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Best attractions in Marcel: Top 25

Do you want to know what sights every tourist should see in Marseille? Then read this review carefully. We will tell you what to see in Marseille will be interesting for travelers of any age.

What to see in Marseille first

In compiling our “best sights in Marseille” rating, we were guided by reviews from locals and recommendations from experienced guides. In our general opinion, when making a trip to the hospitable French city, you should visit such places in Marseille as:

1. Notre Dame de la Garde

Basilique Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde - Shrine of the Holy Virgin in Marseille

What is the first thing to visit in Marseille? A beautiful 19th-century Catholic cathedral built on top of a hill. The architectural style of the building is neo-Byzantine. The structure is decorated with a gilded figure of the Virgin Mary. The complex includes observation decks from which incredible panoramas of the French city and surrounding area can be seen.

Official website:

2. Palais de Loncon

Palais Longchamp in Marseille

An elegant castle considered a veritable jewel of Marseille. Date of construction - 19th century. On the territory of Lonchamp there are many amazing architectural masterpieces: a museum of fine arts, a beautiful fountain with several levels of sculptures, a symmetric triumphal arch, an observatory that allows you to see all the stars in the sky. Thanks to the local water tower that supplies water to all areas of Marseille, the landmark is often referred to as the Palace of Water. Your trip here will be unforgettable.

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3. St. Victor’s Abbey

Saint Victor Abbey in Marseille Guiguilacagouille

According to historians, this ancient 5th-century temple was destroyed by nomads and rebuilt in the 11th century. The abbey, which received its name in memory of the great martyr Victor, resembles a medieval fortress. Guides in Marseille recommend visiting this place by all means: inside the cathedral you can see unique relics created in the era when the building itself was erected.

Official website:

4. Marseille Cathedral

Cathedral (Cathedrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille) in Marseille

What to see in Marseille in 1 day for fans of history and architecture? This colorful cathedral is from the 19th century. Many Byzantine techniques were used in its construction: inside and outside the building is decorated with charming frescoes and mosaics, sculptures and bas-reliefs, decorations of another nature. Visitors are especially fascinated by the graceful balustrades and powerful rounded domes. The Cathedral of Marseille is included in all lists of “the main attractions of France”.

5. Musee Vielle-Charite

Museum Vieille Charite (La Vieille Charite0 in Marseille

Unique exhibits are housed in a beautiful 17th-century building that originally served as a hospital and workhouse. In addition to archaeology and art museums, with specimens from the Americas, Oceania and Africa, there is also a cultural exhibition center. If visiting the museums themselves doesn’t interest you, come see the Baroque chapel and the beautiful courtyard.

Be sure to check out this beautiful video about Marseille!

6. Château d’If

Chateau d'If on the Isle of If in Marseille

In order to protect the city from attacks by the sea, a castle was built on the island in the mid-16th century and later served as a prison. The French revolutionary Mirabeau was once imprisoned here. Each of us knows about this sight thanks to the famous author Alexandre Dumas: the writer told about the mysterious fortress in his legendary novel about the Count of Monte Cristo.

Official website:

7. Borely Park

Parc Borely in Marseille Charliemoon

After a busy excursions in Marseille, a walk through this park will relieve fatigue. The park and the castle originally belonged to the family of the wealthy shipowner and industrialist Borely. However, later the territory passed into the possession of the city authorities. It is necessary to visit such interesting places in Marseille: you can look at the wonderful gardens of England, Japan, France and the Mediterranean, united with a botanical garden in a single complex. Equally interesting is the castle of the 18th century: inside there is a collection of decorative art and faience products.

8. Fort of St. John

Fort Saint-Jean in Marseille

The impregnable structure, built on the site of an ancient temple of the 13th century. The fort was erected to protect the city from enemy attacks and, for the most part, to quell local uprisings. The construction work lasted only a few years, which was quite unusual for the 17th century. If you don’t know where to go in Marseille, buy a guided tour or go see the ancient fortress on your own.

