How to Spend 48 Hours in Marseille


When some of my London friends suggested going to Marseille and the French Riviera for a weekend, I knew I wanted to put my tour guide cap on and introduce them to some of my favourite spots there. And with Marseille being the second largest city in France, there was plenty for me to show them - and you. I really tried to squeeze in as much as possible in the short time we had so I hope you're ready...



WHERE TO STAY 


Hannah, Michelle, Sarah, Sophie and I ended up staying at my parents' house on the Riviera and taking the train into Marseille. One thing to know about the South of France is that the SNCF rail network will take you pretty much anywhere along the coast for about 15€ or less. Trains can be pretty irregular though, so do check the timetable in advance.

Now, you might not think I am the best person to give hotel recommendations since I have never actually stayed in Marseille myself, but believe me when I say I've had plenty of friends and family do and both these places came in highly recommended. First is maybe the best value for your money you'll find in Marseille : Phillipe Starck's Mama Shelter. Still, my personal favourite has to be Casa Honoré, a beautiful Bed & Breakfast bang in the middle of the old town. It doesn't get much better than this, believe me. Of course, you could also go for one of the many beautiful AirBnBs available in the area.


WHAT TO SEE & DO





LE PANIER

Known as the oldest part of town, it is also the most picturesque. Located in the 2e arrondissement, it is the area everyone thinks of when they first book their trip to la cité Phocéenne. If you're anything like me, you'll fall in love with all the little cafés and boutiques around, especially le Bazar du Panier. There's even a museum dedicated to the unofficial sport of the South, pétanque - believe me, it doesn't get more marsaillais than that. When you're planning your day, make sure to leave plenty of time to explore the winding streets of Le Panier and La Vieille Charité, an old almshouse-turned-museum designed by French architect, Pierre Puget. The exhibitions are always on point and the place itself is also well worth a visit (and perfect for an outfit shot, as demonstrated here by Michelle.)




MuCEM 
7 promenade Robert Laffont, 13002

Relatively new to the Marseille landscape, the MuCEM (a.k.a. The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations) is a must-see for anyone in the area. And if the current exhibitions aren't your thing, I still highly suggest you go, if only to walk around the building and enjoy the breathtaking views from its rooftop café and footbridge.




LE VIEUX PORT

Whether you go early in the morning to catch the fishmongers at work or just want to see Norman Foster's L'Ombrière in person, no trip to Marseille is complete without exploring the harbour in the Old Town. And yes, that's what that giant mirrored art installation is called in case you were wondering. Those who aren't too scared of heights will also be able to watch the city from above thanks to the ferris wheel next door.




NOTRE DAME DE LA GARDE
Rue Fort du Sanctuaire, 13281

Notre Dame De La Garde is probably one Marseille's most famous landmarks. Built on the highest natural point in town, the church is said to look over Marseille and its people at all times. It is a little bit of a hike, but it is one of the most beautiful (and iconic) views of the city and a must-see if you've got time. Not so keen to hike up there? Just hop on the 60 bus, which will take you straight to the top of the hill.



LE FOUR DES NAVETTES

Navettes are traditional orange blossom-flavoured biscuits baked in the South of France. They are a real delicacy here and believe me when I say that they don't get much better than the ones from le Four des Navettes, the oldest bakery in Marseille. In fact, they are so good, the local Archbishop comes in every year to bless a batch. Needless to say, those sell like hot cakes - pun intended. The original location is on Rue Sainte, but you can also buy these delicious biscuits directly from their shop in Les Docks de Marseille (pictured here).



LA GRANDE SAVONNERIE
36 Grand Rue, 13002

Le savon de Marseille is a bit of a local pride and joy. It has been traditionally made for over 600 years here, using sea water and olive oil. If you would like to know how exactly, you can actually learn and give soap making a try at La Grande Savonnerie. Or you could leave the experts to it and  just buy a few bars to bring home with you. Either way, feel free to talk to the people there - they are always happy to their knowledge of the traditional savon de Marseille and its history.

