Things to do at the port of call of Marseille

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marsella portada

If you follow me on social networks (@ManuCatman), you knew in advance that we were planning a cruise. Summing up 7 days of cruise in just one entry is rather complicated and the topic traveling has its own tag at the blog. We hope that our experience at the port of call of Marseille helps you. Marseille receives over a million of cruise passengers every year. Being the first port of call, we had lots of expectancies, but fortunately, Marseille surprised us. Let us see some  things to do at the port of call of Marseille. L

marsella le panier

It was the first night on a the boat and the first summer holidays in seven years!! and the first summer holidays together!! Not to mention that it was our first cruise, so lots of emotions in just one day Our first port of call was Marseille, the biggest city in the French south and probably pretty unknown for lots of people. The moment I step on French floor, I start smiling as I love France but I haven’t been before at the Côte d’Azur.

marsella petit train


What I was expecting of Marseille

A city on the coast, with no much artistic style, huge and with nice climate; nothing more to declare apart from the melting pot that it is due to immigration. I also wanted to eat Boullabaise, and buy soap of Marseille as souvenir. Not much, just the way towards Nice, Pisa or Rome. We were quite afraid of not having much time thinking that we wouldn’t be allow to be on land for long.

marsella manu

But in the end Marseille was…

an absolutely charming place where you cannot miss the vieux port (old harbour), the port fish marketLe Panier quartier, with lot of Mediterranean flavor in its small streets. I love it so much that I want to come back because there were a few museums rather interesting that we did not have the time to visit.

And yes, we did eat la Boullabaise and I thought it was better than expected and obviously we bought Marseille soap 72% Huile d’olive that now decorate our bathroom. You will find plenty of these shops to get your piece of soap.

To sum up, a beautiful city which and 100% Mediterranean old town with areas that remind me of Palma; making you feel at home being far, it’s a wonderful thing.

marsella M

How to get around in at the port of call of Marsella without missing anything

Getting off the boat, if you opt to visit the city without hiring an excursion on board; maybe one day I’ll write an entry on this topic.

There is a bus at the harbor that take cruise makers to the city center, just a few meters away of Vieux Port, exactly opposite Galeries Lafayette and a huge mall called Centre Bourse. This service was free, unless they are on strike (French people master this situation); if there is no service, the boat company will establish the transfer, of course, paying previously, but it will drop you off at the same spot. In case it is your first time, you should know that it is compulsory to take cruise passengers out of the harbour, as you won’t be allowed to stroll around on your own.

marsella port vieux quai du port

Vieux Port

Once in the city center, our recommendation is to visit the Vieux Port, a small bay made up of the quay des Belges, the closest to the city, the quay du Port, on the right and the quay on the left. At the Beligian quay, at early hours, you can see the fish market, where all the ingredients of the well-known La Boullabaise, a  splendid fish soap.

The harbour is very picturesque and photogenic. The harbour estuary is flanked by two fortress,  St Jean and St Nicholas. As a fun fact, you should know that the chain that was used to open the harbour entrance, can be seen at Valencia‘s cathedral, since it was a war trophy.

marsella port vieux

Once we took all the photos, we headed towards the quay du port, on the right, and we walked until the tourist train. Just for 6 euros/pax, it will take us to  Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica; we will enjoy the amazing views from there. On our way, we will pass by the beach des Catalans, a man-made beach pretending to emulate the Catalan beaches, as Marseille received lots of immigration from Catalonia during the Spanish postwar era. The tourist train of Marseille has got an explanation in 5 languages with plenty of curiosities. The way up is rather steep and lasts for half an hour. There is no stops for picture taking!! What a pity!

marsella notredame de la garde

Notre Dame de la Garde

It is located on a 162 meters(563 ft), and overlooks the city being one of the spots more admired both by tourists and residents.The church is not a great wonder; it is just one of those basilica which type of building was pretty much spread in France in the 19th century to worship Mary and can be found in every French city, such as Sacre Coueur in Paris or Notre Dame de Fourvière in Lyon. It is a Roman-Byzantine church and the visit lasts about 30 minutes. There is also a museum that we didn’t do it. Then, you take the train down; there is one every 20 minutes. Notre Dame de la Garde is one of those place in Marseille that worths a visit.

Castle of If

The Castle of If, can be seen from everywhere in the city, being from Notre Dame de La Garde, in a clear day, from where we can enjoy the most its view. It is found on a small island name as well If on the coast of Marseille. Alexandre Dumas wrote there the well-known The Count of Montecristo. There are excursions by boat (10 euros/PAX) from the Vieux port. The entrance is 5,5 euros. If you are unconditional fans of the adventures and misfortunes of Edmon Dantés, this is your place.

marsella petit train

Palais du Pharo

Built by Napoleón III to honor his wife Eugenia de Montijo is located on a privileged spot and towers above the entrance of the old harbour and the coast of Marseille. It worths a visit, although it can be seen from lots of spots of you itinerary.

marsella santa maria la mayor

Sainte-Marie-Majeure Cathedral

It is an impressive Byzantine construction. Built on the old cathedral of Provençal Romanesque from which there are a few remains left.

Museum of Provence

It was opened up in 2013 on a building that was used to control epidemics that may arrive at the city. It gives you an idea on what Provence is, one of the most beautiful regions of the world; it holds some modern art exhibits inside. Closed on Sundays and Federal Holidays.

marsella le panier 3

Le panier

It is a charming quarter built in Mediterranean style, with colored houses, narrow and with Venetian blinds. There is a great atmosphere in the squares and cafés; you can find local stores of art and soaps and plenty of more things. This quarter represents the traditional Marseille and it is a must.

La charité

It is in the heart of the quarter being nowadays a multidiscipline art center. It was erected to take care of beggars, elders and orphans of the city in the 18th century. It was later on changed into a militar fortress and was almost to be demolish in the middle of last century. It is remarkable its Italian Baroque style chapel.

marsella saint lorent

Church of Saint Laurent (Provençal style)

Opposite the museum of civilizations, you will see the only one Provençal Romanesque church remaining in Marseille which also worths a visit.

Museum of the civilizations

At a port of call of a cruise, you won’t have the time to visit this type of museums. However, I would like to make a remark on its modern style keeping some old architectonic elements. One more reason to go back to Marseille.


Eating out at the Quay du port

It a must, despite being hot, to wolf down a Boullabaise. eYou can find lots of restaurants at this quay where to eat it. We were recommended La Cuisine au Beurre and they were right. If you order a portion for two, it will give you plenty of food to be full. We will have our own recipe soon at the blog.

marsella la canabiere

La Canabière Str, the Opera and the Stock Market

To feel lighter after the feast, we strolled the High Street in Marseille, where you’ll see people from everywhere. You can visit the Opera and the Exchange Market. If you feel like walking more, although you may take the tram, you can also visit the beautiful Palais de Long champ.

marsella reflejo

So far what it meant to us our walk around  Marseille. We have tried to give some clues on what to do at the port of call of Marseille being a cruise passenger although we can use it being any other type of tourist or traveler. Hope you read us again at our following port of call or any other destination. We’ll wait for you!!

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