One Day in Marseille: How to See Marseille in 24 Hours

Last Updated on June 17, 2024 by April Nicole

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Are you looking for how to spend one day in Marseille?

This guide has you covered!

I decided to take a day trip from Paris to explore Marseille.

This city, known as France’s oldest, offers a contrast to Paris with its unique blend of history and modernity.

Marseille sits on the Mediterranean coast and is known for its busy Vieux Port and the iconic Notre-Dame de la Garde.

During my day here, I discovered both well-known spots and lesser-known attractions. I’ll share my experiences in Marseille, offering tips and insights for anyone planning a visit.

You’ll find out what makes this city special and why it was worth the detour from Paris, even if just for a day.

🇫🇷 One Day in Marseille: Quick Info Box 🇫🇷

Best Time to Visit: Late spring (May-June) or early autumn (September-October) for pleasant weather, fewer crowds, and vibrant local events.

TOP EXPERIENCES & TOURS IN MARSEILLE

BEST HOTELS IN MARSEILLE

PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR MARSEILLE, FRANCE

If you are in a hurry, here’s a summary of how to spend 24 hours in Marseille:

Best Time to Visit

Ideally, spring (April to June) and fall (September to October) are the best times to explore.

The weather is comfortably warm, and the city is less crowded compared to the busy summer months.

I visited in late May and was greeted with gentle sea breezes and clear, sunny skies – perfect for wandering around.

However, if you don’t mind a bit of chill, winter offers a quieter experience, with the bonus of experiencing French Christmas markets.

How to Get to Marseille

✈️ Air:

Marseille Provence Airport stands as your international gateway to the heart of Provence.

  • From the USA: Major airlines operate flights to Marseille, with one or two stops typically in European hubs like London, Paris, or Amsterdam.
  • Within Europe: A plethora of direct flights connects major European cities to Marseille.
  • Upon Arrival: The airport, located about 25 km from the city center, is well-equipped with taxis, shuttle services, and car rentals.

👉 Book your flight now and start your Marseille adventure!

🚅 Train:

Marseille’s Saint-Charles Train Station is a bustling hub that connects the city to various French and European destinations.

  • From Paris: The TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) zips you from Paris to Marseille in around 3 hours, offering a scenic and swift journey.
  • Regional Connections: TER (Transport Express Régional) trains offer access from other French regions.
  • International Travels: Direct trains from cities like Brussels, Barcelona, and Milan make international travel a breeze.

👉 Reserve your train ticket to Marseille and discover the ease of rail travel in France!

🚍 Bus:

For budget-conscious travelers, buses are an affordable way to reach Marseille.

  • Major Operators: Companies like FlixBus and Eurolines serve routes from various European cities.
  • Central Drop-off: Buses typically arrive at Marseille Saint-Charles bus station, conveniently co-located with the train station.

👉 Book your bus ticket now for a convenient and budget-friendly trip to Marseille!

🚗 Car:

Driving to Marseille? Get ready for an unforgettable journey through France’s diverse landscapes.

  • From Paris: A drive from Paris takes about 7-8 hours via the A6 and A7 motorways, showcasing France’s picturesque countryside.
  • Toll Roads: Remember, many French motorways are toll roads. Keep some euros handy!
  • Parking in Marseille: The city offers various parking options, but it’s wise to book a hotel with parking facilities.

👉 Rent a car and enjoy the freedom of the open road on your way to Marseille!

Getting Around Marseille

Visitors be aware that Marseille is one of only three French cities—the others being Paris and Lyon—to be separated into arrondissements.

You may spend the most of your day in Marseille simply walking about after you arrive.

The Old Port, Marseille’s center of action, is a 15 to 20 minute walk from the railway or bus terminal. After arriving, you may explore the port’s many attractions on foot.

The bus system in Marseille is great if you don’t want to walk much, although it’s a touch pricey at approximately €2 each journey.

On the RTM website, you may view routes and timetables. You can also download the RTM app for Apple or Android devices.

