Keen to visit Provence? Discover Marseille and find the best areas to stay !
The capital of the Bouches-du-Rhône department, with a population of 861,635 inhabitants, Marseille – also known as the “Phocean City” – is one of the gems of Provence, alongside Aix and Cannes. It is France’s second largest city after Paris and ahead of Lyon, but despite its size it retains many of the quaint charms of Provence Thanks to its friendly atmosphere, its sunny weather all year round, its beaches, its beautiful rocky inlets called “Calanques” (though the neighboring small town of Cassis boats the most beautiful Calanques) surrounded by turquoise waters, its limestone and garrigue mountains, its picturesque districts boasting multicultural influences, the region of Marseille is a great area to stay in. Accommodation in Marseille ranges from the cheap to the expensive, depending on the district and the type of lodgings available: homestay (Airbnb), hotels, youth hostel…
Marseille offers a breathtaking historical and cultural heritage. The first human settlements in the area date back to the Palaeolithic, between 27,000 and 19,000 BC. The city has held a strategic position in the Mediterranean basin since antiquity thanks to its commercial harbor and military harbor, though the latter was moved to Toulon in the 17th century. More recently it has become a regional powerhouse for its industrial and tourist infrastructures. Wondering where to stay in Marseille? Discover our selection of the best places to visit in Marseille!
“Le Vieux-Port”, the old port
Photo credit: Flickr – François Schwarz
Staying in the Old Port of Marseille, on the waterfront, affords close proximity to everything: restaurants, cafés, historical monuments, authentic neighboring quarters, and museums. The Old Port is an ideal location for those who wish to go on an urban hike without taking the metro, from the Canebière to the rue de Rome, from the rue de la République to the Panier or on the Corniche du Pharo. And the Old Port is also an opportunity to taste fish freshly arrived at the port: open from Monday to Sunday morning, the fresh fish market is a must-try in this neighborhood. However, the Vieux Port is no longer Marseille’s major port, commercial activities are located in Fos-sur-Mer and if you want to hop on a ferry from Marseille to Corsica you will need to go a litthe bit to the North to the Gare Maritime. Head to the South and after a bit of a climb you’ll get to enter the famous Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, the “Good Mother” of Marseille, from which you’ll have a fantastic view of the port and the bay, including the famous Chateau d’If, isolated on its little island.
Photo credit: Flickr – Arnaud
In the city center, you can’t miss the Canebière, the city’s famous one-kilometer-long avenue. A lively, bustling street that is obviously a little noisy. From dawn to dusk, the neighborhood’s daily market, an array of shops and exciting nightlife attracts quite a lot of people. Immerse yourself in this frenzied but friendly atmosphere! If you keep walking East however, you’ll be able to get in the Zoological Gardens and get some shade and some peace and quiet. Generally, we would recommend you stay away from this area if you’re looking for calm. Otherwise, it’s a great neighborhood to stay in Marseille, close to everything and with plenty to do!
“La Plaine” and the Cours Julien
Photo credit: Flickr – Nicolas Nova
A favorite haunt for young people and students in Marseille, La Plaine and the Cours Julien are the place where people gather to celebrate politically conscious art in all its forms (theater, painting, photography, music, drawing, etc.) and discuss alternative future while drinking organic coffee or tea. Though this description might be overstating the point, it is true in some way, and it feels good to experience the blossoming of this young creative spirit in the area. In the evening, people gather on the Place Jean Jaurès – even the street names make reference to a liberal, leftist heritage – which the locals like to call “La Plaine,” to relax, drink and enjoy meals on a terrace. Central, festive and lively: this is our favorite neighborhood to stay in Marseille.
Photo credit: Flickr – Nicolas Nova
For an authentic, picturesque and cultural stay in Marseille, Le Panier is a good choice. It is always a pleasure to walk through this maze of colorful narrow streets offering an eyeful of yellow, red, orange and ocher hues. Wandering in this pedestrian-only area, one gets the feeling of being in a very small town in the South of France. The streets are packed with a myriad of small bars and cafés where you can relax on a terrace with a fountain and olive trees, the typical charm of Provence under the sound of cicadas (when there are trees…). Just outside this quaint little neighborhood, to the West near the port you can visit the Mucem, a historical and cultural museum. If you head North, within a few minutes you’ll reach the Cathedral of La Major, a lavishly decorated cathedral with Greek Orthodox influences. If you are looking for a peaceful and quiet area to stay in Marseille, look no further than the neighborhood of Le Panier.
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