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Marseille Top Reasons to Visit this City

Reasons to Visit Marseille

M for Museums:

When you go, plan to visit the museums in Marseille. There is something for every artistic taste and attention span with a range of curated artistic styles and artifacts.

History buffs head to Fort Saint-Jean, Musée d’ Histoire de Marseille (one of the largest in Europe), the Musée des Docks Romains (Roman Docks Museum), and musée d’Archéologie méditerranéenne (located inside Vieille Charité). 

Palais Longchamp Marseille Provence

Art lovers discover Musée des Beaux-Arts with a collection of 16th to 19th-century artwork. Located in Palais Longchamp, it is the oldest museum in Marseille opening to the public in 1801.

Short on time? Head to Musée Regards de Provence (features Provencal artists) and Musee Cantini (modern art collection 1900 – 1960). Both small museums are located near the Vieux Port.

A for Architecture:

The award of Cultural Capital of the Year for 2013 was just the kind of shot-in-the-arm impetus that the city of Marseille required to change its gritty image. The reality is no municipality would disagree with a cash infusion equaling € 660 million. Although that figure is only a portion of the total amount of infrastructure funding, the result is several legacy projects such as the Museum of Civilisations from Europe and the Mediterranean (MuCEM).

MuCEM interior Marseille Provence MUCEM

MuCEM is a stunning architectural creation by Rudy Ricciotti in collaboration with Roland Carta changed the face of J4, an old ferry dock. The museum is a sparkling five-story glass cube implausibly enveloped by concrete latticework. The purpose-built concrete panels provide defused lighting and a windbreak while adding immense architectural interest to the structure.

Marseille MuCEM View

R for Radical:

Swiss architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, famously known as Le Corbusier, began designing a radical urban living concept in 1926. Marseille’s Unité d’Habitation was the first iteration of his idea. Le Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse (Radiant City) divides fans and detractors of Brutalist Architecture.

Construction of this vertical apartment-village complex occurred between 1947 and 1952. Designed for as high-density living the building has 337 apartments accommodating up to 1,600 residents. Resting on cement stilts, Unité d’Habitation is a concrete block with impressive dimensions at 165m in length, 24m wide and 56m high.


Photo Credit: DeZeen

Radiant City incorporates many of the key concepts that Le Corbusier began sketching and detailing in the 1920s. The rooftop terrace was intended for community usage, a place to relax elevated from urban noises. The planning for each apartment unit (there were 23 different floor plans) maximized natural light and space utilization while minimizing heat load. The village concept included retail space, a hotel and a restaurant.

“Completed in 1952 in Marseille, the building took Le Corbusier’s most famous quote – that a house is “a machine for living in” – and applied it to an entire community. The result was a self-contained concrete vessel that is structured like an ocean liner.” ~ DeeZeen

Situated in a park setting the 18-storey Cité Radieuse is notable for its UNESCO World Heritage designation. Today, the occupants include residents, creative businesses, the 21-room Hôtel Le Corbusier, a gourmet restaurant called Le Ventre de L’Architecte (the Belly of the Architect) and MAMO modern art centre. Book a tour of this fascinating structure through the Marseille Tourism office. English tours are only available on Saturdays.

S is for Seafood:

Bouillabaisse Marseille Provence

No one should visit Marseille without tasting the soup/stew/broth made with local rockfish. Bouillabaisse is a seafood soup with pieces of fish and crustaceans. The soup is so special that in 1980, eleven of the top chefs in Marseille created the “Bouillabaisse Charter.” Enjoy this recipe for bouillabaisse.

E is for Estaque:

Once a quaint fishing village northwest of Marseille, l’Estaque gets its name from “estaco” which is the Provencal word for a mooring ring for boats. The town’s setting attracted Paul Cézanne and other Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists. During 60 years (1860-1920) the town’s colourful houses, brick and tile factory roofs, natural Mediterranean vegetation and the bay of Marseille provided a diverse backdrop for these artists. Today, l’Estaque remains a working-class district and is part of the city’s 16th Arrondissement. Read: New York Times Travel “Stepping into the Frame in the South of France.”

