Marseille guide by utravlr

Where to stay in Marseille?

The most popular neighbourhoods in Marseille shine a light on the sheer variety and diverseness of this fascinating city. Marseille, the second largest and oldest city in France, has been a major Mediterranean port and an entranceway for a diverse, multicultural population. This has made it a melting pot of different cultures and helped forge its unique identity.

A former European Capital of Culture, Marseille has gone through a transformation. It draws visitors from around the globe not only for its charming seaside villages and historic districts, but also for its culture, innovative new bars and restaurants, and unique shopping venues. Here are some suggestions and tips on where to stay in Marseille to be close to the city’s top highlights.

Le Vieux Port

The Old Port of Marseille (Le Vieux Port) is the city’s most iconic neighbourhood. This picture-perfect area was originally founded in the 6th century BC and is now one of the most popular places in town. Locals and visitors are drawn by its yacht-filled marina, lively bars and seafood restaurants – all with an inimitable view of its ancient natural harbour.

Grab a glass of pastis on one of the numerous portside terraces, then explore the numerous local landmarks. The beautiful white limestone Phare de Sainte-Marie lighthouse is a beloved local landmark as is the Saint-Ferréol les Augustins church, which dates back to the time of the Knights Templar. The Fort Saint-Jean has been protecting the city since the late 1600s, and the hustle and bustle of the Fish Market (Marché aux Poissons) is likely unchanged throughout the centuries.

One of the oldest buildings surrounding the Old Port of Marseille is the centuries-old Église de Saint-Ferréol les Augustins. This pretty church, located on the Quai des Belges, boasts an Italianate belltower and neo-Baroque façade. The medieval Abbaye Saint-Victor, close to Fort Saint-Nicolas, is also worth a visit.

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A foot ferry connects both sides of the harbour. Opposite the fort is MuCEM (Museum of Civilisations of Europe and the Mediterranean). While you’re there, grab a photo beside the Phare de Sainte-Marie, a historic lighthouse dating back to 1855. The 21-metre-high, white limestone structure is no longer in active use.

On your visit, hop a ferry to the island fortress of Château d’If. It was built in the 16th century and, like Marseille’s Old Port itself, featured in the Alexandre Dumas classic novel, The Count of Monte Cristo. Other boat rides to consider include sightseeing trips to see the Calanques, a series of breathtaking fjords dotting the coastline between Marseille and Cassis.

Le Vieux Port is the birthplace of bouillabaisse, a flavoursome fish stew. Local fishermen took home leftover fish that wasn’t good enough for sale. As its popularity grew, the city’s restaurateurs drew up a Bouillabaisse Charter to protect the authenticity of this local speciality. Along with a signature blend of Provencal herbs, it must contain rascasse, a bony rockfish, as well as 3 other types of fish.

The dish gets its name from how it is prepared: chefs boil up a broth (bolh) and then lower the heat to develop the taste (abaissa). A good restaurant will serve bouillabaisse in 2 separate parts: a bowl of cooked fish and a jug of broth. Try a place that specialises in Provencal cuisine, such as Chez Madie les Galinettes, to avoid the worst of the Vieux Port tourist traps.

La Canebière

La Canebière, often called the “Marseille Champs Elysées”, is the city’s most well-known thoroughfare. Nearly a kilometre long and stretching from the Old Port to the majestic Saint-Vincent-de-Paul church, the name comes from the word canebe or hemp, in reference to the ropemaking shops that once occupied the area.

Originally created in the 17th century, La Canebière has expanded over the years and become synonymous with the city, bordering many of Marseille’s top attractions, such as the Opera House and the Maritime Museum. Its numerous shops sell local specialities such as homemade Savon de Marseille soaps or espérantines, the city’s official olive oil chocolate.

On this famous commercial street, you’ll find a mix of clothing boutiques, French bookshops, patisseries, pavement cafes, and beauty shops selling locally made soap. Every year in December, Marseille’s Christmas market is held here, featuring plenty of santons (traditional Provencal figurines). Consider your Marseille visit incomplete without a stroll down this charming and elegant boulevard.

