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Marseille is the second most populated city of France (and third most populous urban area) the biggest Mediterranean port and the economic hub of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region.
For people not afraid to discover a real place with real people, Marseille is the place. From colourful markets (like Noailles market) that will make you feel like you are in Africa, to the Calanques (a natural area of big cliffs falling into the sea - Calanque means fjord), from the Panier area (the oldest place of the town and historically the place where newcomers installed) to the Vieux-Port (old harbor) and the Corniche (a road along the sea) Marseille has definitely a lot to offer.
Forget the Canebière, forget the "savon de Marseille" (Marseille soap), forget the clichés, and just have a ride from l'Estaque to Les Goudes. You will not forget it.
Marseille-Provence International Airport (MRS) is located about 30km from Marseille. Buses, taxis and now train connect in less than 30 minutes. Shuttle services from other European cities have made more places available from Marseille.
The main train station is Marseille St. Charles. It is well-linked to the rest of the city, as the two subway lines and many buses stop there. It is a short walk away from the Canebière and the Old Port. Beware that the station is located on a small hill : if you decide to go the station by foot, you will have to climb a series of steps that could prove very unappealing, especially if you carry heavy pieces of luggage.
Marseille has TGV lines to Paris (3 hours) and Lyon (1h45), Nice (2h), Strasbourg (5h35), Frankfurt (7h45), Geneva (3h30) and to Brussels (5h).
From Barcelona, there is a connection to Cerbère, from which there are regular trains to Marseille; also a night train.
Eurolines has many connections all over Europe. From Marseille there are at least direct connections to Barcelona, Prague and Tangier. The bus station is next to the main train station, the St. Charles Station at Rue Honnorat. You get access through Platform N in the train station. There is also a temporary office at Platform N.
There is also an Eurolines office on the 3 Allée Léon Gambetta; If you walk down the big stairs on the southside of the station, follow the road until you come to a squarelike intersection. The office is on your left hand.
Marseille is very well connected to most French cities through numerous highways. As always in France those highways are expensive but practical, comfortable and fast. Marseille is around 8 hours from Paris by car, 2 hours from Nice, 1h30 from Montpellier, 4 hours from Toulouse and 3 hours from Lyon. However, be aware that driving in the city centre is a nightmare - park your car somewhere safe and stick to public transport whenever you can.
Marseille has a big harbour. There are direct ferry routes from Marseille to Ajaccio, Bastia, Porto Torres, Porto Vecchio and Propriano. There are several piers at the harbour, so it is advisable to check well in advance from which pier you are departing.
By bus, tram and underground
Marseille is served by a relatively good public transport system, the Régie des Transports de Marseille RTM comprising 2 underground railway lines (métro), 2 tram lines and 74 bus lines. If you have any mobility problems, are in a wheel chair or have a child in a push chair, you should be aware that almost every métro station has steps in it somewhere and some will have several flights of stairs - stick to the trams and buses which are a better option.
Tickets for buses and the métro can be bought in cafés, at subway stations, or on the bus; it's best to buy a multi-journey ticket (carte libertés) at €13 (10 trips), which are not sold on buses. The number of transfers is unlimited (including the return journeys) within the one-hour limit between the first boarding and last transfer on all the network (you must validate with each entry to the bus). Since April 2013, the subway and tram systems stop running every morning at 00:30. Most bus routes do not operate after 21:00 or so, although a limited network of night buses (Fluobus) operates with infrequent service (only about every 45-60 minutes or so) until about 00:30 or so. Using a taxi is recommended if you need to travel after 21:00.
A Ferry Boat crosses the Old Harbour (Vieux Port). It is a tourist attraction in itself known as the shortest commercial boat ride in Europe. Several other ferries propose connexions with L'Estaque, Les Goudes, La Pointe-Rouge and Le Frioul. They cost 10€ return trip but a 1 week RTM transportation pass (13€) comprises them (except Frioul island) which is very interesting. Also there are several companies proposing boat tours of the Calanque, like mini-cruises.
Avoid taking your car if you possibly can. Marseille, at least the centre, has narrow streets, one-way streets, random lane changes and so on which can drive both locals and non-locals crazy. The local drivers have a well deserved reputation for fearlessness - particularly if they are on two wheels. In addition, Marseille has some of the lowest parking fines in France - parking fines are rarely enforced and consequently you will find cars parked (and sometimes double parked) everywhere.
