephan, Marseille, France | Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. | Price: Free | Website | Distance: 2.00km
Visiting Musée des Beaux-Arts de Marseille

Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde

Notre Dame De La Garde, Marseille
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Ajay K
Also known as Cathedrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille, this site comprises two distinct cathedrals, old and new. In the late 19th century, Napoleon III, Emperor of France, chose to replace the 12th-century Provencal Romanesque cathedral known as “Vielle Major.” Most of it was demolished, except for the choir and a section of the nave, preserved after […]
Location: Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, Rue Fort du Sanctuaire, Marseille, France | Hours: Daily 07:00 - 18:00 | Price: Free | Distance: 2.10km
Visiting Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde

Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle (MHM), Marseille

Muséum D’Histoire Naturelle, Marseille
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Tanya Dedyukhina
The Natural History Museum of Marseille (Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle de Marseille) is among France’s most visited museums, originally established in 1819 by Jean-Baptiste, Marquis de Montgrand, and Christophe de Villeneuve-Bargemon, the then-prefect of the Bouches-du-Rhône department. It found a permanent residence in the stunning Longchamp Palace, located in the 4th arrondissement and designed by Henri-Jacques […]
Location: Muséum d'histoire naturelle de la Ville de Marseille, Palais Longchamp, Rue Espérandieu, Marseille, France | Hours: Daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Tuesdays | Price: Permanent collections: Free | Website | Distance: 2.10km
Visiting Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle (MHM), Marseille

Château d'If

Chateau-d-If-France
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Acediscovery
Nestled on the Île d’If, the smallest island of the Frioul archipelago and only 1.5 kilometers off the coast of Marseille, the Château d’If stands as a formidable fortress with a storied past. Constructed in the 16th century, it initially served as a prison until the late 19th century. In 1890, the fortress was demilitarized […]
Location: Château d'If, Marseille, France | Hours: April 1 to September 30 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.October 1 to March 31 10 a.m. - 5.15 p.m. Closed on Mondays | Price: Adults €7 | Website | Distance: 4.30km
Visiting Château d'If
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Parc Borély

Marseille-Château Borély
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Charliemoon
Borély Park, located in Marseille, is a celebrated public municipal park recognized as one of the Notable Gardens of France by the French Ministry of Culture. Covering 17 hectares, the park features three distinct gardens, each offering its unique charm and beauty. The park’s origins date back to the 17th century when Joseph Borély, a […]
Location: Parc Borély, Avenue du Parc Borély, Marseille, France | Distance: 4.80km
Visiting Parc Borély

Parc national des Calanques

Calanque D En-vau
CC BY-SA 4.0 / GabrielleMerk
Calanques National Park (Parc national des Calanques) is a stunning national park located along the Mediterranean coast in the Bouches-du-Rhône region of Southern France. Established in 2012, the park covers an expansive area of 520 km² (201 sq mi), with 85 km² (33 sq mi) of it being terrestrial and the remainder marine. The park […]
Location: Parc national des Calanques, Marseille, France | Website | Distance: 11.20km
Visiting Parc national des Calanques
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Best Time to Visit Marseille

The best time to visit Marseille is typically from late spring to early autumn, roughly from May through October. During these months, the weather is usually warm and pleasant, which is ideal for exploring the city’s outdoor attractions and enjoying its Mediterranean coast.

Spring (May to June): This season offers comfortable temperatures, fewer tourists, and the beautiful blooming of local flora. It’s a great time to explore the city’s historic sites and outdoor markets without the peak summer crowds.

Summer (July to August): Although this is the peak tourist season, with higher temperatures and more crowded attractions, it is also when Marseille is most vibrant. The city hosts numerous festivals and events, such as the Festival de Marseille and Bastille Day celebrations. The warmer sea temperatures make it perfect for beach activities and water sports.

Autumn (September to October): The weather remains warm in the early part of autumn, and the tourist crowds start to thin out, making it another ideal time to visit. The sea is still warm enough for swimming, and the cultural calendar is still quite active.

While winters in Marseille are milder compared to much of Europe, the city can experience cooler temperatures and occasional rain, making it less ideal for those looking to enjoy its beaches and some outdoor activities. However, winter can still be a good time to visit for those interested in cultural experiences without the crowds, and often accommodation prices are lower during this season.

Average Temperatures in Marseille

  • January 14°C 6
  • February 14°C 7
  • March 16°C 6
  • April 18°C 7
  • May 23°C 7
  • June 28°C 4
  • July 32°C 2
  • August 30°C 4
  • September 27°C 7
  • October 23°C 11
  • November 17°C 12
  • December 14°C 7

How to get to Marseille

Getting to Marseille, a major city in southern France, is quite straightforward due to its well-connected transportation infrastructure. Here’s how you can reach Marseille by various modes of transport:

By Air: Marseille is served by Marseille Provence Airport (MRS), which is located about 25 kilometers (15 miles) northwest of the city center. It is the fifth busiest French airport by passenger traffic and offers numerous domestic and international flights. From the airport, you can reach the city center via shuttle buses, taxis, or rental cars. The shuttle bus service links the airport to Marseille Saint Charles Train Station every 15-20 minutes.

By Train: Marseille Saint Charles Train Station is the main railway hub in Marseille and is well-connected to many French cities and other European destinations. High-speed TGV trains can take you from Paris to Marseille in about 3 hours. There are also regular regional trains and services from other major cities like Lyon, Nice, and Toulouse.

By Bus: Various national and international bus services, such as FlixBus and Eurolines, connect Marseille with other French cities and neighboring countries. The main bus terminal is located near Saint Charles Train Station, making transfers between bus and train relatively seamless.

By Car: Marseille is easily accessible by road and is well-connected to the French motorway system. The A7 motorway links Marseille to Lyon and Paris, the A50 connects it to Toulon and Nice, and the A55 links to Montpellier and Spain. Driving to Marseille can be a good option if you plan to explore the Provence region at your own pace.

By Boat: Marseille has a large port that accommodates cruise ships and ferries. There are regular ferry services between Marseille and Corsica, Sardinia, and other Mediterranean destinations. The ferry terminal is close to the city center, making it convenient for travelers arriving by sea.

These various transport options make Marseille accessible for both domestic and international travelers, providing a range of choices depending on your starting point and preferences.

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