30 Marseille sights you must see
Especially in the hot Marseille summer, it’s nice to take a breeze ride admiring the surrounding beauties. And you have plenty of options.
Marseille’s little train
From the quay of the Old Port, a small sightseeing train runs through the city. It looks like a children’s entertainment, but nevertheless is made for tourists of all ages and is very popular.
The trains run on three routes: to Notre Dame de la Garde, through the Old Town and to the Friuli Islands. During the hot season, departures are every 10 minutes. The tour is sightseeing, that is, only one stop in the middle of the route, then the train will take you back, but by another scenic route.
The ticket price is 8 euros, children’s ticket is 4 euros.
But remember that driving a car in Marseille is not easy. There are daredevils, traffic jams and a complicated road system. So get behind the wheel if you are 100% confident in your own abilities.
“Read the article – Where to go near Marseille – calanques.
Have a great vacation on the Côte d’Azur!
Wandering around the central districts
Dreaming of seeing the backside of a beautiful and prosperous city? Then pay a visit to the inner city of Marseille. Despite the efforts of the authorities, the streets are chaotic: mountains of garbage, migrants from Africa, slums, and drug dealing.
It’s not safe to wander the neighborhood alone, so it’s best to walk in the company of friends or a guide. Districts 13, 14, and 15 are notorious for being off-limits to the cops.
Head into the core areas light, with no money or valuables. Otherwise you might come back to your hotel with nothing.
“Where to stay in Marseille?
Entertainment and attractions in Marseille
While the Old Port is the soul of Marseille, the world-famous Notre Dame de la Garde basilica with its 11-meter statue of Our Lady is its unmistakable symbol, as recognizable as the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Notre Dame Cathedral in Marseille is a major tourist attraction, and for good reason: travelers are attracted not only by the unique architecture of the basilica itself, but also by the stunning views from the city’s highest hill.
Marseille’s cathedral rivals Notre Dame de la Garde in popularity. It is attractive not because of its venerable age (it was built in the 19th century), but because of its undeniable architectural merits, because the architects managed almost impossible – to organically combine features of Romanesque and Byzantine styles. Despite its massive proportions, the building looks graceful and light, largely thanks to its original green-and-white marble decoration.
Fans of modern architecture cannot pass by one of the most famous creations of Le Corbusier, the Radiant City, which looks like a giant ship anchored in the city park. Although the building has successfully served as a home for nearly 2,000 people for more than half a century, parts of the complex are available for free inspection, and by appointment visit the apartments of this peculiar “vertical village, where residents do not see each other, do not hear each other, do not disturb each other.”
The attraction of the city’s museums is largely due to the nature of their expositions: they aim to introduce the curious tourist to the characteristics of Mediterranean culture – the history of its development, formation and state today.
For the first acquaintance with the city the Palais de Lonçon is perfectly suitable, because apart from its architectural merits it is famous for its Museum of Natural History, Fine Arts with a rich collection of works of French and Italian masters, working observatory, an old zoological garden and a famous landscape park with fountains, thanks to which the palace received its unofficial name – “Hymn to Water”.
Although Marseille is a modern city, lovers of antiquity will not feel deprived, because in the medieval abbey of Saint Victor you can visit the ancient crypt with sarcophagi, the oldest of which is more than 1.5 thousand years.
Connoisseurs of Provençal culture will enjoy the Regional Museum, the Museum of Mediterranean Civilizations and the Museum of Mediterranean Archaeology, dedicated to the customs, traditions and crafts of this original province.
Marseille is rich in sights and tourist sites. To see everything you need to stay here at least three or four days. Among the main ones are churches and cathedrals, many museums and several beautiful gardens and parks.
Marseille (France) attractions:
Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica. Locals have established the name of the Good Mother, as the basilica is considered the guardian of the city. The structure was built in 1864 on the site of an ancient fortress. The style of the structure is neo-Byzantine and the architect was Henri-Jacques Esperandieu. It is located on a hill in the high part of the city, making it one of the most visible buildings. It has a crypt decorated with beautiful mosaics and statues of the Virgin Mary and Child. It is the most popular and most visited place in Marseille;
- Museum of Fine Arts. Located in a beautiful old building. Ideal for art and painting lovers;
- Ife Castle. Located 4 kilometers from the city in the sea on an island. It is a fortification for protection from attacks from the sea. It was built in 1531. In the 16th century it was used as a place of detention for especially dangerous criminals. Now it is a museum and a monument of architecture. It is famous thanks to the novel by Alexandre Dumas “The Count of Monte Cristo”. Today is a very popular place among locals and tourists, has shops selling souvenirs and cafes with a beautiful view of the city and the sea;
- Jardin du Faro garden and the palace. The palace and the beautiful garden were built under Napoleon III. Now there are numerous services of the city. It’s a great place for lovers of nature walks.