The shops offer a good mix of familiar brands and independent boutiques. The west end of the street, near Vieux Port, is the best place to look for clothes and accessories, with fashionable establishments spreading from La Canebière down Rue de Rome and Rue Paradis. As you climb the hill, these give way to cheese shops, cafes, and bakeries. Try navettes, which are traditional Marseille pastries shaped like boats and flavoured with orange blossom.

You can admire the gorgeous 17th and 18th-century architecture, wrought-iron balconies, and colourful shutters. A small plaza at the bottom of the street, Place du Général-de-Gaulle, has a brightly painted carousel. Live music often takes place on weekends. At the opposite end, the beautiful facade of the Church of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul adds some neogothic glamour, with its beautiful stained glass and mosaic floors.

You can reach La Canebière by taking the M1 subway line to Réformés Canebière station or the M2 line to Noailles station. The T2 tram line runs up and down the street, with stops between Cours Saint Louis and Réformés Canebière. This gives you more of an opportunity to admire the scenery along the way.

Once you’ve covered the street itself, it’s worth exploring the roads branching to either side. There’s a lively food market where Rue Longues-des-Capucins heads south off La Canebière. The famous department store Galeries Lafayette is just north of the street on Rue de Bir Hakeim. At the bottom of the street, around the Vieux Port, you can check out the public sculpture L’Ombrière de Norman Foster or visit the intriguing Marseille Soap Museum.

La Corniche

La Corniche, or, officially, the President John F. Kennedy Corniche, is a 5-km long seaside boulevard that connects some of Marseille’s most famous beaches, and traverses some of its most impressive real estates, from postcard-perfect fishing villages to majestic millionaire mansions.

Enjoy unobstructed sea vistas from the longest bench in the world – an amazing 3 km long! – and visit one of the city’s oldest public beaches, La plage du Prophète. For the ultimate experience, book a table at one of the numerous “feet in the water” beachside restaurants, and toast the setting sun with a chilled glass of Provençal rosé or pastis.

There are several spots on the Corniche Président John Fitzgerald Kennedy to explore. You can stop to take pictures from the historic Villa Valmer and Gaby Delys Villa to the Vallon des Auffes, a traditional fishing haven with a few restaurants nearby.

Another must-see along the Corniche Président John Fitzgerald Kennedy is Prophet’s Beach, one of the oldest beaches in Marseille. During the day, it tends to attract a crowd of sun-worshippers, so it is best to go later in the day to watch the sun go down. You’ll find more dining establishments to enjoy a memorable meal close to Prado Beach.

If you plan on exploring Corniche Président John Fitzgerald Kennedy, be sure to wear comfortable shoes, since the boulevard has a lot of walking during your adventure in Marseille.

Le Panier

Le Panier seems more like a Provençal village than part of a major city, located on a hilltop in the middle of Marseille. Settled since antiquity, the charming hamlet was once known more for its insalubrity and crime than the chic street-side cafés and boutiques that draw visitors nowadays.

It’s known by locals as the “open-air museum”. Take your time wandering the tiny streets and alleys of Le Panier, and enjoy its many multicoloured villas and historic facades. The Place de Lenche square is a popular spot for a coffee or drink on a leafy terrace and has some great views of Marseille’s marina.

La Joliette

La Joliette was originally one of Marseille’s most important ports of call, but fell into disrepair in the 19th century, leaving many of its impressive industrial buildings abandoned. Recent gentrification, however, and an influx of creative shopping spaces and diverse new dining options has made it one of the hottest spots in town!

For a bit of culture, visit the Saint Mary Major Cathedral or the Musée des Civilisations, highlighting Mediterranean history, then treat yourself to some shopping. Les Docks, massive former maritime warehouses, now offer the city’s most fashionable clothing boutiques and eateries, and their terrace, some of the best views in town. The neighbourhood is a stone’s throw away from some of the top attractions in Marseille. That includes the 19th-century Cathedral La Major, Musee des Civilisations, and the Old Port of Marseilles.

Built in 1893, Cathedral La Major towers over La Joliette. It’s the heart of the religious community in Marseille and can seat about 3,000 worshippers. Whether you’re religious or not, it’s a great place to learn about the city’s history. It’s open for visitors from Wednesday to Saturday.

