France’s second largest city is in the south: beautiful Marseille. It has a lively Mediterranean ambience, from its historic old town with mixed architectural styles to the fishing boats in the idyllic port, making it ideal for wandering around; whether you have a week or only one day in Marseille!
Discover the Provençal and simultaneously international lifestyle in a place where urban is coupled with stunning nature and enjoy the best of both worlds.
We’ve summed up for you the top things you can do in Marseille in one day!Check them out below 👇
#1 Step in a Museum & Travel Back in Time
Start your day in Marseille by connecting with your artsy self in the Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean (MuCEM): exhibitions combining history, anthropology, archaeology, contemporary art; an amazing experience for all ages. Covered in coral-like latticework and sitting at the water’s edge, you’ll see the building itself is phenomenal. Add it to the top of your Marseille bucket list.
Looking for an interactive museum experience? Marseille Soap Museum with its own “sense of smell space” and a Marseille soap workshop, where you can create your very own soap, is the place for you.
Or drop by the Marseille History Museum and dive in its garden to observe archaeological remains of classical ramparts, port buildings and a necropolis.
#2 Visit the Vieux Port (Old Harbor) & Fort Saint Jean
When we say old, we mean very old: Marseille’s Vieux Port is 2,600 years old.
Traveling with company or solo? You’ll have fun, either way: snap some shots (the port is photogenic), eat fresh fish, relax at a local café and watch the boats or ride the Ferris wheel. Summer sunsets are especially romantic to watch from there, too.
Facing the port, you’ll see a footbridge leading to the Fort Saint Jean, flirting between history and culture. You don’t want to miss the spectacular panoramic view of the port and the bay of Marseille. Plus, you can have a cozy picnic, too.
#3 Escape to Nature
Craving a scuba-diving adventure, some hiking or a relaxing boat-ride? The Calanques National Park, a stretch of coast between Marseille and Cassis, away from the city’s buzz, is an absolute must. Spectacular views, aquamarine waters, limestone cliffs leading to secret pebble beaches. Put on your bathing-suit and dive in.
Are you on a family trip? Then, don’t miss out on the Ecopark Adventures-Marseille Saint-Jérôme, 5 km from the city center, with its treetop rope courses and its mini-park for toddlers (the courses are equipped with lifelines). You and your little co-travelers will have the time of your life.
#4 Get Ready for a Stroll
Also known as the Montmartre of Marseilles, Le Panier, between the Vieux Port and the new district of La Joliette, is built on a hill and is the oldest neighborhood. Explore this atmospheric city slice: get lost in its maze of cobbled streets, admire the colorful architecture, photograph the frescoes on the buildings and sip an apéritif on a sunny terrace. Something not to be missed when you have one day in Marseille!
Want to take a sneak peek of what old Marseille used to be? Close to the Vieux Port and Le Panier, you’ll find La Canebière with its enormous, ornate buildings, restaurants and shops, also leading to the lively Capucin district.
In the mood for shopping? Try Rue Saint-Férréol (nicknamed St. Fé), Rue de Rome (traditional shops), Rue Paradis (high-end shopping) or Rue de la Tour (trendy shops designer labels).
#5 For Byzantine-Architecture Buffs
Get your sneakers on and climb the hill (and the many steps) to reach the highest building in Marseille: the Basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde, built by King François I, at 150 m above sea level to protect the city from invaders. See the Byzantine architecture, the sublime views or have a romantic little picnic (in that case, get supplies since there are no shops nearby). Feeling less energetic? Hop on a train from the Vieux Port or on a bus (if you decide on the bus, you’ll still have to walk for 7 minutes).
Want to admire some Byzantine domes, murals, mosaics and statues? Get inside the majestic Cathédrale de La Major, built in the mid to late 19th century.
#6 Feel the Count of Monte Cristo Vibes
Just a 20-minute boat-ride from Marseille’s port, and you’ll find yourself at Château d’If, a former fortress and a later prison from which nobody escaped due to the surrounding strong tidal waters. Except for Alexandre Dumas’ fictional protagonist, of course, in The Count of Monte Cristo (1844). The paths are uneven and there’s little shade, so make sure to wear comfy shoes, a hat and sunscreen.
#7 Explore the Garden(s)
The incredible Palais Longchamp, known also as the château d’eau, offers something for everyone: romantic strolls in the botanical gardens, many playgrounds for your little ones, a café at the top or a visit to the Natural History Museum of Marseille. When walking in the gardens, you can even take a selfie with a 120-year-old Siberian elm in the background. The Palais de Longchamp is also amazing at night when the building and the fountains are magically illuminated.
Another place you can’t miss when you have only one day in Marseille is definitely Parc Borély: one of the most remarkable gardens in France. Rent bikes, visit the playgrounds, enjoy a book by the lake or work out at the outdoor gym. You can also explore the botanical gardens, go to the golf club next door or to the sandy beach opposite for a swim. It has everything, right?
A vast former tobacco factory but now functioning as a cultural arts center: La Friche. No matter what kind of adventurer you are, you’ll find what you want here: experimental art, festivals during the warmer months, a great cup of coffee at the arty bookshop, a cool skate park on the ground floor. You’ll love watching the sunset from the roof (sometimes with DJs playing music), eating from the food trucks and just enjoying life. Keep in mind, though, that there’s a lot of steps to climb and everything closes early—it’s a residential area.
Curious to see Marseille’s ‘city within a city’? Walk the alternative path and visit Cité Radieuse: a self-contained village with hundreds of flats, a school, a doctor’s surgery, restaurants and shops. Created by the famous French architect, Corbusier, to solve the problem of the shortage of housing and access to doctors/schools, after the end of World War II. Immerse yourself in culture and take a free guided tour or climb to the roof and take spectacular photos of the pool and the city.
#9 Culinary Pleasures
Drink the French way by sipping a mysterious liquid called pastis: with a strong licorice flavor, it’s an absolutely delicious beverage and a must to try.
Of course, one day in Marseille can’t be completed without tasting the bouillabaisse: the highlight dish of the Provençal cuisine. It’s a fish soup including at least 4 different kinds of fish, super fresh and super healthy. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, seek out the bouillabaisse burgers, served at particular spots.