1 – Cosquer Cave
Underwater caves and prehistoric rock art and cave drawings. If that doesn’t draw your interest then you may as well put on your slippers and enjoy a quiet snooze. The entrance to the caves lies about 40 meters below sea level, and then the gallery slopes up for about 170 meters to reach a huge chamber where paintings, engravings, and hand stencils are preserved on the walls, and where prehistoric flint tools and charcoal from fires were also found. Absolutely fascinating and captivating, then only drawback being that they can only be accessed by divers so that would probably rule a few people out. Worth getting your advanced Paddi just for this.
2 – Palais Longchamp
Regal and impressive, especially at night when it’s all lit up and the fountains are working, this monument has many different parts to it to make the visit worthwhile. There is a beautiful garden at the back with winding paths and some very old trees and where, if you walk to the end of it, you can get some stunning views of the mountains behind, or you can climb to the top of the Palais to get equally stunning views of the city, or, alternatively, you can peruse through the Museum of Fine Arts, or the Museum of Natural History, both housed within the Palais. The two museums are not particularly amazing, and there are no cafes or restaurants, but there’s so much to do and see here that it’s well worth a few hours of your time.
3 – Visit the Old Port
There’s something about old historic ports and the images they evoke, and there always seems to be a type of peace and calmness in the atmosphere, despite the fact that they are often hives of activity. This is a lively part of town with a fish market and street vendors and performers, lots of boats moored up and bobbing up and down, cruise ships docking in and unloading their camera-frenzied touristic cargo, and surrounded by old buildings and local eateries. A great place for a stroll and some people watching.
4 – Marseille History Museum
This is the local historical and archeological museum and therefore the best place to learn about the history of Marseille, from antiquity all the way through to the C18th, encompassing the eras of the Ligures and the Phocaeans, the Ancient Greek and Roman periods, early Christianity and so forth. There are some fantastic exhibits but the pick of the bunch has to be the hull of a ship from the 2nd century which is said to be the best preserved from this period in the world. Unfortunately, the building is badly preserved, no one really speaks English (or they pretend not to), and the information is all in French. Apart from that…
5 – French Foreign Legion Museum
The French Foreign Legion has a grip on the world’s consciousness as a band of cutthroat mercenaries, tough knife-wielding murderers and thieves, desert-surviving roughnecks with nothing to lose, and all-round action-hardened soldiers. This museum gives you the history, displays the uniforms and various objects and artifacts in an interesting and well presented manner, and it’s not too big or intimidating. It’s also in the nice suburb/town of Aubagne which is also worth a visit.
6 – Stade Velodrome
I can’t help visiting all the major football stadiums in the world, and this one is definitely world-renowned, seeing as it’s the home of Olympique Marseille and therefore houses some of the most passionate fans in the world, and certainly in France. An impressive and well designed stadium, it’s currently undergoing renovations and taking in a game, especially if Olympique Marseille are playing their northern rivals, Paris St Germain, is definitely an experience worth having. And relatively cheap too.
This is a nice, picturesque, and atmospheric historic quarter of the city, a secluded cove with fishing boats surrounded by old buildings and littered with fine dining restaurants (with prices to match). Very peaceful and there’s also a nice place to go for a swim, and best of all, it’s not inundated with tourists. A lovely place to come and walk around, enjoy the sunset, and have some delicious food (if you can afford it), all completely away from the stress of the city.
8 – La Friche
This is one of those fantastic places which restores your faith in human creativity. Formerly a huge Tobacco factory, it has since been taken over by the art fraternity and become an immense art and cultural space covered almost entirely by vibrant, colorful, and complex graffiti murals, and able to host any number of big multi-media events and festivals. An outdoor gallery, a gig venue, a club, an art workshop, and festival space, all rolled into one big kaleidoscopic arena. Brilliant.
9 – Savonnerie Marius Fabre (Soap Factory)
One of Marseille’s best kept secrets is the tradition of soap making, and this family-run factory has been at it since 1900, through four generations, and they open their doors and invite you in to take a peek, follow the process from start to finish, visit the museum and see some of the old tools, packaging, stencils for the crates, wash boards, and other interesting artifacts, and then of course, finish up at the fragrant shop. Something different from the norm, and culturally significant.
10 – La Caravelle
An upstairs hideaway hot spot for either day or night and practically an institution in Marseille. A stylish bar cum restaurant decked out in rich wood and leather with painted murals, offering up traditional south France food and tapas, fantastic cocktails, live jazz on Fridays, and great views of the port, and it’s all reasonably priced. Great for meeting people, getting lively or just chilling and having a chat, or just sipping on your drink and savoring the port ambience. Hard to find but worth looking extra hard for it.