Next to this building, you’ll find a chapel. It holds the relics of the man whom Jesus raised from the dead – St. Lazarus. According to legend, he became the first bishop of the city.

Another must-visit attraction in this lively neighbourhood is Musee des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Mediterranee (MuCEM). The exhibitions you’ll find in the national museum not only recount but also shed light on the foundation of the ancient civilisations in the Mediterranean. It has 3 sites – one each in the Old Port, J4 Building, and Fort Saint-Jean. If you visit the Docks des Suds, you’ll see a variety of art installations around the former maritime port. You’ll find more artworks at Fonds Regional d’Art Contemporain.

Located in Marseille’s waterfront, the La Joliette neighbourhood is one of the hippest places in town. For shopping, you can go to Les Terrasses du Port, which has a vast selection of popular local and international fashion brands.

Even within this little neighbourhood, you won’t have trouble finding a place to grab a quick bite. There are several restaurants in the area, offering diverse cuisines. You’ll find everything from Nordic fast food and Japanese sushi to Palestinian Maqluba portside.

If you’re in the area, don’t miss out on the fresh seafood. There’s no better place to get it. The restaurants here always get fresh fish straight from the market. You can head to Marseille’s Vieux Port if you’re feeling a bit adventurous. The streets are lined with a bunch of cafes and restaurants that serve fresh fish and other kinds of seafood from Marche de la Joliette.

If you’re coming from the airport, you can reach La Joliette in an hour by bus. From the main train station of Marseille, the neighbourhood is just a 15- or 20-minute walk away. If you take a bus, you can reach it in 10 minutes. Aside from adventures around Marseille, La Joliette is a great starting point for trips beyond the city. You can, for instance, take a ferry from the port to Corsica or Morocco.


Just off of the main thoroughfare of La Canabière, is one of Marseille’s oldest and most multicultural neighbourhoods. Known as much for its food market, Le Marché des Capucins, as for its quality ethnic boutiques and old school French shops, it is one of the city’s most vibrant and popular areas.

Discover Maison Empereur, France’s oldest and chicest hardware store for home accessories and knickknacks or Jolie Rouge, an eclectic mini flea market and aperitivo counter. La Rose du Tunis has the city’s best North African pastries, and Chez Sauveur has been serving the best pizza in town for nearly 80 years.

The main road in La Canebiere has plenty of places to shop, eat, and drink. At Marche de Noailles, you have plenty of fresh and healthy food choices. You can get fruits, nuts, and other treats that you can snack on while you explore Marseille. Just in front of the market, you’ll find Café Prinder, an old café terrace loved by locals and tourists alike. There are also many stalls selling kebabs, flatbread and couscous, as well as North African fabrics and ceramics.

If you want to grab a cool drink to refresh yourself, you can choose from a variety of trendy bars surrounding the Cours Julien square. At Rue d’Aubagne, you’ll find Joli Rouge – this cafe and vintage flea market is great for relaxing and listening to good music.

From the Marseille Airport, you can reach Noailles in about 20 minutes via taxi, shuttle service, or rental car. If you’re using public transport, you might as well get a Marseille City Pass at the airport to save money on trips.

A great way to discover Noailles is on foot as the city has many cobbled streets and narrow alleys. However, if you need to get out of Marseille, you can use an extensive transport network. The Noailles metro station is in Marche de Capucins. From there, you can reach other regions in Marseille, including Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur.

Notre Dame du Mont 

This neighbourhood was once known more for its wholesale food warehouses than its current status as Marseille’s most arty neighbourhood. Named after the neoclassical church of the same name, it’s full of street art, funky bars and alternative music venues that have made it Marseille’s hippest district.

The neighbourhood is divided into 2 main areas – La Plaine and Cours Julien. Whether you want a relaxing night out or a night of dancing, you can go to either of these areas for a fun time. They are both lined with vast selections of bars and clubs that suit a myriad of tastes.

Drop by one of the numerous bars, particularly around the super popular Cours Saint Julien square and check out the artful graffiti from some of the world’s greatest street artists. Roaming the colourful streets here, you’ll find vintage record stores, artisanal ice cream shops, live music and impromptu concerts at every corner.

