Essential Marseille

Not to be missed - Cruise

This tour is designed to help you get to know the capital of Bouches-du-Rhône and European Capital of Culture 2013 inside and out. First, pay a quick visit to the 'Bonne Mère', as the locals familiarly refer to the basilica which watches over the city. Next go and listen to the city's beating heart, the Old Port, and while you're there stop for lunch at Chez Madie. Then head to Panier, the city's old town that is home to a vibrant community today. Afterwards, rest your weary limbs a while in the courtyard of the majestic Vieille Charité cultural centre. Once rested, make your way to the MuCEM, one of the city's cultural landmarks, before taking in the sights of the surrounding calanques.If you love being on the water, then this part of the tour is for you!

Notre-Dame de la Garde: the guardian of Marseille

Rue Fort du Sanctuaire 13007 Marseille

Start your first day in Marseille getting limber by walking up to see one of the city's most iconic landmarks, Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica. The 'Bonne Mère', as she's affectionately known, watches over Marseille's citizens and sailors from 154 metres up. You can also get to enjoy the stunning views by taking the land train or the number 60 bus. Originally built as a chapel in 1214, the basilica has been constantly extended ever since. During your visit, make sure you get to see the bronze doors designed by Révoil and the ex-voto.

The Old Port, the heart and soul of Marseille

13001 Marseille

Next make your way down to the Old Port, a place steeped in history and legend. To cross to the other side, catch the famous Ferry Boat (a favourite of Marcel Pagnol) that makes several trips across the port each day, connecting Place aux Huiles to the town hall. If you prefer to go by foot, make sure you pop into Saint-Ferréol Church to see its pulpit (listed under the historic heritage programme) and altar made of multi-coloured marble.

A typical Marseille lunch at Chez Madie les Galinettes

138 Quai Du Port 13002 Marseille

Cited by the Bottin Gourmand and Tables 13 guides, Chez Madie les Galinettes comes highly recommended for lunch. A stone's throw from the town hall at the Old Port, this traditional eatery serves local specialities including bouillabaisse, galinette in sauce and pieds paquets (stew of sheep's feet and stuffed tripe) at good value for money. Check out the works by local artists on the walls.

The Panier district, Marseille then and now

13002 Marseille

Your next stop on your tour of Marseille is the former working-class district of Panier, the city's historic old town. From the Maison Diamantée to the Hôtel-Dieu and the Grand’Rue (ancient Roman way), France's second city has successfully preserved the traces of its rich past. Today Panier is also a vibrant inner-city community bursting with designer boutiques and restaurants spilling out onto pretty terraces.

Vieille Charité: from spiritual centre to arts complex

2 Rue De la Charité 13002 Marseille

One site not to miss is Vieille Charité, a 17th century hospice turned arts centre. With its courtyard, galleries arranged over three levels and central chapel with Italian Baroque-style dome, it's well worth the detour! Now a centre of culture, this magnificent building made of pink and white stone houses the archaeology museum and the museum dedicated to African and Native American art. On the way out pop into Charité Café for a coffee.

The magical MuCEM

7 Promenade Robert Laffont 13002 Marseille

A short stroll from the city's old town is the new face of Marseille: J4. This redevelopment of the old J4 dock is now home to the MuCEM, the Villa Méditerranée cultural centre, the Regards de Provence museum and the Terrasses du Port shopping mall. To get there, cross the impressive footbridge that leads from the square outside Saint-Laurent's Church. Then, before checking out the exhibitions at the MuCEM (the museum of European and Mediterranean civilisations), take a stroll from Fort Saint-Jean to the museum's extraordinary building designed by Rudy Ricciotti. This ultramodern museum is gigantic so you'll almost certainly have to come back to see it all.

Marseille's calanques, rocky treasures on the coast

The finish line of your marathon tour of Marseille is the sun setting on the horizon in the heart of Calanques National Park. En-Vau, Sormiou, Callelongue... Marseille's calanques, these beautiful natural inlets, are just some of the magical sites that you can't leave without seeing. Gems in the Mediterranean's crown, each one has a particular characteristic (huts or a particular shade of rock at one, a unique climbing spot at another) and can be explored from land or sea. To really take in the stunning beauty of these wonders of nature, take a boat trip from the Old Port.

Distance from cruise terminal : 15 min

Can't-miss experiences

  • Experiencing the intoxicating colours and scents at the Prado flower market- Exploring the city in style at Château Borély, Marseille's decorative arts and fashion museum
  • Browsing the shops for an afternoon at the Joliette Docks whose redevelopment was designed by the architect Éric Castaldi

We love

  • How easy it is to get to several calanques from the city and explore this unique geological heritage
  • The atmosphere at the Old Port which is a lot more than a tourist destination!
  • The sweeping panoramas over the city and the sea from Colline de la Garde

The best time to visit

  • May-June to make the most of the fine weather before the high temperatures and masses of tourists arrive
  • July to attend the Jazz des 5 Continents Festival or the Festival International du Cinéma (FID)
  • Late October for the German beer festival Oktoberfest (brass bands, cancan, Bavarian beer)
  • Theme

    Not to be missed, Cruise

  • Duration

    1 day

  • Transport means

    On foot

  • Visited cities

  • Ideal for

    All year round

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All for Marseille Marseille for all!

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