Marseille is one of the loveliest places to visit in France and you and your family can have a great time here taking in all the history and all the culture that this place has to offer. The food and drinks are also excellent here and the weather is spectacular for most of the year. What is less ideal is the cost of visiting a city like this, and if you are on a budget or you have brought kids along with you, you might be worried about your pocketbook. Thankfully, there are some really fun free things that you can do in this city and you will be able to pick and choose a few of the more expensive things to try out if you also use these free things to make your days full and memorable.
No matter what your plans are for the rest of your trip, you need to be sure that you have your brags in secure storage during your stay. Bounce luggage lockers in Marseille can help with this. Once your bags are securely stored, you will be prepared to head out and find all the fun things to do that will save you some money during your trip.
Top Free Things to Do in Marseille
No matter how you have entered the city center area, whether you have come through the Gare Saint Charles, or you have arrived by car or by plane, you will love that Marseille can actually be enjoyed for a very good price if you are savvy. There are some tips that all travelers should remember, like the fact that the city is very walkable and you can avoid the cost of transportation if you wear sturdy shoes in the downtown area.
You should also remember that most of the museums in the city are free on the first Sunday of every month. This is a great way to get to see all the museums in the city without having to spend an arm and a leg. Marseille has an abundance of different food options, and visiting the many tasty street food vendors in the city can definitely help you save some cash. Marseille offers some of the best street food in the world so you will not want to miss out on trying some of what is on offer here, regardless of the price point.
Parc National des Calanques
This is a good choice to make if you love nature and you want to take your kids to see the seaside and do some hiking on some of the best hiking trails in Marseille. You can also even enjoy this adventure alone and the only cost associated with it would be the travel to get to this spot outside of the city centre. The Parc national des Calanques is a preserved area that is quite large and the views are stunning from the heights above the ocean. Calanques National Park is an ideal place to go to if you have been wandering the narrow streets of places like Vieux Port and you are ready for some more space to enjoy for part of a day.
Plages Du Prado
The beach near Marseille is free of charge to visit and this is one of the nicest beaches that you will have a chance to enjoy anywhere in France. You will love that France's second-largest city has this kind of beach area and you will be surprised at the lack of crowds at this central beach when you visit. The Plages du Prado area also offers access to volleyball courts and rock climbing walls, although these are not always free of charge.
As mentioned previously, some of the major museums in the city center area are free on the first Sunday of every month. Places like the Natural History Museum are on this list as well as the Marseille History Museum and the Musée des Beaux-Arts. There are various UNESCO World Heritage Sites located around the city, like the Palais Longchamp and the Centre des Monuments Nationaux that are worth checking out as you tour the museums on this day where these sites are free.
Cathédrale de la Major
You can access the Cathédrale de la Major for free at all times. This is a lovely old church building that you will love checking out. The site was built from green Florentine marble that was brought in from Cassis and it is still a working site of worship even today. This is a much smaller church location than Notre Dame de la Garde, but it is very beautiful and well worth seeing.
Notre Dame de la Garde
Notre Dame de la Garde is free to access but not all of the adventures that you can enjoy at Notre Dame are free. You will have to pay for the crypt tour for example, which is pretty interesting if you can afford it, and might be worth the fee to take part in a tour of the space beneath the church. Make sure that you check out the Grand bell tower which is capped with a golden statue of the Virgin Mary. This is one of the most noteworthy churches in the world and you can't visit Marseille without at least stopping by to look at it.
The Old Port area, also known as Vieux Port, is one of the oldest places in the city and it's a great option to enjoy street food, shop, and see the lovely old architecture that is around the Marseille Port. Marseille is a port city first and foremost and you will see this so clearly when you visit Old Port. Even if you are not in the area to buy anything or to eat, this is one of the historic landmarks of the city and you need to take the time to check out. Old Port is also a good jumping-off place for lots of other things that you can do and see and there are UNESCO World Heritage Site locations scattered around the area nearby as well.
In all, this area is full of excellent shopping, charming narrow streets, and food options from all over the world. Just be warned that due to its popularity, there are often large crowds here.
This beautiful monument was designed by the same artist who designed the Notre Dame de la Garde and it offers the same soaring and picturesque facade that you will recognize from the Notre Dame de la Garde. This is the building that houses one of the largest collections of art in the world, but you don't even have to go see the collection to admire the Palais Longchamp itself. There is also a nearby park which is great for kids to burn off some energy while the adults take pictures of the Palais Longchamp.
In the park nearby there is also a silly fake zoo that has been placed on the former site of the real zoo. When the zoo was closed, the animal cages sat empty for a while until the city installed fake animals in the cages. This is something that kids really enjoy seeing and you will get a chuckle out of this as well most likely. In fact, this is one of the most amusing things you can do with kids in Marseille.
Quartier Le Panier
One of the oldest parts of the city, Le Panier is a lovely location to visit for shopping or to take in the local life that is going on in the heart of the city. This area is as quintessentially Marseille as the Mediterranean coast and the sandy beaches nearby. This part of the city has been a shopping location for generations and there are always street food vendors, local artists, and other really interesting things to interact with on the street. You can also check out street art here as you wander this part of Marseille.
This spice market has been operating in this part of Marseille for generations and you will be able to experience spices, smells, and cuisines that you might never have come into contact with before. The cuisine and spices are often African and are sourced from this part of the world. This is one of the well-known parts of the commercial activities in old Marseille and it is one of the most impressive things that you can experience as a result of Marseille's location on the Mediterranean Sea.
Rue Fort du Sanctuaire
Located near Notre Dame, this is another free historical structure that you should check out. You will love the views from up high on this hill which is the highest point in the city as well. This is also a great place to get an impression of the mixture of military and church history upon which Marseille was founded. There are few places where this history is so clearly preserved, and you will love taking the time to drop by this location as well as the Notre Dame site as well.
Fort Saint Jean
This is a 17th-century fortress that was built by King Louis XIV. It stands guard over the Old Port and it also includes a 15th-century structure called the Tour du Roi Rene (King Rene's Tower) and the Commandery of the Knights Templar. Forts are a bit unique in this city because they show such a progression of the way that religious locations evolved throughout the long history of Marseille.
Formerly an abbey location, this is also a fort and the spot has served many different purposes throughout its history. It is located right near the Old Quarter and it will make you feel like you have stepped back in time as soon as you walk the narrow streets around it. This is a special building related to this part of town and you will not be sorry that you came to see this site. There is still an annual pilgrimage that is hosted in the city with the Abbaye Saint-Victor as the final end point of the march.
If you have been concerned about the costs of heading to Marseille to have fun, this list of free things to do will put your mind at ease. There are so many sights and activities that you can enjoy in the city even if you don't want to spend time entering the museums and other historical buildings that do charge you to see them. Marseille is a lovely city that is enjoyable even if you are just wandering around to see the sights and you don't have to break the bank to get to enjoy your time here. There is also a lot of familiar history that many people know related to Mediterranean culture. You can visit beaches, museums (if you time your visit right), stunning structures, and ornate churches without spending a penny.
No matter what kind of budget you have to work with in Marseille, you will want to be sure that you are taking the time to get your luggage into secure storage. When you don't have to worry about your luggage, you will have a lot more fun during your trip. Now, get out and explore everything the affordable city of Marseille has to offer!