48 Hours in Marseille, France: 10 Cool Things To Absolutely Do

1. Explore the Vieux-Port

The Vieux-Port, Marseille’s bustling old harbor, is the heart and soul of the city. Start your 48 hours in Marseille with a stroll along the waterfront, where fishing boats, luxury yachts, and colorful sailboats create a lively atmosphere. The picturesque views of Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica standing tall on the hilltop and the charming architecture surrounding the port provide the perfect backdrop for memorable photos. Don’t miss the fish market where you can sample some of the region’s freshest seafood.

For a unique experience, take a boat trip from the Vieux-Port to the nearby Calanques. These stunning limestone cliffs and turquoise coves offer breathtaking views and incredible opportunities for swimming and snorkeling. Plus, the boat ride itself allows you to witness the beauty of Marseille’s coastline from a different perspective.

2. Visit the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde

Perched atop a hill overlooking Marseille, the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde is an iconic symbol of the city. The ornate Byzantine-style basilica showcases stunning mosaics and offers panoramic views of Marseille and its surrounding areas. You can either hike up to the basilica or take a short bus ride if you prefer a more leisurely approach.

Aside from its religious significance, the basilica is also a major tourist attraction due to its historical and cultural importance. As you explore the interior, you’ll discover an impressive collection of ex-votos, intricate wooden models of ships, and other maritime relics. The views from the terrace surrounding the basilica are simply breathtaking, making it a must-visit attraction in Marseille.

3. Take a stroll through Le Panier

Located just minutes away from the Vieux-Port, Le Panier is Marseille’s oldest district and arguably its most charming. This vibrant neighborhood is characterized by its narrow, winding streets, colorful facades, and charming squares filled with cafes and boutiques. As you wander through Le Panier, you’ll stumble upon hidden gems such as local artisans’ workshops and trendy contemporary art galleries.

Le Panier also boasts historical sites, including the Vieille Charité, a former poorhouse turned museum showcasing Mediterranean archaeology, and the Cathédrale de la Major, an impressive Byzantine-style cathedral. Stop by a local bakery to indulge in traditional pastries like the famous Navettes, shaped like boats, which are a true delight for your taste buds.

4. Discover the MuCEM and Fort Saint-Jean

The MuCEM (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations) is a modern architectural masterpiece that celebrates Marseille’s cultural diversity. It explores the history and contemporary art of the Mediterranean region through a wide range of exhibitions and activities. Its iconic structure, comprising a breathtaking lattice-like outer shell, is sure to leave an impression.

Connected to the MuCEM by a dramatic footbridge, Fort Saint-Jean is a historically rich monument. Dating back to the 12th century, it offers stunning views of the Mediterranean and the harbor. This location is perfect for a picnic, or you can visit one of the fort’s many cafes or restaurants for a picturesque dining experience.

5. Taste the Local Cuisine

Marseille is a paradise for food enthusiasts, with its rich culinary heritage and diverse flavors influenced by the Mediterranean Sea and neighboring regions. Make sure to try some Bouillabaisse, a traditional Provençal fish soup that originated in Marseille. Typically served with croutons and a saffron-infused rouille sauce, Bouillabaisse is a true delicacy that highlights the freshness and quality of the local seafood.

Don’t forget to indulge in some local street food while exploring the city. One must-try snack is the famous Panisse, a chickpea flour fritter that is crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. Enjoy it with a glass of Pastis, an anise-flavored liqueur that is synonymous with Marseille’s social scene.

6. Experience the Cours Julien

If you’re a fan of arts, creativity, and alternative culture, a visit to Cours Julien is a must. This bohemian district is packed with street art, independent boutiques, quirky shops, and vibrant cafes. It is the artistic heart of Marseille, with its lively atmosphere attracting both locals and visitors alike.

Take a moment to admire the colorful murals that adorn the neighborhood’s walls or browse through the trendy fashion boutiques. Cours Julien truly encapsulates Marseille’s modern and artistic side, showcasing its dynamic urban culture.

7. Visit Château d’If

Located on a small island, Château d’If is best known as the setting for Alexandre Dumas’ famous novel, “The Count of Monte Cristo.” This historical fortress-turned-prison offers a fascinating glimpse into France’s past. Take a boat from the Vieux-Port to the island and explore the prison’s cells, which once held many political and religious prisoners during the 17th and 18th centuries.

While the history of Château d’If is captivating, the real highlight is the stunning views it provides of the Mediterranean Sea and the Marseille coastline. It’s a unique opportunity to dive into literature and history while enjoying the scenic beauty of the region.

8. Immerse Yourself in the Market of Noailles

The vibrant Market of Noailles is a bustling melting pot of colors, aromas, and flavors. Known as Marseille’s “Little Istanbul,” this market transports you to a different world as you wander through its busy streets lined with stalls selling spices, Middle Eastern delicacies, and fresh produce.

Allow yourself to be tempted by the huge variety of exotic ingredients and explore the lively ambiance of this multicultural market. From Moroccan sweets to Lebanese baklava, your taste buds will be treated to an explosion of flavors.

9. Relax on the Beaches

Marseille boasts several beautiful beaches scattered along its coastline. Spend some time soaking up the sun, building sandcastles, or taking a refreshing dip in the Mediterranean Sea. Plage des Catalans, located near the Old Port, is a popular choice among locals and tourists alike due to its convenient location and the range of facilities available.

If you’re seeking a quieter beach experience, head to Calanque de Sormiou. This hidden gem is surrounded by stunning cliffs and crystal-clear waters, offering a serene escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.

10. Experience the Nightlife in Cours d’Estienne d’Orves

Marseille comes alive after dark, and the Cours d’Estienne d’Orves is the beating heart of its vibrant nightlife. This pedestrian square is lined with numerous bars, restaurants, and nightclubs where you can dance the night away. The atmosphere is electric, with live music performances and a diverse crowd adding to the excitement.

Grab a cocktail at one of the trendy bars and enjoy the open-air ambiance of Cours d’Estienne d’Orves. It’s the perfect ending to your 48 hours in Marseille, immersing yourself in the lively and social side of the city.

With its rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning natural beauty, Marseille offers a delightful experience to visitors. These 10 cool things to do in Marseille provide just a glimpse into the wonders this French port city has to offer. So, pack your bags, put on your walking shoes, and get ready for an unforgettable 48 hours in Marseille, France!

Sources:
1. Vieux-Port image: pixabay.com
2. Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde image: pixabay.com
3. Le Panier image: pixabay.com
4. MuCEM and Fort Saint-Jean image: pixabay.com
5. Bouillabaisse image: pixabay.com
6. Cours Julien image: pixabay.com
7. Château d’If image: pixabay.com
8. Market of Noailles image: pixabay.com
9. Beaches image: pixabay.com
10. Cours d’Estienne d’Orves image: pixabay.com