Marseille is the second most populated city in France and also one of the largest and most important in the country, so visiting all its attractions in 3 days seems like an impossible mission. However, with the right itinerary and an intensive tour you will be able to see the main sites and enjoy one of the most interesting and complete cities in Europe.
Among the best things to see and do to discover Marseille in 3 days you can visit the Cathedral, see the Old Port, tour Le Panier, attend an opera show, marvel at the Longchamp Palace and take a trip to the Château d'If, which is famous for being mentioned by Alexandre Dumas in his novel The Count of Monte Cristo and is one of the best tours of Marseille.
Day 1: Tour Le Panier, visit the Cathedral of Marseille, have lunch at the Old Port, see the Vieille Charité, spend the afternoon at Port Antique and attend a performance of the Marseille Opera.
The area around the Old Port is considered the historic center of Marseille and is where most of the most important attractions of the city are located, so during the first day of the tour I suggest you start the visit in the neighborhood of Le Panier and then visit its most significant sites.
You can also have lunch in one of the restaurants of the Old Port, which is known for its seafood; spend the afternoon in the eclectic park of Port Antique, which is located in an area of ruins; and in the evening enjoy a show of the Marseille Opera.
Tour the Le Panier district
Located between Boulevard Longchamp and the port, Le Panier is the oldest district of Marseille and occupies a significant place in history, since it is where Napoleon Bonaparte lived with his family during his stay in Marseille. Le Panier is a cosmopolitan neighborhood, with art galleries and colorful streets, ideal to walk around with the family or if you plan to visit Marseille with children.
In addition, La Panier also stands out for its winding paths, gastronomy, clothing stores and squares, among which the most outstanding are the Mills, which has three mills from the 18th century, and the Lorette, which has an old hospital converted into a Moroccan restaurant.
Le Panier is also home to some of the city's main attractions such as the Cathedral, which will be the next stop on your tour, after walking through the streets of the most picturesque neighborhood, which is usually included in the best tours of Marseille.
Visit the Cathedral of Marseille
The Cathedral of St. Mary Major is not only one of the most beautiful in France, but also one of the most striking in Europe, because it combines Romanesque and Byzantine architectural styles and also has an interior decoration in marble and porphyry that is rare in religious buildings.
You can reach the Cathedral quickly using the M1 and M2 metro lines and, although you can visit it all year round, if you plan to visit Marseille in August you will be able to witness the Marian procession for the feast of the Assumption. During the celebration is the only time when the Golden Virgin walks the streets of Le Panier.
You can visit the Cathedral of Marseille for free in a tour that will take you about 1 hour and a half, between the queue for the entrance, which is usual, and the tour of the central nave of the building, which is very large.
- Price: entrance to the Cathedral is free.
- Hours: every day from 10:00 to 19:00 hours.
- Location: Place de la Major, Marseille.
Lunch at the Old Port
After touring the neighborhood of Le Panier and visiting the Cathedral of Marseille, I suggest you visit the Old Port, which is the epicenter of the city's nightlife. It is a marina from where many of the boat trips depart and also an important gastronomic center, with some of the best restaurants in the city and cafes facing the Mediterranean Sea.
In the Old Port you can enjoy the seafood, salmon and lobster restaurants for lunch before continuing your tour during the first day. From Le Panier you can reach it on foot in a walk of about 10 minutes along 5 streets. Among the outstanding restaurants I suggest 1860 Le Palais, La Nautique and Le Collins, which serve some of the best seafood in town.
The restaurants in the port generally work by reservation, although during midday they usually have room. Note that if you plan to visit Marseille in June or during the summer months, you may have to wait for a table.
See the Vieille Charité
After lunch I suggest you return to Le Panier to continue the tour and visit the Vieille Charité, which is a former almshouse that assisted beggars and veterans and now houses the Museum of Mediterranean Archaeology and the Museum of Art of Africa, Oceania and Amerindian.
It is worth visiting the Vieille Charité because it is also one of the most beautiful buildings in the neighborhood and because it has one of the most interesting cultural and educational centers in Marseille, with children's activities and a library with books for children, so it is also an ideal activity to do with the family.
La Vieille Charité has an entrance fee of about 3 euros per person, which will give you access to all the rooms and exhibitions. On Sundays the visit is free.
