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Marseille in 2 Days: everything you need to know

A couple of days is enough time to see the most important places in Marseille. You can visit historical monuments, natural parks and much more. Here is a list of all the must-see places.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

10 min read

Marseille in 2 Days: everything you need to know

Marseille | ©Nicolas Vigier

Marseille is a charming port city surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea that holds for you a very important historical, cultural and artistic richness, combined with modern and contemporary elements. If you want to know this ancient metropolis of France, do not hesitate to venture, even if you have little time to visit it.

Even if you think that 2 days is too little to visit Marseille, you should know that they are enough to do many activities. You can visit natural areas such as the Colline Puget Garden or emblematic museums such as the Mucem, the Cathedral, the Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica, the Le Panier district, the Château d'If and much more.

Day 1: Historical and cultural tour of the most emblematic places of the city

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

For your first day of travel, I have prepared a classic itinerary, which includes a visit to several places with historical and cultural value, that is, you will visit the destinations that I consider essential in Marseille. Such is the case of the Cathedral, the Le Panier district, the Fort Saint-Jean, the Palais Longchamp and, of course, the Old Port.

Museum of European and Mediterranean civilizations

You'll start at the Museum of the Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean, which was opened since June 2013 and in 2015 was awarded the Council of Europe Museum Prize. Inside, you'll see a series of exhibitions and displays covering the history and different civilizations of the Mediterranean.

In addition to the richness of its exhibits, its architectural beauty also stands out , which you'll appreciate from the outside, as it has a 72-meter modern structure in the shape of a cube. As you walk inside, you will get beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea and Fort Saint-Jean. All this, thanks to the glazed exhibition halls.

Information of interest

  • Price: 11€ per person or 18€ per family ticket (two adults and one child).
  • Location: 1 Esp. J4, 13002 Marseille.

Book tickets for the best museums in Marseille

Marseille Cathedral

An 11-minute walk from the previous destination will take you to the Cathedral of La Major. It is an emblematic place in the city built around 1852. This place holds a lot of history and artistic beauty in each of its parts. For example:

  • Architectural style: it combines the Romanesque with the Oriental, representing the combination of cultures and the interaction between East and West.
  • Construction: it holds the title of being the only cathedral built in France during the 19th century.
  • First stone: Napoleon III was the one who laid the first stone to build the new cathedral.
  • Materials: the structure is made of materials such as green stones from Florence, white marble from Carrara, onyx brought from Tunisia and Italy, etc.
  • Interior: with various bell towers, domes, mosaics, statues and Byzantine arcades of high artistic value.

Information of interest

  • Price: access to this place is public.
  • Location: Pl. de la Major, 13002 Marseille.

Visit to the Le Panier district

Leaving the cathedral, you can walk 1 kilometer for about 14 minutes to reach the Le Panier district. It is undoubtedly one of the must-see destinations when visiting the city for several reasons. Initially, because it is the oldest district, but also because it hosts an important part of the tourist activity.

It is a neighborhood with steep alleys, where you will find stores, restaurants and bistros, to buy souvenirs, eat snacks and enjoy drinks. Depending on your physical ability, you can walk around the place and move on the steps, or take the Petit Train. Either way, venture around the corners of this colorful place at your own pace.

Information of interest

  • Price: access to this place is public.
  • Location: 13002 Marseille.

Les Docks Village

Les Docks Village| ©Pascal POGGI
Les Docks Village| ©Pascal POGGI

Walking 1 kilometer further, leaving the Le Panier neighborhood, you will arrive at Les Docks Village, an iconic building that represents the modernity of the city. In it, you will see a series of stores, restaurants, corporate headquarters of large companies, brands and various branches.

During the tour, you can take the time to appreciate the modern architecture or purchase various products, from the most sophisticated items such as perfumes and exclusive drinks, to the simplest, as a blanket to protect you from the cold or handicrafts. You can also take one of the best gastronomic tours in Marseille to enjoy a drink or a delicious meal.

