There is a whole host of things to do in Marseille, France’s oldest city which dates back as far as 600 BC. Whether you want to spend your time in Marseille traversing the ancient city in search of traditional food and drink, hitting all the major landmarks, or partying the night away, you have plenty of options.
Yes, Marseille has plenty of things to do – but 25 is a good place to start!
1. Unwind on a Marseille beach
Being located along France’s Côte d’Azur, there is no shortage of beaches to choose from near Marseille. The beauty of taking a city break somewhere like Marseille is that you’re far away from the coast when you feel stifled by the concrete jungle. Simply head to Pointe Rouge, Plage des Catalans, or Plage de la Grand Mar for a local slice of sun, sea, and sand.
2. Explore the Vieux Port of Marseille
Le Vieux Port (or Old Port) of Marseille is the city’s focal point. Dating back to the 6th century BC, the old port is now the hub of Marseillaise tourism. Take a stroll around the Vieux Port to gaze at stylish yachts, dine at the seafood restaurants that line the water, and explore the nearby fish market. At night, head to the Vieux Port to discover its bustling late-night bars and nightclubs.
3. Chant and cheer at Marseille’s Stade Vélodrome
If you’re a football fan and find yourself in Marseille during the season, watching a football match at the Stade Vélodrome is a must. The city is home to the football club Olympique de Marseille. Getting swept away in the thrilling atmosphere at one of their matches is one of the best things to do in Marseille for followers of European football, or merely if you want to find a different way to spend an evening in Marseille.
4. Marvel at the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde
The Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde is the most visited site in Marseille, and so taking the pilgrimage up to this stunning Catholic cathedral is top of the list of things to do in Marseille. Surely one of the city’s most striking and iconic sights, this cathedral can be seen from all over the city, but it is only when you venture to the top of the hill that you can fully appreciate its majesty, as well as witness phenomenal views of the city of Marseille.
5. Delve into the mysterious history of Chateau d’If
Not only is Château d’If an historically important fortress and, later, prison, but it is also famous for being the prison is Alexandre Dumas’s iconic novel, The Count of Monte Cristo. Due to its historic and cultural significance to the city, as well as its location in the beautiful waters off the coast of France, taking a boat trip to see for yourself the mysteries of Château d’If is one of the most memorable things to do whilst in Marseille.
6. Visit the Porte d’Aix
If there’s one thing that France knows how to do well, it’s triumphal arches. Porte d’Aix in Marseille is another of France’s exquisite, and famous, triumphal arches that mark important victories in the country’s history. The Porte d’Aix is the old entry point into the city of Marseille from the road from Aix-en-Provence. Completed in 1839, Porte d’Aix is a beautiful monument that continues to be a jewel studding the streets of Marseille to this day.
7. Bask in the beauty of the Massif des Calanques
The beautiful Calanques, spanning the coast of France from Marseille to Cassis, has been a national park since 2012, and attracts visitors from all over the world. One of the best things to do when visiting Marseille is taking a trip out to the Calanques to benefit from its breathtaking ruggedness and explore the wild side of this gorgeous coastline.
8. Treat yourself at a Marseille beach club
Being on France’s most desirable coastline, there are plenty of beach clubs to choose from in and around Marseille and Cassis where you can treat yourself and unwind in luxury. The coast is studded with shaded sun loungers, private beaches, and buzzing cocktail bars to welcome you into a taste of the luxury beachside lifestyle.
9. Try the traditional Marseille dish of bouillabaisse
Marseille is abundant in seafood, and is where the dish of bouillabaisse originated. Bouillabaisse is a rich Provençal fish stew that is guaranteed to impress any foodie or seafood lover. One of the tastiest things to do in Marseille is try a bowl of this hearty stew in a port-side restaurant, and perhaps indulge in some moules frites the next day.
10. Party on the Marseille club scene
Marseille is the most vibrant city outside of Paris, full of young people and students. This makes Marseille a haven for partygoers, and makes exploring the Marseille nightlife one of the most exciting things to do. Head to the Vieux Port for popular live music venues and nightclubs for a surefire selection of crowd-pleasing parties. Alternatively, Cours Julien offers a more lowkey selection of chill late-night cafés and bars, with a convivial and lively ambiance.
11. Be exhilarated at the Prado seaside park
Prado seaside park is a fantastic place to visit while you are in Marseille. If you want to spend a day by the beach with a bit more adrenaline, head to Prado seaside park and try your hand at sailing, surfing, and paddleboarding, as well as playgrounds for the kids.
12. Wander through Le Panier
Le Panier is the oldest neighborhood in the ancient city of Marseille, so spending the day strolling around its narrow and winding streets is a fantastic thing to do in Marseille if you want to delve deeper into the city’s vibrant past. You could spend hours in this district alone, admiring the rustically colored façades, charmingly cobbled streets, and discovering the galleries, historic monuments, and delicious hidden cafés that populate this charming quarter.