CHEER WITH THE LOCALS FOR "L'APÉRO"

French people take l'apéro very seriously, especially in the South. If you're confused as to what "l'apéritif" or "l'apéro" is, it is what the French call gathering around for drinks and nibbles before a meal. On a hot weekend, we're even known to do this twice - once before lunch and once before dinner. If you want to do "l'apéro" like a real Marseillais, order a pastis, a local anise-flavored liquor, or a glass of rosé.


Some more things you might want to do while you're there : go on a boat trip around les Calanques de Marseille, visit the MAMO and La Cité Radieuse Le Corbusier, see what's on at Studio Fotokino, take a day trip to Cassis, watch live music at the Dock des Suds and lay on the beach in la calanque de Sormiou.


WHERE TO EAT & DRINK

CAFÉ POPULAIRE
110 Rue Paradis, 13006

You might have already seen this place pop up on Instagram (#Ihavethisthingwithfloors anyone?) and let me tell you, it's a good one! I particularly love their buffet-style lunch menu where you can choose  from the best organic, local ingredients. It's also a great place to grab a glass of wine or two. Or three... Really, who's counting?



This is definitely a place you will want to come back, time and time again. Not only is the decor oh so "Instagrammable", the food is also ridiculously good, fresh and dare I say... cheap? As a matter of fact a starter, a main, a desert, a coffee and a glass of wine will only set you back a mere 26 euros if you go for their lunchtime deal. It's a real bargain on this side of town, let me tell you! The menu changes daily but that day, I had the cold pea and mint soup to start, followed by the fennel and saffron seabass - which I was told was bought a few hours earlier directly from one of the fishmongers on the harbor across the road. That's how fresh it was! -, and a pistachio and raspberry crème brûlée for dessert.


Vanille Noire is known for their - you guessed it - black vanilla ice-cream. The secret behind the rich, unusual colour? Squid ink. If that's not your cup of tea, you can always go for some of their more "traditional" flavours, like calisson, fig or even olive oil.


CAFÉ DE L'ABBAYE

As I've said, l'Apéro is somewhat of an institution down there, so head over to l'Abbaye early (around 6, 6.30) to make sure you nab yourself a table and blend in with the locals while you sip on a glass of wine and snack on olives. Do I even need to mention the amazing view over the Pharo


AU BOUT DU QUAI

Great views of the harbour, delicious local seafood and a Pinterest-worthy setting - what else could you wish for? If they have it on the menu that day, I highly recommend you try their clam linguine. It's rich, yet incredibly fresh and moorish.


Choose whatever you fancy from the many different stalls in this food court and go sit outside for the ultimate Marseille experience. I personally always get the crudités with anchoïade and tapenade dips to share while everyone decides what they want - and believe me, it can take a while!


Some more places places worth checking out if you have time : Le Carmine (an Italian with a view that also doubles up as the perfect spot for l'apéro), Chez Fanny (for delicious, mediterranean street food), L'Epuisette (for the best bouillabaisse in town), Chez DouceurR2 - Le Rooftop (where you can have everything from a delicious burger to thai food while looking over the Vieux Port), Carry Nation (Marseille's very own Speakeasy.  Just make sure to book ahead or you might never find it) and La Dame Noir VII (a.k.a. where the cool kids have a drink on a Friday night.)

And if don't know what to eat, here are a few local dishes I would recommend everyone tries when in the South of France : bouillabaisse (a luxurious fish stew) ; the humble soupe de poisson, which is fish soup served with croutons and rouille, a very traditional and slightly spicy spread ; the classic moules marinières ; aioli (because dipping veggies, fish and shellfish into a delicious garlic sauce never gets old), fougasse (a delicious flatbread typical of the area,) a classic tian provençal and of course, ratatouille.  Of course, there are plenty of other local dishes to try but if you're pressed for time, I'd start from here. And if you fancy something sweet, don't forget to pick up some calissons, which are traditional sweets from the near-by town of Aix-en-Provence.


WHERE TO SHOP


Marseille is definitely a great place to shop around. You will find most high street brands (including Sephora) at Les Terrasses du Port, as well as many concept store in the near-by Les Docks so if those are what you're after, you might want to make a pit stop after you're done at the MuCEM.

