48 hours in Marseille – A 2 day Itinerary

The simple pleasures in life – waking up late to the sound of the seaside and the city below your French apartment, a french vanilla coffee blend brewing on an open flame and the view of the sapphire waters of the Mediterranean from your bed.

Yachts reflecting in the still water of the old Vieux Port of Marseilles beneath Cathedral of Notre Dame France on sunrise

You slowly pull back the warm sheets and get ready to be engulfed in everything French for the day. Your window offers a glimpse into the lives of the locals going about their morning routine, and the salty air is warm as it kisses your skin.

You’ve gone to Marseille for the weekend. Here is how to spend your 48 hours in Marseille in the best and most authentic way possible. 

Best Places to Stay in Marseille

Best for the history lovers, Vieux Port has plenty of history along with restaurants, cafes, and shops to explore.

Staying in Marseille puts you in the center of the action, with easy access to many of the city’s top attractions, including the Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica and the MuCEM museum.

For the quintessential French getaway, you’ll want to stay in Le Panier, which is known for its artisan shops, narrow streets and colorful buildings.

For a coastal holiday, head to La Corniche. There are plenty of beaches, cafes, and restaurants to enjoy, and the area is known for its stunning views of the Mediterranean.

Cours Julienis is a bohemian neighborhood that is popular with the younger generation and artists, with plenty of street art, vintage shops, and trendy cafes. It’s a great spot for those looking for a more alternative atmosphere and a taste of Marseille’s creative side.

Castellane is centrally located, and is a good option for those looking for easy access to public transportation, with several metro and bus lines passing through. 

If you can’t check into your hotel yet, you can also drop your bags at Luggage storage Marseille so that you can start your adventures!

Marseille, France - View of the historic town-hall "Hotel de Ville" in cloudy rainy weather in Marseille, Provence, France.

Best Time to Visit Marseille

The best time to visit Marseille is typically during the spring (April to June) and fall (September to October) seasons.

During these months, the weather is usually pleasant with mild temperatures, fewer crowds, and lower accommodation rates compared to the peak summer season.

Springtime in Marseille is a great time to visit as you’ll see the blooming flowers, while Autumn brings pleasant temperatures, which makes for comfortable outdoor activities.

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Overview Of 2 Days In Marseille Itinerary

Day 1 in Marseille

  • Natural History Museum
  • Marseille-Saint-Charles Train Station
  • Calanques National Park
  • Château d’If
  • Le Panier Neighborhood

Day 2 in Marseille

  • Old Port
  • Frioul islands
  • The MuCEM 
  • Marseille Fish Market
MARSEILLE FRANCE - Saint Jean Castle and Cathedral de la Major and the Vieux port in Marseille France

Day 1 in Marseille

Natural History Museum

Starting off in typical French style you’ll learn a bit more about the history of Marseille.

The Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle de Marseille is located in the Palais Longchamp, a historic monument situated in the city’s 4th arrondissement.

The Palais Longchamp itself is an impressive architectural landmark worth visiting. Sounds pretty French, right? It’s definitely giving Pretty Woman vibes (if it were filmed in France of course).

The museum houses a diverse range of natural history exhibits, including collections of plants, animals, minerals, fossils, and anthropological artifacts. It aims to educate visitors about the biodiversity and natural heritage of the region and beyond.

You’ll get to see the Zoology gallery, which displays a variety of preserved animals, showcasing the diversity of species on Earth. It often includes taxidermy specimens, skeletons, and models.

The museum features a botanical garden where you can explore different plant species, including both native and exotic plants. You’ll get a similar experience to that of the Sky Garden in London… but French inspired.

The gallery also presents geological formations, minerals, and rocks, providing insights into the Earth’s geological history.

At the paleontology archive, you can discover ancient fossils, such as dinosaur remains, marine life, and other extinct species.

Finally, the museum frequently hosts temporary exhibitions on various natural history topics, which can offer fresh perspectives and engaging displays.

Palais Longchamp and cascade fountain in Marseille, France

Marseille-Saint-Charles Train Station

Marseille-Saint-Charles is the main railway station in Marseille and one of the busiest train stations in France. It is centrally located in the city’s 1st arrondissement, near the Canebière street.

The station serves as a major transportation hub, connecting Marseille with various domestic and international destinations.

The station building, designed by Gustave Desplaces and Marius Toudoire, features a distinctive blend of architectural styles, including Beaux-Arts and Second Empire.

The grand façade, with its imposing clock tower and intricately detailed stonework. As you can imagine, the result is a remarkable first impression.

From its upper levels (after you’ve ascended the staircase) you’ll be rewarded with expansive views of Marseille’s skyline, including the city’s iconic Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica.

While you’re on the move, Marseille-Saint-Charles Train Station conveniently has a variety of shops and eateries. You can find boutiques selling fashion, accessories, books, and souvenirs.

