The 5 Things You Must See Before You Leave Marseille
France’s oldest city offers more than a few fascinating sights. Discover what to see in Marseille on your next trip.
With a rich history and a vibrant urban scene, Marseille is a truly unique city. You rarely get a chance to see such a perfect blend of cultural influences. If you’ve decided to visit, you can rest assured you’ve made an excellent decision.
If you have the time, you should explore everything that Marseille has to offer. Still, there are a few things that you must visit before you move on to the smaller and less famous sights. Here’s what to see in Marseille first.
1. Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde
Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde is a monument that you couldn’t miss even if you wanted to. It stands proudly at the hilltop, showcasing the opulence of the neo-byzantine architecture. The lavish gilded Madonna crowns the belfry and this is the first thing that will catch your eye from afar.
Of course, the interior of the Basilique is nothing less impressive. Light and dark arches contrast one another in a mesmerizing fashion. There are also many artifacts that you can see once inside.
When you reach the terrace, you’ll get to enjoy a marvelous panoramic view of Marseille. The view extends from the nearby red rooftops to as far as the Frioul Islands. With all of this in mind, you’ll want to set aside at least a couple of hours for the Basilique.
2. Old Port of Marseille
For more than 2,600 years, Marseille’s enormous port has been the epicenter of trade. Due to its size, it’s not really a sight as much as a district of its own.
You can take a stroll down the many broad promenades surrounded by 18th-century warehouses. On the ground floor of just about all of them, you’ll see cafés, shops, or fish restaurants. Old Port of Marseille restaurants are as charming as you imagine them to be, and the Marseille food will leave you wanting more.
Today, the majority of the boats that you’ll see are for enthusiasts rather than traders. That’s because the local fishing industry modernized and moved to the many docks in the north. Still, you might stumble upon a fisherman carrying away fish to sell at a local market.
3. Musée d’Histoire de Marseille
What is Marseille famous for?
How about a 2,600-year-long history?
It’s tough to grasp everything that the city’s been through on your own. Because of this, you don’t want to miss the Musée d’Histoire de Marseille. As you can imagine, the museum that contains so much history has to be the largest in the country. So if you’re a fan of history, you’re in for a unique treat.
Do you want to see all the artifacts from the time of the Ancient Greeks to the 20th century? Or models and maps of Marseille throughout history? These are just the tip of the iceberg.
Plus, the museum is very close to the Old Port, so you can get to it in no time after you’ve finished browsing the shops and bars.
4. Le Panier
Speaking of history, you must visit the Old Town where the Greeks settled in 600 BC. Le Panier is the cultural and historical center of Marseille, so you shouldn’t leave town before you get a chance to check it out.
What you’ll see are colorful pastel buildings, boutique shops, art galleries, and many unique spots. The entire area has a very artistic vibe, and even the gentrification hasn’t removed its charm.
As hard as it may be to believe once you get there, Le Panier is also a residential area. High lines of laundry breathe even more life into the area, making it even more appealing than it already is.
Naturally, the area has a few notable landmarks that you’ll want to visit. These include the Vieille Charité, Cathédrale de la Major, and Hôtel de Ville. And if you’re to explore Marseille’s heart and soul, be sure to take a walk through La Panier.
5. Calanques National Park
If you’re up for a Marseille adventure, don’t forget to stop by the Calanques National Park. You can either hike or take a boat if you’re more into a relaxing trip. But even if you do decide to hike, the scenery will be well worth the effort.
The sight of the limestone rock walls over the mesmerizing turquoise water may be enough to tempt you to jump into it. Of course, you’re free to do so and you can enjoy many other activities as well. These include board cruises, yachting, and kayaking, to name a few.
If you have the time, you should certainly book a guided boat tour or even a private tour. That’s how you’ll get the chance to see some of the majestic fjord-like coves like Port-Pin and En-Vau.
And if you get tired of exploring, you can enjoy savory meals and drinks surrounded by awe-inspiring scenery.
Don’t Leave Too Soon
What you see here is only a sample of Marseille. This is a destination that deserves a lot of attention, so be sure to leave enough time to visit all the major sights.
Of course, Marseille also has many forts and castles that you may want to check out later. You can stand on the same spot as the Ancient Greeks of more than two and a half millennia ago, for example.
You won’t get many opportunities to do so, which is why you should take full advantage of everything that Marseille has to offer.