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  • Writer's pictureMallory Warner

My Top 5 Things to Do in Marseille

Marseille is the second largest city in France and often gets a bad rap for being unsafe. Marseille is the oldest city in France, settled as Massalia by the Greeks in 600 BC. For centuries, this port city has been a hub for Mediterranean economies, movement of people, and sharing of cultures. I love Marseille and here are my favorite things to do while visiting the city.

The Vieux Port

The gravity of Marseille pulls you to the Vieux Port. Once a major shipping port, the old port now services small fishing vessels, sailboats, and touring ferries to the nearby islands or Calanques. Each morning, you can find stalls of fishermen selling their daily catch. In the evening, Marseillais gather for a promenade or dancing and music. The Vieux Port is lined with restaurants and terraces perfect for people watching and soaking up the southern French sunlight. You can access the Vieux Port from Metro line 1 or many of the city's bus routes.

Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde

Atop her hill, she watches over Marseille. Notre Dame de la Garde was built on the ruins of an ancient fort overlooking the Vieux Port. The first stone was placed by the Bishop of Marseille in 1853 and later consecrated in 1864. The Neo-Byzantine Basilica is adorned with a gold ceiling and the decor is dedicated to the prayer and protection of ships at sea. Wooden boats float above you, hung from the ceiling, topping off its nautical theme. The view from the steps is the best in all of Marseille. You can look out onto the islands, or inland toward Provence. This is an excellent spot for taking in the gorgeous orange sunsets of Marseille. Access the Basilica by taking the #60 bus from the Vieux Port.

The Panier

The bread basket, or Panier, is a network of narrow streets that are filled with old world charm. This neighborhood has been home to waves of immigrant settlers in Marseille-- North Africans, Poles, and Italians to name a few. During WWII, Nazis feared that this was a haven for La Resistance and bombed part of the Panier, sending survivors to work camps and Jewish residence to concentration camps. The Panier lives on today, transporting visitors from the big city feel of Marseille, to the small town vibe of Provence. This is a great place to find restaurants, art galleries, and local shopping.

The Food

There is so much to eat in Marseille and never enough time. Marseille is a mixing pot of people, cultures, and of course food. Seafood is number one, but don't stop there. Italian, Armenian and of course North African food is plentiful. Be sure to visit the Marche Noailles and plan the perfect Mediterranean picnic. My must eat dishes when visiting Marseille: Bouillabaisse, Couscous, and of course pizza loaded with olives and anchovies.

The Mediterranean

Marseille may not be part of the Cote d'Azur but the blue beauty of the Mediterranean is second to none. Take a ferry to the islands, including the famous Chateau d'If (from the Count of Monte Cristo) or plan a private sailing adventure. Take a short trip out of the city and visit the famous white cliffs of the Calanques, one of France's national parks.

Marseille is full of diverse and wonderful corners to explore. It's what draws me in and keeps me coming back for more. I hope you fall in love with the city as I have. Bon Voyage!


Bring the colors of Marseille home, with a high-quality photo from the print shop.

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