Travel Guide: Marseille, France

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France is most often known for romance and Paris, but there is another city full of culture and charm that deserves your attention. Marseille, France is the second largest city in the country and is a vibrant cultural center for history, art, and delicious food. This port city on the Mediterranean is a must visit if you are traveling to France. Enjoy this comprehensive travel guide on the oldest city in France!

When to Visit
The most popular time for tourists to visit Marseille is between May and August when the temperatures are highest, and the possibility of rain is the lowest. July is the warmest season of the year with an average temperature of the mid to upper 80s and also has the least amount of rainfall.

If you are looking for a time to visit when there will be fewer tourists around, and prices are a little lower, September or April would be your best bets! Both of these months still have warm weather with averages in the 60s and 70s but the crowds are noticeably thinner, and prices will be lower. There are chances you could see rainfall during these months though. Also, April is sometimes also characterized by cold gusts of le mistral’s high winds from the winter.

Essential Attractions
For the history buff, many beautiful churches and ancient buildings are a must-see in Marseille. The Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde is considered one of the most important landmarks of Marseille. This church on the hill features lavish designs of the Neo-Byzantine era along with breath-taking views of the entire city, the old harbor, and even islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The Vieux Port, or Old Harbor, is the birthplace of Marseille and a lively atmosphere bursting with culture. Here you will find authentic cuisine, fresh fish markets and plenty of sailboats. Old Harbor is a must-see!

Stade Velodrome is a great place to check out if you are a football enthusiast. This stately stadium holds over 60,000 people and has been the location for two World Cups and the Euro 2016 tournament.

Marseille is also known for its extensive artistic network. Every year they are the home of the Marseille Expos which attract thousands upon thousands of artists. In 2013, MuCEM opened in Marseille and became a must-visit museum. This museum of society does not solely focus on fine arts but instead focuses on European and Mediterranean civilizations and culture. They deal with thematic issues by using everyday objects and host exhibitions of everything from textiles to food.

Marseille and the surrounding areas are also known for their beautiful beaches. Plages Escale Borely is one of the most popular beaches, located just two miles from the city center. This beach is an excellent location for sailing and windsurfing as well as providing easy access to cafes, restaurants, and bars. In the nearby Cassis, you will find Plage de la Grand Mar, which is a beautiful family beach right outside of Marseille.

Lesser-Known Gems
Marseille is also home to some excellent sites that are not as easy to find in the tourist guides. The Rove Tunnel is the longest canal tunnel in the world and was abandoned in the 1960s.

Chateau d’if is a historic island prison in the Marseille Bay that was built in the 16th century and housed some of Europe’s most vile prisoners. The prison closed and became an attraction in the late 19th century.

Calanque Port Pin is a stunning inlet beach that, although is difficult to access, is well worth the trouble! About an hour’s walk from the town center of Cassis, outside of Marseille, this beach is a must-see for those who like a little adventure and fewer crowds.

Foods to Try
Marseille is home to a lovely food scene with major seafood influences from Africa and Italy. One of the most popular dishes that is a must-try is Bouillabaisse which was initially created by the Ancient Greeks. Traditionally a soup of fish and scraps, bouillabaisse is not made with up to five varieties of fresh fish, served with a rich broth and plenty of croutons.

Moules Mariniere, or sailor’s mussels, is another favorite dish easily found in Old Harbor and made with plenty of garlic, onion, and herbs.

Surprisingly, pizza is also a favorite in Marseille as a result of strong Italian influences. They claim to have invented the wood-fired pizza, and you will never see them use a rolling pin to stretch the dough.

Tapenade, an appetizer-style puree made of capers, anchovies, black olives, garlic, and olive oil is also quite popular in Marseille.

Check out my gallery page on my website to see photos of my trip to Marseille, France!

Originally published at

Now retired, Sebastian Corbo is a former leader in the construction industry. Learn more @

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