In Marseille, there are many festivals and holidays. For example, in April you can visit the festival “Sacred Music”, in August there is a festival dedicated to music and culture of living diasporas. In October, the “Southern Fiesta” and the contemporary art bazaar are recommended to visit. For many centuries, in July there are water competitions, which gather a lot of spectators and are very popular.
A little about the city
Marseille is located on the shores of the Mediterranean, in the Gulf of Lyon. Often you can hear its second name – “the gateway to the east. The most important port of France by sea connects Europe and Asia.
The population of Marseille is approximately 1 million people. Arabs, Greeks, Africans, Jews and many other representatives of other countries are united in one city. It is partly the mix of such different cultures, peoples, traditions that attracts tourists.
Marseille is a city with a subtropical climate. Winters are mild and summers are warm. July and August are best suited for a beach holiday, because they are considered the hottest time of year. The air temperature during this time reaches +27 … +30℃ and the water warms up to +28℃. The city scenery will charm even the most sophisticated tourist. The sandy and hot sands, the emerald shady gardens, and the sea will appeal to the seasoned traveler.
If you want to combine business with pleasure and visit the observation point, the Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean (MuCEM) will suit you. It is easy to find it in the city – it is a huge black cube near the Old Port. But keep in mind that climbing up to the roof on the narrow bridge is better in good weather, as with a strong gust of wind you can lose your balance.
Museum of Fine Arts will appeal to fans of paintings and sculptures. Here in the Palais Longchamp are the works of famous French, Spanish and Italian artists and sculptors.
If you’re vacationing with children, visit the Museum d’Histoire Naturelle in the same palace. The exhibition includes stuffed animals, herbaria, minerals and even precious stones.
Attractions in Marseille
Le Corbusier Museum Chateau d’If – Museum of Modern Art Chateau d’If Ceramics Museum Le Corbusier Chateau d’If – Marseille Old Port St. Charles Station Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica
This site compiles the sights of Marseille – photos, descriptions, and travel tips. The list is based on popular guidebooks and is presented by type, name and rating. Here you’ll find answers to questions: what to see in Marseille, where to go and where are the popular and interesting places in Marseille.
Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art is located in Marseille, near the House of Justice. The museum has a collection of contemporary paintings, sculptures, and videos. There are also thematic exhibitions.
Around the museum there is a beautiful garden, which can be quite cool in the heat, and it seems that the whole world rests from the bustle of the city center.
The museum houses great masterpieces by famous masters like César, Armand, Cristo, Nicky de Saint Phalle, Warhol, Ben, Penonet and Buren. In all, about 47,000 works are on display on an area of more than 2,500 square meters, and a library and cinema are open to visitors.
Coordinates : 43.25063700,5.38952100
The Château d’If is a fort on the island of If, near the French town of Marseille, in the Mediterranean Sea.
The structure was originally built for the purpose of defending Marseille against enemy attacks from the sea. Construction of the castle began in 1524, following a decree from King Francis I. Since the beginning of the 17th century, the castle was used as a prison for particularly dangerous prisoners, enemies of France, Huguenots and politicians. In 1830, the castle officially ceased to be used as a prison. But in 1871, the Paris Communists were still held there, and their leader Gaston Kremier was shot on the castle grounds.
In 1845, the famous writer Alexandre Dumas wrote a novel about the castle and its prisoner called The Count of Monte Cristo. At the present stage of its existence, the castle of If is one of the visiting cards of Marseille, and many tourists want to visit it. In the castle are guided tours, souvenirs are sold, and on the site is a cafe with a view of Marseille.
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Museum of Ceramics
The Museum of Ceramics was opened in June 1995 in a nineteenth-century chateau fully restored for this purpose, called Chateau Pastre. The museum is located in a beautiful ancient park, and from its second floor there is a view of the sea.
The exposition is based on almost one and a half thousand ceramic, porcelain and glass items, which fully reconstruct the history of the development of this art. The oldest exhibits date back to the Neolithic period. There is a special gallery, which presents French ceramics of the XVIII century. Especially loved by visitors are halls where porcelain dishes of XVII-XVIII centuries are presented: the finest tea sets, vases, glasses, hand-painted plates with exquisite vegetal designs and intricate ornaments. Glassware of French, German, Scandinavian and Chinese masters is represented here. A large section is devoted to the history of ceramic development in the 20th century, when refinement largely gave way to functionality.
Today, the collection of the Marseilles ceramics museum is considered one of the best in Europe. It is planned to show the collection at the Château de Barely from June 2013.
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Radiant City of Le Corbusier
The Radiant City in Marseille (Cite Radieuse Le Corbusier) solved the housing problem in the shortest possible time – the complex is designed to comfortably accommodate 2,000 citizens. In addition, the apartment building with 337 two-level apartments of 25 layouts stands out against other residential buildings because it is located on a vast green area. The pilot project is a community house for communal living and leisure activities. Services include a post office, cafes, stores, and a library, all of which are located inside the building. Before Le Corbusier, a single tone was usually used to paint the walls.
