Marseille

Marseille is France's second city. But, unlike Paris, its arch-rival, this is not primarily a place of big bombastic classical monuments. It has other assets: a beautiful location snuggled between craggy, limestone hills and a sweeping bay, a rich history and an easy-going yet energising vibe.

In 2013 both Marseille itself and the surrounding region are coming alive with an exciting programme of events and many new buildings and installations. These are covered in full in our special section on Marseille Provence 2013 European Capital of Culture.

If you would like a full- or half-day private walking tour with a bilingual guide who will help you make the most of your time in our beautiful, fast-changing city, contact [email protected] for details of our tariffs.

We're based right here in Marseille and have all the up-to-date inside information on what's going on and the very best sights, events and bargains in town.

Meanwhile here is an armchair tour of Marseille's main attractions. Click on each image or scroll down the page to read more.

booking.com logoClick here to book a hotel in Marseille

 

Link to article on the Old Port
Link to article on the MuCEM and Fort Saint Jean
Link to article on the calanques of Marseille
Link to article on the markets of Marseille
Link to article on Notre Dame de la Garde
Link to article on the Palais Longchamp
Link to article on the Vallon des Auffes
Link to article on the Radiant City
Link to article on the Chateau d If
Link to article on the Cours Julien
Link to article on the beaches of Marseille
Link to article on the Panier
The Old PortMarseille's huge rectangular harbour crammed with fishing boats and gin palaces and lined with bars, restaurants and a morning fish market.

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The Beaches of Marseille Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

Plage du Prado, MarseilleYou might not at first think of going to Marseille for a beach holiday. But in fact the city offers an enormous array of seaside spaces catering to every possible taste all along its west-facing southern coastline.

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The Museums of Marseille Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

The Monticelli Foundation, MarseilleThe museum scene in Marseille is already varied, and has continued to change fast during the Marseille-Provence 2013 European Capital of Culture programme. We list all the city's museums below, report the latest news and spotlight some of the best current shows.

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The Château d'If And Frioul Islands Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

The Chateau d'If, MarseilleThe Château d'If was Marseille's answer to Alcatraz: a brooding island-fortress-prison which has played host to some extraordinary guests: victims of religious persecution, degenerate young roués, anti-royalists and revolutionaries and, most famously (and fictionally), Alexandre Dumas père's great romantic hero, the Count of Monte Cristo.

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Notre Dame de la Garde Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

The Madonna of Notre Dame de la Garde, MarseillePart lighthouse, part fortress, part sacred place of pilgrimage, La Bonne Mère, as she is universally and affectionately referred to, is the symbol of Marseille.

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Saint Charles Station Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

Saint Charles station, Marseille

All the romance of the early days of rail still surrounds Marseille's main train station, perched high on a hill to the east of the city centre and linked to it by a magnificent staircase.

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The Radiant City Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

Le Corbusier's The Radiant City, MarseilleIt's known poetically as the Radiant City, prosaically as the Housing Unit and irreverently by locals as La Maison du Fada (The Madman's House). Whatever you like to call it, Le Corbusier's pioneering, modernist construction is more than just another block of flats.

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The Palais Longchamp Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

The Palais Longchamp, MarseilleDespite the name, this is not a palace. It's an extravagant, extraordinary, excessive monument to the glory of water and its critical importance to Marseille ever since the city was founded by the Greeks as a trading port in 600 BC.

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The Churches of Marseille Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

Saint Victor Abbey, MarseilleIn its millennia of history Marseille has accumulated very many churches, of which three are outstanding. The first, Notre Dame de la Garde, is a must-see, and is discussed in a separate article. The other two not to be missed are Saint Victor Abbey (pictured left) and the cathedral.

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The Vallon des Auffes Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

The Vallon des Auffes, MarseilleSeveral small, pretty creeks just off the Corniche Kennedy have miraculously kept their typical character.

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The Musée Cantini Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

Musee CantiniIf you're in central Marseille and love modern art, the Musée Cantini, or Cantini Museum, is a perfect spot to spend an hour or two.

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Marseille: Ten Best Bars And Cafés Print E-mail
Marseille - Practical Information

Le Bar de la Marine, MarseilleIn the spicy melting-pot of Marseille, the choice is yours: drink mint tea and eat honey-drenched patisseries at a North African café, take coffee and croissants or sip an icy pastis on the Old Port, enjoy an English afternoon cuppa in the Old Town or neck a beer amid the adrenaline of a live Olympique de Marseille football match...

