Discover the rich history, vibrant culture, and unforgettable experiences awaiting you in Marseille. Plan your perfect 3-day adventure, find the best places to stay, savor mouthwatering cuisine, and explore coworking opportunities in this enchanting Mediterranean city.
The History of the City
Marseille, France, often referred to as the “Phocaean City,” boasts a history as old as Western civilization itself. Founded by Greek sailors around 600 BC, it stands as one of Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. Its strategic location on the Mediterranean coast made it a vital hub for trade and cultural exchange.
In antiquity, Marseille was known as Massilia and was an essential outpost for the Roman Empire. The city’s historical significance is evident in the ruins of the Roman docks, still visible at the Vieux-Port (Old Port), a testament to its maritime heritage.
Throughout the centuries, Marseille has been influenced by various cultures, including the Visigoths, Moors, and Crusaders. In the 17th century, it became a crucial trade center for French colonies in Africa and the Caribbean, solidifying its position as a melting pot of cultures and traditions.
What to Do if You Have 3 Days in the City – Full Itinerary
Day 1: Exploring the Old Port and Le Panier
Your Marseille adventure begins at the heart of the city, the Vieux-Port. Start your day with a leisurely stroll along the harbor, watching fishermen at work and admiring the stunning views of the Mediterranean. Don’t miss the iconic fish market, where you can sample fresh seafood.
Afterward, head to Le Panier, Marseille’s oldest neighborhood. Wander through its labyrinthine streets adorned with colorful facades, street art, and charming boutiques. Visit the Vieille Charité, a 17th-century almshouse turned cultural center, and explore the fascinating exhibits within.
Day 2: Immersing in History at MUCEM and Fort Saint-Jean
Dive into Marseille’s rich history on your second day. Begin with a visit to the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (MUCEM). This architectural marvel, with its intricate latticework, explores the region’s cultural diversity and maritime history.
Connected to MUCEM by a pedestrian bridge, Fort Saint-Jean offers captivating insights into Marseille’s military past. Explore its medieval architecture and stunning views of the sea. Don’t forget to stroll along the seawall for a panoramic perspective of the city.
Day 3: Calanques National Park and Château d’If
On your final day, embark on a nature-filled adventure to Calanques National Park. Hike the trails that lead to breathtaking limestone fjords and crystal-clear waters. Take a dip in the Mediterranean or simply savor the natural beauty of this pristine park.
In the afternoon, catch a boat from the Old Port to the infamous Château d’If. This island fortress, made famous by Alexandre Dumas’ “The Count of Monte Cristo,” offers a glimpse into France’s historical maritime defenses. Explore the fortress and enjoy the serene surroundings before returning to the mainland.
How to Get There and How to Get Around
Getting to Marseille
Marseille is easily accessible by air, train, and road. Marseille Provence Airport (MRS) is the primary gateway for international and domestic travelers. From the airport, you can take a shuttle or taxi to the city center.
If you prefer traveling by train, Marseille Saint-Charles Station connects the city to major French and European cities, including Paris, Lyon, and Barcelona. The TGV high-speed train makes it a convenient choice for those arriving from distant locations.
For road travelers, several highways link Marseille to neighboring cities and countries. The A7 motorway connects Marseille to Lyon, while the A8 connects it to Nice and the French Riviera.
Getting Around Marseille
Once you’re in Marseille, the city offers various transportation options. The most convenient way to explore the city center is on foot, especially when visiting attractions like the Vieux-Port and Le Panier. For longer distances, consider the following:
- Public Transport: Marseille has an extensive public transportation network, including buses, trams, and a metro system. The Marseille Travel Card provides unlimited access to these services, making it a cost-effective choice for tourists.
- Biking: The city has made significant efforts to promote cycling, with dedicated bike lanes and bike-sharing programs. Renting a bike is a great way to explore Marseille’s neighborhoods and waterfront.
- Taxis and Rideshares: Taxis and rideshare services like Uber are readily available in Marseille, providing a convenient way to reach destinations not easily accessible by public transport.
- Boats: Given its coastal location, Marseille also offers boat services that can take you to nearby islands, beaches, and coastal attractions.