In the Radiant City, for the first time, the walls of the loggias are painted in bright pure “natural” colors: azure, yellow, burgundy, red.
Le Corbusier’s idea that housing should be conducive to human existence, harmonious and comfortable, has caught on: there are similar buildings in several cities in France and in West Berlin. And the Cite Radieuse Le Corbusier complex itself was declared a historic monument in 1986, becoming a symbol of 20th century architecture and one of the most visited sites in Marseille.
Coordinates : 43.26144000,5.39735000
Château d’If in Marseille
The Château d’If is a fortification used firstly to protect Marseille and later to keep dangerous criminals locked up. It is located on one of the islands of the Friulles archipelago, about a mile from the bay of Marseille, in southeastern France. The three-story square building, with each side 28 meters long, is surrounded by three defensive towers with cannon windows. The shores of the island are fortified on all sides.
The history of Château d’If begins in 1524, when Emperor Francis I ordered the construction of a defensive structure to protect the bay. The castle, built in a few years, was rude and ugly, but it looked impregnable and quite justified its purpose. It soon ceased, however, to be a purely military construction. Fortified on all sides, the island was surrounded by sharp underwater rocks that were battered day and night by the waves. This is what made it a prison from which it was impossible to escape. In the nineteenth century, some 3,500 Huguenots were exiled here, and in 1871 Gaston Crémier, the leader of the Paris Commune, was executed here.
In 1844, the novel The Count of Monte Cristo by the already famous writer Alexandre Dumas is published, in which Edmond Dantes and the Abbé Faria are imprisoned together in the château d’If. After 14 years of imprisonment, Dantes manages to escape through a dug hole. In fact, such an escape never took place. At the end of the XIX century it was decided to close the prison, but public interest in this place has not faded. On September 23, 1890 the castle was opened to the public. Three years before that, the famous writer Mark Twain, who later spoke with rapture about the place of imprisonment of another Dumas’ hero – the Man in the Iron Mask, visited the place. There are also rumors of the imprisonment of the Marquis de Sade. Visitors are also shown Edmond Dantes’ cell and the escape chute through which he escaped.
This is accessible by boat from Marseille Bay.
Old port of Marseille
The old port of Marseille is one of the largest ports located on the Mediterranean Sea. It was founded by the Greeks in 600 BC. Over the years, the port expanded and rebuilt. The pier of the port was built in the 16th century and completed in the 19th century. At the entrance to the port built the tower of St. Nicholas and St. John.
The port is the most picturesque place of the city, in which the spirit of true Marseille still lives. Here are concentrated a variety of boats and boats of different models. Boats ply from the harbor promenade to Château d’If, which is 3.5 kilometers west of the Old Port. This 16th-century castle was made famous by Dumas’ novel The Count of Monte Cristo.
The port smells of seafood as fresh fish vendors sell fresh fish and there are restaurants offering tourists a rich fish menu.
St Charles station
Near Saint Charles Station, anyone who has been to the port of Odessa will feel a remote resemblance to it. And in Marseille there is a broad staircase that leads pedestrians from the station to the Boulevard d’Athens. It was built in 1926 and is decorated with beautiful ornate bronze and marble sculptures. It also has several platforms from which the whole city can be seen.
The station itself, which now includes a railway and bus stations, was built in Marseille in 1848 under the project of engineer Deplace, and recently in 2001-2004 has undergone a complete reconstruction.
St Charles station is considered the largest station in Marseille. Judge for yourself – the passenger traffic for seven years (from 2000 to 2007) increased more than twice – from 7 million to 15 million people, which became possible thanks to the emergence of the TGV train. They literally fly to Paris, spending only 3 hours. There are also 16 platforms at the station, and each of them can be easily reached by a passenger bridge.
Right in the building of the station there is an exit to the subway. Naturally, for passengers are created the most comfortable conditions of stay at the station – there are several waiting rooms and a lot of cafes and souvenir stores.
Coordinates : 43.30410100,5.38183500
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Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica
The Romanesque-Byzantine Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde is one of the most prominent historical monuments of Marseille and a very popular tourist attraction. The basilica was built in the 19th century between 1853 and 1864. This majestic cathedral was erected with funds of the inhabitants of the city on the site of an ancient chapel that for several centuries received pilgrims and blessed sailors on long voyages. The architect of the ancient chapel is remembered among the people only as “Master Pierre”, and the architect who created the project of the new majestic temple was Henri-Jacques Esperandieu. The statue of the Virgin Mary, 9 meters high, which crowns the bell tower, as well as the 8-ton bell, which reaches 2.5 meters in height, deserve special attention when visiting the basilica. The interior of the basilica is decorated with frescoes and coloured marble.
The most popular attractions in Marseille with descriptions and photos for all tastes. Choose the best places to visit famous places in Marseille on our website.
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