Glitzy, glamourous, slightly gritty, ever so cool and incredibly hot! Marseille is in the south of France, lapped by the Mediterranean Sea, in the department of Bouches-du-Rhône, region Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.
In 2016 Marseille will be one of the host cities for the UEFA European Football Championship 2016™
Guide to Marseille France
Almost everyone will have heard of Marseille’s rather gritty reputation but don’t let that fool you. I went there as a solo female traveller and didn’t have any problems at all. I visited Marseille several years ago and boy has this city has changed. It’s cleaned up its streets, buildings – its act. It is glitzy and glamorous and gleaming – in parts. The gritty bit remains, largely around the train station and surrounding streets.
This town is intoxicating and seductive and it is very easy to fall under its spell when there are so many long sunny days, where policeman ride around on segways and still look cool, where all roads lead to the coast, to boats that whisk you away to picturesque islands and where lunch lasts three hours.
What to see and do in Marseille
There’s something to suit just about everyone in Marseille. Museums, shopping, fabulous restaurants, incredible architecture, history, heritage, a beautiful coastline, mysterious islands, outstanding natural beauty… and then some.
If you’ve never been here before, get your bearings with a guided tour because this is a big town. The tourist office has lots of different tours on offer and it’s a good way to get a feel for what there is to enjoy in Marseill, and for anyone who doesn’t like climbing hills and stairs, its ideal.
A must-see is the beautiful cathedral Notre Dame de la Garde perched 162m up on a hill. Legend has it that “La Bonne Mere”, a statue of Mary covered in 30,000 pieces of gold leaf, looks after those who climb to see her, on the way down though, you’re on your own! As you stand at the foot of this incredible church, the view over the sprawling metropolis is breath-taking.
If you get time for a day trip, head to the National Park, Les Calanques. The best way to get there is by boat, that way you get a fabulous view of the limestone cliffs from the turquoise blue waters.
Where to eat and drink in Marseille
The most popular places are around the port. As you sit here, listening to the anchors of the boats gently clang, the beams of sunlight playing on the water, the sounds of the fishermen selling their catch on the quayside, it’s easy to forget this is a big, brash city.
Try the local speciality bouillabaisse, a spicy, delicious fish stew. Many restaurants only serve it for 2 people so if you’re a single traveller and want to try it, check before you sit that they’ll do a stew for one.
Pastis is the local drink, it’s generally diluted with 5 parts water to 1 part pastis but ask for a jug of water for your pastis to get the mix you like best.
Where’s the Fanzone and Football Stadium in Marseille
Stade Velodrome is easy to reach from the main train station Saint-Charles by metro. There will be a fanzone on the beach not far from the stadium.
How to get to Marseille
By train: Eurostar goes direct from London to Marseille in under 6.5 hours. Paris to Marseille takes just over 3 hours and Lille to Marseille takes from 4 hours 43 minutes.
By Air: Marseille Provence Airport serves more than 100 direct destinations; there is a shuttle service between the airport and the city.