Marseille it is a city that I could define as “strange”: strange because someone falls in love with it, while someone else is deeply disappointed. Maybe it reminded me a little of my Genoa or Naples, maybe I fell in love with it many years ago through Jean Claude Izzo's “noir” books, but I liked it.
Perhaps its "light" was so particular (and at times blinding), but personally I found it a city that deserves to be visited. If you have limited time to spend here is my detailed itinerary on what to see in one day in Marseille.
Marseille was founded by the Greeks 2.600 years ago, making it the oldest city in France. European Capital of Culture in 2013 is a fairly large city, consisting of 16 arrondissements (similar to districts) and 111 neighborhoods.
Despite this it is an easy city to visit partly because the places of greatest interest are more or less all close, partly because, however, between bus and metro, it has an effective public transport network that allows you to go almost everywhere.
If you have one day only in Marseille however, you will not need to travel too much: this itinerary includes places that you can easily reach and that are located a short distance from each other.
- Information in brief
- Day 1: Morning
- Day 1: Afternoon
- Day 1: Evening
- Other things to see in Marseille in 1 day
- What to see in Marseille in 2 or 3 days
- Marseille in one day: What you need to know
Short information to visit Marseille in one day
Se you arrive from the airport to get to the center you have 3 ways
1 - From the airport, just take thedirect bus Shuttle Aeroport - Gare Saint Charles (€ 8,50 per person or € 13,40 for a return ticket), which departs every 20 minutes and takes just 30 minutes to reach Marseille train and bus station.
2 - in taxi (you can try Taxileader to book online)
3 - with a transfer (highly recommended - fast, comfortable, less expensive than a taxi and takes you directly to the hotel)
MARSEILLE CARD: I'll be honest. To visit Marseille in one day probably won't suit you especially if you decide to follow this itinerary of mine. In any case find here what is included in the CARD
Instead it is the Marseille tourist bus is highly recommended: it lasts all day, touches among the main points of interest and you can get on and off as many times as you want -> Find here further INFORMATION on the tourist bus
FREE WALKING TOUR
Civitatis offers two Free walking Tour di Marseille which are a great way to gain confidence and learn to orient yourself:
- Free walking tour of Marseille (2 hours, in English)
- Free walking tour of the Vieux Port of Marseille (1 hour 15, English)
Day 1: Morning
1 - Old Port of Marseille (Vieux Port)
Our itinerary on what to see in Marseille in one day starts from the Old Port or Old Port, partly because it is the heart of the city, partly because if you have decided to sleeping in Marseille, most likely you have chosen a hotel nearby (like me for that matter).
The beating heart of Marseille over the centuries, its old port, may have had a gentle and slightly generic facelift in 2013, but it continues to be central to life here.
After the redevelopment work of the British architect Norman Foster to make a large area pedestrian and install theShade house (a huge mirrored canopy), the Vieux Port is a staple of any visit to Marseille.
Get up early and walk along the old part of the Quai des Belges and you will see the lively fish market, a famous landmark of Marseille and where you will see chefs choosing fish for their restaurants!
From the View Port also begins a itinerary suggested by the Tourist Board (see image below) and that we followed to reach and visit Cart and Cathedral de la Major, first passing from the Mucem.
2 - Mucem (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations)
Until a few years ago, the museums of Marseille were not held in much consideration because they were not many and not very famous: among the few to mention certainly were the Marseille History Museum and Museum of Fine Arts, but none of them stand out particularly.
And then they built the Mucem.
Il Museum of European and Mediterranean civilizations, it is a large black block of honeycomb concrete built practically on the water aroused my curiosity, but I did not realize immediately (until I set foot) what it really was.
Lying on the northern side of the old port of Marseille, Mucem comprises two striking modernist buildings that house galleries and exhibitions.
We had only planned to take a couple of exhibits, but ended up spending six hours on our first day wandering around the Mucem, taking photos, having lunch and lounging in the sun on the roof and the sea; I think if you go there, you will like it a lot too.
