If this is your first time in Marseilles, you’ll likely want to stay in the Vieux Port area, where all the action takes place and where all the local restaurants and bars are centralized. We stayed at the Grand Hotel Beauvau Marseilles Vieux Port by Sofitel, and it was truly tremendous. For slightly over 100 EUR a night, we upgraded to a port view (which is an absolute must), and featured a beautiful modern bathroom, complimentary Nespresso and tea, and a window balcony overlooking the foot traffic of the Port. We spent an hour in hour room eating macaroons watching the sunset from the balcony as boats passed by to dock.
Quick Tip: Traffic and parking in Marseilles is a true disaster. The town itself is miniature and Marseilles, particularly the Vieux Port area filled with tourists is incredibly busy. You’ll want to ask your hotel where to park and get rid of your car as soon as possible. Typically, you can park in one of the mall garages for under 30 EUR per day. You won’t need your car once you arrive.
- 11:00am: To enjoy one of Marseille’s’ most stunning views, head up the hill to Notre Dame de la Garde, a “must-visit” in Marseille. The basilica is situated atop of the hill and features stunning viewing pads where you can see the open sea stretch for miles along with the rooftops of the French Riviera. You can actually take the Train Touristique de Marsailles starting from the Old Port which passes along the beautiful seaside road to the church, which will arguably get you there much faster.
- 2:00pm: Lunch at Le Petit Nice. Part of the restaurant is a 5-star hotel and we ended up stumbling upon this place and walking in in without a reservation and realized only after that this was a three-Michelin star restaurant, something we noticed when we looked at the price (180-200 EUR p/person)! A great hint here is to dine at a-la-carte where you can still enjoy the spectacular sea view, enjoy a 2-year dining experience, and have a top-notch food selection for one third of the price!
- 3:00pm: Pay a visit to Fort Saint-Jean near the Vieux Port. It is one of two historic forts in Marseille that were built to protect the entrance to Marseille’s Old Port. Adjacent to the fort is the MuCEM, or the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations.
- 4:00pm: Walk back to the old port and have a drink at Havana Club Bar for a break. Ideal for tapas and an aperitif, join them for happy hour.
- 6:30pm: While touristy, order Amorino’s special gelato-filled macaroons and have a café outside. Located right at the foot of the Vieux Port, stop and people watch with some delicious ice cream.
- 9:00am: Perhaps the most beautiful thing to explore in Marseilles are the Calanques, world-renowned formations to the South of Marseille — known as the ‘fjords of the French Riviera.’ This beautiful scenery can be seen by picking up one of the many boat tours departing from the Old Port, or even simpler, a short 30-minute drive on your way to the next city. You’ll need to enter the Parc National des Calanques. We visited Sormiou, since it was most easily accessible by car. It requires a 15-minute windy one-way street descent but affords picturesque views of the sea with dozens of docked boats in the distance swaying to the gentle breeze. From this location itself, you can actually start your hike to explore the reast of the coastline. One regret we had is not spending more time hiking and exploring some of the other amazing Calanques in the park via foot or boat. Some of the top other ones to visit are Saména, Callelongue, Sormiou Morgiou. It warrants at least a half-day of exploring.