Visit Marseilles, a 2000-year-old port city rising above the sandy shores of the Côte d’Azure to take in the artsy, old world charm of its opera house and its many museums and galleries. Be sure to try a steaming bowl of bouillabaisse—filled to the brim with today’s catch—and enjoy the same seaside view once admired by Impressionists like Pierre-August Renoir and Paul Cézanne. While walking the cobblestone streets, be sure to enjoy the quietude of the Basilique de Nôtre-Dame de la Garde, the city’s 150-year-old cathedral, before making your way over to the Old Port for a nightcap at Marseille’s many restaurants and cafés. Our Marseilles travel guide will lead the way.
Things Not to Miss in Marseilles
• Take an afternoon stroll through the Museum of the Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean (MuCEM) for a truly international look at the continent
• Walk along the Old Port and pop into the many bars and cafés along the waterfront
• Visit the Basilique de Notre-Dame de la Garde, a Romano-Byzantine basilica offering unrivaled views of the Bay of Marseilles
• Take in a show at the Opéra de Marseilles
• Make a day trip to the island fortress of Le Chateau d’If, a former prison and setting for Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo
• Circle the Porte d’Aix or Arc de Triomphe of Marseilles
• On July 14, celebrate Bastille Day, which commemorates the start of the French revolution
• Browse the many boutiques and colorful markets in the Noailles neighborhood
When to Go to Marseilles
Like other Mediterranean cities, summer in Marseilles is hot (though tolerable), sunny and quite dry while its winters are just warm enough to keep outdoor cafés in business year-round. Meanwhile, a spring visit to Marseilles offers unparalleled access to the city’s many floral displays and days littered with cool breezes coming off the bay.
Seeing the Mediterranean’s version of Alcatrez, Chateau d’If, a 16th-century island jail that served as the setting for The Count of Monte Cristo.
Watching surfers ride the waves from the comforts of Le Café de la Plage, a beachfront bar specializing in fruity cocktails.
Savoring bouillabaisse—the house specialty—at the nautical-themed Chez Michel.