What to do in Marseille? As per my writing style, I first show you the location map of Marseille.
It is boldly shown to appear at the South East coast of France, facing the Mediterranean Sea. Marseille is one of the important cities in the French Riviera.
Did you notice a gulf in the map above? It is called the “Gulf of Lion”. The French Riviera cities Perpignan, Toulon, and Marseille are located in the Lion Gulf.
One of the popular neighbors of it is Cannes, the place where the annual Cannes Film Festival is hosted. The event attracts just about everybody that Who’s Who in the film industry.
Marseille is a perennial weekend vacation spot in France and in the rest of Europe.
Do you know Marseille was actually founded by the Greeks and thus, it is one of the ancient French settlements?
It has been inhabited by the Greeks since 600 BC!
Its strategic location in the Mediterranean Sea invited the people from Arabian countries, North Africa, and Asian countries, making it a cosmopolitan city.
Best Things to Do in Marseille
Notre-Dame de la Garde
Its elevated location, and the tall pointed spire makes the basilica easily visible from anywhere in Marseille. It also acquires sacredness as a pilgrimage center for celebrating Assumption Day.
Strangely, the highly-skilled French people took as many as 40 years to complete the construction of the fort-cum basilica.
Notre-Dame de la garde is one of the foremost attractions in Marseille.
The inside of the church has many beautiful things to see including the “Silver Virgin”, donated as ex-vote ( a sort of donation in fulfillment of a vow) by the Duchess of Berry.
Visiting the Notre-Dame de la Garde is one of the important things to do on your first day itself in Marseille.
Passion of Christ
What a sculpture! This immaculate statue called, ‘Passion of Christ” is one of the most photographed attractions. You cannot miss seeing it as it stands in front of the Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica.
The majority of the tourists to Marseille go to the Frioul archipelago as one of the things to do in here.
Can you count the four islands of the archipelago, with the first and the fourth islands as larger than the rest in the photo above?
Though, only 4 km separate the islands from the mainland, no road connection or causeway is built yet.
Though there is nothing much to see in the islands, people still go there with the hope of finding something new and exotic.
Boats keep plying between the two forms of lands. I think it would be fun to cross the sea, albeit a short ride.
Buy Marserille Soap
I know no one may use the historical soap but you buy it as a souvenir from Marseille.
This soap is classified as a ‘hard soap’, making it unusable these days as a bath-soap.
It will be amusing to know that water from the Mediterranean Sea and a sea plant that is a tolerant of the salt are used to manufacture the soap.
Ah, one more amazing news regarding the Marseille Soap. It takes up to a month for the soap to be ready for packing. That must not be a viable business.
It has been going thus for a whopping 600 years!
Buy it as one of things to do in Marseille. It would make a unique souvenir.
One of the current versions of this hard soap is used as a pesticide also.
So many interesting facts about a hard soap!
OMG! So many vessels in the old port of Marseille!
A walking tour around the harbor is one of the most enjoyable things to do in Marseille.
In the distance, you can spot the Notre-Dame de la Garde. I am sure, you would have been pointed out at the port from the basilica as a view
Apart from this bustling port that is said to handle over 85 million tons of cargo every year, there are two more ports with modern buildings.
It seems the harbors of Marseille are some of the busiest commercial as well as passenger traffic terminals..
I think a walking tour of the old port would give us an opportunity for people watching also-right?
CMA CGM Tower
It is the tallest building in Marseille and also rated as one of the tallest buildings in France.
The tower’s height is approximately 500 feet! Sure, the Mediterranean Sea would be sparkling when seen from the top of the CMA CGM Tower, one of the biggest (literally too) attractions.
CMA CGM is a shipping firm that built the tower and runs its business from the skyscraper.
There are 33 floors in the building. A bank 20 lifts are put into service for the users.
Very impressive really!
Enjoy looking and capturing the street Grafitti in your camwra.
These street arts are the identities of this French Riviera city.
They are there everywhere in Marseille in different sizes. The brilliant colors of the graffiti will certainly arrest your stride.
The city is thronged by the artists, painters, and the musicians. It is no wonder, the city is forever vibrant with full of gaiety.
Museums to visit in Marseille
If so many artists and musicians perform in Marseille, you can surely expect some museums related to fine arts.
- History Museum.
I think this would be very interesting because, this coastal city has been in existence since 600 BC!
- Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations
What are the special foods in Marseille
Due to its rich history and succumbed to various cultures, the food scene will impress gourmets.
Here are some of the popular dishes in Marseille that you must taste.
- Aioli-a kind of a dip that always accompanies the ubiquitous French Fries
- Panisse-chickpea fries. Must be an influence of Arabic cuisine.
- Pastis-this is an aperitif
Calanques National Park
The Calanques National Park is one of the must-see attractions.
Decorating the 55 km coastline of it, you can visit some of the splendid beaches with the backdrop of cliffs, and coves.
Trekkers are overjoyed when they come across a rugged part of the Calanques National Park and it is known as “Massif des Calanques”.
What a beautiful location in Marseille! Its entire 20 km of hiking area is full of breathtaking scenes.
Visiting the huge, and modern Stade Velodrome is one of the things to do in Marseille.
Though it is a multi-purpose stadium, mainly football matches are conducted here.
Rugby is another game that is played in Stad Velodrome.
French people are crazy about football. The FIFA World Cup matches were held here several times since 1938.
Nearly 67,000 spectators can be seated at a given time.
The Marseillais are fiercely proud of this stadium.
Toy train ride without rails.
It’s called, “Petit Train”.
The train takes you through the Mediterranean coast, shows you several landmarks of this beautiful French city including the Notre-Dame de la Garde. This petit train runs on the road instead of rails!
This is one way of touring the city. Alternatively, you can buy a ticket for the hop-on, hop-off bus tour of the city.
Unfortunately, it is not an air-conditioned bus which is a necessity in the hot port city.
Walking excursion through La Canabiere
La Canabiere is one of the arterial streets of the city.
The long street is full of cafes, shops, and beautiful buildings. Hordes of tourists can be always seen window-shopping in La Canabiere.
Walking along the La Canabiere is one of the enjoyable things to do.
If you are touring Marseille in July, you can go to Provence to see numerous Lavender Farms. It is a rare treat to see the Lavender flowers in a sprawling area.
Overall, I believe Marseille is worth a weekend holiday. You can travel to other locations of the French Riviera if you make it as your base.
St. Tropez, Cannes, Avignon, Aries, Nice, Aix-en-Provence, Gordes, and Antibes are the cities on Cote d Azur are at day trip distance from it.