Address: 7 Robert Laffont, although there are various access points to Mucem.
Prezzi: € 9,50 per adult for admission to all exhibitions. Admission is free for children under 18 on presentation of a valid identity document and it is free for everyone on the first Sunday of each month -> you can buy the Skip the Line Ticket HERE
Timetables: Open daily, but check the website for season-specific opening and closing times.
3 - Cathedral de la Major
The Marseille Cathedral, officially the Cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore, is easily identifiable from its twin towers and from the white and green striped stone exterior.
One of the largest cathedrals in France, this multi-domed Neo-Byzantine-style church is an interesting stop on your tour of the Old Town.
The Cathedral (also known as La Nouvelle Major) is not to be confused with Notre Dame de la Garde, on the hill facing the harbor. The cathedral, built in the XNUMXth century during the reign of Napoleon III and stands on the site of an earlier XNUMXth century church.
It is worth taking a trip to visit the interior.
4 - The Basket
Le Panier it is the historic district of Marseille, in practice the one in which the newly arrived Greeks settled.
The origin of the name is not well understood, but it is claimed that it comes from the sign of an inn "Le Logis du Panier" which was located here in the XNUMXth century.
This is the place where Jean Claude Izzo imagined his books and it was once a neighborhood with a bad enough not to say terrible reputation: today, after a careful and beautiful renovation, Le Panier is the most famous, hippie and frequented neighborhood of Marseille. Here, in the maze of narrow alleys, you will find artisans, souvenir shops, clubs and restaurants.
There are many things to see in the alleys of Le Panier, although in my opinion the best way to explore it is to get lost in the alleys, stopping to chat with the artists and observing its murals. Go and get lost!
Among the things to mention and absolutely to visit are:
1 - The Old Charity
As mentioned, Le Panier was not a great place to live. For this reason, in 1640 and on royal order, it was decided to build a General Hospital that could accommodate the poor born in Marseille. The architect was commissioned for the construction Pierre Puget (the works ended in 1749) which created one of the most beautiful architectural works of the district if not of the entire city.
The building, saved by Le Corbusier in the 50s, today it houses some small museums, completely free, including a small egyptian museum, for an museum of African art as well as one library it's a coffee.
2 - Place des Moulins
This is the highlight of the neighborhood, a small square shaded by tall trees and with a quiet character: a true oasis of peace within Le Panier!
Once they were here 40 windmills (you can already tell from the name) even if you probably won't see them today: in fact, there are only two left that have been transformed into homes. If you can spot them tell me, I couldn't!
For lunch stop at Le Panier: here there is a multitude of clubs, restaurants and bars where you can have a snack or a whole lunch!
If I can give you some advice, stop and eat at Street dimension (14 Rue Saint-Pons): here you can taste one of the best boullabaisse in Marseille in a familiar environment frequented by many locals (without leaving us a kidney when paying)
Day 1: Afternoon
If you followed this itinerary of 1 day in Marseille, you will probably be late enough: there is one more thing that you absolutely cannot miss: the Notre Dame de La Garde Cathedral!
1 - Notre Dame de La Garde
Virtually anywhere you are in the city, looking up at the horizon you will not fail to see the spectacular Our Lady of La Garde that "observes" you from above from its vantage point. “La Bonne Mère” dominates the city as if it were really watching over its citizens.
This charming striped building, from which by the way you will have a spectacular 360 ° panorama over Marseille, is one of the must-see things in Marseille, but plan well as it is always very busy with tourists.
The two best times are definitely the evening for sunset, or the morning presto.
Address: Fort du Sanctuaire Street
Prezzi: Free (but celebrations are done here, so please be aware and respectful).
Timetables: Open every day from 7am to 00pm (October to March) and until 19pm in the summer months. Last admission is 00 minutes before closing time.
