Marseille is an incredible port city that was once overlooked by many travelers as it sat amongst glitzier vacation spots like Saint-Tropez and Cannes. But now, the city has blossom into a multicultural hot spot that gave it the title of the European Capital of Culture in 2013. With a long history dating back to 600 BCE with the Greeks, this city has long been an important port in France’s history. Here, beaches and waterfront sights await, as well as access to some of the most beautiful natural parks in France at the Calanques, and incredible beaches along Pointe Rouge. Using this itinerary, you’ll be sure to have plenty of things to do in Marseille during your two-day stay.
Morning: Learn about the history of European cities at MuCEM
The Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée has a name that’s almost as big as it is. Locals refer to it as the MuCEM, and this massive museum could take an entire day to fully explore. The museum boasts incredible modern exhibits that highlight the histories of cities in Europe and particularly along the Mediterranean. Built into an old fort, the location of the museum itself is worth exploring. The museum sits right on Marseille’s waterfront, and offers incredible panoramic views of the world below, and insights into the history living here under your feet—making it one of the top things to do in Marseille!
Lunch: Eat at the MuCEM
Not only is the MuCEM an incredible museum, it also features a lounge area and over three cafés to choose from to dine in. Overlooking the water, you can lounge in comfortable chairs behind a black cut-out building that looks as though it is melting into the water below. The cafés here offer meals at incredibly reasonable prices, and since the MuCEM is a bit out of the rest of town, it’s the best place to find a great French lunch before heading on to your next itinerary item in Marseille!
Afternoon: Take in the views at Notre Dame de la Garde
This massive cathédrale marks the highest point in all of Marseille. From it, you can enjoy panoramic views of the city below you and the sea across from you. Here, take in the marble floors, the high dome ceilings that offer stunning geometric paintings for you to get lost in, and wander through the narrow corridors of this overwhelmingly gothic church. Its high point in the city is a tad bit daunting, as it takes nearly 253 stairs to reach the top, but the views from atop this point, and the incredible treasures waiting to be seen inside the Notre Dame de la Garde, make it well worth the hike.
Evening: Bar hop at Vieux Port
The Vieux Port, or Old Port, of Marseille is arguable the heart of the city. Here almost nightly you’ll find old and young people alike sitting along the port’s edges, sipping glasses of wine and enjoying their evenings. The area is lined with cafés, shops, and bars, making it the perfect place to bar hop and explore the incredible beers at Marseille’s craft breweries, and the fantastic regional wines the city has to offer, all in on night.
Morning: Explore the iconic Chateau d’If
What’s a Marseille itinerary without a few prisons? The stuff of legends, the Chateau d’If is the prison that everyone’s favorite protagonist, Edmond Dantés, was imprisoned at in Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. This infamous fortress, and later, well-known prison, looms on a nearby island from Marseille’s coast. At this incredible island getaway just minutes away from the bustling city of Marseille, you’ll find this notorious and historic fort, framed by a captivating backdrop of the ocean all around you.
Lunch: Picnic at Chateau d’If
Not only does the Chateau d’If offer incredible history and outstanding views, it also has well-worn areas for picnickers to lounge in the afternoon sun and chow down on spread of meats, cheeses, breads, fruit, and wine. The perfect spot to lay out a towel and enjoy a truly French meal, the Chateau d’If offers great spots to relax and watch the waves crash onto the shore from. Here, you can lazily spend nearly an entire afternoon watching the waves go by as you enjoy a pre-packed meal from earlier in the day.
Afternoon: Soak in the sun at La Plages
It wouldn’t be a Marseille itinerary if you didn’t check out the city’s beaches. The gateway to the Côte d’Azur, Marseille’s beaches are top attractions in the summer months, and for this reason, can quickly fill up. The beaches here are enclosed by rocks, and though its sandy shores may deceive you, we recommend packing some water shoes for this stop. The beach can become incredible crowded in the summer months, and features bright, multi-colored towels, happy dogs, and vendors selling everything from ice cold beers to steaming crêpes.
Evening: Check out Marseille’s bar scene
Sure, Prohibition didn’t ever really happen in France, but that hasn’t stopped Carry Nation and other Marseille speakeasies from creating scenes straight out of Chicago in the 1920’s. Carry Nation bar is almost part escape-the-room, part lively speakeasy. You wan’t even find their address online, and will need to reserve a table in advance to get the instructions to enter the place. In a city famous for French hip hop and its vibrant culture, you can find other similar speakeasies that will tickle your fancy. An adrenaline junkies dream, you’ll feel as though you’re breaking into a real-life store in Marseille to get into these hidden gems.
Enjoy this Marseille itinerary solo or with friends. Either way, you are bound to have many things to do in Marseille!