If you wish to travel further afield, Marseille also has a metro system.

One Day in Marseille Itinerary

In Marseille, as I already indicated, a day may be filled with a lot of activities. All of these activities, if you begin early enough, I believe can be fit into a one day in Marseille.

Morning in Marseille

8:30 AM – Start Your Day with a Great Breakfast

A cup of espresso sits elegantly on a saucer with a spoon, perched on a rooftop wooden table with a clear, sunny view of Marseille and the hilltop Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica in the background, capturing the essence of one day in Marseille.

My Marseille journey began in the heart of the city, in a quaint café bathed in the early morning light.

The aroma of freshly brewed coffee and warm, buttery croissants filled the air, setting the tone for a delightful day ahead.

As I sipped my coffee, watching locals and tourists alike buzzing around, I felt a deep connection to this lively city.

The café’s charm wasn’t just in its food, but also in the way it captured the spirit of Marseille—a blend of the old and the new, buzzing with life yet comforting in its familiarity.

9:30 AM – Explore the Vieux-Port

Sailboats moored in the Old Port of Marseille cast reflections on the water at sunset, with the Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde perched on a hilltop in the background, a tranquil scene to enjoy 'one day in Marseille'.
Visiting Vieux-Port, is one of the best 10 things to do in Marseille

The Vieux Port of Marseille, a bustling harbor steeped in centuries of history, was my next stop.

As I strolled along the waterfront, the gentle hum of the city came alive.

Boats of all sizes bobbed on the sparkling blue waters, and seagulls danced in the sky above.

The fusion of the old fishermen mending their nets and the modern world with its chic cafes created a picturesque scene.

The port, more than just a place, felt like a living storybook, each corner narrating tales of maritime adventures and ancient traders.

The reflections of historic buildings in the water added a touch of magic to the morning, making Vieux Port not just a destination, but an experience to cherish.

If you only see one thing in Marseille it has to be the Old Port!

10:30 AM – Visit The Basilica Notre Dame De La Garde

Perched high above the city, Notre-Dame de la Garde was a sight to behold.

The journey up the hill, winding through narrow streets, felt like a pilgrimage.

As I reached the top, I was greeted by panoramic views of Marseille, stretching endlessly into the horizon.

The basilica, with its opulent interiors and ornate details, was breathtaking.

But it was the view from the terrace that truly captured my heart.

Overlooking the city, the sea, and the distant hills, it felt as though I was watching over Marseille itself.

This spiritual and physical high point of my day was more than just a visit to a historic site; it was a moment of reflection and awe, a connection to something greater than myself.

Side Note: I was relieved to learn that there are also free restrooms at the top!

The only problem? It’s a bit of a hassle to get there…

The Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica stands majestically atop a hill in Marseille, with its iconic golden statue shining under the blue sky, surrounded by blooming wildflowers – a spiritual highlight of 'one day in Marseille'.
Climbing up to Notre Dame de la Garde was the highlight of my Marseille sightseeing trip

Climb up to Notre Dame de la Garde

There are two ways to go reach the Basilica Notre Dame de la Garde from the center of Marseille.

Walking upward for around 30 minutes is your first choice, but it’s not the most pleasant trek and it may get very steep.

The bus route 55 from the Old Port to the station Tellène Valentin is the best method to go to Notre Dame de la Garde.

You can get off the bus here and see the stairs leading to Notre Dame de la Garde’s entrance.

A ticket for the bus may be purchased from the driver for roughly €2. If you don’t have precise change, don’t worry; he will give it to you. Find this parking lot if you’re driving.

There are a few good reasons for making the ascent to this church. The breathtaking views of Marseille as a whole are the primary factor.

The second reason is that hardly many churches are exactly like this one.

Never before have I been in a church with such a nautical motif. The cathedral recounts the history of the inhabitants of this city, which is the home of the seafarer.

A panoramic view from the Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica, overlooking the bustling cityscape and port of Marseille with the Mediterranean Sea extending to the horizon, a must-visit spot to take in during 'one day in Marseille'.

