Marseille may not have the same reputation as a glamorous vacation hotspot as other cities that it shares the Côte d'Azur with, but it should have. While the beaches of this port city, like Pointe Rouge Beach, don't quite match up to those in St Tropez, they certainly beat the beaches of Nice or Cannes, hands down, which may be a well-kept French secret.
Marseille is one of the best cities on the French Riviera if you want a combined city and beach vacation. It has a rich history that dates back to the times of the Ancient Greeks, has incredible architecture on just about every street you walk down, world-class museums, and is literally a stone's throw from the Provence wine region. In general, French cuisine is either something you love or loathe, but in Marseille, you can at least indulge in plenty of fresh fish, which is a massive bonus.
Arrive in Marseille in the early morning, and you could find yourself stuck with your baggage for a good few hours. Many hotels in the city won't allow you to check in before midday, and many often won't let you into your room until much later than that.
The last thing you'll want to be doing on the first day you stay in Marseille is keeping your bags company until 3 or 4 pm. The best thing to do with your belongings is to drop them at one of the Bounce luggage storage facilities in Marseille. They're easy to access, economical to hire, and safe as all Bounce luggage lockers are. They are also security tagged and fully insured. When you have to wait until after the siesta hour to receive a proper French hospitality welcome to your accommodation, it’s the best solution.
Where Are The Best Places To Stay In Marseille?
Deciding where to stay in Marseille isn't easy. There are several great areas that are not too touristy and others where you probably wouldn't want to stay even if the accommodation was free. Finding out which is imperative to ensure a good stay in Marseille. Choose the wrong one, and it'll leave you with a lasting impression of the worst kind.
Le Vieux Port, the old port area, is where you should stay in Marseille if you want to be somewhere with an age-old character, great fish restaurants, and plenty of nightlife near your accommodation.
Vieux Port is the oldest district in Marseille and has existed in one form or another since the city was first founded by the Ancient Greeks. There is nothing of the tatty old port about Vieux Port, though. Renovations in the area just over a decade ago have brought it back to life and into the modern age with a vengeance.
The Vieux Port area is the ideal place to stay in Marseille if you want to take boat trips out to see the Calanques of Marseille or to the Frioul Islands. It's also ideal if you want to spend your days exploring the city. It's within walking distance of the Notre Dame de la Garde and the Plage de Catalans, plus has superb public transport connections that make it easy to get around the city and get you wherever you want to go.
There aren't that many hotels right on the harborfront. The ones close to the sea, like the Sofitel Marseille Vieux Port, tend to be of the better quality sort with three and four-star ratings and prices to match. Look hard enough, and you will come across a hotel like the Ibis Budget Hotel Marseille, which, while it's only two stars and half the price of the rest, has a fantastic location on the Rue Sainte and enough amenities to make it worth taking a look at.
The only setback you might encounter in Le Vieux Port is its popularity. It's one of the most-visited parts of Marseille, so it's always heaving with tourists. If you like a lively atmosphere and love people-watching, then you'll be comfortable here.
Le Panier is a district of Marseille that borders Vieux Port. It's also one of the older areas of the city, but one where the renovations are still an ongoing process. If you're into shabby chic Bohemian, then Le Panier may well suit you as a place to stay in Marseille.
The narrow streets of Le Panier are daubed with street art created by some of the best French street artists, so to say it's a colorful district would be an understatement. It's also a place where the pavement cafes are a way of life, and so are the wine bars when dusk falls on the city. If you're looking for some unmissable nightlife in Marseille, you'll find it here.
Street art aside, there are several noteworthy buildings in Le Panier quarter, including the Diamond House, the Hotel Dieu, and the Daviel Pavilion, an old guillotine execution site that now houses departments of the local town hall.
Le Panier is a district of Marseille that attracts the younger, hip crowd who travel with friends and so have someone to walk home with down the dark alleys after dark. Even though it's not the most prestigious of areas, the hotels in Le Panier are expensive as they are not far from the seafront and the main attractions. You can find cheaper hostels on the perimeter of the area, though, which are perfect if you're happy to bunk up with your friends in a shared room.
When you're looking to go self-catering and save money on extortionate restaurant bills, then the four-star Residome Marseille may be what you're looking for. The Residome, while it doesn't have an outdoor swimming pool, offers attractive, shareable apartments with fully equipped kitchens and plenty of extra amenities that don't work out too pricey if you're not footing all of the bill. If you're considering going shopping in Marseille at the local markets, then these apartments would work out well.
If you want to stay in Marseille in a central location somewhere where you can jog around a fantastic park every morning that's within easy walking distance, then you should take a look at the Cinq Avenues Quarter.