9. Museum of Fine Arts

Museum of Fine Arts (Musee des Beaux-Arts) in Marseille Bobo11

In the exhibitions you can see examples of modern sculpture and art. Including such talented masters as Buren, Ben, Warhol, Armand, etc. All in all, there are about 47 thousand exhibits on the territory, which occupies more than 2.5 thousand squares. Visitors to the museum can visit the cinema hall and library with a rich collection of works. Exhibitions are regularly held on different topics. The museum building is surrounded by a wonderful park that is open to all residents and visitors.

Official website:

10. Marseilles Observatory

Marseille Observatory in Marseille

The Observatory has various departments and laboratories: world interference, Upper Provence, astrophysics, etc. Employees of the scientific institution conduct observations of space and search for asteroids. In his time, A. L. Nicholas and Borelli, C. Steffan worked and made great discoveries here.

Marseille sights: What else is there to see in Marseille?

We have listed for you the main attractions of Marseille briefly. Now let’s focus on other cultural and entertainment attractions worthy of your attention:

11. Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations

Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (MuCEM) in Marseille

The museum complex opened its doors in 2013 to all those interested in the history and development of the peoples of the Mediterranean. The bulk of the specimens are housed in a building whose lower level is submerged in water. The rest of the objects are kept in Fort Saint-Jean with its remarkable landscaped park area. Some items can be seen in the modern research center, decorated in Art Nouveau and Classical styles.

Official website:

12. Calanques of Marseille

Calanques of Marseille

When listing the best attractions of Marseille, created by nature itself, one cannot forget the calanques. They are more than 120,000 years old. In fact it is a national park consisting of deep bays and cliffs of limestone. The park area has its own unique eco-system, which is protected by the country. You can walk to the calanques by renting a boat or walking on foot with a guide (all hotels in Marseille offer tours here). The walking tour will last approximately one hour. We recommend you to admire unapproachable islands, unhurried bays, azure waters and sharp peaks of rocks. According to the locals, the calanques are the most beautiful part not only of the city, but of the whole Mediterranean. If you want to take unforgettable photos against the background of French nature, you should definitely come here.

13. 26th Century Park

26th Century Park in Marseille Fr.Latreille

Extensive park area with a variety of vegetation, arranged on the territory of the old railway station. Walking through it, you can see a beautiful fountain, ponds in which ducks swim, and a long canal. For children and adults there are attractions and rental facilities (including bicycles and roller skates), there are basketball and playgrounds. Picnics are allowed in the park. A perfect place to relax and have fun in good weather.

14. Portd’Aix Arc de Triomphe

The Porte d'Aix Arc de Triomphe in Marseille Jola Sik

The famous architectural structure, made in the shape of an almost perfect square, is on the way to Aix-en-Provence. The size of each side is about 18 meters. On the surfaces you can see illustrations from the military history of France. You can view the arch and take pictures with it absolutely free and at any time of the day or night.

15. Fort St. Nicholas

Fort Saint-Nicolas in Marseille Christophe.Finot

A historical and architectural monument created in the 17th century on the site of an ancient chapel. Over the many years of its existence, this defensive structure has been repeatedly rebuilt and reconstructed. It should be noted that it performed not only direct defense functions, but also served as a prison. Currently, part of the construction belongs to the state army, so you will not be able to see the whole fort.

16. The Old Port of Marseille

The Old Port of Marseille in front of the highest point of the city, the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde Pumbaa80

Marseille, Provence is the largest port city in the region, and of course the hallmark of Marseille is its Old Port, founded back in the 7th century BC by the Phocean Greeks. And despite its vast history, the Old Port today continues to be the largest port of the Mediterranean - to this day fishermen set sail from these shores to return, just as in past centuries, with a rich catch. It is not without reason that it is said that this is where the spirit of the true Marseilles reigns. From the port you can easily get to the nearest, most important sights, or you can just take a walk at dawn and see the ships “coming to life” after a night’s sleep, or admire the beautiful sunset and drink the best wine in Marseille. Here you can buy the freshest seafood at the fish market, take a boat trip with a panoramic view of Marseille, or visit the Ferris wheel on the seafront without leaving the coast.