Due to the new tunnel that is being built to try to alleviate some of Marseille's traffic problems, satellite navigational systems such as the Tom Tom are likely to be out of date and dangerous if followed. For instance, following a Tom Tom in the centre of Marseille could take you across newly installed pedestrian areas or Tram lines. The one-way system has also completely changed.
Be careful of rogue taxi drivers. While there aren't many, there are a few and a €20 ride can quickly become a €40 ride. If you think you've been cheated get the taxi driver's number (located in the rear of the car, often on the window) and go to the Tourist's Office at 4, La Canebière (near Le Vieux Port) and speak to a representative, they can and will get your money back if you've been ripped off. They will also get the taxi driver in significant trouble.
Marseille has the excellent Le vélo cycle hire scheme in place but there are basically no cylce paths and the few that are there are usually filled with pedestrians or parked cars which makes cycling in Marseille a rather dangerous affair. The vélo scheme costs 1 euro for a week's subscription. Each time you hire a bike, the first 30 minutes are free, then each hour costs 1 euro. Note that there is a 150 euros deposit which will be charged if you don't return the bike properly. Univélo Marseille is a mobile app which gives you live ike or park disponibility in the 100+ bike stations.
What to see
le Vieux Port (old harbour): watching fishermen selling their stock by auction is a must. Arriving to Marseille in the Vieux-Port on a summer evening is something you will never forget... You can watch this show by going to Frioul islands or Chateau d'If and going back late in the afternoon. there is also a nice view on the harbor from the Palais du Pharo (Pharo Palace). The famous Canebière avenue goes straight down the harbor. However the Canebière is not that interesting despite its reputation.
MuCEM, the 2013-opened Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations is now famous for its unique architecture and intergration with the Fort Saint-Jean, castle which is now a free part of the museum, acting as a park in the city with breathtaking views.
Notre Dame de la Garde: the big church which overlooks the city. Old fishermen used to have their boats blessed in this church. You can still see many boat models hanging around in the church. From there it is one of the nicest view of the city. You can use the tourist train from the Vieux Port to reach the church - you can get off the train, look around and board a later train back to the port.
Musée des Docks romains (Archéologie-Graffiti-Lapidaire) (the old harbour from Phoenician and Roman times), Place Vivaux, 13002 Marseille.
Musée d'Archéologie méditerranéenne (Archéologie-Graffiti-Lapidaire), Centre de la Vieille Charité, 2 Rue de la Charité, 13002 Marseille.
le Cours Julien and la plaine: a hangout area with bookstores, cafés, fountains, and a playground for the small ones (metro stop Cours Julien/Notre Dame du Mont). It is THE trendy area of Marseille. La Plaine is the local name for Place Jean Jaurès close to Cours Julien. Every Thursday and Saturday morning the Plaine market is the place to shop. If you are there early enough you can make very good deals, even if what you'll find there is sometimes "tombé du camion" (fallen off the truck) as one says in Marseille.
la Corniche: a walkway and a road by the sea that provides lovely views of the sea, the Chateau d'If to the south, and les Calanques to the east. Vallon des Auffes, small pitoresque port under a viaduc, is particularly remarquable.
la Major: gigantic cathedral on the coast.
Boulevard Longchamp and Palais Longchamp (Longchamp casttle and avenue). From the Réformé church (up the Canebière) you can follow the Boulevard Longchamp where you can see nice example of old upper-class buildings to arrive to Palais Longchamp. The palais is worth visiting though it won't take you long. You can visit the "musee des beaux arts" as well as the natural history museum.
Parc Borély (Borely park). A large and great park, 300 meters from the sea. After a siesta in the park go have a drink at Escale Borely (a place with numerous restaurants and bars on the beach) to see the sunset.
Le Panier. Panier means basket in French, but in Marseille it is the name of the oldest area of the town. In the middle of this area there is the Vielle Charité, a wonderful old monument, now hosting museums and exhibitions.
Several beaches exist in Marseille. The most typical are Catalans, Prophètes, Pointe-Rouge and Corbières. However, after a big rain, some of them might be polluted and then closed. Nice places to swim and relax on the sea are also to be found on the Corniche, on the rocks ahead of Vallon des Auffes, and next to the military camp in Malmousque.
