Discovering the Hidden Gems of Marseille (2023 Travel Guide)

Marseille, the second largest city in France, is a melting pot of cultures and history. Located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, it has been a vital port city for centuries and has played a significant role in the country’s history. Despite being a well-known city, Marseille still has many hidden gems waiting to be discovered. From hidden beaches and charming villages to street art and historical landmarks, this city has much to offer for those willing to venture beyond the tourist hotspots. In this blog post, we’ll be uncovering some of Marseille’s best-kept secrets and showcasing the hidden gems that make this city truly unique and worth exploring.

Here are some of the best hidden gems of Marseille:

  1. Calanque de Morgiou
  2. Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde
  3. Le Panier
  4. La Friche Belle de Mai
  5. Basilique Saint-Victor
  6. Marseille Soap Museum
  7. Jardin des Vestiges

Get to know Marseille

Marseille is a city located in the south of France on the Mediterranean coast. It is the second largest city in the country and has a rich history dating back over 2,600 years. Marseille was founded by the Greeks in 600 BC and has since been a melting pot of cultures, including Phoenician, Roman, and French. Throughout its history, Marseille has played a key role in the country’s maritime trade and commerce, and it remains an important port city to this day. The city is known for its unique blend of cultures and its diverse architecture, which includes everything from ancient Greek ruins to modern skyscrapers. Marseille is also famous for its vibrant arts scene, its delicious cuisine, and its stunning natural surroundings, including the Calanques, a series of rocky cliffs along the coast. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or the great outdoors, Marseille has something to offer everyone.

Let’s introduce the hidden gems…

1. Calanque de Morgiou

Calanque de Morgiou is a secluded beach located within the Calanques National Park, just a few kilometers from Marseille. The Calanques are a series of rocky cliffs along the Mediterranean coast that offer stunning views and a unique landscape. The Calanques National Park is a protected area and is home to a variety of wildlife, including endemic species of plants and animals.

Calanque de Morgiou is one of the most remote and secluded of the Calanques, making it a true hidden gem. The beach is relatively small, making it an intimate and peaceful escape from the busy city. Visitors can relax on the sandy beach, swim in the warm waters of the Mediterranean, or explore the nearby cliffs and caves. There are also several restaurants and cafes in the area, offering delicious seafood and local cuisine.

Calanque de Morgiou is a great destination for nature lovers and those seeking a peaceful escape from the city. With its stunning scenery, secluded location, and unique landscape, it is one of the hidden gems of Marseille that should not be missed.

Why it is worth visiting

Calanque de Morgiou is worth visiting for several reasons:

  1. Natural Beauty: Calanque de Morgiou is a breathtaking location with its crystal-clear waters, stunning cliffs, and lush vegetation. The secluded beach is surrounded by towering cliffs and is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
  2. Adventure: For those who enjoy hiking or exploring nature, Calanque de Morgiou is a great destination. The hike to the beach is a moderate to challenging trek through the Calanques National Park, offering stunning views of the cliffs and the Mediterranean coast.
  3. Peaceful Escape: Calanque de Morgiou is a peaceful and intimate beach, making it a great escape from the busy city. The small size of the beach means that visitors can relax and enjoy the tranquility of the area, surrounded by the beautiful landscape.
  4. Local Cuisine: The surrounding area of Calanque de Morgiou is home to several restaurants and cafes, offering delicious seafood and local cuisine. This is a great opportunity to taste the flavors of Marseille and the surrounding region.
  5. Unique Landscape: Calanque de Morgiou is part of the Calanques National Park, a protected area that is home to a variety of wildlife, including endemic species of plants and animals. This unique landscape is unlike anything else in the world, making Calanque de Morgiou a must-visit destination for nature lovers.

2. Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde

Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, also known as Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica, is a Roman Catholic church located in Marseille, France. It is situated on a hill overlooking the city and is one of the most famous landmarks in Marseille. The basilica was built in the mid-19th century and is considered a symbol of the city, offering stunning views of Marseille and the surrounding area.

The basilica was designed in the Romanesque-Byzantine style, with a mix of Romanesque arches and Byzantine domes. The exterior is adorned with intricate sculptures and marble decorations, while the interior is lined with colorful mosaics and intricate frescoes. Visitors can climb to the top of the basilica for panoramic views of Marseille, including the old port, the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, and the Calanques National Park.

Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica is a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike. Visitors can attend Mass or other religious services at the basilica, admire the beautiful architecture and art, or simply enjoy the stunning views of the city and the Mediterranean coast.

The basilica is also a symbol of hope and protection for the city of Marseille, and is considered one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the region. A statue of the Virgin Mary stands atop the basilica, overlooking the city and offering a symbol of hope and protection for the people of Marseille.

Why it is worth visiting

Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde is a worth visiting for several reasons:

  1. Stunning Views: The basilica offers panoramic views of Marseille and the surrounding area, including the old port, the Calanques National Park, and the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. Visitors can enjoy these views from the top of the basilica or from the surrounding terraces and gardens.
  2. Beautiful Architecture: The basilica was built in the mid-19th century and is considered a symbol of the city. It is designed in the Romanesque-Byzantine style, with a mix of Romanesque arches and Byzantine domes. The exterior is adorned with intricate sculptures and marble decorations, while the interior is lined with colorful mosaics and intricate frescoes.
  3. Rich History: Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde has a rich history, having served as a symbol of hope and protection for the people of Marseille for over 150 years. It is considered one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the region and is a testament to the rich culture and history of Marseille.
  4. A Unique Experience: Visiting the basilica is a unique and memorable experience, offering stunning views, beautiful architecture, and rich history all in one place. Whether you attend Mass or other religious services, admire the beautiful art and architecture, or simply enjoy the views, you are sure to have an unforgettable experience.
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3. Le Panier

Le Panier is a neighborhood in Marseille, France, known for its narrow streets, colorful houses, and charming atmosphere. Located on a hill near the old port, Le Panier is considered one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city and is known for its rich history and cultural heritage.

