Marseille is the oldest city in France and the second-largest city in the country after Paris. It has a vibrant urban energy, multicultural atmosphere, delectable food, blended architectural styles, a historic old town, and a scenic natural harbor. That’s why it’s a go-to destination for folks looking for an authentic tourist experience.
If you’re planning to visit Marseille, you should drop off your bags and start your adventure in the following places:
Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde
You’ve likely heard about the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde. Designed by prominent architect Henri Jacques Esperandieu and standing high on a hilltop above the harbor, Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde is undoubtedly the most important landmark in the city. Ancient communities used it as an observation point.
Today, the basilica is a historical landmark and a beacon of hope for the entire city. Whenever you’re in Marseille, this is a great place to visit for stunning views of the city and its port.
Once you get there, be sure to look out for a large statue of the Virgin Mary that sits atop the bell tower. To get to the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, you can drive or catch the tourist train. Either way, ensure you arrive early to beat the rush of tourists since this is the city’s most famous tourist attraction.
Marseille’s old island prison of Chateau d’If was the setting for the famous adventure novel “The Count of Monte Cristo,” written by French author Alexandre Dumas. Whether you’ve read the novel or not, Chateau d’If is definitely one place you shouldn’t miss when you visit Marseille.
Although this impregnable fortress and formidable prison didn’t see much action in the early days, it has garnered immense popularity in fictional work, making it one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. You’ll get a chance to explore the cells where so many prisoners suffered a terrible fate with no chance of escaping.
To get to Chateau d’If, you’ll need to board a shuttle boat from Marseille’s Vieux Port.
Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (MuCEM)
If you’ve been visiting Marseille’s historical sites, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations is the complete opposite. Opened in June 2013, the museum was part of the city’s inauguration as the European Capital of Culture. The building houses over 350,000 objects inside, including ancient garments, sculptures, old artifacts, works of art, and other objects.
Although the museum was constructed to celebrate European and Mediterranean culture and civilization, the building itself has caught the attention of many local and foreign tourists. Designed by Rudy Ricciotti and Roland Carta, this cube-shaped structure is an architectural marvel. Therefore, you’ll want to make it part of your Marseille itinerary, especially if you like modern architecture.
Located on the edge of the Old Port, Fort Saint-Jean is one of the most visited places in Marseille. It is located right opposite Fort Saint Nicholas and is connected to the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations by a footbridge.
Constructed in 1660 by King Louis XIV, Fort Saint-Jean witnessed several historical events that today constitute the heritage of modern-day Marseille. During the 12th-century crusades, this structure served as a commandery of the Knights of Templar and the Hospitallers of John the Baptist.
While at Fort Saint-Jean, you can also catch the Petit Train Marseillaise for a 360-degree visit to the Old Port, the Corniche Kennedy, and other places. Remember to book earlier, especially during summer.
Your trip to Marseille won’t be complete without a visit to Le Panier. It is widely renowned as Marseille’s oldest neighborhood. It was founded by the Greeks in 600 B.C. and mainly consists of colorful buildings, pastel walls, winding roads, tiny shops, and narrow alleyways. Although a big part of Le Panier was destroyed during the Second World War, the Old Town district’s colorful vibrancy remains intact.
One of the most popular things tourists do when visiting Marseille is to explore Le Panier on foot. Therefore, ensure you wear comfortable footwear and clothing if you plan to follow the tradition.
Plan a Visit to Marseille Soon
There are so many places to visit in Marseille, all with a charming blend of history, natural beauty, and cultural diversity. From the iconic Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde to the lively Le Panier district, this exotic French city is every traveler’s dream. So plan your trip to Marseille soon. It will surely be memorable and filled with amazing adventures.