When most people think of Marseille, the first image that comes to mind is the Vieux Port (the Old Port). A stroll along the harbourside with all the sails bobbing about in the waves, watching the fishermen land their catch is a really pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Or you can just sit and watch the world go by at any number of cafes, bistros and bars that spill out onto the pavements around the harbour. To get a view from the water, you can even take a short crossing on what has been called the shortest commercial ferry ride in the world, or go further afield on one of the many boat tours that leave from here that explore the islands and mediterranean coastline.
Notre Dame de la Garde is the city’s main cathedral which overlooks the city from an outcrop some 490ft above the port to the south. Built on the site of an ancient fort, it’s certainly an imposing structure, and offers great panoramic views of the city and coastline. It is served by the number 60 bus from the Vieux Port (Cours Jean-Ballard), or it can be reached by a path that winds up the hill from the rue du Bois sacré.
One of the advantages of being on the French riviera is the miles and miles of beaches within easy reach. There are plenty of good beaches including Catalans, Prophètes, Pointe-Rouge and Corbières, with la Corniche offering a nice promenade with views towards the Chateau d’If.
The setting of the famous Alexandre Dumas book ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’, the Chateau d’If on one of the Frioul islands in Marseille bay. Tourist boats leave from the Vieux Port if you want to pay it a closer look at the 16th century fort-turned-prison, which was home to the iron mask and Edmond Dantes, the real Count (Dumas’s account is purely fiction).
The Calanques national park is a stretch of jagged, glacial coastline to the south of the city. Noted for its striking beauty, it’s now a spot for walks, climbing and more outdoor pursuits.Tour boats leave from the Vieux Port daily.
For those who prefer a day inside (or if the weather is nasty), there’s the Musée des Docks romains - which charts the history of the port back to Roman times, as well as the Musée d’Archéologie mediterranéenne - with local archaeology from around the mediterranean coast. Perhaps the most striking museum in town is MuCEM - the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations is a symbol of the regeneration of the city, having opened during 2013 when the city was European Capital of Culture. It is housed in the St Jean Fort at the entrance to the Vieux Port.
The Tourist Office sells a City Pass (valid in 24, 48 and 72 hour versions), which offers entry to a large number of the city’s museums, as well as transport around the city. If you’re planning some cultural excursions, it could well save you some money - find more on their website http://resa.marseille-tourisme.com/