Marseille has some very unusual museums; small, quirky places that investigate one aspect of the local culture, like pétanque or Savon de Marseille (the local soap). It’s a great way to spend an hour or two without spending much.
On the first Sunday of every month, most French museums are free (but check with them beforehand, just in case). Some on this list ask for just a small fee for entrance and you’ll need to book a visit in advance.
The Maison de la Boule celebrates the French national sport of pétanque or boules. It’s a tiny museum that introduces people to the local love of the game. It celebrates the sport from the time when the boules were made from stone. Entry is free.
Opening hours: 10am to 6pm, Wednesday to Sunday. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
4 place des 13 cantons, Marseille, France, +33 4 88 44 39 44
The south of France has a huge fondness for pastis and there are some large factories that make it in Marseille and the surrounding area. You can visit one of them, the Cristal Limiñana for just €3 and discover everything that goes into making this iconic drink, which has become the national liqueur.
Opening hours: By prior arrangement. Call the number to book.
99-101 boulevard Jeanne d’Arc, Marseille, France, +33 4 91 47 66 72
La Marseillaise Museum
France’s national anthem was created in Marseille, by a soldier wishing to write a little ditty that might stir French nationalism. There’s a little museum that is dedicated to it in Marseille, which you can only visit if you email them beforehand. It has French artefacts and a film to watch.
Opening hours: Tuesdays and Fridays, 10am to 3pm.
23-25 rue Thubaneau, Marseille, France, +33 4 91 55 36 00
One of the things that tourists seek upon arrival in the region is some original soap products from Marseille. They are legendary and used by locals in their homes as much as the hotels. One of the local soap factories offers a tour, every Wednesday afternoon. The visit lasts one hour.
Opening hours: Wednesday afternoons.
Santons are small terracotta figures made from local clay that you find in many Provençal homes and often in the markets. They normally represent local village life, where you might have a figure of a baker or a shepherd. Marcel Carbonnel was born in Marseille and dedicated his life to making santons. His workshop is open to the public, showcasing over 2000 Provençal figurines. The entry fee is €2.
Opening hours: 10 am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 6.30 pm, Tuesday to Saturday, January to November. In December the museum is also open on Mondays.