The most popular neighbourhoods in France shine a light on the sheer variety and diverseness of this fascinating city. Marseille, the second largest and oldest city in France, has been a major Mediterranean port and an entranceway for a diverse, multicultural population. This has made it a melting pot of different cultures and helped forge its unique identity.

    A former European Capital of Culture, Marseille has gone through a transformation. It draws visitors from around the globe not only for its charming seaside villages and historic districts, but also for its culture, innovative new bars and restaurants, and unique shopping venues. Here are great suggestions on where to stay in Marseille to be close to the city's top highlights.


    The Old Port of Marseille

    Marseille’s famous seaside port

    The Old Port of Marseille (Le Vieux Port) is the city’s most iconic neighbourhood. This picture-perfect area was originally founded in the 6th century BC and is now one of the most popular places in town. Locals and visitors are drawn by its yacht-filled marina, lively bars and seafood restaurants – all with an inimitable view of its ancient natural harbor.

    Grab a glass of pastis on one of the numerous portside terraces, then explore the numerous local landmarks. The beautiful white limestone Phare de Sainte-Marie lighthouse is a beloved local landmark as is the Saint-Ferréol les Augustins church, which dates back to the time of the Knights Templar. The Fort Saint-Jean has been protecting the city since the late 1600s, and the hustle and bustle of the Fish Market (Marché aux Poissons) is likely unchanged throughout the centuries.

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    Location: Vieux-Port de Marseille, Marseille, France


    La Canebière

    Walk the length of Marseille’s historic main street

    • History
    • Photo

    La Canebière, often called the “Marseille Champs Elysées”, is the city’s most well-known thoroughfare. Nearly a kilometer long and stretching from the Old Port to the majestic Saint-Vincent-de-Paul church, the name comes from the word canebe or hemp, in reference to the ropemaking shops that once occupied the area.

    Originally created in the 17th century, La Canebière has expanded over the years and become synonymous with the city, bordering many of Marseille’s top attractions, such as the Opera House and the Maritime Museum. Its numerous shops sell local specialties such as homemade Savon de Marseille soaps or espérantines, the city’s official olive oil chocolate.

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    Location: 13001 Marseille, France


    photo by Yuichi Shiraishi (CC BY 2.0) modified


    La Corniche

    Cruise Marseille’s iconic seaside promenade

    La Corniche, or, officially, the President John F. Kennedy Corniche, is a 5-km long seaside boulevard that connects some of Marseille’s most famous beaches, and traverses some of its most impressive real estates, from postcard-perfect fishing villages to majestic millionaire mansions.

    Enjoy unobstructed sea vistas from the longest bench in the world – an amazing 3 km long! – and visit one of the city’s oldest public beaches, La plage du Prophète. For the ultimate experience, book a table at one of the numerous “feet in the water” beachside restaurants, and toast the setting sun with a chilled glass of Provençal rosé or pastis.

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    Location: Corniche Président John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Marseille, France


    Le Panier

    Meander the colorful byways of Marseille’s oldest hood

    • History
    • Photo
    • Budget

    Le Panier seems more like a Provençal village than part of a major city, located on a hilltop in the middle of Marseille. Settled since antiquity, the charming hamlet was once known more for its insalubrity and crime than the chic street-side cafés and boutiques that draw visitors nowadays.

    It's known by locals as the “open-air museum”. Take your time wandering the tiny streets and alleys of Le Panier, and enjoy its many multicolored villas and historic facades. The Place de Lenche square is a popular spot for a coffee or drink on a leafy terrace and has some great views of Marseille’s marina.

    Location: 13002, Marseille, France


    La Joliette

    Check out this former industrial port, now a shopping paradise

    • History
    • Photo

    La Joliette was originally one of Marseille’s most important ports of call, but fell into disrepair in the 19th century, leaving many of its impressive industrial buildings abandoned. Recent gentrification, however, and an influx of creative shopping spaces and diverse new dining options has made it one of the hottest spots in town!

