The Perfect 2 to 3 Days in Marseille Itinerary

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by Audrey Webster

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The ideal Marseille itinerary is a blend of relaxing beaches and beautiful landmarks. Luckily, you can see much of the southern French city and spend some time lounging at one of the many nearby beaches in 2 or 3 days in Marseille. 

As one of the primary cities along the southern French coastline (alongside cities like Nice and Montpellier), you can expect to experience sunshine, crystal blue waters, white beaches, and tasty seafood.

How Many Days in Marseille?

If you’re wondering how many days to spend in Marseille, note that the city can be used as a home base for exploring much of what southern France has to offer. It’s centrally located with a relatively large train station and has many conveniences that make it great for tourists.

With 2 days in Marseille itself, you have plenty of time to explore all the city’s neighborhoods, admire the old port, and taste the delicious seafood scene. Alternatively, you could spend one day in the city and one day doing a day trip.

If you have 3 days, you can easily see the city at your leisure, lounge on the soft beaches, and take a day trip to a nearby town, region, or national park.

Port of Marseille
Port of Marseille

Getting To & Around Marseille 

Most visitors arrive in Marseille by plane or train. The Marseille-Provence Airport is located about 20 minutes northwest of the city and you can hop a shuttle from the airport to downtown for under 10 euros. You can also organise private transfers here.

If Marseille is another stop on your trip to the south of France, it’s easily reachable by high-speed trains. From Paris, the train ride is just over three hours long.

You can also reach Marseille from other French cities such as Lyon, Toulouse, Nice or Cannes. The Marseille-Saint-Charles train station is located near the city center, just about two kilometers from the Old Port. You can browse schedules here.

Marseille is a very walkable city. The entire city was built around the port, and many of the main landmarks you’ll visit are within walking distance from the port.

If you’re traveling a further distance so walking isn’t practical, rideshare services, taxis, and buses are at your disposal. Local buses stop at the major beaches and towns in and around Marseille. You can purchase a City Pass for 24, 48, or 72 hours that grants you discounted access to local transportation and city museums. 

It’s well worth your time to spend an afternoon wandering the neighborhoods of Marseille. Admire the architecture, colors, narrow streets, and history that exists throughout the city. When exploring on foot, you’re far more likely to stumble upon those hidden gems and cool attractions that make Marseille unique.

Palais Longchamp
Palais Longchamp

2 to 3-Day in Marseille Itinerary

Regardless of whether you have 2 or 3 days in Marseille, take these recommendations to guide your itinerary. 

Day 1 – Palais Longchamp & the Vieux-Port

Palais Longchamp

Palais Longchamp is a stunning slice of Marseille that you won’t want to miss. The site was inaugurated in 1868 and local artists were commissioned to build impressive sculptures to decorate the palace.

What stands today is an exquisite structure with white stone pillars, floral designs, and a pristine pond. There are two museums at Palais Longchamp: the Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts) and the Natural History Museum.

The first is full of paintings and sculptures from the 17th and 18th century. It was founded in 1801, making it the oldest museum in Marseille. The Natural History Museum showcases fascinating displays of the natural world around Marseille dating back to the 18th century.

The palace is a relaxing way to begin your time in Marseille. 

Cathedrale La Major

Continue kicking off your Marseille itinerary by appreciating the magnificent historical landmarks with the Cathedrale La Major.

This Roman Catholic cathedral sits firmly in the center of town. It’s bound to catch your eye with its grey and white striped exterior and stark contrast against the modern builds surrounding it. This was the only cathedral that was built in Marseille during the 19th century.

It was placed near the port as a sign of Marseille’s power to ships arriving in the city. In the years since, the cathedral has become an emblem of Marseille, seeing thousands of tourists and locals every year. 

Another attraction located nearby, consider visiting the Centre de la Vieille Charité – the Old Charity Center – which is a museum today but once served as a home to 17th-century beggars.

Cathedrale La Major
Cathedrale La Major

Fort Saint-Jean

Originally constructed to protect the Old Port, Fort Saint-Jean is still a site visitors enjoy exploring. It was the starting point for troops aiming to reach the Holy Land during the 12th-century Crusades, making it one of the oldest structures in Marseille.

It was completed in 1365, but kings continued to embellish the fort through the mid-17th century. Not only is Fort Saint-Jean a bit of local history, it also provides some great views of the city.

It pokes out into the water, connected to the shore with two footbridges. From the top of the monument, you’ll get a panoramic view of the Old Port and bay of Marseille. 

Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean

History buffs will delight in visiting the MUCEM during their time in Marseille. As the first museum ever to dedicate itself to capturing and preserving Mediterranean culture, it’s a must-see while visiting Marseille. It opened in 2013 and has remained a highlight of the city ever since.

On the outside, this boxy, grey, and somewhat strange-looking exterior might not catch your eye. However, on the inside, you’ll find over 350,000 artifacts that make up the permanent and temporary exhibits. You can book skip-the-line tickets here.

At night, the MUCEM glows blue with its lights reflecting on the water.

Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean
Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean

Wander the Old Port of Marseille

The Old Port of Marseille (Vieux-Port) is the beating heart of the city. The city was built up around the port. Today, it’s surrounded with restaurants, cafes, and shops with landmarks and monuments within a short walk.

At night, the area comes to life with several late-night bars and clubs. During the daytime, make sure you pause here to admire the view and grab a bite from the quayside fish market and enjoy the sites on the Quai du Port (the Grand Quay). If you’re looking for a centrally-located place to stay in Marseille, choose the Old Port.

Eat bouillabaisse

If you’re a seafood lover, you’re in luck. Due to its location right on the coast, Marseille is filled with excellent seafood. No other local dish captures this as well as bouillabaisse. This famous fish stew has whatever the fresh catch of the day is within a hearty, spicy broth.

Chez Fonton is a restaurant known for its bouillabaisse. However, you can find a lot of great places near the Old Port or in the Vallon des Auffes neighborhood. You can also book a food tour to learn more about Marseille’s food scene.

In fact, an excellent way to end your day is to stroll along the beautiful Rue du Vallon des Auffes and enjoy the atmosphere of this historic fishing port. Alternatively, find somewhere with a rooftop terrace to enjoy the views of the sunset over the beautiful Mediterranean.

Day 2 – Dig Deeper in Marseille

Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde

Upon arrival in Marseille, it’s impossible to miss the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde. Standing tall on a hill overlooking the old port and central part of town, this basilica has become an icon of the city.

It was constructed in 1897 and captures the classic Neo-Byzantine architecture. The interior is a sight to marvel at–towering red and white striped arches, a gold dome ceiling, and intricate art covering the walls. You can also take the time to tour the crypt below the church.

Here is a great place to watch the sunrise or sunset during your trip to Marseille, however, we highly recommend a visit in the morning before visitors arrive for the day. 

Notre Dame de la Garde
Notre Dame de la Garde

Château d’If

If you have time in your Marseille itinerary to take a small ferry ride, head over to Château d’If. This small fortress sits upon an island in the Frioul archipelago. It was first built in the 16th century and served as a prison until the end of the 19th century.

For just a few euros, you can head over to the island and wander these highly-fortified grounds that capture a time in history. Today, the fortress is famous for being one of the settings of Alexandre Dumas’s novel The Count of Monte Cristo

Visiting the Château d’If is undoubtedly one of the top things to do in Marseille and you can book entry tickets here. If you want to spend more time on the water, you can organise a boat trip that includes seeing the Château d’If from the sea, other surrounding islands and picturesque swimming spots.

Palais du Pharo

Heading back to the mainland, the next stop is located in the seaside Pharo neighbourhood in the City of Marseille.

Throughout its history, the Palais du Pharo has been used in a few different ways. It was originally built as a gift from Napoleon III as an imperial residence, although the emperor never stayed in the palace. It was gifted to the city in 1873 after his death.

In the early 1900s, it became the Pharo School where students came from across the globe to practice medicine. The Pharo School remained active until 2013. Today, the building is used for congresses, conventions, and symposiums.

Visitors can wander the grounds, admire the architecture, and take in the beautiful view from a palace seated high above the city. This is absolutely one of the top places to visit in Marseille. And if you want to take in more historic places, consider visiting the nearby Abbey of Saint-Victor.

Palais du Pharo
Palais du Pharo

Admire the street art

Marseille is known for its street art. The further you walk into the neighborhoods surrounding the Old Port, the more this becomes apparent.

Le Panier is the oldest neighborhood in Marseille and has become even more famous among tourists for its impressive display of murals and street art.

You can go on a self-guided tour or sign up with a local tour guide to learn more about the street art and history of the neighborhood. 

Borely Park Botanical Garden

If you have some time to spare, Borely Park and its botanical garden have become something of a treasure in Marseille. The park itself is huge, filled with large green spaces, statues, rows of trees, and cobblestone paths.

