Not only is Marseille France’s second biggest city, but it’s also a bastion of culture and urban life on the French Riviera. The result is a buzzing city steeped in history, tradition and modern, multicultural living.
From the oldest parts of town to the coolest parts of town, there’s a lot to do here. So we thought we’d help out with a little handy guide to the best things to do in Marseille.
It can be a little expensive, so we’ve thrown in some great free options; and if you’re travelling with children, we’ve got you covered too.
Let’s see what the capital of southern France has in store for you…
Table of Contents
Are there fun things to do in Marseille? Of course there are! This is a lively seaside city on the Côte d’Azur with a ton of stuff to do. And we’ve narrowed it down to just a few things to make life easier.
See the city in style and try out an e-bike! If you feel like trying something a bit different and are looking for fun things to do in Marseille, then hit the streets with the help of an e-bike.
Cruise around the city at your own pace and without the stress of trying to figure out where in the world you are, since you’ll be escorted around the city like a local.
A different and fun way to adventure around the city, you’ll cover around 23 kilometres with hardly any effort at all. Take turns down interesting back alleys and get a good serving of insider local knowledge. This fun tour also takes past famous sites such as the Notre Dame de la Garde as well as the Major Cathedral and the Old Port.
Segways are pretty fun, aren’t they? So going on a Segway tour around one of the most historic and beautiful parts of this French Riviera city sounds good to us. As it turns out, this one of the most fun things to do in Marseille.
If you’ve never used a Segway before, don’t worry. You’ll get to grips with this futuristic mode of transportation with the help of a friendly guide, who’ll make sure you’re able to use the thing before you actually go on the tour. Which is great news.
You’ll whizz around Pharo Parc – a big enough space to practice in – before heading up to the 19th century Palais du Pharo to admire this amazing slice of architecture. And then it’s onwards to discover the historic Old Port (Vieux Port) of Marseille!
There’s no better way to get to grips with a city than by eating your way around it. Take a walk through the centre of the city and stop off along the way to discover Marseille’s culinary delights.
Begin the day as you mean to go on by picking up some pretty tasty pastries in Galeries Lafayette, as you walk down the famous La Canebière; afterwards, you can hit up the Old Port fish market and stop off for some of the freshest seafood in town at La Bouillabaisse.
If you’re still in the mood for more tasty treats, head to the historical quarter to try the amazing local biscuits and olive oil paste tucked away among the old buildings.
And, of course, the best way to round up this most fun thing to do in Marseille is to drink pastis surrounded by the beautiful sites of the city!
The French Riviera is all about romance, and Marseille is no different. We’ve sourced some of the most romantic things to do in Marseille with your partner to whisk you to a world of couples’ paradise.
For us nothing quite says romance like wine tasting. It’s a luxury pursuit that makes you feel like you’re on a couples getaway… Tasting some fine wines in the French Riviera – what about that is anything but a romantic thing to do in Marseille?
But before you get to sip on the good stuff, give yourself a picturesque prelude by exploring some of the historic sights that this coastal city boasts – including a stroll through the charming Vieux Port area itself.
Head out into the countryside near Marseille (with a stop off for a view of Europe’s highest cliff), passing through the scenic village of Cassis, stopping off for a spot of wine tasting near Le Castellet – and then more at Bandol. Lunch and stroll along the promenade for optimum couple feels.
You’re in the south of France, surrounded by the magic of the city, why not add a little glamour to your holiday and take a drive in a classic convertible car? Get you chicest clothes on and get ready for the most romantic thing to do in Marseille as you take a Citroen 2CV convertible for a spin around town.
Leave the city behind as you cruise along the coast through the Calanques national park to the charming village of Cassis. The UNESCO World Heritage Site makes for the perfect place for a romantic lunch by the sea in this quaint fishing town.
You are going to feel like you’re in a classic film as you head back towards Marseille, but make sure to stop off at a local winery to pick up a bottle of Provence wine.
Going on a walking tour is always a good way to get to see a city, but with that comes the actual tour group itself; you never know what kind of people you’re going to be sharing your time with. And if you’re looking for romance, that certainly isn’t it.
So for a romantic thing to do in Marseille, book yourself on a private walking tour. ‘Private’ is the key word here, as you literally get your very own tour guide who’ll walk with you and your partner, showing you the beautiful streets and historic monuments that dot Marseille.
Take in the Old Port (a must on any itinerary) – complete with 19th-century lighthouse Phare de Sainte Marie; hop over to the Vieille Charité museum, and walk the famous thoroughfares like La Canebière and Corniche. Plus some hidden spots you’d never have found.
Marseille isn’t all just-for-adults stuff like sunbathing, shopping and drinking wine, though. There’s actually a lot you can do here if you’re on holiday with your family, and here are just a few of those activities.
It’s not always easy being in a city with children, their big tourist sites are often the ones with the largest queues and who wants to spend their holiday waiting in a line?
Marseille’s MuCEM is the place to learn about history and culture of Europe and the Mediterranean and a perfect place for kids to get to know more about history and archaeology, but it’s also one of the most popular places to visit in the city.
Make the most of your family holiday by getting yourselves a skip the line ticket for the amazing Mecem for a really enjoying thing to do in Marseille with kids.
Now you don’t have to worry about big crowds or rushing anywhere, you all can enjoy your time seeing all of the exhibitions inside the MuCEM.
The best way to see a city if you’re with children is to do it at your own pace. Getting swept up in an organised tour can be a little annoying if your little ones start to feel the strain of sightseeing.
A good remedy for this is to grab yourself a ticket for the Colorbus, Marseille’s hop-on hop-off bus tour. Now all you have to do is get on and get off as you see fit. It’s simple.