Why visit l’Estaque?

It’s an excellent place to catch the RTM maritime shuttle to the Vieux Port. This seasonal boat service runs daily from the end of April to late September. Sit back and enjoy the view of the city and the mountains from the water.

RTM Boat Shuttles Navettes_maritimes

Discover the works of Marseille-born artist Adolphe Monticelli at Fondation Monticelli a private museum that opened in 2010. Monticelli’s paintings of l’Estaque inspired Paul Cézanne and others.

Try local fast food! Located near the entrance to the harbour several food kiosks propose their versions of savoury panisse and sweet chichis frégi. Made with chickpea flour the panisse batter is deep-fried and then sprinkled with fleur de sel before serving (click here for Tasha’s recipe for panisse). Chichi frégi is the local variation of a doughnut, with wheat flour and orange blossom water.

Panisse Chickpea Fritter Recipe Cote d'Azur Tasha Powell

Head to the beach. Choose from one of three (3) waterfront strips that make up the Corbières beaches (Lave, Batterie and Fortin). Accessible from the city centre expect crowds at these family-friendly beaches on weekends and holidays.

I is for the Islands:

When it’s hot in the city, catch a ferry for a short ride to the Iles de Frioul archipelago with its four islands. Ferries run from the Vieux Port on a regular basis during the summer months. You can easily spend a day hiking the trails or lounging on the beaches of Ratonneau. Do not miss visiting If, the smallest island with the fortress-prison Château d’If (home of the fictional character Count of Monte Cristo).

Chateau d'If Iles Fioul Marseille @PerfProvence

L is for Le Panier:

Le Panier, the oldest residential district in Marseille, is a web of narrow, winding streets. The tightly packed row houses and alleyways angle up a hill away from the Vieux Port where the fishermen moored their boats. Le Panier (The Basket) remains a lively residential neighbourhood dotted with charming cafés, street art, and boutiques. Make sure to visit the 16th-century la Vielle Charité, once a refuge for the city’s poorest residents is now home to the Museums of Archaeology and Contemporary Art.

Marseille Le Panier Reasons to Visit

L is for La Bonne Mére:

Located at the crest of not only the tallest peak, but the highest tower in the city is a golden lady. Regardless of your religious beliefs, the 19th-century Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica is worth a visit for the panoramic views of the city from the terrace.

Notre Dame de la Garde Marseille

La Bonne Mère” (the Good Mother) is considered the religious protector of those who venture out on the water. Affixed to the church’s interior walls are tiles thanking Dieu (God) for bringing their crews back safely. Sunlight spills into the gilded heart of Notre Dame de la Garde. Light from vibrant stained glass windows highlights the model boats hanging from the rafters above the pews.

Notre Dame de la Garde Marseille

E is for Explore!

The Calanques, shopping, food, arts, markets, and cool bars are some of the many reasons to #ChooseMarseille. Here, is a planning guide for your next visit to Marseille.

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Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

With her camera and laptop close at hand, Carolyne has traded in her business suits for the world of freelance writing and blogging. Her first airplane ride at six months of age was her introduction to the exciting world of travel.

While in Provence, Carolyne can be found hiking with friends, riding the hills around the Alpilles or tackling Mont Ventoux. Her attachment to the region resonates in Perfectly Provence this digital magazine that she launched in 2014. This website is an opportunity to explore the best of the Mediterranean lifestyle (food & wine, places to stay, expat stories, books on the region, travel tips, real estate tips and more), through our contributors' articles.

Carolyne writes a food and travel blog Ginger and Nutmeg. Carolyne’s freelance articles can be found in Global Living Magazine, Avenue Magazine and City Palate (Published Travel Articles).


  1. July 12, 2019 at 12:25 am — Reply

    hey – thanks so much for this C – was last in Marseille when I was 16 – a long time ago – and 2 planned trips in the past few years have been postponed – thanks to strikes – one day!!!

    • July 12, 2019 at 1:28 am — Reply

      Oh you must go to Marseille! The city is evolving and becoming more user-friendly all the time. Yet it retains a lived in charm. #choosemarseille

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