Marseille Visitor Guide 2021: Everything you need to know

8 March, 2021by Bounce

The second-largest city in France after Paris, Marseille is one of the country's major ports and economic drivers. Located on the south coast, Marseille is France's biggest port and the second biggest in the entire Mediterranean. It's also the oldest city in France, and predates the founding of the country itself by more than a thousand years. Established by Greeks around 600 BC, Marseille has been a major Mediterranean port for millennia.

It's this port that has given Marseille its unique character. For centuries, it has been a point of contact between France and the rest of the world, making Marseille one of the most cosmopolitan cities in all of Europe. Marseille combines Mediterranean, African, and Arab influences while remaining undeniably French. As a result, it's one of the most fascinating cities in France to visit.

A weekend in Marseille

A weekend in Marseille won't be enough to see everything the city has to offer, but it will give you a good sense of the major attractions. Drop off your bags at a Marseille luggage storage service and get ready to enjoy France's second city.

  • The Old Port of Marseille has been the heart of the city for more than 2000 years. Boats still dock here from around the world, and fishermen sell their catch right by the water. It's a great place to drink in the atmosphere and perhaps enjoy a plate of moules-frites while you watch the world go by.

  • The church of Notre Dame de la Garde is one of the main attractions in the city. Perched on a hill overlooking the city, the church was where sailors went to pray for safe voyages and leave offerings to ensure their return. It’s a fascinating place to explore, and the views over the city and the coast are unparalleled.

  • MuCEM is another of Marseille's top attractions. This unique museum focuses on Mediterranean culture and explores the various civilizations that have held sway in southern Europe and northern Africa. It's worth visiting for its modern architecture alone, besides the fascinating story it tells.

Marseille lockers

Like many ancient cities, Marseille is ideal for exploring on foot. Plus, the unique charm of the city is best experienced by slowing down. Drop off your bags at a luggage locker in Marseille to make things easier on yourself. The lighter you travel, the more you'll get to see of this fascinating city.

Off the beaten path in Marseille

Beyond its best-known attractions, Marseille has plenty of hidden gems to discover. Allow yourself to venture off the tourist track, and you'll see some unforgettable sights. Leave your bags behind at a Marseille bag storage and see another side to the city.

  • In a Mediterranean city like Marseille, often the best thing to do is just enjoy a stroll on a sunny day. La Corniche, a seafront promenade that follows the coast from the Old Port, is the perfect place to do it. Enjoy ocean views and mingle with the locals as you soak up the atmosphere of Marseille.

  • Enjoy some tranquility at the Palais Longchamp. This palace contains a fine art museum that is well worth exploring, and its carefully sculpted gardens make it one of the best parks in France. It's a perfect place to escape the chaos of the city for a while.

  • Explore the atmospheric fortress of the Château d'If. This island castle dates back to the 1500s and was made famous when novelist Alexander Dumas used it in his novel The Count of Monte Cristo.

What to do alone in Marseille

As every solo traveler knows, traveling by yourself can allow you to get even more intimately acquainted with a place. Solo travel in Marseille allows you to immerse yourself in the vibrant life of the city. Leave your bags behind at a Marseille suitcase storage and enjoy your solo adventure.

  • Explore the complicated history of the city at the Marseille History Museum. This museum tells the city's long story from the first Greek and Phoenician traders to the role the city played in the Second World War and beyond. It's the ideal way to get to grips with the story of Marseille.

  • Check out the lively neighborhood of Le Panier. Historically, this neighborhood was where Marseille's constant stream of recent immigrants usually wound up. However, these days it's becoming increasingly trendy, with lots of cool boutiques, fun cafés, and interesting street art.

  • Check out France's largest football stadium at the Stade Velodrome. This striking building is worth the visit for its unique architecture, but the best way to enjoy it is by attending a game of local team Olympique Marseille. 

The best souvenirs in Marseille

Marseille has been a center of soap-making since the twelfth century. The city even has a soap museum with an impressive gift shop selling traditional Marseille soap. La Licorne is also a great old-fashioned shop to get a variety of soaps made the traditional way, without modern chemical additives. 

Pastis is the quintessential liquor of southern France, and it's made in Marseille. Pick up a bottle of this anise-based liquor to take home with you from La Maison du Pastis. Or, if you fall in love with the atmospheric crack of petanque balls that you'll hear throughout Marseille on a summer evening, head to La Boule Bleue to pick up a set of balls that will always remind you of Marseille.

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