17. City Hall

The main facade of the mid-17th century Provencal Baroque Marseille City Hall Jeanne Menjoulet

The oldest building in the historic center of Marseille is considered to be the City Hall, which managed to successfully survive even the most difficult periods in the history of France. The 17th-century baroque building still looks elegant and noble, as in previous centuries, and is a joy to behold, with the offices of the City Hall located on its upper floors. Historically the first floor of the City Hall has always been occupied by merchants, and our time is no exception. Today the ground floor is home to a number of stores, designer boutiques, antique and souvenir shops - visitors to the city have no questions about what to buy in Marseille if they end up here. City Hall facade repeats the look of the Genoese palace and decorated with stucco and a structural feature of the building is the lack of internal stairs leading to the upper floors - to get to the City Hall, you must enter the building, located in the rear of the City Hall, and there go upstairs.

Official website:

18. Faro Palace

The 3-story, classical-style building of the Palais Faro on an elevated plateau above the Old Port of Marseille

In the western part of Marseille, the magnificent Palace of Faro, founded by Napoleon III, stands on an elevated plateau. When the French monarch visited Marseille in the mid-19th century, he had a dream to build a palace right here on the steep coast as a gift to his wife. The palace is remarkable for its unprecedented scale - to think inside there are five hundred rooms! Almost all of them are decorated in the flamboyant Empire style, with an abundance of intricate decor. The dream of the monarch to live in this magnificent residence never came true - by the time the construction was completed, Napoleon III was dethroned, and two years later died. Empress Eugenie, who was widowed, gave the palace to the state, so at the beginning of the 20th century the Medical Institute was housed inside, and later the city services were located there. Today, receptions, social events, an exhibition hall and a panoramic restaurant with a beautiful view of the harbor are held in the palace.

Official website:

19. The Marseille Exchange

Monumental Corinthian columns on the facade of the 19th century Marseille City Chamber of Commerce Robert Valette

From the end of the 16th century, the Marseilles Chamber of Commerce concluded major commercial transactions and actually served as a stock exchange. It was not until the middle of the 19th century that it was decided to construct a new building for the exchange, and in 1860 a magnificent structure in classical style grew up. Napoleon III himself attended the grand opening of the new building, and a commemorative medal was even issued in honor of the event. The magnificent facade has a portico with 10 columns, the roof is crowned with the city’s coat of arms and a relief composition, and the side portals are decorated with allegoric sculptures. The real pride of the Stock Exchange is a huge trading hall for 2.5 thousand people, surrounded by covered galleries with offices of exchange workers. During World War II the building was heavily damaged by shells. Today the Exchange has been restored, and it, as before, houses the offices of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as the Maritime Museum and Library, and temporary exhibitions are held in the lobby.

20. Fort St. Jean

The powerful quadrangular Fort Saint-Jean with loopholes at the entrance to the Old Port of Marseilles decar66

On the north side of the harbor of Marseilles, right at the entrance to the Old Port, stands the Fort of St. John, a majestic fortress which never had the chance to prove itself as a defensive structure. Beginning in the 12th century Saint-Jean was the starting point of crusader raids against foreigners, and in the 15th century the first fortification was erected in the form of a watchtower, and a century later a lighthouse was built. Under King Louis XIV the direct construction of the fortifications began, but their purpose was not to repel attacks from the sea, but rather to constantly control the rebellious citizens. In the 60s of the last century a radical restoration of the fort began, and in many ways it contributed to the declaration of Saint-Jean as an architectural monument. Excavations are still going on around the fort, and the finds fill the exposition of the Medieval Museum located on the fort’s territory.