The Descent Back Down From Basilica Notre Dame De La Garde

Of course, you may ride the same bus, the 55, to down the hill and reach the Marseille Old Port, but I advise walking instead.

You’ll follow a different path down than you did up, passing more Marseille, France, sites of interest. When you’ve had a chance to take it all in, descend back to the ground.

If you feel up to it, you may walk downhill for 30 minutes before making your way back to Marseille’s Old Port for another 30 minutes.

But I assure you, it’s worthwhile. If you’d rather, you may bypass much of the descent by catching the bus number 80.

The walk begins near the front of the church, where there are steps and rocks. Following that, you’ll be going through Marseille’s suburbs in order to get to La Corniche Street.

You will be at Vallon des Auffes via a larger retail district that transforms into a beach stroll.

The Vallon des Auffes in Marseille, a quaint fishing haven with a row of moored boats and pastel-colored houses under a blue sky, offers a serene escape into local life, perfect for 'one day in Marseille'

In Marseille, France, there is a little fishing community called Vallon des Auffes. You may either travel down into the village itself or stop for a brief photo opportunity on the bridge, where you can see the Basilica dominating the town.

Visit Vallon des Auffes

You may also see stone gates across the street. It serves as a memorial to French soldiers who lost their lives in Indochina and North Africa.

Following Vallon des Auffes, keep walking down La Corniche; it will eventually transform into Blvd Charles Livon and lead you all the way back to the Marseille Old Port.

Afternoon in Marseille

12:00 PM – Visit Le Panier (& Place des Moulins) Neighbourhood

A quaint street scene in Le Panier, Marseille's oldest quarter, with people walking past the worn blue façade of "Au Vieux Panier." The rustic charm of the historic district is captured during One Day in Marseille.

The narrow, cobbled streets of Le Panier, Marseille’s oldest district, beckon me next.

As I wander through this labyrinth of history, every turn reveals a burst of colorful street art juxtaposed against faded, historical facades.

The air here is thick with the whispers of the past, telling stories of sailors, merchants, and artists.

Cafes and boutiques pepper the streets, each with its own unique flair, encapsulating the soul of Marseille – diverse, historic, yet ever-evolving.

It’s in these quiet, shadowed alleys that I feel the true heart of the city, pulsating with a rhythm as old as time.

12:45 PM – Grab lunch around Vieux-Port

By lunchtime, I find myself back near the Vieux Port, lured by the promise of local culinary delights.

I settle into a quaint bistro overlooking the harbor, where the food is as rich in flavor as it is in history.

Each bite is a delicious homage to Marseille’s maritime heritage, blending sea’s bounty with earth’s produce.

La Table du Fort Restaurant Marseille Vieux-Port and Restaurant Le Relais 50 are a couple of the top establishments in the Vieux-Port neighborhood.

1:45 PM – Explore Marseille on a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour

Post-lunch, I opt for a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour, an ideal way to enjoy panoramic views of Marseille and its diverse landmarks.

As the bus weaves through the city, I’m captivated by the sweeping vistas of the Old Port, the grandeur of La Major Cathedral, and the charming Vallon des Auffes.

The onboard audio tour enriches my understanding, delving into the culture and history behind these iconic sites.

Passing by the striking Mucem and the majestic Notre-Dame de la Garde, each stop is a revelation.

I even catch a glimpse of Cosquer Méditerranée, adding another layer to my exploration.

2:45 PM – Visit to MuCEM

The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (MuCEM), with its distinctive lacy façade, sits by the sea in Marseille, opposite the grandeur of the Cathedral La Major, epitomizing the fusion of historical and modern architecture experienced during One Day in Marseille.

After the bus tour, I head to the MuCEM – Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean.

The building’s architecture itself is a masterpiece, merging modern design with historical elegance.

Stepping inside, I embark on a fascinating journey into the rich tapestry of Mediterranean history.

For non-French speakers, I recommend downloading their app, which includes an English voice guide.

Donning my headphones, I dive deep into the narratives and stories that form the backbone of this region’s diverse cultures.