Additionally, there are numerous cafes, bakeries, and restaurants where you can enjoy a quick snack or a leisurely meal.

Marseille, Provence,  - Facade and square of the Saint Charles train station

Calanques National Park 

The Calanques National Park (Parc national des Calanques) is a beautiful and protected area located near Marseille, France.

It encompasses a stretch of coastline along the Mediterranean Sea, between the cities of Marseille, Cassis, and La Ciotat. The park was established in 2012 to preserve and safeguard the unique natural and cultural heritage of the region.

The Calanques National Park is renowned for its striking limestone cliffs, hidden coves, crystal-clear waters, and diverse flora and fauna.

It offers a stunning combination of rugged landscapes, marine ecosystems, and cultural landmarks. The park covers approximately 520 square kilometers (200 square miles), with both land and sea areas protected.

You’ll be able to engage in various activities, including hiking, rock climbing, boating, swimming, snorkeling, and diving.

The park boasts an extensive network of hiking trails that make you feel as though you’re walking along the path that the characters of Sanditon walked in the series.

Breathtaking viewpoint on the cliffs Calanques D'En Vau bay Calanques National Park near Cassis fishing village Provence South France Europe

Château d’If

Arguably one of the most unique ways to experience and view the Marseille coastline is to take a trip away from the mainland and head to the Château d’If.

You know how Disney movies start with that castle covered in fireworks? That’s a similar sort of atmosphere and view you’ll be seeing if you venture to Château d’If.

Explore the stunning coastal beauty of Marseille by taking a boat trip that combines a visit to the Château d’If with a tour of the Calanques. The Château d’If, located on the island of If, is a famous fortress known for its connection to the novel The Count of Monte Cristo.

You can take a short boat ride from the Old Port to the island and explore the fortress, enjoying panoramic views of the city and the sea.

Afterward, continue your boat journey through the breathtaking Calanques, a series of fjord-like inlets with towering limestone cliffs and turquoise waters. This excursion allows you to experience the maritime beauty of Marseille and its surrounding natural wonders.

Pair the trip with some French champagne (because the view itself is worthy of a celebration), kick your feet up and imagine you’re the Countess to the Count of Monte Cristo.

Castle Chateau d'If, near Marseille France. On sunny warm day in Provence.

Le Panier Neighborhood

Le Panier is the oldest district in Marseille and is known for its alleyways, colorful facades, and vibrant artistic atmosphere.

A walk through this  historic neighborhood will have you discovering  a load of hidden treasures, such as local art galleries, boutiques, and street art. 

Le Panier is also home to several noteworthy landmarks, including the Vieille Charité, a former almshouse turned cultural center that boasts museums and exhibitions.

Explore the winding streets, stop by cozy cafes, browse through local shops, and immerse yourself in the ambiance of Le Panier.

Don’t forget to climb up to the terrace of the Place des Moulins to end your day with a glass of Chardonnay and a golden sunset. Days in Marseille don’t get much better than this.

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - The Cathedral of Saint Mary Major in Marseille, France. The Musee Regards de Provence, in the foreground, shows the historical artworks from Provence

Day 2 in Marseille

Old Port 

The Old Port of Marseille, known as Vieux-Port de Marseille in French, is a deep part of the city’s history. It is located on the coastline of Marseille and has served as the city’s main harbor for over 2,600 years.

The Old Port has played a crucial role in Marseille’s development and remains equally important in the tourism sector’s development today.

The Old Port exudes a calming atmosphere despite the energy and action happening within the port. It’s a sight to behold with its picturesque harbor, colorful fishing boats, and waterfront promenade.

It is surrounded by a mix of historic buildings, lively cafes, restaurants, and shops, creating an atmosphere that’s hard to leave.

One of the prominent landmarks at the Old Port is the Fort Saint-Nicolas, a historic fortress located at the Southern entrance of the port.

Another notable sight is the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) of Marseille, which is situated on the Quai du Port, one of the main promenades along the waterfront.

The Old Port is not only a scenic spot but also a fantastic spot to gather ingredients for a home cooked meal. Fishermen usually bring in their catches, and you can find a fish market where you can purchase fresh seafood (more on that next).

Additionally, there are boat tours and excursions available from the Old Port, allowing visitors to explore the coastline and nearby attractions such as the Calanques.

The area around the Old Port is a popular place for the locals to gather during the summertime where the weather is warm, the ocean is luminescent and the vibes are immaculate.

The promenade of the Old Vieux Port in the city center of Marseilles France

Frioul Islands

Has watching all the boats entering and exiting the harbor got you in the mood for sailing? Next up on the Marseille agenda is a boat trip to the Frioul Islands.

