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Marseille Travel Guide

About Marseille

Built on multiculturalism, revolution and a Mediterranean climate, Marseille is one of Europe’s most intriguing metropolises.

Backdropped by the white limestone cliffs of the Calanques, its serene setting is at odds with the Arabic-style backstreets of the city centre and the boisterous bartering at the fish market.

The hub of Marseille is the Vieux-Port, a harbour with some 2,600 years of history, while adjacent neighbourhoods such as Le Panier and Belsunce still offer up warrens of washing-webbed lanes, perfect for exploring on foot or by bike.

The tree-lined central avenue of La Canebière crackles with activity day and night, while a short ferry ride offshore reveals Marseille’s other face – the Iles du Frioul, a rocky archipelago perfect for walkers and bird-spotters.

There are some hugely diverting museums and cultural sites back in the city centre, but a major part of Marseille’s draw is that it doesn’t cater solely for highbrow visitors.

If the notion of settling down on a busy café terrace and watching the world go by over a glass of wine sounds appealing, you’ll be well served. For every dose of postcard classicism there’s a splash of something funkier – a 20ft-tall (6m) metal giraffe here, a 15-strong band of buskers there.

Nevertheless, you don’t have to look far for classical architecture, whether its the Puget brothers designed La Vieille Charité (a 17th century almshouse that now houses the archaeological museum) or the crenelated towers of the Abbaye de St Victor, which conceal 5th century catacombs.

That this side of the city is so often overlooked is in part due to its historical significance as a major port and as the gateway to France’s former colony Algeria, both of which have combined to make the city extraordinarily cosmopolitan.

Today, the city’s unrivalled music and fashion industries add a dynamic flavour to the multi-ethnic mix that is layered over what is at heart, a truly French city.

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Featured Hotels


Le Petit Nice Passédat

This exquisite 19th-century villa in Hellenic style is set in lush gardens on a rocky promontory overlooking the Mediterranean. There is no denying that it's pricey, but the rooms are exceedingly comfortable and beautifully decorated, the service top notch, and the restaurant one of the best in town. The views are fabulous too.

Le Corbusier

Architecture buffs will relish the opportunity to stay at this hotel located within Le Corbusier's post-war vision of the future: the Cité Radieuse. While many of the hotel's 21 rooms are on the small side, they are comfy enough, and the rooftop garden offers seascapes to die for.

Grand Hotel Beauvau Marseille Vieux Port

Overlooking the Vieux Port, this is one of the oldest hotels in Marseille, established in 1860. Many famous writers have stayed here, including George Sand (who eloped here with Chopin in 1839). Its air-conditioned, soundproofed rooms feature Provençal-style furniture, and many come with balconies and views of the port.

Hotel Lutetia

Conveniently located in a quiet street close to La Canebière, only 200m (656ft) from the railway station, this is a charming, comfortable hotel in the heart of Marseille, with easy metro access. Many of the rooms are more stylish than you would expect from a budget hotel.

Hipark Residences

With a choice of 114 smart apartments available for short, medium-term and longer stays, the Hipark Residences are a good alternative to the usual city-hotel options. They're in the southeast of Marseille and place an emphasis on spacious, modern design. Given the levels of comfort, they're good value.

Sofitel Marseille Vieux Port

Between the rocky headland of the Pharo and Fort St Nicolas, the indulgent Sofitel Marseille Vieux Port offers a near-unbeatable panoramic view of Marseille. The hotel has a swimming pool, eight meeting rooms (the largest of which can accommodate up to 130 people), a cocktail bar, a gastronomic restaurant and a spa.