13. Shop til you drop
Marseille is a wonderful city break location for shopaholics as well, simply scratch beneath Marseille’s rugged surface to find shops that intrigue, excite, and defy expectations. Whether you’re looking for independent boutiques that sell chic fashions, trendy record and bookstores, or the perfect Marseillaise souvenir, there are plenty of shops to choose from. Head to Rue Sainte to find a huge collection of stores for all occasions.
14. Dine at one of Marseille’s six Michelin star restaurants
Marseille is home to six restaurants that have been awarded Michelin stars, with many more that have been recognised by the prestigious Michelin guide. Whether you want to indulge yourself in Marseillaise seafood with fine dining refinement, or sample some of the world’s most creative and innovative cuisine, you will not be disappointed in Marseille. Head to Le Petit Nice for a three star experience of exquisite seafood, or L’Epuisette for dinner with sea views.
15. Venture to the lavender fields of Provence
Provence is world famous for its fragrant and beautiful lavender fields, and so travelling into the countryside to see them for yourself really is one of the best things to do in Marseille. If you find yourself in Marseille in July, head to Valensole on the third Sunday of the month to experience their world famous lavender festival, right at the height of the season.
16. Stroll around the formidable grounds of Palais Longchamp
Not only is the Palais Longchamp a majestic monument in its own right, but it also houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Marseille and the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle. You could spend an entire day at this palace alone, admiring its luscious gardens, breathtaking architecture, and the vast amount of culture and history that it is home to.
17. Pay your respects at Cathédrale La Major
The Cathédrale La Major should not be confused with the Notre-Dame de la Garde, although they are similar in their beauty and stature. Another of Marseille’s iconic landmarks, anyone who enjoys learning more about a city’s religious history will certainly want to pay this site a visit.
18. Sail to the Frioul archipelago
The Frioul archipelago is only a short boat trip away from the city of Marseille, and offers a number of different tiny islands to explore, as well as a different perspective on the city. Here, you can the notable Château d’If, as well as a selection of other rugged landmarks that are easy and safe to explore, with the city of Marseille a reassuring distance away.
19. Sip Pastis in a Marseille bar
Pastis is the quintessential Marseillaise aperitif, so what better thing to do in Marseille than find one of the city’s cool bars and sip on this local delicacy. Being such a lively city, there is barely a street corner without a welcoming bar that will definitely sell this traditional tipple. Aniseed not your thing? Don’t worry, Marseille, like the rest of France, boasts some delicious wines as well. Once again, the Vieux Port is the place to go and sit during happy hour.
20. Head to Vallon des Auffes
Vallon des Auffes is a traditional fishing village in the 7th arrondissement of Marseille, and is a lovely little place to visit to escape the energy of the wider city. Here, you can find a quaint little harbor and plenty of streets to lose yourself in. Either bring your own wine and picnic for al fresco dining on the rocks, or venture to Chez Fonfon or L’Epuisette for two of the city’s most revered restaurants.
21. Ride the Marseille Petit Train
Le Petit Train may be a staple in a number of touristic French cities, but it truly is well worth the ride in Marseille, whether you’re traveling with children, or just want to see as much as possible. The Petit Train in Marseille takes you around the coast to parts of the city you may not travel to independently, and also makes the pilgrimage up the steep hill that is home to the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde. Save your legs the strain of climbing and enjoy the ride on your way up, before exploring the site to your heart’s content, and taking the next train back down.
22. Amble along Canebière
La Canebière is the high street in the historic old part of Marseille, stretching from deep into the city to the Old Port. Simply strolling down this long, historic street will open up the city of Marseille to you. Discover a plethora of cafés and shops along this bustling street, as well as many side streets that stretch off it and take you into the winding web of Marseille. If you get lost wandering the sprawling streets of Marseille, once you rediscover la Canebière you know you aren’t far from many of the city’s top sights.
23. Journey to the Provence countryside
Despite being one of France’s largest and most sprawling cities, Marseille is only a stone’s throw away from some of France’s most gorgeous rural countryside. As well as boasting acres of stunning lavender fields, the countryside of Provence is also home to many vineyards that are always welcoming to guests. Either by car or by train, you are never too far away from sampling some of France’s best wines right at the source.
24. Spend the day at MUCEM
MUCEM (the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations) is a relatively new addition to the city of Marseille, but is a huge attraction. Inaugurated in 2013, the year that Marseille was awarded the title of European Capital of Culture, this museum is a fantastic place to visit in Marseille if you want to learn more about the history of the city and surrounding regions, through art, popular culture, and politics.
25. Immerse yourself in the street art of Cours Julien
Cours Julien is a Bohemian dream in the already vibrant city of Marseille. In Cours Julien, not only can you find plenty of things to do by way of shopping, dining, and drinking, but this colorful quarter also boasts incredible street art like you’ve never seen before. There are even official walking tours you can take of these magnificent murals, otherwise you can explore Cours Julien yourself and see what artwork you discover as you amble around the neighborhood’s quirky establishments.
Marseille is a wonderful city to visit: at once cosmopolitan, chic, rugged, and vibrant, this city’s complex and thrilling identity means that there are plenty of wonderful things to do in Marseille and its surrounding areas.