- Price: the entrance fee is approximately 3 euros per person.
- Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
- Location: 2 Rue de la Charité, Marseille.
Spend the afternoon at Port Antique
Port Antique or the Garden of the Vestiges is a park containing archaeological remains of the old port of Marseille and is classified as one of the Historical Monuments of France. You can reach this garden by bus line 70 or by using the M2 Metro line.
It is an ideal place to spend the afternoon, as it was part of the ancient Greek city of Massalia and includes parts of the city wall, a freshwater basin, Roman road slabs, the remains of three square towers and a gate estimated to be more than 2000 years old.
In the Garden of the Vestiges you can take a guided tour that lasts about 2 hours and also rest in the common areas of the park, before continuing your tour.
- Price: entrance to the garden is free.
- Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm.
- Location: 2 Rue Henri Barbusse, Marseille.
Attend a show at the Marseille Opera House
To close the first day of the tour I propose you to attend a show at the Marseille Opera, which is one of the most traditional cultural activities of the city and also a unique event in which you can get to know the most important musical building of the city and also visit one of the most active nightlife districts.
The shows at the Marseille Opera are available all year round, although it is sometimes necessary to book in advance, so I suggest that if you organize an itinerary before your visit, buy the tickets for the music concert to secure your seat and avoid last minute increases.
After the show you can enjoy the restaurants in the Opéra district, which is located in the heart of Marseille, so you can get there by buses on line 81, using the M1 metro line and the hop on-hop off buses of Marseille.
- Price: the ticket for the shows has an initial cost of approximately 25 euros per person.
- Schedule: depends on each concert.
- Location: 2 Rue Moliere, Marseille.
Day 2: Visit the Longchamp Palace and its gardens, tour the Museum of Fine Arts, have lunch in the St. Victor district, visit Notre-Dame de la Garde and have fun in the bars of Opéra
For the tour of the second day I propose a visit to the northern part of the city, which includes the Longchamp Palace and its extensive gardens. In addition, you will visit the St. Victor district, which is one of the most bohemian of the city, and Notre-Dame de la Garde, one of the most famous religious buildings in Marseille.
To close the second day of the tour I suggest you get to know the nightlife of Marseille and for that nothing better than visiting the bars of the Opéra district, which stands out for its multicultural and varied offer.
Visit the Longchamp Palace and its gardens
The Longchamp Palace is one of the most beautiful in the city and also has a very particular history, because its construction was ordered by Napoleon, but today the building houses a permanent exhibition that analyzes his fall as emperor of France and conqueror of Europe.
You can reach the Longchamp Palace by bus line 81 and using the M1 metro line. Inside the complex you can also visit the Museum of Fine Arts, which keeps in its collection the best paintings and sculptures of the city from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, and the Museum of Natural History of Marseille.
You can also visit the gardens of the Palace, which formerly had also a zoo and a botanical museum, but nowadays there are no animals. It is an ideal place for you to relax before continuing the tour.
- Price: entrance to the Palace and museums has an initial cost of approximately 8 euros per person.
- Hours: daily from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm.
- Location: Bd Jardin Zoologique, Marseille.
Lunch in the St. Victor district and visit the Abbey
The St. Victor neighborhood is one of the most distinctive in the city because it is known for its bohemian, food market, interior design stores and also for the high gastronomy of its restaurants and bars, so it is an ideal place to have lunch during the second day.
You can reach St. Victor from the Palais de Longchamp by bus line 81 and using the M1 metro line. Among the best places in the neighborhood for lunch are Ourea, Mouné and Le Pavillon d'Argent, which offers Latin food.
If you want to make the most of your visit to St. Victor, you can also visit the Marseille Soap Museum and the Abbey, which had a considerable influence on all of Provence. These are two of the neighborhood's major attractions.
Visit Notre-Dame de la Garde
The Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde is not only one of the most famous and most visited religious buildings in Marseille, but with its beauty it has nothing to envy to its Parisian counterpart. The Notre-Dame Marseille is also located on a peak 150 meters above sea level, which allows you to distinguish from there some of the best views of the city.
You can reach the basilica by bus lines 49 and 55 and Metro line M2 and there you can discover the bell tower, which stands out for the golden figure of the Virgin Mary and is one of the typical postcards of the city.
