Most tourists leave Marseille off their itinerary — it doesn't fit their idea of the French Riviera or of Provence (and they're right). France's oldest and second-biggest city (and Europe's third-largest port) is an untouristy, semi-seedy-but-vibrant city with a history that goes back to ancient Greek times — and challenges you to find its charm. It's a world apart from France's other leading cities, and has only one essential sight to visit (Notre-Dame de la Garde). Here the city is the museum, the streets are its paintings, and the happy-go-lucky residents provide its ambience.
At a Glance
▲▲▲ The Calanques Exotic Mediterranean fjords — with their translucent blue water, tiny intimate beaches, and stark cliffs plunging into the sea. The most famous stretch runs between Marseille and Cassis.
▲▲ Notre-Dame de la Garde Marseille's landmark sight: a huge Romanesque-Byzantine basilica, towering above everything, with panoramic views.
▲ Chamber of Commerce Building and Marine Museum Grandiose building with small exhibit on the city's maritime history.
▲ Old Port Economic heart of town, featuring lots of boats and a fish market, all protected by two impressive fortresses.
▲ La Charité Museum Housed in a beautiful building with Celtic, Greek, Roman, and Egyptian artifacts, plus temporary exhibits.
Marseille History Museum Shows off the city's remarkable history with artifacts from Caesar to Louis XIV.
Cathédrale de la Nouvelle Major Impressive striped cathedral with floor and wall mosaics.
Arab Markets Taste of North Africa in downtown Marseille.
Château d'If Island with fortress-turned-prison, featured in Alexandre Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo.
Musée Regards de Provence Mediterranean-centric art and media from the 18th to 21st centuries (in Marseille).
Villa Méditerranée Rotating exhibitions, lectures, films, and forums focused on inspiring understanding between Mediterranean cultures.
Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (MuCEM) Art and artifacts from cultures surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.