How to reach us: you essentially have 3 ways to get to Notre Dame de La Garde
1 - with the tourist train: it costs little (8 euros) and makes you take a nice ride even on a part of the corniche. However, time at the Cathedral is somewhat limited.
2 - on foot: for the more athletic the Cathedral can be reached on foot from the place, but it is a nice climb!
3 - with bus 60 which stops right at Vieux Port
2 - Buy some souvenirs
One of the most famous productions in the city is the Marseille soap (which we all know) - a delicate green or white soap made with olive oil or palm oil.
Soap has been produced in Marseille since the XNUMXth century, and its unique properties are the direct result of the ferocious sun of Marseille, the mistral wind and the salty sea, or so the legend goes.
Like all very famous souvenirs, unfortunately, even of Marseille soap there are “fake” and cheap productions that are sold to tourists.
So be careful where you buy the soap: above all try to avoid the stalls that often (not all) sell you something not original.
Two places to buy it are:
Savonnerie La Licorne (where I bought): it has 4 shops, one of which is in Porto Vecchio - there is also the opportunity to learn how to make your own soap!
La Grande Savonnaire: behind the Town Hall, near the Hotel Dieu.
3 - Get an aperitif Pastis
In my itineraries I always like to include something "local" which, regardless of budget, travel style or length of stay, I think you should definitely do: in Marseille, sip the pastis!
In fact, during your stay here, you cannot fail to notice the pale yellow pastis glasses on the tables of the bars in Marseille. With star anise as the main ingredient, the licorice notes of the pastis are a little strange for those who have never tried it, but it is definitely the ideal drink to try here on a sunny day.
So, I highly recommend that you find an empty table in the shade near the water (pastis tastes infinitely better on sunny days), ask for "un pastis s'il vous plait", and spend some time observing city life around you.
If you'd like to learn more about Pastis and shop some brands beyond Ricard, the place to visit is The House of Pastis in the old port.
Day 1: Evening
1 - Sunset dinner cruise at the Calanques
I'll tell you about it later, but if you only have one day available and the weather is tight you can't miss the Calanques National Park anyway!
So to combine business with pleasure why not take part in one catamaran cruise with dinner at sunset?
-> HERE you will find information on the CRUISE
If you have no other way to visit the calanques, this is definitely an unmissable (and very romantic) opportunity
Other things to see in Marseille in 1 day
There are many other things to see in Marseille, maybe if you have time you want to add something or you prefer something else to the itinerary I suggested: here then other things to see in the city!
1 - The Corniche
Named after the famous president of the United States "Kennedy", the "cornice”As the locals call it is the avenue to the sea that runs along the coast of Marseille to the south.
On the one hand there are many sandy and rocky beaches, where you can hide from view and relax in front of the sea. On the other hand, there are parks, grand hotels, restaurants and shops.
It is a great place to go biking, jogging or just to get to the city beaches.
2 - The Radiant City
Unfortunately I have not seen it, but my friends from Marseille told me that it is absolutely worth a visit.
For people who have an interest in modern architecture, the city is home to one of the absolute gems of 20th century design: "The Cité Radieuse”By Corbusier.
UNESCO World Heritage Site, the complex houses the Corbusier Hotel, restaurants, shops, a gallery, a swimming pool, a nursery and a series of commercial activities, that is, things that at that time were a radically new way of "seeing life in common "where residents could" shop, play and live together in a vertical garden city "
Also called "la maison du fada" (the house of the mad) by some locals, visiting it must be a must and the first thing I will do when I can return to Marseille.
What to see in Marseille in 2 or 3 days
1 - Visit the Calanques National Park
Il Calanques National Park they are a truly exceptional place, in short, just look at my photo above to understand what we are talking about.
There are many Calanques to visit around Marseille even if the most recommended are undoubtedly the Calanques by Luminy (Sugiton, Morgou and Sormiou) and the Calanque di En Vau (the most beautiful of all, but to visit it you have to start from Cassis, not Marseille)
You can visit the Calanques in different ways.