4:20 PM – Check Out the Soap Shops

A visit to Marseille isn’t complete without exploring its famed soap shops, an essential part of the city’s heritage and a perfect source for unique Marseille souvenirs.

I highly recommend ‘Savonnerie Marseillaise de la Licorne’ on Cours Julien, a traditional soap shop where the air is fragrant with the natural scents of olive oil and lavender.

Here, you can witness the age-old soap-making process and choose from an array of beautifully crafted soaps.

Each bar tells a story of Marseille’s rich cultural legacy, making it more than just a souvenir – it’s a piece of the city’s heart.

Evening & Night in Marseille

5:00 PM – Enjoy Apéritif at the Vieux-Port

Two refreshing cocktails on a rooftop bar with a view of Marseille's cityscape and the iconic Notre-Dame de la Garde in the distance. The first cocktail is a gin and tonic with a bamboo straw, while the second is an espresso martini, both awaiting a toast to One Day in Marseille.

As the golden hour approaches, I return to the Vieux-Port, this time to indulge in a quintessential French tradition: the apéritif.

I choose Ciel Rooftop, a venue renowned for its stunning views over the port and the Mediterranean Sea.

The ambiance here is electric yet sophisticated, with soft music setting the tone for a relaxing evening.

Sipping on a chilled glass of Pastis, a local anise-flavored aperitif, I watch as the sky transforms into a canvas of fiery oranges and pinks.

The rooftop buzzes with friendly chatter, creating a perfect blend of relaxation and social vibrancy.

7:00 PM – Enjoy a Delicious Dinner at Le Miramar

A plate of seafood pasta, generously topped with a succulent prawn and fresh mussels in their shells, presented on a white dish—a flavorful glimpse into Marseille's culinary delights experienced in One Day in Marseille.

The culinary journey takes a delightful turn as I arrive at Le Miramar, renowned for serving some of the best traditional Marseille food.

Known for its authentic ambiance, this restaurant is a haven for food enthusiasts.

As I take my seat, the aroma of the sea wafts through the air, promising a memorable meal.

Tonight’s choice is clear – Bouillabaisse, the iconic Provençal fish stew.

Each spoonful of this Marseille staple is a symphony of flavors, a harmonious blend of local seafood, saffron, and herbs.

8:30 PM – Explore the Trendy Neighborhood of Cours Julien at Night

An evening at a bustling outdoor café in Marseille, with patrons engaged in conversation over dinner, warmly illuminated by overhead lights and street lamps, encapsulating the vibrant dining culture characteristic of One Day in Marseille.

My day’s adventure culminates in the dynamic and artsy neighborhood of Cours Julien.

As night descends, this area reveals its true vibrant character.

Streets once quiet now pulse with life, illuminated by the glow of street lamps and vibrant neon signs.

I stroll through this bohemian paradise, captivated by the eclectic mix of street art that adorns every wall, each mural a splash of creativity and expression.

Bars and cafes teem with energy, their terraces a perfect spot for people-watching and soaking in the local scene.

Live music spills out of doorways, each note a testament to the neighborhood’s lively spirit.

10:00 PM – Walking back to my Hotel Room

As I meander back to my accommodation, the sensory tapestry of the day in Marseille replays in my mind.

From the serene Vallon des Auffes to the lively Cours Julien, each experience painted a vivid portrait of this unique city.

Marseille, with its blend of tradition and contemporary vibrancy, has etched a lasting impression on my heart.

It’s a place where every corner tells a story, every meal is a journey, and every moment is a memory waiting to be cherished.

Spending More 1 Day?

A group of hikers on a rocky trail at Calanques National Park, with clear turquoise waters visible below. They are enjoying the natural beauty during 'one day in Marseille', showcasing the adventurous side of this French city.

These are some of the activities on my list for a return trip to Marseille if you’ve been to Marseille previously and are searching for something a little new to do for one day there.

