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Top things to do in Marseille

Marseille, being the oldest city in France, its history is rich with more than 2500 years of diverse influences, mainly Mediterranean.

Marseille is a city of art and history. Marseille is a city of multiple terroirs and cultures. Marseille is a port and villages.

Marseille is a city of heritage but rooted in its time. Now the second largest city in France, after Paris, Marseille has many places to discover.

Marseille is first of all 111 villages; which over the centuries have come together to form a single entity. Some districts are only “affective” districts such as le Panier or le Vieux Port. The latter are representative of the identity, the soul of Marseille. In their typical streets, sometimes narrow and steep, as well as in their squares, Provence is a pleasant place to live.

Certainly very touristic, these districts are full of more or less known wonders.

Here is a selection of top things to do in Marseille.

Le Vieux Port, Marseille’s beating heart

Renovated in 2013, this is the beating heart of the city. 26 centuries of history have seen the development of Marseille on the northern shore and then in the 17th century towards the south and therfore construction of the St Jean and St Nicolas forts. Long a symbol of the port, the ferry bridge, inaugurated in 1905, which connected the two forts, was destroyed after the Second World War. A few steps away, you will undoubtedly be charmed by the discreet church of St Férréol, which has a rich and fascinating history.

Notre Dame de La Garde, the “good mother” of the people of Marseille

An emblematic figure of the city, the “Bonne Mère” has been watching over sailors, fishermen and all the people of Marseille since 1870. Built in a Romano-Byzantine style (domes, stone polychromy, gold, mosaics) the basilica perfectly fits in with the programme of major constructions undertaken in Marseille under Napoleon III. The building consists of two parts : a low church, crypt, vaulted ceiling and a high church, the sanctuary, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Finally, from the top of its hill, you have a breathtaking view. Certainly one of the top things to do in Marseille !

The Cathedral of St. Mary the Great, known as “The Major”

Nicknamed “La Major” by the people of Marseille, it is located near Fort St Jean and the MUCEM. The only church built in France in the 19th century, it is also one of the largest. Its construction extends over 40 years, between 1852 and 1893, at a time when Marseille was the first port in France. In Byzantine style, “La Major” is visible from the sea because of its imposing dimensions (it can accommodate up to 3000 people).

The MUCEM, the centre of Mediterranean civilisations

It is the first museum dedicated to the civilizations of the Mediterranean in the 21st century. Opened in June 2013, it is now one of the most visited museums in Marseille with nearly 2 million visitors per year. Between Fort Saint Jean and the “Major”, you enjoy a unique panoramic view of the Phocaean city. A 115-metre footbridge connects J4 to Fort Saint Jean. While a second 70-metre footbridge joins the church of Saint Laurent, monument of le Panier.

Mucem Marseille

The Vieille Charité, from a prison “for the poor” to a cultural centre

An emblematic place in Old Marseille, the Vieille Charité is naturally located in the heart of the Basket, which is the historic centre of the city. Following a royal edict dated 1640 aimed at “locking up the poor and beggars”, the municipality decided to build the Old Charity to “shelter the needy”. Today, it is a cultural centre where four museums are housed.

Le Panier, the “Montmartre” of Marseille

Le Panier is the oldest district in Marseille and also one of the most visited. Located in the heart of the city’s historical centre, a stone’s throw from le Vieux Port, it is a permanent testimony to the eventful history of the ancient Massalia. In its pedestrian streets you will discover typical small bistros, unique craftsmen, antique dealers, creative workshops and concept stores. Many shops in Le Panier claim to be “made in Marseille”, whether in shopping, gastronomy, alcohol and of course soap ! One of the top things to do in Marseille to discover the provencal way of life.

Le Panier Marseille

The Vallon des Auffes, the preserved Marseillaise authenticity

One of the other top things to do in Marseille. About ten minutes walk away from la Plage des Catalans and the bustling city centre, nestled between two cliffs and right in front of the statue of the heroes of the Eastern Army, we enjoy, after taking a flight if narrow stairs, a small fishing village, with intact charm. The Vallon des Auffes offers the Marcel Pagnol’s image of Provence. The very colourful fishermen’s huts and their pointus (boats) as well as the restaurants will make you want to enjoy the Provençal way of life. You can hear the cicadas singing from here….

The cours Julien, the bobo district

This district is the largest district in France dedicated to street art. A lively district, a friendly ambience and 100% Marseille shopping. The Cours Julien is full of local creators, artists, second-hand clothing stores, second-hand shops, book shops and comic book stores. Let yourself be carried away by the atypical atmosphere of this colourful district !

Cité Radieuse, a district within the district

The Corbusier housing unit known as the Cité Radieuse is one of the top things to do in Marseille if you are an architecture amateur. A symbol of brutalist architecture, this new type of housing, inaugurated in 1952, after 5 years of work, offers all the inhabitants: comfort, light, many storage spaces, an integrated kitchen,… all designed according to an ergonomics adapted to the human body (Modulor principle). Designed as a vertical village due to the location of shops in the heart of the building, the housing unit still leaves a large space on the outside. Classified as a historical monument in 1986 and again in 1995, this “urban liner” is attracting more and more tourists and CSP+.

Corbusier Marseille

Taste the typical dishes of Marseille

Last but not least: one of the top things to do in Marseille is undoubtedly to taste its typical recipes. You can’t leave this wonderful city without having tasted its delicious dishes.

In fact, Marseille is a crossroads of many cultures and its gastronomy reflects this carachteristic. It is therefore not easy to understand what to taste given the varied offer. So here’s the perfect suggestion for you!

With our Marseille Food Tour, you will taste some of the city’s specialties selected for you by locals, you will walk in one of the most beautiful areas of Marseille (Le Panier, Le vieux port, Noailles ) and catch some history anecdotes!

With our Marseille food tour you can enjoy a 360-degree experience. What are you waiting for?

Camambert Marseille

We could easily offer other top things to do in Marseille ; other places would undoubtedly deserve a visit ; the docks, the Maison Diamentée, the Canebière, the Stade Vélodrome, various palaces and gardens (Pharo, Borély, Longchamp among others), the Belle de Mai wasteland, the Estaque, various churches (St Laurent, Les Accoules, St Victor,..); but you will easily find them during your walks.

You will also be able to discover the traditions of Marseille during your walks: bowls, Marseille soap, santons, pastis and perfumeries of the region…

And if you are still not satisfied, take the sea to discover the islands and creeks of Marseille. Frioul, Riou or If will be as many vestiges of the past, which will plunge you body and soul into the history of this beautiful Provençal lady.