Interesting information

  • Price: access to this place is public.
  • Location: 10 Pl. de la Joliette, 13002 Marseille.

Palais Longchamp

To continue the tour, you must board the train for a ride of about 28 minutes to reach the Palais Longchamp. This place is home to a wealth of art, culture and architecture that contributed to Marseille being declared European Capital of Culture in 2013. Among its attractions, you will be able to see:

  • Central façade: which welcomes visitors with its imposing structure composed of a colonnade, which connects to the two wings of the building.
  • Museum of Fine Arts: located in the left wing, with exhibits of sculptures, drawings and sculptures from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It is considered the oldest museum in the city.
  • Museum of Natural History: located in the right wing, with diverse samples of elements belonging to the XVIII century.
  • Natural Park: the palace houses an enormous natural park behind its façade. It is a space that was the Great Zoo of Marseille until 1987.
  • Observatory: it is a scientific attraction open to various groups.

Information of interest

  • Price: Admission is free for most activities.
  • Location: Bd Jard. Zoologique, 13004 Marseille.

Fort Saint-Jean

At the end of your visit, take the train back to Fort Saint-Jean. It is a building erected in the time of Louis XIV, although other parts have even older origins.

If you look carefully, you will see that part of its structure is made of pink stone and inside you can learn about the history of Marseille through different elements. The fort is composed of gardens, ramparts, towers and vaulted rooms. In addition, you can enjoy the beautiful panoramic views from various points.

Old Port of Marseille

To end your first day's itinerary, I recommend you to visit the Old Port. It is one of the areas that you will have to go through again and again for various activities. So, it's time for you to stop and explore a bit.

Continuing from the previous destination, you will reach the port in just 2 minutes. In the Old Port you will be able to do several activities, but one of the most recommended is to eat in some of the restaurants or cafes that surround the area.

You could go to the fish market or get to know the streets of the city center at your own pace. You can also connect with various types of tours by boat, train, bus, etc., according to your preferences.

Book one of the best tours of Marseille

Day 2: Visit some religious sites and natural parks of Marseille

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

For the second day of the tour, the goal is to visit some religious monuments and, at the same time, natural and historical monuments. Thus, I propose you to visit the Abbey of St. Victor, the church Notre-Dame de la Garde, the Colline Puget Garden and the Château d'If.

St. Victor Abbey of Marseille

You will start your day by visiting a site of great religious and historical value for the city: the Abbey of St. Victor. Its name is due to the fact that the building was built near some of the tombs of great martyrs, such as Saint Victor.

This 5th century religious site is described as a sample of early Christian art. As you walk through its interior, you will find several crypts, sarcophagi and see the main basilica. Also, from the towers, which were a landmark of the city for many years, you will get a beautiful view of the harbor, ideal for taking pictures.

Going to the Abbey is also one of the things to do in Marseille in February. If you visit on the 2nd, you can participate in the Candlemas celebration, a religious feast in which the abbey receives a pilgrimage that leaves from the port.

Then you will see the virgin, who is dressed for the occasion with a green mantle, to be presented to the public and blessed by the archbishop. At the end of the ceremony, there is a blessing of the city and a mass. Afterwards, the pilgrims taste the traditional navettes, which are cookies in the shape of a boat, symbolic representation of the city.

Information of interest

  • Price: Admission is free.
  • Location: Pl. Saint-Victor, 13007 Marseille.

Notre-Dame de la Garde

Continuing your tour, you will walk for about 20 minutes from the abbey and arrive at the Basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde. It is a building whose value goes beyond the religious.

This site is a strategic point of the city, being one of the highest areas (the hill is approximately 150 meters high ). For this reason, the area was always occupied and functioned as a fortification to prevent other troops from entering the interior of Marseille.