If we're talking street names, Rue Paradis is where you can find local designers like GAS Bijoux or REIKO. If you're after something a little bit more luxurious, head over to Rue Grignan or Rue Saint-Ferréol. After all, Louis Vuitton is a little bit cheaper over here, am I right?


Le Panier also has some great second-hand shops, like Ma Grand Mère Avait les Mêmes, which literally translates to "my grandma had those." There you'll find vintage milk glass from the 60s, 70s crockery and of course, Ricard memorabilia. If you do end up going, I highly recommend you stay for an almond milk matcha latte and have chat with Phil, the owner. He has the best stories and yes, they may sound a little bit exaggerated and over the top but hey, this is what happens when you talk to people who are from Marseille.


For the cool kids out there, you will definitely want to leave some time to explore Noailles, a really cool, multi-cultural part of the city. It's got everything from traditional Tunisian crockery to record shops like Lollipop, Extend & Play and Galette Records. You might also want to walk down the Cours Julien and head to Fietje, a really cool independent craft beer shop where you can get your hands on some local and international brews.


Here are also a few shops I particularly love and would recommend to everyone : Kulte, a really cool concept store ; Epicerie L’Idéal if you want to bring home a little taste of Marseille ; Jogging, a former butcher shop turned concept store and Maison Empereur, the oldest "quincaillerie" in the city, where you'll find anything from vintage-looking lamp fixtures to funky kitchen utensils.




Have you ever been to Marseille? Anywhere you think I should add on my list, next time I'm in the South of France? 

- Elodie x

If you decide to book an AirBnB, don't forget you can get £30 / $37 / 30€ off your first Air BnB stay when you sign up here. Bon voyage!
  1. And what a fantastic 48 hours it would be! The architecture is just stunning!

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    1. It is so typical of the South of France, isn't it? x

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  2. Never been to Marseille, but it looks amazing - like the rest of South of France ��

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    1. Hope you can visit Marseille soon! x

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  3. Marseille is beautiful, as is much of France. It's a fave place of mine

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    1. It's also one of my favourite places, but then again, I might be biased. 😉 x

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  4. Such amazing memories! xxxx

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    1. PLEASE COME BACK! I'll be waiting for you! 😘 x

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  5. I immediately want to book myself a city trip to Marseille! 😍

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    1. I have two words for you : DO IT. 😏 x

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  6. Such a beauitful looking city. Somewhere I haven't had the chance to visit, but looks wonderful. I love all the character of the buildings, and streets. The food sounds fab, I do like to try the traditional dishes of a region.

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    1. Hope you get to go soon and if you need any more food recommendations, let me know! x

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  7. Never been to Marseille, but seeing your photos and reading about it ,I would love to visit there one day.

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    1. Ah, thank you! It's great to know I make people want to visit my home country! x

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  8. How lucky are you that your parents have a place somewhere so beautiful. There's so much to see and do there, the shops alone could fill my 48 hours.

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    1. You might want to make this a week-long trip then! Ha! x

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  9. What an action packed 48 hours! I've always seen the south of France as a relaxing destination, but looks like it could be busy too!

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    1. It's definitely a busy 48 hours! There is just so much to see! x

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  10. Never been to Marseille and the French Riviera. What a great guide....this could be a deffo to go next year :)x

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    1. Fingers crossed! Marseille is great, but the Riviera is EVEN better. I might be biased, but I hope you'll get to see for yourself soon! x

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  11. I had no idea there was so much to see and do in Marseille.

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    1. And that's not even the half of it! Ha! x

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  12. Hi Elodie, fellow London Blogger here! Love how detailed your post on Marseille is; the pics are amazing!

    I haven't visited myself, but you have tempted me x

    www.lifeofchi.co.uk


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    1. Hope you get to go someday soon! x

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  13. I would love to visit. My partner has always wanted to return since going when he was younger. France looks absolutely stunning

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    1. You should! I'm sure it's changed a fair bit since he was last there too! x

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  14. I haven't been to Marseille before, but it looks lovely. So lucky that you was able to stay with family. x

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    1. I know, right? It's still a good hour away on the train, but it's a good way to explore the city and spend some time with my parents at the same time! x

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