The attraction of the Basilica of Notre-Dame is that the crypt is carved into the rock and has a Romanesque style and also has a flowery mosaic decoration. The climb up to the basilica is very steep, so I do not advise you to undertake the climb on foot.
- Price: entrance to the basilica is free.
- Hours: daily from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm.
- Location: Rue Fort du Sanctuaire, Marseille.
Visit the bars of the Opéra district
Opéra is home to some of the best and busiest bars in the city, especially if you plan to visit Marseille in summer, so to close the second day of intensive sightseeing, I suggest you relax with a drink in the bars of one of the most beautiful neighborhoods of the city.
You can reach Opéra by bus line 81 and using the M1 metro line. Among the great offer of bars I recommend you to visit Marengo, La Civette, Palais and Montgrand, which stands out for its signature cocktails.
Most of the bars also serve food, but if you want to opt for a more elaborate menu, in the neighborhood you will also find some of the best restaurants in Marseille.
Day 3: See the Château d'If, have lunch at Thiers, visit La Plaine Market, spend the afternoon at Parc Borély and say goodbye to Marseille in the bars of the Old Port
The third and last day of the tour will be one of the most intense, as I propose a visit to the Château d'If, which is located on a small island in the Frioul archipelago and is known for being one of the main settings of the novel The Count of Monte Cristo, written by Alexandre Dumas.
Once you return to the city you can have lunch in Thiers, visit La Plaine Market, relax in Parc Borély and say goodbye to Marseille in the bars of the Old Port, which as you will have seen by then, is one of the most beautiful areas of Marseille.
Visit the Château d'If
The Château d'If is arguably one of the most popular sites in world literature since Alexandre Dumas used it as the setting for the prison of the protagonist of The Count of Monte Cristo. However, this fortification also became popular because of the legends of the Marquis de Sade and the man in the iron mask.
The Château d'If can be reached by boat on a 25-minute trip that departs from the Old Port area and visiting the site will take you approximately 3 hours in total. You can also make the most of your visit by touring the nearby islands, although the castle is the main attraction.
Note that if you plan to visit Marseille in February or during the winter months, the temperature may drop significantly in the Mediterranean Sea, although without reaching considerable lows as in other parts of continental Europe.
- Price: entrance to the castle has an initial cost of approximately 6 euros per person.
- Hours: from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
- Location: Embarcadero Frioul If 1, Marseille.
Have lunch in the Thiers district and visit the La Plaine market
Once you return from the Château d'If you can have lunch in Thiers, which is a residential neighborhood containing theaters, the Palace of Arts, the Church of St. Vincent de Paul and a lot of bars and casual restaurants in its narrow streets.
You can reach Thiers using the M1 and M3 metro lines and the T2 streetcar line. Among the most outstanding places to have lunch are Le Cercle Rouge, Lacaille and La Mesa Latina, which is usually included in the best gastronomic tours of Marseille
In addition, in Thiers you can also visit the La Plaine Market, which is an informal market located in the Jean Jaures square where the people of Marseille buy many of the products of their daily life such as fruits, vegetables, meats and also decorative items.
Spend the afternoon in the Borély Park
Borély Park is one of the largest in the city and also one of the most beautiful, as it is notable for the Botanical Garden and also for the miniature replica of the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Garde. You can use this park to rest before finishing the third day of the tour.
To get to Borély Park you can take the bus lines 44 and 83 and the M3 Metro line or visit it with some of the best bike tours in Marseille, as some of them include it in their itinerary.
At Borély you can also walk along the paths, visit the ponds and, if you plan to visit Marseille in spring, you can see the gardens in bloom.
- Price: admission to the park is free.
- Hours: daily from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm.
- Location: Au. du Parc Borély, Marseille.
Say goodbye to Marseille in the bars of the Old Port
When you reach the end of this intensive tour, nothing better than to close the visit and say goodbye to the city in the bars of the Old Port, which has one of the busiest nightlife areas of Marseille.
You can get to the Old Port using the 44 and 83 bus lines, the M3 metro line or Marseille's hop-on-hop-off tourist buses. Among the best places to have a drink are Vertigo, The Shamrock, Bar de la Marine and Little Temple Bar.
Before you say goodbye to the city I suggest you take the time to stroll around the harbor illuminated by the night lights, watch the Mediterranean in the quiet of the night and begin to miss Marseille and all its attractions.