Unité d'Habitation: designed by Le Corbusier. The building is called "la maison du fada" (the house of the foolish) by indegenous people. The building contains a shopping street, a church, a children's school and housing. You can access the roof and enjoy the breathtaking view of Marseille between hills and sea (10am-6pm). There is a bar/restaurant/hotel on the 3rd floor too. Take bus 21 from Rond-Point du Prado metro.
Stade Velodrome: the stadium where the local football team "Olympique de Marseille" plays. Football matches are one of the highlights of Marseilles life. Whilst L'OM have fallen on rather lean times the former champions of Europe are the biggest football team in France. The atmosphere at the stadium is fantastic and whilst visitors are unlikely to get tickets for the popular Virage Nord or Sud seats in the Tribune Ganay offer an excellent view and a chance to soak up the atmosphere. Best games involve teams with some travelling support such as St Etienne, Lens or the grand-daddy match of them all against the evil Paris St Germain. Tickets can be bought (ideally several days before the game) either on-line or from the L'OM shop at the Vieux Port.
Noailles: The area around the Noailles sub-way station is one of the city's most interesting. Lined with Arabic and Indo-Chinese shops some of the streets could be part of a bazzaar in Algeria. A fascinating area.
Mazargues War Cemetry, On the way to Luminy. A war cemetery dedicated to WW I and WW II martyrs from the Allies, especially the Indian and Chinese gunners and runners. A very serene place, it is the perfect place to spend sometime thinking about the people who laid down their lives and the madness of war.
Outside of town
The Calanques. The Calanques are a series of miniature fjords to the south of Marseille near Cassis. From Marseille these are best accessed from the University campus at Luminy which can be reached by bus #21 departing from Rond Point du Prado opposite the Stade Velodrome or from Vieux Port (the bus fee is only 1,50 euros). The 'fjords' are amazing with wonderful blue sea and spectacular lime stone cliffs.  The walk along the coast from Cassis to Marseille is spectacular, it can be done in one day at a fast pace. The trail (GR) is clearly marked (red and white strips). From Luminy, you can turn left to Cassis or right to Callelongue (a bus connects you to bus #19, which takes you back to Place Castellane in the center). From June to September some of the Calanques can be closed due to high risk of fire.
The Château d'If The Château d'If is built small island off the city, initially as a defensive structure and was later used a prison. It is most famous for its place in the novel The Comte de Monte-Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Tourist boats leave from the Vieux Port.
Allauch and Plan de Cuques are communes on the outskirts of Marseille, both blessed with beautiful countryside. You can take the metro (Line 1) to La Rose and then a bus #142, #144. Take a picnic and go for a walk in the hills, the views of Marseille and the Mediterranean are stunning.
L'Estaque and côte bleue L'Estaque is fishing port that is just starting to exploit its tourist potential through its connections to Cézanne. You can get there on the #35 bus from La Joliette (to get to La Joliette take metro Line 2)
In recent years lots of new places have opened in Marseille, at night, three main districts are interesting (besides beaches between april and october where people go and spend the night - there are also nice bars - Sport Beach, thursday beach parties at Le Petit Pavillon during summer, sunlight yatch club...):
Old Port with lots of bars and pubs (particularly on the southern side and on Cours d'Estienne d'Orves - Marengo, Polikarpov, Barberousse, Hard Rock Café)
La Plaine/Cours Julien with numerous alternative and underground bars (E-wine, Bar du marché, Petit-Nice, Intermédiaire, Asile 404, Molotov)
La Joliette/J4 with trendy chic new bars and clubs (Palais de la Major, Casa Pietra, White Rabbit).
However La Friche should not be forgotten, particularly during summer when the very large rooftop hosts dj parties for free every friday and saturday. For events and concert agenda, see La Nuit Magazine or printed paper Ventilo, particularly during summer as lots of music festivals, boat parties (mini-cruises at night with djs in the Calanques for €20-40), rooftop parties and concerts take places.
O'Brady's Irish Pub, 378, avenue de Mazargues.
Shamrock Irish Pub, 17, quai de Rive-Neuve.
Red Lion, 231 avenue Pierre-Mendès.