Marseille is a historic port city on the south coast of France that's renowned for its old port, medieval city walls, and Byzantine cathedral. One thing that's often overlooked about Marseille is its amazing location on one of the most stunning stretches of the French coast. Nice, Cannes, and St Tropez always seem to steal the limelight from Marseille and that's quite often unjustified.
Marseille is in a location that makes it perfect for hiking and one that pays huge rewards to those who put on their hiking shoes and set out to explore it. It doesn't matter what level of fitness you have, you'll be able to enjoy getting out and about both in and around the capital of the Côte d'Azur.
Hiking in Marseille isn't just about heading to the Calanques National Park and scrambling along goat tracks winding across the tops of limestone cliffs where the drops are enough to inspire vertigo. There are urban hikes that will show you the city's true character, hikes to complexes of caves, or for the less energetic, gentle strolls through the city's fantastic parks.
Whether you're trekking around the city streets or hiking the Calanques you can't do it with your bags in tow. You'll find the best place to leave any belongings you can't carry with you is in one of the Bounce luggage storage facilities in Marseille.
In a Bounce luggage locker, your personal stuff will be stored in a security-tagged and insured compartment that only you have access to. The peace of mind won't cost you a lot either as all Bounce luggage lockers are super economical to use, which means you'll have more money to spend on delicious goodies to take on your hiking picnic. Plus, the convenience of lockers close to Marseille Saint Charles station doesn't hurt either.
Our Top Hiking Trail Picks In Marseille
The Parc Borely is the ideal place to head for when you want a hike that will immerse you in nature without taking you outside of the city limits.
Parc Borely is located right on the coastline and is accessed from the Avenue du Parc Borely. The park consists of over 40 acres of stunning grounds intersected by level, asphalted walking routes lined with trees and fountains. It’s a pleasurable environment to spend a few hours in and one where the hikes are not strenuous at all.
One of the park's main features is Borely Chateau, a grandiose, lake-fronted chateau that now houses one of the best museums in Marseille, the Museum of Decorative Arts. The park also contains a racecourse so if you want a break from walking there's plenty to see and do.
Plage Borely Promenade
Just a short hike from Parc Borely is Borely Beach. It's one of several that line the Marseille coastline in this area. The beach isn't the largest or the sandiest, it's a combination of sand and pebbles, but it is backed by a lengthy promenade that is perfect for a gentle seaside stroll. There are cafes and restaurants along the beachfront too where you can stop off for refreshment or just spend a half hour resting while watching other hikers and cyclists pass by.
Plages du Prado
For a longer seafront leg stretch, one of the best spots in Marseille to head for is the Plages du Prado. The Plages du Prado is a stretch of coast where artificial beaches have been created with promenades and park areas.
The Plages du Prado walkway begins near the statue of David and continues south as far as the Vieille Chapelle Beach next to the Vieille Chapelle Park where there are also different trails classed as easy. This is one of the best hikes to do in Marseille in the evening as there are places where you can sit to watch the sunset over the Mediterranean coast and there's no better end to a day than that. Plus, a visit to Plages du Prado is definitely one of the best free things to do in Marseille.
Domaine de la Font Mai
To be able to hike through some open French countryside without over-exerting yourself, you'll need to head for the north of the city and the Domaine de la Font Mai. This national park area covers over two 90 square miles, so it's impossible to discover on just one hike.
When you only have a few hours, the best hike to do here is the interpretive nature trail, which cuts through the grounds of a chateau near the town of Aubagne. It's a beautiful hike with wonderful views which follows the base of the Garlaban hills and leads through olive groves, countryside dotted with thyme bushes, and during the right season, lavender fields.
While you're in the area you may want to consider a visit to the Foreign Legion Museum in Aubagne.
Batarelle Botanical Trail
The Batarelle Botanical Trail is about one mile on the outskirts of the city that winds around the Massif de l'Etoile. The path itself is not steep at all but is classed as intermediate because of its somewhat remote location. If you decide to hike this trail on a warm day make sure you have enough drinking water with you as there are no amenities whatsoever. If you're looking for the best brunch in Marseille or some great street food along the way, you won't find it here.
The wide dirt trail is marked with interpretive signage about the local plant life, like wild herbs that grow on the mountainside at 11 individual spots along its length. They're all in French so if you want to learn about plant life you'll need a translation app on your phone if you can't speak the lingo.
This scenic route pays dividends for photographers as it affords spectacular panoramic views of Marseille, the sea, and the surrounding countryside, albeit from a distance.
Chemin de Bois Sacré
While this trail may be in a public park in Marseille, it's certainly not a walk in the park like any other you might experience in the city.
The Parc de Bois Sacré is right behind the Basilica of the Notre-Dame de la Garde so it's easily accessible if you're out sightseeing in the city.