The basilica began to be built in 1545. Upon entering, you will notice the imposing facade with a sculpture of the Virgin in golden color. This image is one of the most representative when talking about Marseille.

During your visit, whether you choose a guided option or do it on your own, take the opportunity to go up to the terrace and enjoy the panoramic views of the building. You can also visit the chapels and see the exhibitions of religious objects and works of art in the rooms of the building.

Information of interest

  • Price: Admission is free.
  • Location: Rue Fort du Sanctuaire, 13006 Marseille.

Colline Puget Garden

When you leave the basilica, just walk for about 12 minutes or 1.3 kilometers to reach the Jardin de la Colline Puget. This natural space will surprise you with its steep paths. If you manage to climb to the top, you will get a wonderful view of the city.

Although it is a natural space, it went through a construction process that began in 1801 and in 1872 it received the name it has today, because the bust of Pierre Puget, an important French sculptor and painter, was placed inside.

Regardless of your level of physical endurance, you can venture to explore the place on foot, since as you ascend you can make stops and sit on the shady benches you will find along the way.

In case you make your trip with the little ones of the house, you can include this plan among the things to do in Marseille with children. This is because you will find a playground with special play areas for them. On the other hand, if you are a cycling lover, then you can visit this garden using a bicycle.

Information of interest

  • Price: Admission is free.
  • Location: 13007 Marseille.

Book one of the bike tours in Marseille

Château d'If

Château d'If| ©Jeanne Menjoule
Château d'If| ©Jeanne Menjoule

Now it's time to get away from the city and take a ferry ride for a little over 20 minutes to the Château d'If, a former fortress and prison dating back to 1527. It is a former fortress and prison dating back to 1527.

Although today this place is a tourist site, the truth is that it was a gloomy place for thousands of people who were in it. Therefore, when you walk inside you will see various passages, catacombs, offices, barracks and prison cells.

Watch carefully as you go along, as you will see figures carved in the stone, footprints and other inscriptions with names of many of the prisoners who were in the place. In addition, keep in mind that this castle recreates the prison of the Count of Monte Cristo, mentioned in the work of Alexandre Dumas.

Once you finish your visit, it is time to return to the city to go to the hotel, pick up your bags and go to the airport for your return trip. Of course, you can stop at a restaurant in the city center for dinner or an aperitif.

Means of transportation in Marseille

Marseille Metro| ©Daniel Kelly
Marseille Metro| ©Daniel Kelly

To move around the city you have several types of public transport, grouped as follows: the bus network, the tramway, the metro, the ferry and bicycles. Each of them will allow you to connect with different tourist sites in Marseille.

If you wish, you can also use private transport, which is mainly represented by cabs, but you can also rent a car.

To take advantage of public transport services, you can buy a single ticket to travel through them for an hour, a card to use the transport of your choice for a period of 24 or 72 hours. Also, you can take the hop on hop off sightseeing bus tours of Marseille.

In the case of bicycles, you can opt for the city's bicycle rental service, as well as hire a private service. In both cases, you are charged for the time you use the bike, which is counted in hours or days. You can also sign up for one of the best bike tours in Marseille.

Marseille Tourist Card

MuCEM| ©Fred Romero
MuCEM| ©Fred Romero

Depending on the time you spend touring the city, you will save much more money if you use the tourist card. This resource can be purchased both online and in person (at the tourist office). With the Citypass you will be able to board the main means of public transportation without having to make additional payments.

Likewise, the card will allow you to enter a considerable number of tourist sites in the city. For example, it entitles you to enter 15 of the best museums in Marseille and also allows you to take the boat ride to the Château d'If, with guided tour and entrance included.

Nor can we forget the tour on the tourist train, which you can do if you buy this card.

To use the Citypass, you can opt for the 24-hour option, which costs 24 euros, the 48-hour option, which costs 33 euros, and the 48-hour option, which costs 33 euros. Undoubtedly, a very profitable option and with many benefits for any tourist.