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Useful Contacts in Marseille Print E-mail
Marseille - Practical Information

red telephoneEmbassies, consulates, emergency phone numbers, doctors, lawyers, bookshops, cinemas, churches: the essential checklist for English-speakers visiting Marseille.

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The Château de la Buzine Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

Chateau de la Buzine, MarseilleAfter decades of languishing in near-ruins, Château de la Buzine, a cornerstone of Marseille's history has reopened its doors to the public. Built in 1867, this baroque-kitsch pile achieved world-wide fame thanks to My Father's Glory and My Mother's Castle, Marcel Pagnol's two-volume memoir and the 1990 film versions.

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Family-Friendly Marseille Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

Treetop adventure playground, MarseilleUnfairly, Marseille isn't renowned as a destination for a family holiday. But if you're there with children, you'll easily find plenty of terrific places for a day out.

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Marseille-Provence Airport: The Complete Guide Print E-mail
Marseille - Practical Information

Marseille-Provence airport at MarignaneWith a main runway extending into a huge inland lake and dramatic approaches across the coastal chains of hills or the sea itself, Marseille-Provence airport offers first-time visitors a memorable introduction to the region. Here are our tips on how to fly through it in record time. Click here for full details.

 
Rail Travel To and From Marseille Print E-mail
Marseille - Practical Information

TGV train outside MarseilleThere are plenty of train connections on offer at Marseille's main station, which forms the southern terminus of the French high-speed TGV network and is served by five other conventional lines. Click here for a full guide to rail travel to and from Marseille.

 
The Vieille Charité Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

The Vieille Charite MarseilleOne of Marseille's most prestigious museums, the Vieille Charité is also a magnificent building in its own right and well worth seeing even if you don't visit any of its permanent or temporary exhibitions.

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The Château and Parc Borély Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

The Chateau Borely MarseilleNear the Prado beaches and city centre, the Borély estate hosts the Museums of Fashion, Earthenware and Decorative Arts in an 18th century Château set in a spacious, leafy park.

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The Villa Méditerranée Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

Villa Mediterranee Marseille by night

A cultural centre designed by the Milanese architect Stefano Boeri, the futuristic and spectacular Villa Méditerranée is structured roughly in the shape of a "c".

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How To Get Around Marseille: Trams, Trains, Buses, Bikes, Boats Print E-mail
Marseille - Practical Information

Marseille taxiIt's really only on foot that you best absorb the atmosphere of Marseille. But when energy flags, or your destination is too far, or the climb up the hill to the top of the Old Town in the midday sun is just too much of an ordeal, there's always the city's excellent public transport system and various alternatives aimed at tourists.

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The Markets of Marseille Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

Market scene at Noailles, Marseille

Marseille's climate and its exuberant character, combined with the sheer quality and variety of Mediterranean produce, make the city a brilliant backdrop for a wide range of street markets.

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Marseille: The Best Restaurants Print E-mail
Marseille - Practical Information

Alexandre Mazzia, chef at Le Ventre de L'Architecte, MarseilleOver the last decade, a wave of bright young chefs, mostly in their thirties, has invaded Marseille and transformed its culinary scene (pictured: Alexandre Mazzia at Le Ventre de L'Architecte, the restaurant in Le Corbusier's Radiant City).

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The Panier Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

Street in the Marseille Panier or Old TownSurging up from the north quay of the Old Port, its tall, narrow houses draped with washing lines and criss-crossed by steep steps with gutters running down the middle, Marseille's Old Town, or Panier, is steeped in history.

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L'Estaque Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

L'Estaque town signL'Estaque, a ramshackle, even scruffy little fishing port just north-east of Marseille, has an extraordinary claim to fame: for over half a century, it was a magnet for some dozen world-renowned artists, including Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Raoul Dufy and Georges Braque.

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The Old Port Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

Aerial view of the Old Port, MarseilleDominated on one side by the Panier (Old Town) and on the other by the church of Notre Dame de la Garde, the Old Port, or Vieux Port, has been the beating heart of Marseille for 2,700 years.

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Gay and Lesbian Marseille Print E-mail
Marseille - Practical Information

Gay Pride Marseille 2011Marseille has a rough-and-ready, not to say, downright macho image. But, thanks to its melting-pot population and very broad cultural diversity, the city's open, easy-going vibe also makes it unusually gay- and lesbian-friendly.

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Marseille: The Climate Print E-mail
Marseille - Practical Information

The sun card from the Tarot de MarseilleMarseille has a typical Mediterranean climate: you are reliably assured of hot weather in summer, while in winter the temperature rarely falls below freezing.