Le Cinq Avenues is right in the city centre, and while it's a somewhat antiquated area, it also has a lot of grandiose character. Le Cinq Avenues Quarter is where one of the city's biggest and most beautiful parks, the Parc Longchamp, is located. The park has a superb network of pathways winding through the fountained gardens. It's also where the magnificent Palais Longchamp is. Longchamp Palace, the historic building which houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts, the fine arts museum, is one of the best museums in Marseille. Regardless of where you stay, this is a must-do when visiting Marseille.
If the Mediterranean Sea happens to be full of jellyfish, stay in Cinq Avenues, and you'll be within walking distance of the local municipal swimming pool, so taking a dip will still be on the agenda.
Cinq Avenues is the best neighborhood for visitors who don't want to stay in large, pricey Marseille hotels but prefer to enjoy a more French experience by staying in privately rented rooms and apartments. If you prefer hotels, then check out the Ibis Budget Hotel on Boulevard Sakakini. It's not right in Cinq Avenues, but just a short walk away.
Notre Dame du Mont
The Notre Dame du Mont Quarter is a neighborhood of the city that's within easy walking distance of the old port area. The central features of the district are the Notre Dame du Mont church, the Cours Julien Square, La Plaine, and a series of steps covered in graffiti known as the Escaliers de Cours Julien.
If you want to stay in Marseille somewhere where you'll have abundant nightlife on the doorstep of your accommodation, the Notre Dame du Mont Quarter will suit you down to the ground. The main nightlife in the Notre Dame du Mont Quarter is centered in the Cours Julien Square and in La Plaine. It's a multicultural neighborhood where, after you fall out of one of the bars in La Plaine, you'll be able to grab a kebab on the way home. When you wake up the next day, the area also boasts some of the best brunch restaurants in Marseille.
The Notre Dame du Mont Quarter, particularly La Plaine, attracts the younger generation of visitors looking for a cheap hostel with rooms that can sleep up to six guests. It's not the sort of place you'll find a luxury hotel with room service or even a continental breakfast. If you want those, you'll need to stay in a different part of the city.
La Plaine is not the best neighborhood for solo travelers unless you're the size of Dwayne Johnson or a self-defense expert.
La Canebière is the heart of Marseille and the kilometer-long main thoroughfare that runs through the city center from east to west ending in le Vieux Port.
La Canebière is a broad, bustling avenue full of stores and shopping malls that are excellent for shopping in Marseille, but it is sadly lacking in hotels. If you want to stay in Marseille near to this street, then you'll need to look for accommodation in Vieux Port or along the nearby Rue de Rome where there are some moderately-priced hotels, although they are not the best.
La Corniche, or Bompard La Corniche to give the area its correct title, is one of the outlying arrondissements of Marseille. It's one of the neighborhoods, apart from Vieux Port, that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and has spectacular coastal views.
Stay in Bompard La Corniche, and you'll certainly know you're in the Med as you'll be surrounded by limestone hills covered in pine trees where the nightly chorus is created by the cicadas.
The old fishing village of Bompard La Corniche is the ideal place to choose as a base if you want somewhere quiet with good public transport connections. It's also perfect if you want to sleep in a luxury hotel with a fitness center, swimming pool, and chandelier in the in-house dining room and don't mind making a 15-minute trek to the nearest beach.
This neighborhood of Marseille is one that attracts older couples who enjoy, and can afford, a luxury hotel and like to dine out every night in first-class restaurants. If you're traveling on a budget, add this district to your sightseeing list, but stay somewhere else like Vieux Port.
It's always good to save the best until last, and that's definitely the case where the district of Endoume is concerned.
Endoume is a neighborhood of Marseille that lies south of Bompard and is right on the coast. It's a stunningly beautiful natural area where the views from your hotel room will be the Mediterranean Sea peppered with the tiny islands of the Endoume archipelago.
Endoume has some stunning beaches, too, so if you're looking for a combination city and beach location, put this at the top of your list. The Plage de la Pointe d'Endoume and the Plage de Maldormé are exceptionally scenic spots. The craggy rocks of the Plage de Malmousque are probably the best place for sitting to watch the Marseille sunsets, though.
If you want a hotel where your balcony looks directly onto the sea with nothing in between, Endoum is where you'll find it. It really is the best place to stay in Marseille, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
It doesn't matter if you're looking for a budget hotel or a luxury one, you'll find both in Marseille. What you need to discover is the area that suits you best. Hopefully, after reading through this neighborhood guide, you'll be more in the know about all of the city's different arrondissements and what they each have to offer. The area around the Gare Saint Charles is probably best avoided, but luckily, there is something for everyone in Marseille. For us, the one place that gets the thumbs up on all counts has to be Endoume, so see you there!