Marseille, France’s Second City

Marseille, France’s Second City

Palais Longchamp

Marseille is the second largest city in France after Paris.

This city on the southeast coast of France is home to around 900,000 people and over 4 million visitors every year.

Nearly a million come here on cruise ships as this is one of the main cruise ship ports on the coast of France, and many come here by luxury yacht too.

So what is it about this place that makes it such a popular destination?

Well, like many cities in France it offers a wealth of things that appeal to many different tastes: history, culture, shopping and markets, beautiful architecture, annual events, and a vibrant nightlife.

How to get here

The Marseille Provence Airport is the fifth busiest in the country and it serves a large part of the Provence region.

Located 27 kilometres (17 miles) from the city, in Marignane, there are airlines who offer flights from all over Europe, especially during the peak summer season.

There are direct flights from outside of Europe too, including Algeria, with Air Algerie, Morocco, with Jetairfly, Turkey, with Freebird and Turkish Airlines, Tunisia, with Tunisair, and Israel, with El Al.

From across Europe there are numerous airlines including British Airways, Air France, Lufthansa, Norwegian Air Shuttle, and Aegean Airlines.

You can travel from the airport to the city easily by bus, taxis or trains, each taking around 30 minutes to complete the journey from or to the airport.

Being a major port you can also get to here by cruise ship or by luxury yacht. Marseille is a popular cruise ship destination and a popular spot on yacht hire tours of the French Riviera.

When to Visit

Like the rest of the French Riviera you’ll find there’s a Mediterranean climate here.

That means you get to enjoy hot and relatively dry summers with average highs around 30C in July and August, and ample sunshine!

For temperatures a little cooler and more pleasant for sightseeing you may like to consider visiting in May or June instead, and although September has a very comfortable average high of 25C it does get wetter in this month.

Winters are mild but they can be changeable if the Mistral winds are blowing this way.

The Mistral is a cold and sharp wind that blows down from the Rhone Valley and mostly affects the city during the winter and spring.

Hotels in the City

As a popular destination you’d expect there to be hundreds of hotels in the country’s second largest city but actually there are only around 150.

This means competition for rooms can become tough during the busy summer season so be sure to book your room early.


Beautiful view from the restaurant in Hotel Sofitel Marseille Vieux Port

Around 150 properties available all over the city and its suburbs including three smart 5 star hotels, each of them with views of the scenic Old Port.

Sofitel Marseille Vieux Port  is a lovely hotel and the views really are impressive. There are a number of other choices in the 4 star range too, and many of them are near or overlooking the Old Port.

This is a lovely part of town to stay in if you’re visiting as a tourist and want to see the sights.

Attractions, things to do

History Museums

You can experience different elements of the city’s history through some of its museums.

A good place to start if you do have an interest in history is Marseille History Museum.

This museum was founded when archaeological digs were conducted prior to the construction of a new shopping centre, Centre de la Bourse, and many items of archaeological interest were discovered.

The museum is entered through the shopping centre and includes a garden area where ramparts, a necropolis, and port buildings can be seen.

Exhibits run through the city’s history in this, said by some, to be the oldest city in France.

The Natural History Museum is within Palais Longchamp, so it could be a worthwhile stop when visiting the palace.

Websites: Marseille History Museum – Natural History Museum 

Art Museums

Anyone who prefers art over history will find a good share of museums too.

Museum of Fine Arts which is one of the premier museums in the metropolis.

You’ll find it inside the stunning Palais Longchamp.

It displays paintings, sculptures and drawings from the 16th to 19th centuries.

Museum of Contemporary Art is another in the centre of town, and there’s one devoted to ceramics too.

Websites: Museum of Fine Arts – Museum of Contemporary Art

Check out the Marseille City Pass that includes most museums and attractions in Marseille.

Old Port

old port marseille

Known in French as Vieux Port, the old port and surrounding neighbourhood is one of the most popular parts of the city for tourists.

The waterfront is a very nice place to come and walk, or enjoy one of the many restaurants or cafes that line in.

This is actually one of the top places in the city to savour a good meal and you should try some of the local fish and seafood.

Sit and watch the fishermen return with their catches and deliver them to the fish market at the end of the harbour.

The old port is protected by two forts: Fort St Nicolas and Fort St John, and it has been used as a harbour since antiquity.

Some of the landmarks around the port to see include St Victor’s Abbey. It is one of the oldest sites of Christian worship in Europe and was built by the Romans in the 5th century.

A newer addition to the harbour was the Phare de Sainte Marie, a lighthouse built in 1855.

Palais Longchamp

palais longchamp marseille

If you’ve ever wanted to visit a grand French palace then the Palais Longchamp should live up to your expectations!

This beautiful piece of architecture is surrounded by equally beautiful gardens, and it was built simply as a monument to celebrate the construction of the Canal de Marseille.

Construction started in 1839 but it took over thirty years to complete, at great expense to the city.

Website: Palais Longchamp

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