Marseille in 1 Day: all you need to know

Many European cities can be explored in a visit of less than 48 hours, so I invite you to discover what to see and do in the city of Marseille in a single day.

Keyvis Montilva

Keyvis Montilva

10 min read

Marseille in 1 Day: all you need to know

Marseille | ©Elisa Schmidt

A large part of the best things to see and do in Marseille have to do with exploring Marseille as a tourist destination as well as enjoying its culture and gastronomy. Fortunately, it is also a city that allows you to explore a good part of its attractions in a very short time.

So the best thing you can do to ensure a successful visit to this part of the French Mediterranean is to keep reading this publication, as there are a series of plans and activities strategically organized for you to tour a good part of the city and get to know the things to see and do in Marseille.

1. Start the day with a transfer from the airport.

Marseille Airport| ©Steve Miller
Marseille Airport| ©Steve Miller

The best thing you can do to speed up the process of getting from the Marseille airport to the city center is to have decided on the transportation you are going to take. There are buses that leave from the airport terminal and will take you directly to the Saint Charles train station or there is also a railway that connects both places in about an hour.

Taking a cab could also be a good option, but it will definitely be more expensive than the other two alternatives. At the same time, it can present serious delays depending on the traffic that the driver encounters on the road from the airport to the city center of Marseille.

So a trip by public transport will always be the cheapest and most favorable alternative. At the same time it is also important that you familiarize yourself with the alternatives you have to leave this city, since understanding how you can get from Marseille to Avignon is an excellent idea. Especially if this nearby community is the next destination of your trip in the South of France.

You have to keep in mind that Avignon may very well be a short stop of a few hours while you return to take another train to some other nearby city in the same region of Provence.

2. Have breakfast in Le Panier and stroll through its streets

Marseille Cathedral| ©Chris Bancrof
Marseille Cathedral| ©Chris Bancrof

On the other hand, when you have managed to get to the city of Marseille it will probably be to its train station or bus station, both of which are located inside the same building known as Saint Charles station.

What I advise you to do is to take a cab that will not cost you more than 10 € to go directly to the neighborhood of Le Panier, which is the oldest of the city and is located right in the tourist heart of Marseille. It is a neighborhood with steep and narrow streets that has some of the greatest historical and architectural treasures of the city and at the same time has a very diverse and interesting gastronomic offer.

Its streets, both those near the Marina of the old port as well as the cathedral of the city, are full of cafes that offer you the experience of an authentic Marseille breakfast.

The best thing to do is to sit down for a coffee and breakfast and then have a tour of the streets of this neighborhood. If you were lucky enough to have a four-day trip to Marseille you could enjoy a much more thorough tour of this area, as it is full of historic buildings and commercial establishments.

3. Then head to the old port and visit the attractions

MuCEM| ©Fred Romero
MuCEM| ©Fred Romero

You will notice that this authentic neighborhood is located right next to what is known as the old port of Marseille, in fact, it is part of that group of neighborhoods that make up what is known as the old city of Marseille.

After having walked through the old streets you need to approach the westernmost end of the port to visit the main sights of this part of the city. This is where most of the best boat tours in Marseille depart from .

The peculiarity of this city is that several of its most important museums, as well as its most important historical buildings, are located in an area that does not exceed one kilometer around. In fact, several of these sites are located next to each other and are connected by walkways that facilitate the visit to tourists.

Then, leave the area and start touring other neighborhoods that are a little less flashy and less typical in the itineraries of visitors. Which is exactly what you will do as soon as you have dedicated the last hours of your morning to a quick visit to the following attractions.


The MuCEM is the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations. Its seat stands out within the landscape of the old port of Marseille because it is a large semi-rectangular cube that is located right next to a fortification that contrasts sharply with the modernity of this building.

You have to know that it is one of the 10 best museums in Marseille and at the same time for many specialists it is one of the most important cultural institutions in France.

It has several permanent exhibitions and touring it in its entirety is something that will not take you more than an hour if you do it quickly.

  • Prices: tickets cost about 10 euros per person approximately.
  • Hours: open every day except Tuesdays from 10 am to 6 pm.

Fort Saint-Jean

Right next to the MuCEM is located the Fort Saint-Jean, a fortification that stands inside the old port of Marseille right at the entrance of its marina that today serves as a pier for hundreds of sailboats and catamarans.

At the time of its construction during the 16th century it was a building that served the purpose of ensuring the security of the port of Marseille, which historically has been one of the most prosperous and important of the southern coast of France.

Today it is a site you should not miss even on a short one-day visit to this city for the fact that it is one of the best things to do with children in Marseille. Moreover, entering this site is completely free and there is a 150 m long walkway that directly connects the MuCEM to this fort.

The Palais du Pharo

Palais du Pharo| ©decar66
Palais du Pharo| ©decar66

This palace from a certain point of view can be considered to be right next to Fort Saint-Jean. However, if you walk, you will have to go to the other end of the port and then return to the same side, just like walking a complete U.

Anyway, this is a walk that will not take you more than 15 minutes and is ideal for you to enjoy the most touristic area of the city. When you have finished it you will be in front of what was once a palace built by Napoleon Bonaparte and has one of the most beautiful gardens in Marseille.

