Marseille is one of the cities located on Pronvencal Coastline of France. It is mostly known as a port city by many people. Although it is not very attractive like the other locations in French Riviera, it is stil one of the highlight locations in the region.
Marseille was not on my list, but in 2016 semifinal between Germany and France in Marseille. That was the only reason I included a day trip to Marseille on my French Riviera trip. Many people ask whether it is worth visiting Marseille and is it really possible to discover all places in Marseille on a single day. Considering it takes around 3 hours from Nice to Marseille by train, it may not be worth it if you think spending 6 hours just in the train is not logical for you. However, I was able to visit almost all popular attractions on my visit to Marseille.
My recommendation is to not arrange a day tour from Nice. Just leave 2-3 days stay also for Marseille. That’s because there are many popular daytrips from Marseille including Aix-en-Provence, Cassis, Avignon and Luberon. Marseille is also popular with its lavender fields. I have never visited these places, so at this point I find it not ethical to give any information for the places I have never been although I had made lots of research.
How to reach and Travelling Around
I have really heard nobody who visited Marseille and not included any other locations on their trip to France. So, people mostly combine their Nice visit by extending with 2-3 days stay in Marseille. If you plan to arrange something like that, you will either fly to Marseille and take a train to Nice or fly to Nice and take a train to Marseille.
I took the train from Nice. Be aware that tickets are sold out very easily in France. So, I recommend you to buy tickets in advance. Even you find a train, probably non-modifiable tickets will no longer exist and you will have to pay 40 EUR. I was lucky enough to buy a ticket just for 20 EUR. The earliest train was around 7 AM which arrives Marseille around 09:30.
The main train station in Marseille is called “Gare de Marseille Saint-Charles”. Marseille is a bigger city compared to other locations in French Riviera. It may not be logical to walk around the city to visit all attractions. Probably, you will be walking like 6-7 hours, so my recommendation is to use metro and bus when it is necessary. I will be giving more details in below section.
What to do
My main reason for visiting Marseille was the semi-final, so it may not be the best way visiting Marseille. I started my day by taking a metro from the main train station. Red line will take you directly to Velodrome Stadium. The stadium is located little far outside the main town area. So, if you do not want to walk like 1 hour, this is your best option. You should leave at “Rond Point du Prado” station. A popular avenue called Avenue du Prado will take you to beach side.
Although Marseille is located near sea, there are not many beaches like the ones you will be seeing in Nice or Cannes. It takes 20 minutes from metro station to reach beach by walking. So, again if it seems long enough for you, you may take any of the buses going on beach direction. I have spent an hour in Plage du Prado early in the morning for relaxing and swimming.
My next action was taking a bus trip back to old town area by bus no 83. Bus No 583 also goes on same route. This route was really enjoyable, because it travels along the whole coast line and take you to old town area. I preferred to leave at “Le Pharo” station on Avenue Pasteur rather than to go old-town area. That has only one reason: Visiting Palais du Pharo which its garden offer you some panoramic views of the port city. At that point you may want to visit the most popular attraction in Marseille: Notre-Dame de la Garde. You may think it may short walk but you have to climb little bit, because the cathedral is located more than 100 meters up from sea. You may want to prefer use bus no 60 instead of walking. The bus will take you in front of the cathedral. Bus departs from the center (Vieux-Port Metro station). So that’s up to you to first choose old town area or cathedral for visiting.
Vieux Port or Old Port is the Marseille’s main square. So, all the celebrations, street artists are there. Briefly, that’s where everything goes in Marseille. So, you may eventually spend some time there. Hard Rock Café is also located on this area. I really hate when people put a Ferris wheel in every city, but if you are interested there is also one located on Vieux Port. A popular street called La Canebiere can take you back to main train station. Just don’t forget to turn left when you see Mc Donald’s on left corner of the street. You have to continue on Boulevard Dugommier to reach train station.
Unfortunately, I had no time left for visiting Le Panier which was on my list due to a 2 hours delay on my train. So, if you had that opportunity, you may want to visit one of the oldest quarter in Marseille called Le Panier. The second most popular cathedral Cathedrale La Major is also located nearby. Another a nice-to-have visit attraction is Palais Longchamp. You can reach the palace by using blue metro line.
If you are staying couple of days in Marseille, you may want to visit closeby islands or make some day trips. All island visits depart from Vieux Port. There are in total three islands which are all located in the same area: Pomègues, Ratonneau, If. I have not visited any of the islands, so I can’t give you any feedbacks for the islands.