Marseille, the gateway to the picturesque Provence region, is the oldest city in France. With a 2,500-year-old history, Marseille has plenty to offer visitors. Wander through its Vieux Port (Old Harbour), the heart of Marseille, explore its great beaches or enjoy a fantastic meal at one of its many restaurants.
In typically French style, there are sidewalk cafés lining the streets of Marseille, perfect for sipping a coffee and taking in the spectacular views over the harbour. Le Panier, the oldest section of the city, is irresistible and full of narrow streets, steep stairways and pastel painted houses.
Marseille is a busy cruise and commercial port – it is a popular stop on many cruise itineraries, particularly those that explore the Mediterranean region or coastal France.
Cruise ships dock at the commercial harbour, which is outside the main part of Marseille, approximately 8 kilometres from the centre of town. As terminals can be located quite far apart from each other, it is a good idea to confirm with your cruise company which terminal you will be arriving at or departing from.
While there are not many facilities available at the docks, the Vieux Port near the centre of town is the hub of tourist and commercial activity, home to many facilities including:
- Transport links.
Many cruise companies arrange shuttle buses from the dock to the Vieux Port and there are usually plenty of taxis available.
How to Get Around
The central area around the Vieux Port is best explored on foot. Some sights, such as the Basilique Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, require quite a steep walk up hill. There are also several tourist-friendly transport options on offer in Marseille.
One way to get around is the ‘hop on, hop off’ Marseille Le Grand Tour bus, which allows visitors to get on and off at any of 16 stops, including Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde.
Another option is the ‘Petits Trains Touristiques’, which offers two different circuits, taking tourists to sights such as the Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde and the picturesque Quartier de Panier.
For routes off the beaten tourist track, consider taking a taxi or renting a car. There are plenty of agencies from which to rent a car, but it is well worth making a reservation ahead of time, especially in summer.
Travel times from Vieux Port:
- It is a 15 minute walk to Musee Cantini
- It is a 20 minute walk to Basilique Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde.
- It is a 10 minute drive to Basilique Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde.
- Currency - The city of Marseille, as part of France, utilises the Euro (€). Coins come in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent denominations, as well as €2 and €1, with 100 cents equally one euro. Notes come in €500, €200, €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 denominations. There are ATMs in the Vieux Port area, but when wandering beyond the tourist centre it is a good idea to have some cash on hand.
- Time Zone - Marseille operates on Central European Time (CET), which is 1 hour ahead of Universal Standard Time (UTC). France switches to Daylight Savings at the end of March, when the clocks are turned forward 1 hour. Daylight Savings ends in late October.
- Weather - Marseille enjoys warm, sunny summers and mild winters. The hottest month is July, which has an average temperature of 24 degrees Celsius. In January, the coldest month, temperatures average around 7 degrees.
- Vieux Port - For many visitors, especially those visiting Marseille for the first time, wandering around the Vieux Port area has more than enough charms and attractions to keep them occupied for a whole day. The scenic harbour has centuries of history, many excellent restaurants and cafés to enjoy and wonderful views out over the sea. The pedestrian-only Rue St-Fereol is right near the Vieux port and has many interesting boutiques and shops to browse. A 15 minute walk west of the Vieux Port is Corniche du President J.F. Kennedy, a winding walk along the rocky coast.
- Basilique Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde - The impressive church is usually the first stop for tourists in Marseille, and is well worth the challenging uphill walk, offering a breathtaking view over the Mediterranean. The church, built in 1894, is free to enter and open from 7am to 7pm each day.
- Musee Cantini - Modern art lovers will thoroughly enjoy a visit to the Musee Cantini. The elegant building itself is fascinating, completed in 1694. The Musee houses an impressive permanent collection, including works by Ernst, Picasso, Rothko and Kandinsky, but also frequently has excellent temporary exhibitions. It is located at 19 rue Grignan and is open 10am to 5pm, Tuesday through Sunday.