Where to Stay – Examples
Marseille offers a diverse range of accommodations to suit various preferences and budgets. Here are some notable options:
1. InterContinental Marseille – Hotel Dieu
Situated in a historic building overlooking the Vieux-Port, the InterContinental Marseille offers a luxurious and iconic stay. Guests can enjoy the rooftop bar, spa, and stunning views of the harbor. It’s a perfect choice for those seeking upscale comfort.
2. Mama Shelter Marseille
For a trendy and unique experience, consider Mama Shelter Marseille. Located in the city center, this boutique hotel combines modern design with a laid-back atmosphere. The rooftop bar and restaurant are popular spots for both guests and locals.
3. Hostel Vertigo Vieux-Port
Travelers on a budget can find a comfortable stay at Hostel Vertigo Vieux-Port. This well-located hostel offers dormitory and private rooms, a communal kitchen, and a friendly atmosphere, making it an excellent choice for backpackers and solo travelers.
4. Airbnb Rentals
Marseille has a plethora of Airbnb listings, ranging from cozy apartments in Le Panier to seaside villas with breathtaking views. Staying in an Airbnb allows you to immerse yourself in local life and often provides unique and authentic experiences.
Where and What to Eat
Marseille’s culinary scene is a vibrant fusion of Mediterranean flavors, seafood delights, and Provençal influences. Here are some must-try dishes and dining spots:
1. Bouillabaisse at Chez Fonfon
You can’t visit Marseille without trying its most famous dish, bouillabaisse. Head to Chez Fonfon, a renowned seafood restaurant, for an authentic taste of this hearty fish stew. The freshest catch of the day is transformed into a flavorful masterpiece.
2. Panisse at Le Panier
In Le Panier, look for panisse, a local specialty made from chickpea flour. You’ll find street vendors and cafes serving these crispy, golden strips of delight. Pair them with a glass of pastis for a true Marseille experience.
3. Seafood at Le Miramar
Le Miramar, near the Vieux-Port, is another excellent choice for seafood lovers. Indulge in oysters, mussels, and a variety of seafood platters while gazing at the gleaming Mediterranean waters. The freshness and quality of the seafood here are unparalleled.
4. Pizza at Chez Etienne
Marseille has a significant Italian influence, and you’ll find exceptional pizza in the city. Chez Etienne, located in Le Panier, is famous for its wood-fired pizzas with a variety of toppings. Enjoy a slice of this savory goodness while exploring the charming streets.
5. Pastries at Le Four des Navettes
For a sweet treat, visit Le Four des Navettes, one of Marseille’s oldest bakeries. Here, you can savor navettes, boat-shaped cookies with a hint of orange blossom and anise. These traditional delights have been baked here for centuries.
6. Coffee at La Caravelle
Start your day with a cup of strong coffee at La Caravelle, a local institution since 1930. The classic French café ambiance and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee make it an ideal spot for a morning pick-me-up.
Marseille is not only a place for leisure but also for work. If you’re a digital nomad or need a workspace during your stay, there are excellent coworking options available:
1. Le Spot Coworking
Located in the heart of Marseille, Le Spot Coworking offers a productive environment with flexible plans. High-speed internet, meeting rooms, and a vibrant community of professionals make it a great choice for remote work.
2. Cowork’in Vieux-Port
With its prime location near the Vieux-Port, Cowork’in Vieux-Port provides an inspiring workspace for freelancers and entrepreneurs. Enjoy stunning views of the harbor while you work, and take advantage of their networking events.
3. Wojo Marseille Prado
Wojo Marseille Prado is a modern coworking space with a range of amenities, including private offices, meeting rooms, and a lounge area. It’s ideal for those looking for a professional and well-equipped workspace.
4. La Coque
If you’re interested in tech and innovation, La Coque is the place to be. It’s not just a coworking space but also an innovation hub, fostering collaboration and creativity among its members.
Marseille, a city steeped in history and nestled on the Mediterranean coast, offers a diverse range of experiences for travelers. From exploring its ancient roots to savoring the local cuisine and finding the perfect coworking space, Marseille has something for everyone. So, whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or a digital nomad, make Marseille your next destination and uncover the treasures this Mediterranean gem has to offer.