    For a bit of culture, visit the Saint Mary Major Cathedral or the Musée des Civilizations, highlighting Mediterranean history, then treat yourself to some shopping. Les Docks, massive former maritime warehouses, now offer the city’s most fashionable clothing boutiques and eateries, and their terrace, some of the best views in town.

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    Location: Marseille, France



    The “breadbasket of Marseille” is the city’s ethnic corner

    Noailles, just off of the main thoroughfare of La Canabière, is one of Marseille’s oldest and most multicultural neighbourhoods. Known as much for its food market, Le Marché des Capucins, as for its quality ethnic boutiques and old school French shops, it is one of the city’s most vibrant and popular neighborhoods.

    Discover Maison Empereur, France’s oldest and chicest hardware store for home accessories and knickknacks or Jolie Rouge, an eclectic mini flea market and aperitivo counter. La Rose du Tunis has the city’s best North African pastries, and Chez Sauveur has been serving the best pizza in town for nearly 80 years.

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    Location: 13001, Marseille, France


    Notre Dame du Mont

    Marseille’s coolest neighbourhood for street art

    The Notre Dame du Mont neighbourhood was once known more for its wholesale food warehouses than its current status as Marseille’s most arty neighbourhood. Named after the neoclassical church of the same name, it's full of street art, funky bars and alternate music venues that have made it Marseille’s hippest district.

    Drop by one of the numerous bars, particularly around the super popular Cours Saint Julien square and check out the artful graffiti from some of the world’s greatest street artists. Roaming the colorful streets here, you’ll find vintage record stores, artisanal ice cream shops, live music and impromptu concerts at every corner.

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    Location: Notre-Dame-du-Mont, 13006, Marseille, France


    photo by Fred Romero (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Les Cinqs Avenues

    Marseille’s stylish and leafy residential neighbourhood

    • Families
    • History

    Les Cinqs-Avenues is perhaps the poshest of the Marseille neighbourhoods. Much of it is given over to residential living for the comfortable upper-middle-class and wealthy locals, but there is still much to discover. From fine art museums and impressive parks, this place is worth the slight detour.

    Once a zoological garden, the Parc Longchamp is known by locals as the “green lung” of the city, a beautiful leafy spot overlooked by the Longchamp palace, which houses the fine arts museum and the museum of natural history. While the museums’ collections are certainly impressive, you’ll surely enjoy a sunny afternoon in the manmade grotto, or next to the pond, surrounded by flowing fountains, just as much.

    Location: 13004, Marseille, France


    photo by Fr.Latreille (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified



    A neighbourhood on the up, beyond just a train station

    • History
    • Budget

    Saint-Charles, a neighbourhood in full transformation, is considered by many as a simple entry and departure point to the city of Marseille. Located on a plateau overlooking  Marseille, the impressive train station was one of France’s first, and even its entranceway steps are classified as a historical monument.

    Within a stone’s throw of the University of Aix-Marseille as well as Musée des Beaux Arts (Decorative Arts Museum) and the Musée d’Histoire (Marseille History Museum) there are a fair few things to visit, whether for a quick layover or a longer stay.

    Location: Saint-Charles, 13001, Marseille, France


    Le Vallon des Auffes

    Marseille’s must-see seaside village

    Le Vallon des Auffes, accessible from the La Corniche seaside route, and within easy reach of the most popular beaches, is considered by many, the most charming neighbourhoods in Marseille. Formerly the home of fishermen and ropemakers, this tiny port is a perfect place for great photos and a delicious meal.

    Get away from the frenetic energy of the city to a place where time seems to have stood still and make the most of it with a special dinner. Nowhere is more iconic than Chez Fonfon, a favorite local seafood spot since the '50s. Go for the bouillabaisse, the legendary Marseille stew made with rockfish, turbot, red mullet, fennel, potatos, and a plethora of other ingredients.

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    Location: Vallon des Auffes, Marseille, France

    Adrian Moore | Contributing Writer

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