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Where to Stay in Marseille Print E-mail
Marseille - Practical Information

Hotel La Residence du Vieux Port, MarseilleThis is our guide to the best parts of town and the best hotels and B&Bs in Marseille, a city which offers a wide choice of individualistic accommodation.

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Gallery: The Street Art of Cours Julien Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

Street art in the Cours Julien, MarseillePerched up on a hill, the Cours Julien is Marseille's hippest district. Beloved of the "bo-bo" (bourgeois-bohemian) community, it teems with cafés, restaurants, theatres and cutting edge shops. But one of its most striking features is the street art: not just graffiti (though there's plenty of that too) but the extraordinary, colourful, hand-painted façades.

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Shopping in Marseille Print E-mail
Marseille - Practical Information

72% Petanque shop, MarseilleThis is the complete guide to the best shops in Marseille and where to buy the perfect gift or souvenir, plus the areas for high fashion and hot young designers, arts and crafts, food and drink and antiques bargains.

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The MuCEM and Fort Saint Jean Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

MuCEM Marseille latticework facadeThe dramatic MuCEM (Musée des civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée, or the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations) is the jewel in Marseille's European Capital of Culture programme for 2013.

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Château Gombert Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

Musee du Terroir Marseillais, Chateau Gombert

Château Gombert in Marseille is renowned above all for one thing: its enthusiastic devotion to authentic provençal customs.

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The Mémorial de la Marseillaise Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

The Memorial de la MarseillaiseOpened in March 2011, the Mémorial de la Marseillaise celebrates France's revolutionary national anthem, the Marseillaise - which, paradoxically, was composed in Strasbourg by a royalist.

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The FRAC PACA Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

FRAC PACA Marseille facadeYet another stunning, futuristic new gallery space in Marseille, the FRAC (Fonds régional d'art contemporain, or Regional Collection of Contemporary Art), opened to the public in March 2013.

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The Calanques of Marseille Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

The Calanque of Sugiton, near MarseilleProvence's version of the fjords, but with more sun, the stunning calanques are one of the essential highlights of a tourist trip to Marseille. Click here to read our introduction to the calanques and full guides to the calanques south of Marseille and the calanques of the Blue Coast.

 
The Musée Regards de Provence Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

Musee Regards de Provence in MarseilleThe Musée Regards de Provence is both a showcase for provençal art and a fascinating historic building in its own right.

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The Musée d'Histoire de Marseille Print E-mail
Marseille - What To See

Amphorae at the Musee d'Histoire de MarseilleFounded in 600 BC, Marseille is the oldest city in France, and its rich history has a worthy showcase in the magnificent, newly renovated Musée d'Histoire de Marseille, one of the best museums in town.

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Saint Victor Abbey Marseille by nightNow in its 47th year, the prestigious music festival at Marseille's historic, beautiful Saint Victor Abbey continues until 5 December. Last concert: Christmas carols.

 

Provence olive oilProvence's festivals celebrating the season's new olive oil are on in the Alpilles and Aix. 30 Nov-15 Dec.

 

Santa ClausChristmas shopping in Marseille this year features fireworks on the Old Port, giant santons on the Canebière, mulled wine and cakes in the Old Town - and artificial snow on the rue Sainte. From 6 Dec.

 

SkiingHeading to the ski slopes? Here's how to get there from Marseille or Aix by snow bus or snow train.

 

Christmas on the Cours Mirabeau, AixProvence's colourful Christmas markets are opening for business. Find the best fairs and festivals in Marseille, Aix, Avignon, Arles and elsewhere.

 

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MSC SplendidaWe report from this autumn's Top Cruise conference about the new cruise routes from Marseille in 2014 and the latest developments in the city's booming cruise tourism.

 

Avignon fringe theatre festivalThe summer 2014 dates have now been confirmed for the Avignon "In" and "Off" Theatre Festivals.

 

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Claude Gazier paintingClaude Gazier's moody paintings evoke the smokey atmosphere of vintage film stills. La Ciotat, until 7 Dec.

 

Victoire Belezy as Fanny in Daniel Auteuil's Pagnol trilogyThe first two parts of actor-director Daniel Auteuil's new version of Marcel Pagnol's classic Marius, Fanny, César trilogy, set on the Old Port of Marseile, are now playing in UK cinemas.

 

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Henri Lebasque Nude Asleep on a BedWomen of Provence, as seen by male painters and by themselves, are the subject of a new show at the Musée Regards de Provence, Marseille. Until 24 Feb 2014.

 

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Image from the film about the artist Pierre-Auguste RenoirNow available on DVD: France's entry for the Oscars is Renoir, a film about the artist's life shot in the Var near Saint Tropez.

 

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