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Marseille's Old Port, with Notre-Dame de la Garde in the background.

- © Sergii Figurnyi / Shutterstock
Marseille
Marseille

Between nature and culture on the shores of the French Mediterranean

Marseille in short

There are some cities whose name is enough to warm the heart. Marseille's sunshine is no legend. Nor is its football club, pastis or bouillabaisse. But aside from these good-humoured clichés, the city of Marseille has much more to offer, and is no longer the preserve of business tourism. The megalopolis was chosen as European Capital of Culture in 2013, then as host city for the Euro football championships in 2016. To celebrate these events in style, Marseille has spruced up its streets. The Old Port has been partially returned to pedestrians, as have the number of new hotels that have moved in and the opening of a huge national museum, the now famous MUCEM.

The MUCEM and Fort Saint-Jean in Marseille.

- © Sergii Figurnyi / Shutterstock

As well as its new attractions, Marseille can count on its long-standing allies. The Old Port is a delightful place to stroll around, the Panier district is a delightful place to stroll around, the café terraces are full of people, the calanques are beautiful, the beaches are close by and the nightlife is vibrant in the trendy districts... It's a safe bet that the years to come will be full of Marseille. And after years of looking to the sea, the city will be proudly displaying itself to the whole of France.

La cala de Port Miou en Marsella.

- © Pavel Szabo / Shutterstock

Marseille is a city where boredom has no place. You can climb the hill to the summit of Notre-Dame de la Garde by car, mini-train, scooter or on foot. As well as the 360° view over the city, you can admire the heart and choir of the Good Mother. You can continue your visit by wandering through the maze of narrow streets in the charming Panier district, or trying out the bars, cafés and restaurants in the trendy Cour Julien district.

Of course, don't forget to stroll along the Old Port, facing the sea, before visiting the famous Stade Vélodrome, whether you're a football fan or not: here, football is more than just a sport, with the people of Marseille worshipping the game! And while the view of the little port of Vallon des Auffes is already magnificent from the Corniche Kennedy, we can't recommend going down the steps to admire it up close. Better known for its calanques than for its works of art, the city also offers a formidable cultural offering thanks to the many museums that populate its streets.

View of Marseille and the Mediterranean from Notre-Dame de la Garde.

- © Alexey Fedorenko / Shutterstock

Vibrant and cosmopolitan, Marseille has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years. Is it the gentle pace of life brought by the fresh waters of the calanques and the Mediterranean sunshine? Is it the good humour of its inhabitants, who talk loudly on the terraces of the Vieux-Port with a glass of pastis in hand? Or is it the charming monuments that fit perfectly into the picturesque streets of the Panier or Endoume districts? It's probably all this, and much more, that makes Marseille one of the few cities that gives you the impression of travelling far away and being at home at the same time. Follow the guide!

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How to get there?

By train: The journey from London to Marseille by train takes around 7-8 hours and requires 1 change, typically in Paris or Lille. The total cost is around $139-$700 depending on the class and time of travel. Trains are operated by Eurostar and TGV inOui.

By flight: The fastest way to get from the UK to Marseille is by flying, which takes around 1h 55m. Flights from London to Marseille cost $60-$350 on average.

By bus: The cheapest way to travel from the UK to Marseille is by bus, which takes around 21-22 hours and costs $57 on average. Buses are operated by companies like FlixBus

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Where to stay?

There's no shortage of accommodation in Marseille! From youth hostels to luxury palaces, you're bound to find what you're looking for in Marseille. Choose the southern districts or the city centre, as the northern districts have poor public transport links and are not the most popular.

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Practical information

Sightseeing

Marseille is first and foremost an atmosphere that you can experience by strolling through the streets, along the beaches or in the creeks, all of which won't cost you a penny. Of course, there are still a few monuments to visit, and for that we recommend the Marseille City Pass. Priced at €27 for 24 hours, €37 for 48 hours and €43 for 72 hours, it gives you free access to certain attractions (MUCEM, little train to Notre-Dame de la Garde, boat to the Frioul islands, etc.) as well as to the public transport network. It also entitles you to discounts in many shops and reduced rates for certain visits. You can get it from the Tourist Office, the Capitainerie des Docks, the Vieux-Port and Saint-Charles metro stations, or directly online!

Best time of year:

Marseille is the sunniest city in France, so it can be a good base for a winter weekend in the sun, but watch out for the Mistral wind, which can quickly drive you crazy and spoil your holiday! Spring and autumn are the most pleasant seasons, with temperatures that generally allow you to go swimming, but you can also visit the city or hike in the calanques without worrying about getting overheated. If you just want to enjoy the beaches and the nightlife, go during the summer season. As well as your swimming costume, remember to pack a windbreaker (and a little wool) in your suitcase, as the Mistral can sometimes kick in during the summer.

Safety :

Marseille has long had a bad reputation with the rest of France, with the mainstream media never missing an opportunity to share stories of settling of scores or drug trafficking taking place in Marseille's housing estates. And even if things aren't always rosy in Marseilles, the portrayal of crime exceeds reality. In fact, the crime rate is lower in Marseille than in cities such as Lille, Bordeaux, Lyon, Nice or even Toulouse. Avoid walking around the northern districts and, as in all big cities, don't show off your valuables, camera included. Keep your wits about you and you should be fine!

What to eat and what to bring back

Don't leave without trying the navettes, orange blossom biscuits in the shape of a boat. The patisseries are also full of various cakes from neighbouring towns, such as calissons (almond paste) from Aix-en-Provence. As well as the famous bouillabaisse (which we advise you not to eat just anywhere), Marseille is a pizza specialist!

Don't leave without a large (or small) slab of real Marseille soap and one (or more) bottles of pastis. You might also be tempted by an Olympique de Marseille shirt (or any other item bearing the effigy of the city's star team), unless you're a fan of the opposing team, of course!

What to see around Marseille

During the day, you can take a trip to the charming town ofAix-en-Provence, or head to the pretty village of Cassis (where you don't pronounce the final "s") for a trip by the sea. For a weekend, you can explore the Côte d'Azur as far as Cannes or Nice, or head inland to Provence, the land of lavender and olive trees, to visit the picturesque villages lulled by the song of the cicadas. Marseille isn't far from the Alps either, with the first ski resorts just over two hours away.

lightbulb_outline Editor's tip

If you don't have a car, you can use public transport, but the RTM network is not the most efficient. If you want to hire your own vehicle, opt for a scooter instead of a car - it's cheaper and more practical for getting around the busy city of Marseille.

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