One Day in Marseille From Cruise Ship

The cruise port of Marseille is a very popular location on the southern French Mediterranean coast. You won’t have to go far from the area where cruise ships dock or the city center to find activities in Marseille.

How to Get from Marseille Cruise Terminal to the City Center

So how do you get from the huge cruise port area, Gares du Môle Léon Gourret, to the Marseille city centre? With the following choices, it’s simple:

  • Take a free shuttle bus from the dock to the Joliette neighborhood. Depending on where you’re going, you can use public transit or walk once you’ve arrived in the city.
  • Take an Uber or a cab there for under 20€.
  • Join a tour that picks you up from the cruise port terminal.

🛳️ Visiting Marseille by cruise? Book a private cruise transfer with Viator — they’ll greet you at the cruise terminal and bring you into the city, all pre-booked!

Where to Stay for One Night

Since most of Marseille’s attractions are concentrated around the Old Port, if you are just visiting for a single day, you should try to stay as near to it as you can as it’s the best area to stay in Marseille.

I had the most amazing stay at the Hôtel Dieu Intercontinental Marseille! The location and views make up for the higher price, and it’s well worth it. Make sure you book a room with a view of Notre Dame; it’s one of the best hotel views I’ve seen of the city.

🇫🇷 READ NEXT | My review of staying at Hôtel Dieu Intercontinental Marseille

Additional Marseille hotel choices include:

Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Marseille in One Day

A day trip in Marseille offers an unforgettable experience, blending vibrant culture with stunning scenery.

From the historic charm of Le Panier to the breathtaking views at Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, each moment in this dynamic city captivates the senses.

Savoring traditional bouillabaisse while overlooking the Vieux-Port, or exploring the contemporary wonders at Mucem, adds to the city’s allure.

A Day in Marseille Travel Planning 🇫🇷

Accommodation 🛌

  • Booking.com – Find diverse accommodations, enjoy easy booking with great deals, and rely on real reviews and 24/7 support.
  • Expedia.com – With its user-friendly interface, it simplifies the process of booking hotels and holiday packages to France.
  • VRBO.com – Your go-to platform for unique and comfortable vacation rentals in France.

Transportation 🚘

  • DiscoverCars.com – Offers a seamless booking experience, ensuring you find the ideal car for your adventures in France.
  • GetTransfer.com – Is the ultimate solution for your travel transfer needs, offering an efficient, flexible service and comfortable transportation.
  • Trainline.com stands as a quintessential tool for savvy travelers seeking to navigate France’s extensive rail network with ease and confidence.
  • Skyscanner.com – Simplifies your travel planning with its user-friendly interface, offering a comprehensive comparison of flights.

Attractions, Activities and Tours 🇫🇷

  • Viator.com – Stands out as a trusted resource for travelers seeking unparalleled experiences across the globe.
  • GetYourGuide.com – Offers an extensive collection of tours, activities, and attractions in France.
  • ParisCityVision.com – This tour company specializes in crafting exceptional experiences across Paris and France.

Communication 📱

  • Orange Sim Card – Discover seamless connectivity on your French travels with an Orange Holiday Europe Sim Card, a top choice for tourists.
  • Airalo.com – The world’s first eSIM store that solves the pain of high roaming bills by giving travelers access to eSIMs (digital SIM cards).

Travel Insurance ✈️

  • SafetyWing.com – Travel with peace of mind knowing you’re protected in almost every corner of the world.
  • Travel Insurance Master – Visit their website to discover the ideal insurance plan that aligns with your travel dreams.

These are only a few of my favorites; for more, see my comprehensive guide to the top travel booking websites for France.

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9 Comments

  1. Hi there! Your Marseille guide is fantastic! The way you describe the attractions and share tips is so helpful. Your writing style is friendly and easy to follow. I love how you’ve managed to cover the city in just 24 hours, making it seem like a perfect day trip. The details about each place are great, and your passion for Marseille really shines through. Great job!

  2. That would be so amazing! I’ve always wanted to visit France. If I’m ever able to get there, I’m going to use this as a roadmap to Marseille.

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