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5 must-sees in Marseille from the well-known to the secret…

Clear Mediterranean waters just off the coast of Marseille city, small boats bob about, rocky hills line a natural port

Marseille is one of those places that you simply can’t visit just once. There’s so much to discover, so many facets to this bustling cosmopolitan city that you find you just have to go back. 5 million people a year visit the city. It’s the second largest and also the oldest city in France, a major point of transition and trade for thousands of years. And, with loads to see and do, Marseille makes for a great year-round holiday destination.

Le Panier

Pretty little cafe in Marseille, buzzing with local life in the sun

The oldest part of the city is nestled between MuCEM, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations in a stunning waterside setting, and the Vieux Port. In Le Panier (which translates as the basket), you’ll find a warren of hilly narrow streets, boho bars, boutiques, art galleries and charming squares. With its Provencal style facades, floral steets and and pretty frescoes, take a short stroll from the old port to find it. Make sure you stop for a break to enjoy the ambience and a chilled drink, perfect to watch the sunset over the harbour.

Places des Pistoles has lots of great restaurants and local shops in a historic location. Lined with shady trees, it’s the perfect place to while away a few hours. Place de Lenche is reputed to be the oldest square in Marseille, with a lively atmosphere and lots of cafes and restaurants – it’s very popular with the locals, head here to enjoy authentic Marseille.

La Grand Savonnerie

Hundreds of bars of Marseille soap, famous for its natural qualities

Marseille soap makers are world famous. To qualify for the genuine Marseille Savon label, it must be made to strict guidelines. This includes 72% olive oil, made to a centuries old recipe. Stock up on the real thing while you’re in town. Read more about Marseille soap here

Notre-Dame de la Garde

Marseille harbour, lined with posh yachts, in the distance a statue on top of a church on a hill...

The opulent, 19th century Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde is perched high over the Vieux Port. Topped by a 9.7m tall golden statue of La Bonne Mère (The Good Mother) who watches over the sea and the town, this icon of the city can be seen for miles around. Take the Petit Train to reach it and enjoy the views inside and out. Beware, it’s a strenuous hike from the town centre. From here you’ll have the most 360-degrees views over Marseille.

La Friche la Belle de Mai

Open air cinema on a roof top in Marseille at a cultural centre called La Friche la Belle de Mai

You’ll find art and culture heaven at La Friche la Belle de Mai. Exhibition spaces, cinema including open air in the summer, rooftop bar, skate park, community gardens and artists studios and more. Much loved by the locals, often missed by visitors and definitely worth seeking out. Details: www.lafriche.org/fr

Vallon des Auffes

A stone bridge across a small harbour in Marseille at night, small boats line the sides

Vallon des Auffes is a small but utterly charming working harbour. With its little fishing cabins and boats bobbing about on the Med, it’s a taste of authentic Marseille. You’ll find it in the 7th arrondissement of the city, just 2.5km from the old port but a whole world away in terms of atmosphere.

More on Marseille

The best things to do in Marseille, perfect weekend destination
The Vieux Port, Marseille

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