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Marseille is a wonderful coastal city with plenty of fantastic places to visit in a 24-hour trip | © Artur Staszewski/Flickr
Marseille is a wonderful coastal city with plenty of fantastic places to visit in a 24-hour trip | © Artur Staszewski/Flickr

How to Spend 24 Hours in Marseille

Picture of Alex Ledsom
Updated: 30 May 2017
Marseille is such a unique city. Sitting on the edge of the Mediterranean, it’s a wonderful mix of French and African culture, traditional ways of living and edgy urban life. Twenty-four hours can hardly do it justice but if that’s all you have, here’s the pick of what to do.

Morning

The fish market opens at 8am and the Old Port, its home for over 100 years, is a great place to grab a little light breakfast after checking out the fish. Head to any one of the many waterside bars for a café and croissant. After wandering around the harbour and admiring the boats, or maybe doing a little shopping, head to the new Museum of European and Mediterranean Culture (MUCEM). It’s connected to the road via a walkway from the oldest part of Marseille, the Panier neighbourhood. It’s an architectural wonder and the entire building is fantastic. It holds art exhibitions but most people go to admire the town from its rooftop restaurant and bar. Don’t miss the Fort St Jean, next door, which is a lovely place to run around the small tunnels and ancient walkways.

End the morning by walking, hiring a city bike (it’s free for the first half hour) or catching a bus along the Corniche Kennedy. Named after the famous US President, it’s one of the loveliest roads in Marseille, curving around the coastline. Head to a pre-booked table at FonFon, one of the best restaurants in Marseille, to try the local fish delicacy, bouillabaisse.

Marseille is a wonderful coastal city with plenty of fantastic places to visit in a 24-hour trip | © Guy Lejeune/Flickr

Afternoon

After a leisurely lunch, you’ll need to work off some of that delicious rosé wine. Head to one of the tiny, tucked away, rocky beaches on the other side of the Corniche Kennedy and spread your towel out on a rock. You’ll experience your own little piece of paradise for half an hour to cool off. Walk up to the Villa Valmer to take some amazing views of the coastline before cycling or walking back into town.

A trip to Marseille wouldn’t be complete without seeing the main show – the Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde. It was built at the highest point in Marseille and looks down upon the city, from wherever you are. Take the little train up from the Old Port (it runs until 6pm in the summer). Traffic can be a nightmare otherwise. When you’re done, head to the Cours Julien. It’s a large street in a regenerated neighbourhood that has something for everyone: playgrounds for small children, bars and restaurants for grownups to keep an eye on them while they play, clubs, cinemas and a great vibe. It’s a lovely place to have the traditional French “apéro“, the pre-dinner drink.

Head out to the little port of Vallon des Auffes on the coast road, Corniche Kennedy, for lunch | © Salva Barbera/Flickr

Evening

Eat at one of the many restaurants in the streets to the east of Cours Julien, where you can choose from many different cuisines, but a French-African choice is probably the most fitting. In the summer months the best place to watch the sun go down is on the rooftop bar at La Friche. It’s an old, disused tobacco factory that is now a huge cultural space. It’s beside the main St Charles train station and has something going on most weekends and many weekdays. If it’s winter, head back to Le Vieux Port to dine in the Opéra area or by the quay. Head to one of the many bars for a boogie or that final drink to celebrate the day.

The view from Notre Dame de la Garde is phenomenal | © zeitblohm/Flickr