There are also several types of accommodation in the area that cater to different budgets and lifestyles. You can get a place nearby so that you don’t have to struggle to find your room after an incredible night of partying.

Notre Dame du Mont is known for its nightlife scene. Cours Julien is at the heart of it all. It has excellent bars, restaurants and music venues. Although there are parties every day of the week, its biggest gatherings happen on Friday and Saturday nights.

In the mornings, the square is lined with food and bookstalls. Local florists usually fill up the square on Wednesdays, while antique bookstores take over on Saturdays and Sundays. La Plaine also has no shortage of bars, boutiques, restaurants, and markets that resemble North African souks. Since this part of town is home to many Algerian immigrants, its markets are filled with kebabs, flatbread and sweet cakes.

If you travel to Marseille in March, you can witness the popular Carnaval de la Plaine et de Noailles, which takes place in La Plaine and Noailles. Locals will celebrate by partying in the streets, often dressed up in festive costumes.

The drinking culture in Notre Dame du Mont is a bit more casual compared to other parts of France. Whether you’re in La Plaine or Cours Julien, locals often drink together in the streets. They love drinking their wine or beer outside of the bars, especially in the summer.

Espace Julien is a well-known music venue in the neighbourhood, where international and national performers play. Most bars have DJs during weekends, while some have live music from local acts. As for the culinary scene, it’s as diverse as other districts in Marseille. You’ll have several European-, Asian- and African-themed restaurants to choose from here. Like the restaurants and bars in the area, the shops and boutiques are quirky and eclectic. You can get everything from vintage clothes and vinyl records to handmade souvenirs in Cours Julien.

Les Cinqs-Avenue

Les Cinqs-Avenues is perhaps the poshest of the Marseille neighbourhoods. Much of it is given over to residential living for the comfortable upper-middle-class and wealthy locals, but there is still much to discover. From fine art museums and impressive parks, this place is worth the slight detour.

Once a zoological garden, the Parc Longchamp is known by locals as the “green lung” of the city, a beautiful leafy spot overlooked by the Longchamp palace, which houses the fine arts museum and the museum of natural history. While the museums’ collections are certainly impressive, you’ll surely enjoy a sunny afternoon in the manmade grotto, or next to the pond, surrounded by flowing fountains, just as much.


A neighbourhood in full transformation, is considered by many as a simple entry and departure point to the city of Marseille. Located on a plateau overlooking Marseille, the impressive train station was one of France’s first, and even its entranceway steps are classified as a historical monument.

Within a stone’s throw of the University of Aix-Marseille as well as Musée des Beaux Arts (Decorative Arts Museum) and the Musée d’Histoire (Marseille History Museum) there are a fair few things to visit, whether for a quick stopover or a longer stay.

Le Vallon des Auffes

Accessible from the La Corniche seaside route, and within easy reach of the most popular beaches, is considered by many, the most charming neighbourhoods in Marseille. Formerly the home of fishermen and ropemakers, this tiny port is a perfect place for great photos and a delicious meal.

Get away from the frenetic energy of the city to a place where time seems to have stood still and make the most of it with a special dinner. Nowhere is more iconic than Chez Fonfon, a favourite local seafood spot since the ’50s. Go for the bouillabaisse, the legendary Marseille stew made with rockfish, turbot, red mullet, fennel, potatoes, and a plethora of other ingredients.

While there’s plenty to see and do in Vallon des Auffes, you won’t want to miss out on the local restaurants. Some of the best eateries in Marseille can be found here. They specialise in fresh seafood that’s often caught right off the shore, just a short distance from the restaurant’s front door.

Additionally, you’ll find extensive opportunities to enjoy the water here. Several fishing spots and fishing tours are available, alongside general boating tours. Head past the viaduct if you’re looking for a spot of swimming. Just be mindful of the boats as you venture through the water.

If you’re looking to get away from the crowds of the city centre, Vallon des Auffes is one of the best destinations in town. This area can become crowded at times, however, so it’s generally best to visit during the early morning to enjoy the tranquility.

While you’re in the area, you may also want to consider visiting the larger Endoume region. Quite a few impressive restaurants are in the area, including Michelin Star restaurants. Bouillabaisse is a local specialty, so the local restaurants at the bay and its surrounding area usually offer it.

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