The second largest city in France, Marseille is a bustling coastal metropolis where over one million people live. Marseille has developed as a major European port over the years, but its coastal location and favourable climate has made it a favourite spot of sun-seekers from across the continent. The city has a big African flavour due to immigration from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria.
Marseille is known for being a major sporting city, as anyone who has visited the Stade Velodrome will tell you! It’s also a welcome change from Paris, as many of the local landmarks and boulevards are understated and more authentic than anything you might expect to find in the capital, while it’s also well-connected to the rest of France and the Mediterranean.
Marseille has a peculiar one-way system in place around the city centre. For this reason alone, driving a small car will make it easier for getting around.
Le Vieux Port (translates as the Old Harbour) is a great place to explore. At the heart of Marseille’s fishing industry, it’s a good place to watch fishermen sell their produce and watch the sunset. The Frioul islands are nearby, as is the Palais du Pharo where you can see the entire harbour.
If you fancy doing a little shopping or want to sit back with a cup of coffee, then le Cours Julien and la Plaine are the best places in Marseille to do so. In the city’s trendiest area, both are good places to pick up a bargain and get away from the main streets.
Musee des Docks Romains on Place Vivaux documents Marseille’s history as a port, which dates back several centuries. It’s near the docks, too, so you can step out from the past and into the present!
Marseille’s most notable music festival is Avec le Temps. Taking place every spring in Espace Julien, many local artists from a variety of genres play to an appreciative crowd. Remember to buy tickets in advance, as they do tend to go pretty quickly.
Marseille city centre can get clogged up with traffic during rush hour. Avoiding this area during early mornings and evenings on weekdays is advisable.
Due to recent improvements to the road network, it’s worth checking that your satnav is up to date. Alternatively, use a map from the nearest tourist office.
The main tourist office is on 11 la Canebiere, 13001 Marseille. From Mondays to Saturdays, it’s open between 9am-7pm and between 10am-5pm on Sundays and public holidays.
Marseille Provence Airport is the main airport serving the city and Provence region. Over eight million passengers a year pass through the airport every year. It serves as a hub for budget airlines, too, with many flights terminating at the new terminal, built in 2006.
To get to and from the airport by car, you need to go on the D20 in Marignane. From there to Marseille, you drive southwards towards the D9, move eastwards toward the junction with the A7 and drive south towards the city centre.