When you visit Marseille, there’s one place you just can’t miss: the Vieux Port. You might also know it as the Marseille Old Port, Vieux Port de Marseille, or simply the Old Port of Marseille.
It’s a place full of rich experiences and fun! So, are you ready to go on a journey through a day well spent in Old Port Marseille? 🗺️
To ensure your adventure has the perfect start and end, experience the charm and comfort of southern France in our perfect Mediterranean base at the MEININGER Hotel in Marseille.
💎 Vieux Port: Marseille’s timeless gem
The Vieux Port has a fascinating history, dating back thousands of years to Greek and Roman times. Marseille, one of France’s oldest cities, stands proud, with roots extending to at least 600 BC. It’s even older than Paris! For centuries, it has been a hub of Mediterranean and African trade, holding a main role in Marseille and France’s defense strategy.
In 1660, King Louis XIV had Fort Saint-Jean built in Marseille, and here’s the twist: the cannons were aimed at the city, not away from it. Despite a tumultuous past, the strategic location of Marseille made it a critical center for the French Resistance during World War II, offering escape routes and safe havens.
🌊 Culture meets the sea
At the far end of the Old Port of Marseille, you’ll find the Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean (Mucem), a modern marvel that opened in 2013 when Marseille was named the European Capital of Culture.
It’s a treasure trove of artifacts, showcasing Mediterranean civilizations and cultural cross-pollination. The museum also hosts modern art exhibitions by contemporary artists. After your exploration, head to the rooftop terrace to enjoy stunning views and a refreshing break at Le Mole Passedat Café.
⚽ Marseille’s grand avenue
La Canebière, often dubbed Marseille’s answer to the “Champs-Élysées,” is a grand boulevard lined with classical buildings stretching for miles and a significant part of Marseille’s landscape.
Here, you’ll find the official shop of the local football team, Olympique de Marseille. It’s a bustling place where you can immerse yourself in the city’s sporting spirit. Make sure you also visit the Grand Theater, a neo-classical masterpiece, and check for any evening shows to enjoy.
⛪ Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille
No time to visit the famous Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica? The next best thing is the Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille, right on the Old Port! This cathedral is equally impressive, standing on a site where churches have existed since the 5th century. The current building was consecrated in 1893, just 30 years after Notre Dame de la Garde, featuring a similarly stunning striped interior.
🛐 Eglise Saint Ferréol Les Augustins
Add to your bucket-list this beautiful church which is nestled in the heart of Old Port Marseille. It’s a serene spot where you can appreciate the city’s history and culture.
🧼 Marseille’s soap factories
If you’re looking for the perfect souvenir from your Marseille visit, it has to be the world-famous Marseille soap! Often copied but never matched, genuine Marseille soap is crafted from pure vegetable fats, free from dyes, perfumes, or synthetic additives. With 72% oils, it’s gentle on all skin types, even for the little ones.
Marseille and soap share a history dating back almost 700 years. The records show the first soap maker in the region started at the end of the 14th century. Marseille soaps come in two classic variations: olive green, made from olive oil, and white, crafted from palm, copra, or peanut oil.
Want to know more? Take a tour of the city’s famous soap factories, where you can discover the secrets of Marseille soap:
🎨 Le Panier
Le Panier, nestled behind the western quay of the Old Port, is a real trip back in time. You’ll find a series of stairs leading up to Marseille’s oldest neighborhood. The area miraculously survived the German destruction in the 1940s that erased much of Marseille’s history around the Vieux Port and the Hotel de Ville.
Today, Le Panier has transformed into an artist’s haven with charming boutiques and galleries for you to explore. With cobblestone streets and narrow lanes, it’s Provencal charm at its best!
🏖️ Catalans Beach: a sandy escape
A quick 15-minute stroll from the Old Port brings you to one of Marseille’s coziest beaches, Plage des Catalans. Both locals and travelers cherish this small sandy haven. You’ll find volleyball nets and ice cream trucks, but make sure to arrive early to snag a sunny spot.
🦞 Quai des Belges Markets: seafood love
Just across from the Canebière on the Old Port is where local markets set up shop on weekends, offering fresh catches from the Mediterranean to make Marseille’s famous bouillabaisse. These markets also host winter Christmas markets and Provençal souvenir stands during the summer giving you a great shopping experience.