Today it is the headquarters of a university, but this does not detract from the fact that it is one of the most imposing and important buildings in the city.

In addition, the privileged views it offers of the bay and the harbor is something you can not miss before you start exploring other areas of the city with the other plans I have prepared for you.

  • Prices: touring the university campus, the surroundings of the palace and its respective park is completely free.
  • Hours: usually the area receives visitors every day of the week from 7 am to 7 pm.

4. Take a quick tour of the Prefecture and Noailles neighborhoods

In Noailles| ©Fred Romero
In Noailles| ©Fred Romero

By the time you have finished your visit to the Palais du Pharo it will probably be 1 pm or a little after noon. Therefore, it is an excellent idea to take a cab that will not take more than 10 minutes to take you right to the center of the Prefecture district. This is a central neighborhood that owes its name to the building that was built for the prefecture of the city during the second Napoleonic empire.

The area is full of buildings dating from the second half of the nineteenth century and the palace of the Prefecture of the Bouches-du-Rhône is the real protagonist of its streets. Exploring the area is an excellent idea, especially because it can show you the best of the architecture that developed throughout this city in the century of Marseille's modernization.

You can stroll through the bohemian and eclectic Noailles district located less than two blocks from this palace. Its narrow cobblestone alleys become one of the greatest representatives of the identity of the Marseille of the 21st century. Therefore, you cannot miss it to understand why people who visit this city are fascinated by its culture and its gastronomy.

In fact, a tour of these two areas is one of the best things to do in Marseille in summer because it is an area that comes alive from a commercial and touristic approach at this time of the year. Which makes it even more interesting for those who take the task of investigating which are the corners that contain the true essence of what Marseille is for its inhabitants.

Take the opportunity to have lunch in Cours Julien

Knowing that you are in Noailles at a time of day when Marseillais usually have lunch, I can't help but recommend that you visit the most important public square for the local gastronomic scene. It is the Cours Julien and is located right in the heart of this neighborhood.

This is a long street that leads to a square with a small public park and is lined with cafes, restaurants, galleries and bars, which create a very interesting and bustling atmosphere throughout the day.

Most of the best gastronomic tours of Marseille usually have a stop in this area. So don't hesitate to try some typical dishes of the area's gastronomy in one of these charming establishments.

5. Take the metro to Longchamps Palace

Palais Longchamp| ©Vicuna R
Palais Longchamp| ©Vicuna R

Marseille' s metro is pretty decent for a city with less than 1 million inhabitants, so on your one-day visit to the city you can't miss it to move between tourist destinations that are a must for you.

If you are in Cours Julian you will only have to walk a couple of meters to Notre-Dame Du Mont station and from there you will travel to Calletane station where you will change from the red line to the blue line. That's to travel in the direction of Cinq Avenues Longchamp station.

This metro trip will take you less than 20 minutes in total and this means that at about 3:30 or four in the afternoon you could be at the Longchamp Palace.

This site forms part of the most important attractions of the city. It was built during the 19th century as a water palace that functioned as the main headquarters of Marseille's public water supply center.

Visit the Museum of Fine Arts in Marseille

Today the palace has the Museum of Fine Arts in the city as well as the natural history museum and either can be the next activity on your sightseeing itinerary. Admission for both sites is completely free and best of all, touring them will not take you too long, thus completing your visit to the palace.

Also, keep in mind that around these museums is the palace park, which offers you the ideal opportunity to rest for a couple of minutes under the shade of the trees before continuing with the rest of the tourist itinerary.

6. From Longchamps take a cab to the basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde

Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica| ©Jorge Láscar
Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica| ©Jorge Láscar

When you have finished visiting the Longchamp palace with its respective museums, you will still have a couple of hours of sunshine left. Therefore, the next plan I suggest is to take a cab that will take you directly to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde, which is a religious building that is located on the highest point of the city and offers incredible panoramic views of the entire city.

It is a site that is always part of the best tours of Marseille and for this reason you should not miss it even if you have a visit of less than 48 hours to the city.

In fact, if during sunset you find yourself at the top or on one of the steps leading up to it, you could say that you are one of the lucky ones of that day of sightseeing in Marseille.

7. Return to the old port for dinner and dancing in Saint-Victor

Marseille Coast| ©Alexey Komarov
Marseille Coast| ©Alexey Komarov

Depending on who your companions are, as well as the amount of energy you have available, you may still be interested in enjoying the Marseille night. At the same time, the fact that you are in that basilica for the evening is quite convenient. And is that right next door is located the district of Saint Victor.

This extends from the slopes of the hill to the old port of the city and has a variety of restaurants with an excellent culinary proposal. It stands out above all for having several bars and nightclubs with one of the best night scenes in Marseille.

The area in general is one of the favorite places for both tourists and locals to have fun at night. The best of all is that there are several accommodation alternatives both in the neighborhood and in the surroundings that will help you sleep and recharge your batteries before your next trip the next day.

At this point it would be quite convenient to reflect on some of the best excursions in Provence from Marseille. Even more knowing that this region of France still has a lot to offer you with its characteristic natural as well as architectural beauty.