21. Le Corbusier’s Marseilles House

Le Corbusier's 17-story house, a residential complex on Boulevard Michelet in Marseilles Gunnar Klack

When getting away from the historic center, you can take a cab and go to Boulevard Michelet. The object of attention here is an extraordinary residential building designed by the great architect Le Corbusier in the 40s and 50s of the last century. This structure is the first of the author’s 5 “residential units” open today not only for the general study of architecture, but also for visits to the museum, restaurant and even hotel located here. “Radiant House” is a complex 18-storey structure of extremely non-standard planning. The building stands on strong pillars, includes more than three hundred apartments of 23 types, united by corridors - internal streets, one of which connects the apartments with various shopping and service facilities. Corridors lead to apartments located on two levels and formed as independent micro-objects, the compressed low part of which flows into the high living room - “pool of light”, framed by a deep loggia with unique views of the surroundings.

Official website:

22. Fashion museum

The building of the Museum of Fashion in the night light on rue de la Canebière in Marseille Tiia Monto

The Marseille Fashion Museum was founded in 1989 of the last century. It is located in the Mediterranean Fashion Center, located in a building designed by Baron Georges-Eugène on Rue Canebières in Marseille. The Museum of Fashion offers an overview of the fashion styles of the second half of the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries. The museum rooms occupy two floors of the building, a total area of more than 600 square meters. A separate hall of the museum is dedicated to accessories. The museum often hosts thematic exhibitions.

23. Velodrome Stadium

A top view of the "Velodrome" stadium of the French soccer club Olympique Challengeputeaux
The Orange Velodrome stadium is the largest of France's club soccer stadiums Hombrey

Given the variety of museums, the people of Marseille clearly love art and history, but they have an equal interest in sports, watching their club Olympique’s competitions in the championships and their training sessions at the Velodrome, their home arena, with great excitement. The Velodrom stadium was built in 1937 and was celebrated with a ceremony, the main part of which was the cycling race - that’s when the arena got its name. And although today it is only used for soccer, the former name has been preserved and has become a part of history. This arena has witnessed many sporting events, during its existence it has been repeatedly reconstructed and its technical equipment has been improved. So, in 2014, for the next championship, a huge roof was built, the capacity was increased and the infrastructure was improved, but even in the course of these works the stadium was never closed.

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24. Prado Beaches

Prado Beaches on the Mediterranean coast in the city of Marseille Ximonic

Those wishing to vacation on a budget in the surrounding area can also find free attractions in Marseille - for example, go to the Prado beaches. This is a whole system of beaches that stretch along the Mediterranean coast for many kilometers. In fact, these beaches are artificial, they are filled with tiny pebbles back in the 70’s of last century, and it is hard to believe that until then there were no beaches in Marseille at all - the rocky terrain did not allow to create a comfortable recreational area. But over time, this issue has been solved, and now you can at any time go to the sea, swim and relax in the sun. In addition to passive leisure, here you can be charged with impressions in the process of water sports - the beach has facilities for diving, water-skiing, windsurfing and other entertainment, there is a rental of sports equipment. The beach has well-developed infrastructure, equipped with changing rooms and showers, nearby there are a number of cafes and restaurants.

25. Friuli islands

View from Marseille of the Friulian Archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea Jddmano

A kilometer from the Old Port, the route around Marseille bypasses the Garde hill, on which you can climb and from the highest point of the city see the panorama of the Friulian Archipelago. You can get to the islands from the Old Port on one of the tourist boats that run here quite often. On the island of If stands a legendary medieval fortress from the 16th century, which was once a prison - the place is famous for the world-famous novel by Dumas “Count of Monte Cristo”. The other two largest islands are connected by a cofferdam that forms a harbor. There are even houses here - though the inhabitants do not exceed a hundred, but the annual number of visitors reaches 400 thousand. The reason is that the islands are a protected area with many birds and hundreds of species of vegetation. The local underwater world is rich with different species of fish - these and other interesting facts you can learn more once you are on the islands.

We hope that you will be able to visit personally all those sights of Marseille, photos with names and descriptions of which you saw in our review. Read also about sights of Paris and be inspired for your further trip to France.

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