Certainly walking is a great option, but it is very hot in summer and there is often no shade. But it's great when you get to sea level and dive into the crystal clear water. The return is usually uphill so it's a bit of a trek, it brings a lot of water!
The second way is from the sea with a boat trip, which is the option I would have chosen if I had found a place. Because of this I recommend that you buy your tickets here in advance so not to be fooled like me.
Visiting the park from the sea must be wonderful, the calanques look like fjords!
As a third option you could choose the mountain bike (but not all of them are accessible, inquire about which ones you can visit first) or in kayaks, but you take the kayak from Cassis not from Marseille.
2 - Visit the Château d'If and the Frioul islands
A morning or afternoon trip to theisola d’If, just twenty minutes by boat from the coast of Marseille, it is a must for any city break.
THEimperious castle of If, that of Dumas in Count of Monte Cristo, is the main attraction of this rocky outpost. One of the old prisons was the final resting place of many royal enemies from 1580 to 1871 (but not the hero of Dumas' novel as it is, you know, a work of fiction).
From the island, you can also enjoy excellent views over the city.
You can choose to visit only the island of If or also include a trip to other islands of Frioul (in total there are 4: Ile D'If, Ile Ratonneau and Ile Pomeguès and Tiboulen), a protected natural area popular with hikers and people who want to enjoy its small beaches.
What to know: Admission to the Castello d'If is € 6 per person. The boat trip lasts 20 minutes with hourly departures from Quai de la Fraternité to the old port and the route is operated by Frioul If Express. Tickets cost € 10,80 for the round trip (IF only) and € 16,20 to include the Frioul Islands.
Although the castle island is often closed due to the sea or too much wind, you must definitely buy tickets in advance: le queues are endless and under the sun of Marseille better to avoid.
With the Marseille City Pass, available for periods of 24, 48 or 72 hours, the boat to Château d'If is also included, as well as all public transport, entrance to the museum and the tourist train.
Marseille in one day: What you need to know
Is Marseille safe?
Marseille, for a variety of reasons, suffers in its reputation as a place slightly dangerous. Considering that some I have heard have complained, I must admit that I personally during my days there I had no problem.
Despite this, friends who live there have advised me not to wander around too much in certain areas especially after sunset and therefore I think it is useful to follow their advice.
in particular they advised me not to go around the north of the city: but you would hardly happen there even if you spent a few more days in Marseille.
So, as in all cities, use common sense during the day and be a little more cautious and aware of your surroundings in the evening; there is no need to be paranoid, but just be aware. Taking a taxi or Uber after dark, instead of walking, makes sense.
How to get around Marseille
On this itinerary you will not need public transport (apart from Notre Dame de la Garde if you decide to go there with the 60), and the city in general it can be visited by walking.
However, there are places of interest perhaps a little further away and in the evening it would be better to go around with Uber or by taxi.
Il tourist train it is usually the most convenient way for those with limited time to reach the main attractions rather than public transport.
That said, Marseille's public transport system is very efficient.
There are two subway lines, the blue one (M1) and the red one (M2), which run north and south. Marseille's extensive bus network connects other points in the city. Personally I have not used the trams.
Sul bus one ticket allows unlimited bus or tram transfers within 1 hour of first use, but only includes one subway entrance. Tickets are available at machines in metro stations and at tram stops, but the same single ticket costs € 2,00 when purchased on a bus.
Note that the City Pass Marseille includes unlimited rides on the metro, bus, tram, tourist train, the boat trip to the Château d'If, as well as free access to museums (including Mucem) and various discounts on other points of interest. It can be valid for 24, 48 or 72 hours: you can learn more and buy it here.
An easy and fun way to get around the city could be renting a bike or scooter: in Marseille you will see many and at the Port you will find those who rent them.