Welcome to Marseille, the bustling heart of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, the most important French port in the Mediterranean and the second most populous city in France, surpassed only by Paris. This vibrant, historical city offers an array of enchanting experiences that fuse the charm of its heritage with the dynamism of modern life.
The Marseille Provence Cruise Terminal (Molo Léon Gourret – MPCT) and La Joliette (J4 wharf) are the city’s main docking points for cruise ships, where ships typically anchor for an average of 8 to 10 hours. Given its primarily commercial nature and its distance from the city centre (about 6 km), it may not be the most appealing sight for cruisers. However, transportation options are readily available.
Visitors can opt for the free shuttle service, which operates on Fridays through Mondays and can be found 800 meters from the wharf (follow the green line). It reaches Place de La Joliette in about 20 minutes. Alternatively, there’s the shuttle service offered by cruise companies or taxis. When the free shuttle isn’t available, you can board bus 35 from the Littoral Gourret stop just outside the port, heading for Joliette.
Vieux Port (Old Port):
Once you’ve reached Vieux Port, you’ll find yourself in a lively harbour area dotted with seafront cafes and seafood restaurants specialising in lobster and sea bream. The area is dominated by the historic Fort Saint-Jean, near the Romanesque Church of Saint-Laurent. Pedestrian streets near the Opéra de Marseille are lined with bars and clubs.
At the old port, don’t miss the impressive “Ombrière,” a 46 x 22-meter artificial sky made of stainless steel, providing unusual perspectives. Among the various attractions, there’s a free ferry boat that departs from the town hall pier, crossing the port and transporting tourists to the other side. The Quai du port is also a perfect spot for a pleasant stroll.
Furthermore, from the marina, a train runs two routes at a cost of €10. The first route runs from the Corniche promenade to the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde, offering a breathtaking panoramic view of the city. This route covers: Vieux Port, Notre Dame de la Garde, La Corniche, Fort Saint-Jean, Fort Saint-Nicolas, Palais du Pharo, St. Victor, Pont de la Fausse Monnaie, Château Valmer, Vallon des Auffes. The second route, on the other hand, traverses the so-called Old Marseille covering: Le Panier, Hôtel de Cabre, Hôtel Dieu, St. Laurent, Cathèdrale de la Major, Centre La Vieille Charité.
Historic Centre – Marseille:
The historic heart of Marseille is best embodied in the district of Le Panier, a fascinating blend of influences from Naples, Barcelona, and other global cultures. The most beautiful site in the neighborhood is the Vieille Charité complex, a former almshouse, which is one of the most beautiful architectural complexes in Europe. It now houses the Museum of African, Oceanic and Amerindian Arts (M.A.A.O.A), the International Poetry Centre of Marseille (C.I.P.M), Cinémathèque Le Miroir, and the Museum of Mediterranean Archaeology.
Cathedrale de la Major – Marseille:
From the old port, you can begin to visit the city’s main sites. The Cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore (Cathedrale de la Major) is built in neo-Byzantine style on a site believed to have been previously dedicated to the goddess Artemis. Next to Major is the Vielle Major, the old medieval-style cathedral, not open to the public.
Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (MUCEM):
The MUCEM is one of the world’s largest ethnographic museums dedicated to the influences among the civilizations of southern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, from antiquity to the present day. The MUCEM complex consists of two buildings located on the Marseille seafront: Fort Saint-Jean and a new one designed by French architect Rudy Ricciotti. The two buildings are connected by a 115-meter-long suspended walkway.
To the left of the Old Port begins La Corniche, a beautiful 5 km panoramic road, one of the most beautiful and famous in the world, ending at the Parc Balnéaire du Prado. Here, it’s worth visiting the characteristic Vallon des Auffes marina, where you can enjoy “bouillabaisse” (fish soup) and other local specialties. Continuing towards Cassis, you enter the Calanques Natural Park, featuring stunning cliffs overlooking the sea.
Palais Longchamp – Marseille:
The Palais Longchamp is a palace that houses two museums, accessible from opposite wings of the building: the Marseille Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Natural History. Behind the palace, you have access to Parc Longchamp, a beautiful garden declared a French cultural heritage site. It’s within walking distance from Canebière.
Palais du Pharo – Marseille:
Palais du Pharo overlooks the old port and is one of the main panoramic points of the city. It’s easy to reach from the old port and is located within its namesake garden. The palace was built under Louis Napoleon Bonaparte for Empress Eugenia. The palace long housed the Faculty of Medicine and has been transformed into a conference center. This unforgettable visit offers breathtaking views of the old port and the northern side of the city.
Centre de la Vieille Charité:
The Centre de la Vieille Charité, classified as a Historic Monument, has become a multidisciplinary scientific and cultural center. It houses the Museum of Mediterranean Archaeology, the Museum of African, Oceanic and Amerindian Arts, and the International Poetry Centre of Marseille.
Notre Dame de la Garde – Marseille:
The most panoramic point of Marseille is undoubtedly the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde, built in Romanesque-Byzantine style. The basilica, situated at the city’s highest point, has a square bell tower with a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary on top. It provides a 360° view of the city and is a must-visit for every tourist.
Whether you’re exploring ancient sites or relaxing in modern bistros, Marseille always ensures an exciting journey through time. Its unique combination of history, culture, and vibrancy guarantees an unforgettable experience, leaving you craving for more. It is not just a port, but a gateway to an extraordinary world.