So you can pick and choose the sights you want to see, leave when you (or your children) have had enough and, most importantly of all, choose when and where you’re going to be having lunch – or snacks.
With fourteen stops around the city and the option to have a ticket for one or two days, it’s got to be one of the best things to do in Marseille with kids in tow.
If your family are full of energy and need to run off some steam, make the walk up to the icon of the city: the Notre Dame de la Garde. Well worth making the trip on foot – for fans of outdoor activities – you’ll also be able to take in all of the surrounding views and scenery, too.
Beginning in the middle of the city, the hike takes you up some very steep steps, but well worth it as the beautiful basilica comes into view. Once at the top, everyone can be rewarded with an ice cream from the cafe and you can eat it while soaking up the spectacular spot. This a special place and you can feel the calm as you sit and look out over the entire city.
The South of France isn’t exactly known for being the cheapest place around. In fact, it can be downright expensive. So we’ve found a few free things to do in Marseille that should help keep costs low.
A good way to spend a morning, or an afternoon, or maybe even a whole day in Marseille is to explore the streets of its most trendy area: Cours Julien. This area is proof that this city isn’t all just old buildings and upscale seafood, and wandering around here is easily one of the best free things to do in Marseille.
It’s great if you’re a fan of street art since there are a lot of murals daubed on the sides of buildings and graffiti to discover in the area. And all you need to see these are your feet: no entrance fees.
There are also a lot of boutiques and independent stores for those who are into a bit of alternative style shopping. And when you’re hungry? Head into one of the many amazing eateries of this multicultural area.
Free things aren’t always easy to come by but you can make your merry way to the very pleasant Parc Borély and hire a bike for free – well, for 30 minutes at least.
Put your pedal to the metal and zip along the park’s pathways with the wind in your hair and views of the coast. The park is surprisingly large and there’s lots of charming floral displays and gardens to explore.
There’s also boating pond for a nice place to stop off and relax for a few minutes and watch local families playing together. If the weather is good, you can pick up a baguette and some cheese from a nearby shop and enjoy a French style picnic on the grass after your cycle.
I’m sure you know a bit about Marseille, but we have a few history facts you might not have heard yet.
Also known as the Marché de Noailles (since it’s in the area of Noailles, and right by its metro station), this market is a great place to come in Marseille if you want to soak up some local life. Like anywhere in the world, where better to sample a spot of everyday culture than by wandering through a local market?
Aside from being a great place to people watch, you shouldn’t worry about having to find lunch when you visit this place. There’s a whole lot of delicious food on offer. The only problem you’ll have is choosing which stall to get it from!
Ok, so you may want to spend a little on food, but other than that this is one of the best free things to do in Marseille, and a great way to feel at least a little like a local.
Marseille is lively in the day, Marseille is lively at night. There’s a lot to do at either time of day but, of course, when night falls the city’s vibrant nightlife appears and spills out into the streets.
Taking a walk along Marseille’s Old Port is one of the best things to do in Marseille at night. As night falls, stroll along the water’s edge and lap up the charming, chilled out atmosphere as the boats rock in the harbour.
In the evening the many bars and restaurants around the old harbour come alive with locals all meeting up with friends to have a fun evening together, as well as couples out for a romantic meal. You’ll be spoilt for choice for great dining options in this historic area.
Step inside Le Café des Épices for a world of French charm, or dine at La Caravelle if you want to enjoy the best views of the port area.
If you’re a fan of food (like we are) then you’re going to want to try this local speciality of the city. Bouillabaisse, otherwise known as Bouillabaisse à la Marseille, is a soup served with fish and massive hunks of French bread. It is not only delicious, but satisfyingly filling as well.
There are four things that make it an authentic bouillabaisse. It has to come served with rascasse (a sort of bony fish), the fish has to super fresh, the saffron has got to be good, and there must be olive oil: lots of it.
It’s more than just a traditional meal though. It dates back to the Ancient Greek people who founded Marseille in 600 BC, who ate a fish stew with ingredients and preparation very similar to bouillabaisse.
So if you want an extremely tasty, as well as cultural, thing to do in Marseille at night, you’ve got to try this. For the most traditional, head to Chez Madie les Galinettes.
For a slice of old-world opulence, you really can’t beat a night at the luxury Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe. This theatre is 200 years old, but actually dates back to the 1780s, and inside the interiors definitely match the elegant history of this building.
One of France’s Six National Theatres, the Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe plays host to classic plays as well as those by contemporary, modern playwrights too. So if you’re into a night at the theatre, here’s something to do at night in Marseille.
One of the best things about this place is that it’s located in allées de Meilhan, in the upper area around La Canebière, Marseille’s historic high street.
So that was our guide to the best things to do in Marseille! You should also check out our ultimate guide to Where to Stay in Marseille and the 17 Incrdedible Hotels in Marseille, plus for more adventures in France, check out the 45 coolest things to do in France!
From incredible food to incredible history, beautiful natural scenery to beautiful old buildings, there’s so much to do in Marseille that you might actually find it hard to fit everything in.
If you’re on a romantic city break, there’s no end of things that will be perfect for your couples’ getaway. And if you’re simply looking for fun, look no further than the many markets Marseille boasts.
All that you have to do now is get ready to explore this glittering, gritty slice of the Côte d’Azur.
Emma Johnson lives to travel! Born in Washington D.C., Emma is a hotel connoisseur and a staff writer at Hotel Jules. An army brat, Emma got the travel bug early and has never been able to stop. Now, she has proudly visited 70+ countries and plans to visit every country in the world! Passionate about her ukelele (obviously) and her family, Emma eventually wants to retire in Thailand and write a book about all of her travel experiences.