The botanical garden has more than 3,500 plant species. This is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon relaxing and admiring the colorful flora that thrives in southern France’s climate. 

This is a great final activity for a weekend in Marseille, especially if you don’t plan to go to the beach. If you do, however, it’s probably best to skip this particular activity and head to the beach instead!

Walk or lounge on the beach

No visit to a city along the southern French coastline is complete without a trip to the luxurious beaches nearby. The good news is that there are several beaches for you to choose from.

First, and perhaps the most popular, is Plages Escale Borely. Borely is located about two miles south of Marseille and great for visitors who enjoy sailing and windsurfing. Restaurants and cafes line the beach, so you have plenty of access to food and drinks.

Another two options of similar caliber are Plage des Catalans and Plage de la Grande Mer. The former is the easiest to reach from the Marseille city center, however, most of these beaches are accessible via the extensive public transport network.

Parc National des Calanques boasts some of the most exquisite coastline on the Riviera, but we’ll take a closer look at these beaches and activities if you happen to be spending more time than Marseille in 2 days.

Coastline in Parc National des Calanques
Coastline in Parc National des Calanques

Day 3 – Day Trip to Les Calanques, Avignon or the Provence Lavender Fields

Les Calanques kayaking

To see Marseille in 3 days means a visit to Les Calanques. This unique geological area will be unlike anywhere you’ve ever visited before. Bright white cliffs and coves with clear turquoise water make exploring this national park a one-of-a-kind experience.

Calanques National Park sits between Marseille and Cassis. It’s a stretch of coastline filled with mini fjords, white-sand beaches, and crystal-clear water. You can see the coastline through a guided tour, renting a kayak, hiking, or laying on one of the beaches.

Keep an eye out on the habitats underwater during your visit. Through the clear water, you can sometimes see octopuses, anemones, urchins, and a variety of fish and vegetation. 


Avignon is a small, quaint town located along the Rhone that will transport you back in time. It’s well-known for the Papal Palace, which is one of the largest buildings in the world. It’s a city loaded with history, art galleries, and traditional French cinemas.

Avignon is only about 35 minutes from Marseille and trains frequently run between the cities. However, plan to spend the entire day enjoying Avignon.

For the best views of this walled city, walk out to the Pont d’Avignon, an unfinished medieval bridge that allows visitors to look back toward the city. You can also book a guided tour that includes a visit to Avignon and a couple of other towns in Provence.

There are several palace museums and local shops to explore, or you can simply wander the streets and enjoy the beauty Avignon has to offer. 

Provence lavender fields

You’ve probably seen photos of the Provence lavender fields without realizing where they are located. Your ability to see the lavender fields is highly dependent on when you visit. The flowers begin blooming in June, but reach their peak in mid-July.

Plateau de Valensole is the best place to admire the lavender fields, however, this also means it gets very busy during the summer.

If you want to avoid the crowds, choose another plateau like Luberon or Verdon. They will still be busy, but they generally see fewer tourists than Valensole. The drive from Marseille is just over one hour.

Trains are available, but the trail time is upwards of two hours, with a train transfer near Valensole. You will want to book a guided tour or rent a vehicle to drive the road that takes visitors deep into the rolling lavender hills. 

Lavender fields in Provence
Lavender fields in Provence

Where to Stay in Marseille

Hôtel Life Marseille VP – This 3-star hotel is the perfect place to base yourself if you’re visiting Marseille on a mid-range budget. It’s centrally located close to the top sites in the city and they have a number of bright, clean and comfortable rooms available.

La Residence Du Vieux Port – Luxury travelers to Marseille will love this boutique hotel in the center of the city. They have a range of sophisticated rooms to choose from, plenty of amenities for guests to enjoy and a location perfect for exploring the city.

Vertigo Vieux-Port – If you’re traveling solo or on a budget, then this hostel is an excellent choice for you. Located in the heart of Marseille, they have a range of both dorms and private rooms available along with great common areas and self-catering facilities.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Marseille hotels!

Marseille is a lovely slice of southern France. On its own, the city has many highlights with a little something for every kind of traveler to enjoy. Because of its location and size, it can also be a great jumping off point for exploring the French Riviera, Provence, and more.

Are you planning a trip to Marseille? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Audrey Webster is a writer for The World Was Here First. She is an Oregon native who has visited countries across the globe and currently spends her weekends exploring the Pacific Northwest and surrounding states. Her approach to traveling combines exploring famous tourist sites and wandering off the beaten path to discover new destinations.

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