Marseille Holidays

A sunny city with a bit of swagger

Known to the Greeks and Romans as Massalia, the thriving port town of Marseille has come a long way from its ancient roots, and is now renowned as one of the most lively, culturally diverse and cutting-edge cities not only in France but also in Europe. All of this combines to make a Marseille holiday an exciting prospect for every type of traveller. France’s second-largest city and an important southern-trading gateway, Marseille is a melting pot of cultures thanks to large waves of immigration from Italy and Greece in the 19th century and former French colonies, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, in the 20th century. All these influences have given it a unique culture and cuisine.

While profoundly French in many ways – it’s the home of France’s anthem, ‘La Marseillaise’ – the city is also renowned for its alternative outlook, as famous now for hip-hop acts and Le Corbusier architecture as it is stunning beaches and fantastic seafood. There’s also plenty of sightseeing to do, with a wealth of museums and galleries, the historic Vieux Port, various forts, offshore islands, a famous basilica and a cathedral. Previously both the European Capital of Culture and the European Capital of Sport, holidays to Marseille will introduce you to a dynamic, ever-changing city that has a certain unique ‘je ne sais quoi’.

All resorts in Marseille

Three tips for a top trip

Pick a money-saving pass

Visitors can buy a 24-, 48- or 72-hour Marseille Pass to gain access to public transport, several museums and activities, and enjoy discounts in certain shops.

Head to the beach

Beaches in Marseille are a mix of rock, sand and shingle, giving you plenty of options. However, be aware that car access is sometimes restricted during the spring and summer seasons.

Hop to the islands

For a day out on the water and some spectacular scenery, take the Frioul If express boat to the Frioul Archipelago – a group of four scenic islands, one of which is the site of the Château d’If.

Best attractions to see in Marseille

Galleries galore

Marseille is famous for its art galleries, including the sprawling Musée d’Art Contemporain (MAC), Galerie Detaille and Musée Cantini, with many more cultural spaces around the city.

Notre-Dame de la Garde

The city’s most symbolic building attracts huge numbers of pilgrims each year thanks to its religious significance, but also its stunning panoramic views of Marseille.

Massif des Calanques

A 20-kilometre stretch of white cliffs and bays between Marseille and Cassis makes for an excellent day trip for nature lovers. Consider hiring a car and plan your route in advance.

Your Marseille questions, answered

The city has a Mediterranean climate, with humid winters and hot, dry summers, and is officially the sunniest major city in France thanks to the mistral – a powerful wind that generally keeps the sky clear.
As a gateway port city, Marseille has a strong emphasis on seafood cuisine, and is the home of ‘bouillabaisse’ (a hearty fish stew), as well as other great dishes.
Marseille is a year-round destination. While it’s very much an outdoor lifestyle in the spring and summer, there’s plenty to do in the winter months. In fact, many of the bars and cafes, with their warm, cosy courtyards, only open in the winter. If you’re looking to add a day trip to the nearby lavender fields, you’ll want to go from mid-June to mid-July.
‘Savon de Marseille’ is the region’s classic soap, which comes in funky, colourful blocks. And if soap’s not for you, try a bottle of locally brewed pastis.
Whatever your definition of the best beach might be, Marseille has it. There are beaches in the city lined with sun loungers and cocktail bars, and there are beaches in hidden inlets along the coast. You can take boat trips to nature reserves perched on long, sandy islands, or head along the coast to Cassis and find your own private patch of sand in Les Calanques. For sailing and windsurfing, head to Plage Escale Borely. For families, there’s a safe swimming beach at Cassis. If you’re feeling energetic, take a two-hour hike to d’En Vau and leap from the limestone cliffs into the crystal clear turquoise waters.
Marseille really does have something for everyone. If it’s culture you’re after, there are museums and galleries. The shopping is fantastic. The nightlife has it all from chilled-out jazz clubs to Balearic beats on the beach. The tourist train is perfect for family holidays and saving little legs from too much walking. There’s high-end designer fashion, bustling local markets, and tree-lined avenues of independent shops. With beaches and mountains easy to reach with a hire car, you can even escape the city if it’s a little peace you’re after sometimes.
In a word, yes. The residents of Marseille love to go out at night to fill the bars and spill out into the streets. Places have beer on tap, the finest local wines and elaborate cocktails. While there’s definitely a different scene in summer and winter – the one very much outdoors and the other indoors – there’s something at all times of year. International DJs love to include Marseille on their tours, and you can find yourself partying on a beach into the early hours of the morning.
It’s a great choice for family holidays. When children get tired of the shops and bustle you can head down to one of the beaches. Or you can hire a car and go along the coast to Cassis where there’s a great safe swimming beach. Just outside the city, there’s EcoPark Adventures with canopy trekking and zip lines for all ages and abilities, and the Chateau d’If is a fun mini-adventure just a 15-minute boat ride from the Vieux Port. And there’s the little train with three different routes to take you all around the city.
If you’re here just for a weekend, probably not – there’s more than enough to see in the city. But it’s a great choice if you want to explore a little and you have the time. The coastline along to Cassis, with jagged limestone cliffs and impossibly perfect white sand beaches, is a must-see. And with a car, you could head inland to culture capital Avignon or over to the lavender fields of Provence. Cannes is less than two hours by car, and the high-stakes high-life of Monaco is just a half-hour further.