The park itself was created in an old quarry and while it's not overly manicured, it's an attractive public space. The big challenge here isn't the paths leading through the gardens but a set of extremely steep stone steps that lead to a hilltop viewpoint. The steps wind through the pine trees and are pretty uneven. Is the climb worth it? Definitely yes, once you get your breath back.
Croix de Marseilleveyre
If you need a target to focus on when you're hiking to help you get up a hill then you'll want to make the trek up to the Croix de Marseilleveyre.
The Croix de Marseilleveyre is a wooden cross on a hilltop in the southern suburbs of Marseille, on the border to the Calanques National Park, that while it's not an easy walk, is manageable if you're reasonably fit.
There are various trails around the 1,400-foot high limestone massif where the cross is, but not all of them lead to the summit, so choose your route wisely. Once you get to the top, you'll have fantastic panoramic views of Marseille and the Calanques as well as Mont Ventoux on a clear day, which is over 100 miles away.
Calanques National Park
Even if you're only looking to find a moderately challenging hike while you're in Marseille, you're going to be tempted to go to the Calanques National Park. The Calanques National Park is the most spectacular place for a hike you could hope to find so not somewhere you'll want to miss out on, but you should be aware that hiking here is not easy or even classed as intermediate.
Hiking in the Calanques is somewhere you need to treat with caution and follow the advice set out by the Calanques National Park authorities. They recommend wearing proper hiking shoes, sandals are forbidden, and taking at least one and a half liters of water, even if you're only going on a short hike.
Hikers are required to stay on marked trails, not collect pebbles and stones as souvenirs, and refrain from smoking because of the danger of starting a fire. You must also carry out any garbage and if you see some, even if it's not yours, pick it up and take it with you.
Cassis to Calanque d'En Vau
The hike from the town of Cassis to the Calanque d'En Vau is one of the more popular hikes in the Calanques National Park. Cassis is just a short train ride from Marseille or alternatively, take the bus which is quite a bit cheaper. We have a handy guide if you need help learning how to get around Marseille.
The trail begins in Cassis harbor and is a stiff uphill climb followed by a downhill scramble that will leave your legs aching. The hike takes around two hours each way so take plenty of water and provisions as well as a sun hat if you're hiking here in summer as there's no shade along the way.
Port Miou to Calanque de Port Pin
The trail that leads from Port Miou to Calanque de Port Pin is probably one of the most rewarding scenery-wise, but it's also one of the more difficult ones even though it will probably take less than an hour.
While it cuts through the open countryside after leaving Port Miou, the trail path is marked by red and white stripes painted on boulders along the way. It's a rough path covered with stones so don't attempt it without adequate footwear. The reward on this hike is a dip in the crystal waters of the cove that is Calanque de Port Pin. Don't get too comfortable by the waterside though as the return hike is just as difficult, if not more so.
Calanque de Sugiton
A hike to the Calanque de Sugiton is one that will leave you breathless in more ways than one. The first for the sheer effort it takes to get there and the second because of the incredible scenery.
The trailhead to the Calanque de Sugiton is on the campus of the Luminy University. Once you strike out from there you'll be on a rock-strewn path winding across the clifftops. It takes around an hour all told to reach the Calanque de Sugiton by which time you'll be more than ready for a well-deserved swim and rest.
If you're still feeling energetic after completing this hike, you can join a path that continues on to the Calanque de Morgiou. A good thing to remember here is that none of the Calanques are signposted and they all look pretty much the same. One or two of the other Calanques are too dangerous to access so always let common sense prevail.
The Calanques National Park often closes during the peak summer months for fire prevention reasons. If the trails are marked as closed don't go on them.
Easy hikes in Marseille
The easiest hikes in Marseille are the ones within the city. Head to most of the city's parks and you'll be rewarded with beautiful landscaping and a peaceful stroll. The city's beaches are also great spots for a pleasant and easy walk.
Intermediate hikes in Marseille
If you prefer not to leave the city limits, head to the Chemin de Bois Sacré for an intermediate walk and climb. Otherwise, the Croix de Marseilleveyre is a perfect option for hikers with intermediate capabilities.
Difficult hikes in Marseille
The answer for best difficult hikes in Marseille is easy: Calanques National Park. Choose any one of the trails and you're going to be challenged. The rewards of the coastal scenery and refreshing swim at the halfway point make the exertion totally worth it.
Marseille, its superb public parks and gardens, and many nearby national parks provide some amazing hiking opportunities. You don't need to be mega fit to go out hiking in the French countryside as there are trails suitable for all levels of hikers.
If you do decide to go exploring the Calanques on Marseille's coast, make sure to follow the rules and don't take risks. It's not much fun being rescued from the side of a cliff if you happen to take the wrong path and slip. When you do go out, make sure you have the appropriate footwear, a map, drinks, and snacks, and stick to the marked trails. That way you'll make memories to remember rather than ones you'd sooner forget.