The Frioul Islands (Îles du Frioul) are a group of four small islands located off the coast of Marseille, France. They are a popular destination for both locals and tourists, offering a unique natural and cultural experience.

The four main islands that make up the Frioul Islands are Pomègues, Ratonneau, If, and Tiboulen. Each island has its own distinct characteristics and attractions:

Pomègues is the largest island of the group and is known for its rugged coastline, beautiful beaches, and rocky coves. It offers opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, and exploring the natural landscapes.

There are also several restaurants and cafes where you can enjoy a meal with a view. Think underwater cave exploration.

Ratonneau is the second-largest island and is connected to Pomègues by a causeway. It features a charming fishing village with colorful houses and narrow streets. You can take a stroll through the village, visit the local shops, or enjoy a meal at one of the waterfront restaurants. Think quaint and local.

If is the smallest and most famous island of the group. The fortress can be visited, and it offers views of Marseille and the surrounding sea. Think movie-set turned real life (if that’s even possible).

Tiboulen is the smallest and most remote island. It is known for its rocky terrain and crystal-clear waters, making it a popular spot for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts. Think cliff climbing, jumping and adventure seeking.

To reach the Frioul Islands, you can take a ferry or boat from the Old Port of Marseille. Several companies offer regular boat services to the islands, especially during the summer months when the islands are more frequently visited.

What will your preference be? Underwater cave exploration, local fishing villages, movie sets or cliff jumping?

View on Frioul archipelago in France on a sunny day

MuCEM (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations)

Before dinner, the last thing you’ll do to end off your exploration of Marseille is visit the MuCEM (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations).

Designed by the architect Rudy Ricciotti, it showcases a striking contrast between the contemporary glass and steel structure and the historic Fort Saint-Jean, which is connected to the museum via a high footbridge.

The museum is dedicated to showcasing the cultural heritage of Europe and the Mediterranean region. Its exhibitions delve into various aspects of civilizations, exploring their history, traditions, art, and cultural exchanges.

The collections cover a wide range of topics, including archaeology, anthropology, photography, contemporary art, and more.

It hosts a variety of events, including concerts, film screenings, lectures, workshops, and performances, providing visitors with engaging and interactive experiences.

These events often explore themes related to the exhibitions or offer opportunities to experience the cultural expressions of the Mediterranean firsthand.

Marseille / France / Quartier de la Joliette With Great Wheel

Fish Market 

At the end of day 2, instead of finding a restaurant or cafe to eat in, you’re going to pretend you’re a local and head to the fish market to gather produce for your own home-cooked meal.

This will depend on whether you’re staying in self-catering accommodation or a hotel. Perhaps  you might even consider spending the night in a self-catering apartment to experience this unique dinner during one night of your stay. 

The fish market in Marseille is a busy place where you can find a wide variety of fresh seafood. The fish market, known as “Marché aux Poissons” in French, is located near the Old Port of Marseille, making it easily accessible to locals and visitors alike.

Remember the fisherman who brought in their daily catches from the Mediterranean Sea? This is your chance to get to know one of them and seek their guidance on the best seafood pairings of the day.

You can expect to find an array of fish, including popular varieties such as sea bass, red mullet, cod, sardines, and many others. In addition to fish, the market also offers shellfish, crustaceans, and other marine delicacies.

The market is an excellent place to experience the lively atmosphere of Marseille’s maritime culture. You’ll see fishmongers expertly filleting fish, vendors enthusiastically promoting their fresh catches, and customers selecting their preferred seafood for cooking or immediate consumption.

Take home your fish of choice, cook it up and enjoy your masterpiece on your terrace overlooking the tangerine colored water.

It’s worth noting that the fish market in Marseille is typically open in the morning, with the busiest days being early in the week when the fishermen return with their latest catches. However, it is advisable to check the specific operating hours and days of the fish market, as they may vary depending on the season and local regulations.

Visiting the fish market is not only an opportunity to purchase high-quality seafood but also a chance to immerse yourself in the local culinary traditions.

The seafood in Marseille is highly regarded, and you’ll find numerous restaurants and bistros in the area that specialize in fresh seafood dishes, allowing you to savor the flavors of the Mediterranean.

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - The morning fish market in the old port of Marseilles. Fishermen are laid out on the counter fresh catch

Marseille is a land that is highly regarded and acknowledges its history. But the most exciting aspect of visiting Marseille is that it feels like you’re in a Wonder Women movie.

You half expect Gal Gadot to appear from behind one of the ocean side fortresses. Additionally, the fishing villages are reminiscent of scenes from Aquaman. Fancy traveling to the DC Universe in real life? Then Marseille is your answer.

French Mediterranean done in style, with an atmosphere generated by the locals alone, Marseille is a destination that should not be missed.

Recommended tours in Marseille

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