Waterfront palaces, literary trails  and a passion for football – . France is so much more than Paris and the Côte d'Azur – find out for yourself in Marseille.

Take a nostalgic stroll through the streets of the old port, relax on the beach, or take a tour of the Orange Vélodrome. Neither architecture lovers nor culinary adventurers will lack entertainment. There is also plenty here for  lovers of great  literature. It was in Marseille, at the 16th century Château d’If, that the main character in  Alexandre Dumas’s novel The Count of Monte Cristo was imprisoned.

Notre Dame
Notre Dame © shutterstock

A city break in Marseille – a great alternative to Paris

When you hear ‘city break in France’, the first thing that comes to mind is Paris. However, if you prefer less obvious places, you will be pleased to know that France’s second largest city, Marseille, has a lot to offer. Cheap (direct) flights to Marseille are available from low-cost carriers including Ryanair.

Another reason to visit Marseille is the wide range of accommodation available – check out our flight+hotel offers. Where to stay in Marseille? So much depends on your budget. The higher the standard of accommodation and the closer it is to the old port, the more expensive it will be.

Which hotel in Marseille should you choose? Your ideal location can depend on how you want to spend your time during your city break in Marseille. If you are interested in lazing on the beach, hotels and guesthouses in the 8th arrondissement are a good choice. From there, you’re literally a stone’s throw from the Plage de la Pointé Rouge and the Plages du Prado.

Marseille © shutterstock

A French gem for football lovers

If you are interested in football, you may already know that Marseille is the birthplace of Zizou, who made 108 appearances for the French national team. Zinédine Zidan’s hometown is also worth a visit, if only to see the Orange Vélodrome, the municipal stadium where the pride of Provence, Olympique Marseille, play their home matches.

The area around the stadium is easily accessible by metro on the M2 line. The venue is impressive, with a capacity of over 67,000 spectators in the stands.

Guided tours of the stadium are organised during school holidays and  the stadium is open to the public every day of the week from 10:00 to 18:00 (last entry is one hour before closing). Exceptions are days when there are matches or other events at the Orange Vélodrome. You can easily buy tickets online.

Orange Vélodrome
Orange Vélodrome © shutterstock

Castle d’If and the daring escape of the Count of Monte Cristo

Built on the island of the same name, the Château d’If was originally designed to protect Marseille from invaders. The only opportunity to do so came in 1536, when Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, considered attacking the city from the sea. In the end, however, he chose an overland route and the castle was soon turned into a prison. It was eventually opened to tourists in 1880. To get to the island, you have to take a cruise from the old harbour.
What does the main character of Alexandre Dumas’ novel have in common with this fortress? It was in the Château d’If that the Count of Monte Cristo (as Edmond Dantes) was imprisoned for 14 years. He managed to escape thanks to a clever raid. But do you recall how? Find out at the castle  (or read the book 🙂 ).

Château d'If
Château d’If © shutterstock

Free attractions in Marseille – zero admission fees here!

Marseille has many monuments that can be visited free of charge. They range from religious buildings with impressive architecture to charming parks and museums. Find out where to go during your break in Marseille.

We highly recommend visiting:

  • Basilica Notre Dame de la Gardea small basilica on the hill of La Garde (162 metres above sea level), open daily from 7 am to 6 pm.
  • Abbaye Saint-Victor de Marseilleadmission to the church itself, which at first glance is hard to distinguish from a fortified fortress, is free. A small fee of €2 (children under 12 go free) must be paid if you wish to visit the crypts. The basilica is open to tourists every day from 9 am to 6 pm.
  • La Major Cathedral this is another historic religious building in Marseille that is open to the public free of charge. Opening hours during the holiday season are 10 am to 6.30 pm. 
  • Palais Longchampa ‘palace’ on the water at the Boulevard Philippon. Interesting fact: despite appearances, this richly decorated building on the water is not the residence of an aristocratic family. It was built in 1869 to commemorate the construction of the Canal de Marseille. The right wing houses the Natural History Museum and the left wing the Fine Arts Museum.

A taste of Provence – the legendary cuisine of Marseille

Marseille is one of France’s largest cities, so if you decide to explore the capital of Provence on foot, make sure you keep your calorie intake in check. Fortunately, there is no shortage of restaurants, pubs and eateries serving both European cuisine and tasty local specialities.

Visitors to Marseille must try bouillabaisse – an aromatic fish soup. You may come across varieties of this dish elsewhere in the Mediterranean, but the original and best is served in the Marseille region and will capture your palate.

If fish is not your thing, try Soupe au Pistou. Seemingly a simple vegetable soup, the addition of basil pesto gives it a unique flavour. A fresh baguette with tapenade is an effective way to stave off hunger.



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