🏺 Walk through history
Despite extensive renovations to the Old Port in 2012, there are still remnants of Roman ruins. Musée d’Histoire de Marseille and Jardin des Vestiges provide a fascinating journey into the ancient Greek and Roman port, with ruins dating as far back as 600 BC. These ruins, discovered during a construction project in the 1960s, offer a glimpse into Marseille’s rich history.
🥂 Bars, restaurants & local cuisine
Start your night at the bars and café terraces along the Old Port, enjoying the traditional aperitif, Pastis. You’ll find a variety of dining options, from English pubs like the Queen Victoria to tapas spots like La Ruche or Le Baletti. In the mood for a more upscale experience featuring local delicacies? Head to Une Table au Sud.
For those short on time but rich in curiosity, don’t miss our Make The Most Of One Day In Marseille guide, designed to help you capture the essence of this vibrant city in just 24 hours.
✨ Summing up…
Marseille’s Old Port location offers you a wide range of experiences that blend history, culture, and breathtaking scenery. If you’re a history buff, love food, or seek a relaxing day by the sea, the Vieux Port of Marseille will surely capture your heart with its renowned offerings!
Best things to do in Old Port Marseille: FAQs
What is so special about the Vieux Port in Marseille?
The Vieux Port is a timeless gem in Marseille. Its history spans back thousands of years to Greek and Roman times. Marseille is one of the oldest cities in France and even predates Paris. For centuries, it was a hub of Mediterranean and African trade and played a central role in the defense strategy of Marseille and France.
What cultural activities are there at the Vieux Port?
At the far end of the Vieux Port, you'll find the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (MuCEM), which opened in 2013 when Marseille was named European Capital of Culture. It is a treasure trove of artifacts, showcasing the civilizations of the Mediterranean and cultural cross-pollination. There are also modern art exhibitions by contemporary artists. On the rooftop terrace, you can enjoy stunning views and a refreshing break at the Le Mole Passedat Café.
What can I experience on Marseille's main street?
La Canebière, often referred to as Marseille's answer to the "Champs-Élysées," is a grand boulevard lined with classic buildings. Here you will find the official store of the local football team, Olympique de Marseille. Also, make sure to visit the Grand Theater, a neo-classical masterpiece, and check if there are any evening performances.
Is there an alternative to the Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica in Marseille?
Yes, the Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille right on the Old Port is equally impressive and stands on a site where churches have been since the 5th century. The current building was consecrated in 1893 and features a similarly stunning striped interior.
What does the Eglise Saint Ferréol Les Augustins offer?
The Eglise Saint Ferréol Les Augustins, nestled in the heart of Old Port Marseille, is a serene spot where you can appreciate the city's history and culture.
Why is Marseille soap so special?
The world-famous Marseille soap is made from pure vegetable fats and is free from dyes, perfumes, or synthetic additives. With 72% oils, it's gentle on all skin types. The history of Marseille and its soap dates back almost 700 years. You can take tours through the city's famous soap factories, where you can learn more about the secrets of Marseille soap.
What can I experience in the Le Panier district?
Le Panier, located behind the western quay of the Old Port, offers a real trip back in time with charming boutiques and galleries. With its cobblestone streets and narrow lanes, you'll experience Provençal charm at its best.
What does Plage des Catalans offer?
A 15-minute walk from the Old Port takes you to Plage des Catalans, a cozy little sandy beach that is popular with both locals and travelers. There are volleyball nets and ice cream trucks, but make sure to arrive early to grab a sunny spot.
What can I find at the Quai des Belges market?
Across from the Canebière at the Old Port, local markets set up on weekends, offering fresh catches from the Mediterranean for Marseille's famous bouillabaisse. These markets also host winter Christmas markets and Provençal souvenir stands in the summer.
Can I delve into history in Marseille?
Yes, despite extensive renovations to the Old Port in 2012, there are still remnants of Roman ruins. The Musée d’Histoire de Marseille and Jardin des Vestiges provide a fascinating journey into the ancient Greek and Roman port, with ruins dating as far back as 600 BC. These ruins, discovered during a construction project in the 1960s, offer a glimpse into Marseille's rich history.