One of France’s largest cities, Marseille has a long history as a port city and a haven for immigrants who have flocked to the city for centuries. Both of these traits are clearly evident in modern Marseille, where the port still thrives and a collection of worldly cultures come together to create this de facto melting pot off France’s southern shore.
Where does one begin to dig into this French Mediterranean city? A popular choice would be the Vieux-Port, where activity abounds no matter what time of day it is. In the early morning hours, the port acts as Marseille’s fish market, and throngs of fishermen can be found here selling the day’s freshest catches. Restaurants and bistros also line the port, offering plenty of French options for lunch and dinner. After dark, Vieux-Port continues its lively scene as the bars welcome locals and visitors alike.
Vieux-Port is also next to the historic Le Panier district, which charms visitors with its distinct old town vibe, historic architecture and locally owned shops. Art is as much a part of Le Panier as history is, and visitors will find plenty of trinkets and souvenirs while wandering through Le Panier.
Another attraction that stands out for visitors is the towering Notre Dame de la Garde, a towering hilltop basilica that can be seen throughout Marseille. Climb the hill to see this domed beauty — and the incredible Virgin Mary statue — up close and enjoy sweeping views of the city below. During a stay in Marseille, a day trip to the stunning fjords of the nearby calanques is a must-see.
Marseille’s Mediterranean climate makes it enjoyable to visit the city during any time of year, though most tourists tend to visit Marseille during the months of June, July and August, when temperatures are at their warmest and rainfall is at its lowest. Cheap flights to Marseille can be found during the off-season months of December, January and February, when temperatures are at their lowest. April and May make up the shoulder season, and visitors during this time can take advantage of both fewer crowds and enjoyable weather.
There is an excellent public transportation system in Marseille, making it simple for travelers to get around the city. Trams, underground railways and buses offer an extensive network of transportation. Driving is not recommended due to narrow streets and traffic in the city center, and while bicycle rentals are easy to come by, there are not many paths for cycling in the city. Walking and using public transportation are the best options for getting around Marseille.