Some of the highlights of Le Panier include:

  1. Street Art: Le Panier is known for its vibrant street art scene, with colorful murals and street art covering many of the buildings and walls in the neighborhood.
  2. Artisan Shops: The narrow streets of Le Panier are lined with a variety of artisan shops, selling everything from pottery and ceramics to jewelry and textiles.
  3. Museums: Le Panier is home to several museums, including the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions and the Museum of Old Marseille. These museums showcase the rich cultural heritage of the city and the history of Le Panier.
  4. Local Cuisine: Le Panier is a great place to try local Marseille cuisine, including bouillabaisse, a traditional fish soup, and a variety of seafood dishes. There are also many cafes and bakeries in the neighborhood, offering traditional French pastries and coffee.
  5. Picturesque Streets: The streets of Le Panier are lined with colorful houses, many of which are adorned with balconies and shutters, creating a charming and picturesque atmosphere.

4. La Friche Belle de Mai

La Friche Belle de Mai is a cultural center located in the Belle de Mai neighborhood of Marseille, France. Originally built as a tobacco factory in the 19th century, La Friche has been transformed into a vibrant cultural hub, hosting a variety of events, exhibitions, concerts, and performances throughout the year.

Some of the highlights of La Friche Belle de Mai include:

  1. Art and Culture: La Friche is a center for art and culture, with a variety of exhibitions, concerts, and performances taking place throughout the year. From contemporary art to live music, there is something for everyone at La Friche.
  2. Creative Workspaces: La Friche is also home to a variety of creative workspaces, including artist studios, performance spaces, and film production facilities. This makes it a hub for creative professionals and artists in Marseille.
  3. Food and Drink: La Friche features several cafes, restaurants, and bars, offering a range of dining options for visitors. Whether you’re looking for a quick bite to eat or a leisurely meal, there are plenty of options available.
  4. Outdoor Space: La Friche has several outdoor spaces, including a large courtyard and several terraces, making it a great place to relax and enjoy the sunny weather. There are also several parks and gardens in the surrounding Belle de Mai neighborhood, perfect for taking a walk or having a picnic.

5. Basilique Saint-Victor

The Basilique Saint-Victor is a historic basilica located in the heart of Marseille, France. It has a rich history that dates back to the 4th century AD, making it one of the oldest Christian structures in France and one of the most important religious landmarks in the city.

The basilica was originally built in the 4th century AD by Saint John Cassian, a Christian monk, as a monastic complex. Over the centuries, the complex underwent several renovations and expansions, with the current basilica being built in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Throughout its history, the Basilique Saint-Victor has played an important role in the religious and cultural life of Marseille. In the 16th century, it was a major center for the Counter-Reformation, and in the 17th century, it was used as a military prison during the French Revolution.

In the 19th century, the basilica underwent a major restoration and renovation, which helped to preserve its architectural heritage and beauty. Today, the Basilique Saint-Victor is a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors from around the world with its rich history, beautiful architecture, and stunning views of the city and the sea.

In conclusion, the Basilique Saint-Victor is an important and historic landmark in Marseille, with a rich history dating back to the 4th century AD. From its role in the Counter-Reformation to its use as a military prison during the French Revolution, it has played a significant role in the religious and cultural life of the city. Whether you are interested in history, architecture, or religious landmarks, the Basilique Saint-Victor is a must-visit destination in Marseille.

Why it is worth visiting

The Basilique Saint-Victor is worth visiting for several reasons, including its rich history, beautiful architecture, and stunning views of the city and the sea. Here are a few reasons why you should add it to your itinerary when visiting Marseille:

  1. Rich history: The basilica has a rich history dating back to the 4th century AD, making it one of the oldest Christian structures in France and one of the most important religious landmarks in the city.
  2. Beautiful architecture: The basilica is a stunning example of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, with its 11th and 12th-century walls, arches, and towers creating a beautiful and impressive facade.
  3. Stunning views: The Basilique Saint-Victor is located on a hill overlooking the city of Marseille, offering visitors stunning views of the city, the sea, and the surrounding hills.
  4. Religious significance: The basilica is an important religious landmark in Marseille, and a visit here offers an opportunity to learn about the history of Christianity in the city.
  5. Cultural significance: The Basilique Saint-Victor has played an important role in the cultural and religious life of Marseille for centuries, making it an important cultural landmark in the city.
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Source: https://www.marseille-tourisme.com

6. Marseille Soap Museum

Marseille soap, also known as Savon de Marseille, is a type of soap that has been made in the city of Marseille, France for over 600 years. The soap is made using traditional methods and is known for its quality and long-lasting nature. The history of Marseille soap is closely tied to the history of the city of Marseille itself.

The Marseille soap museum, located in the heart of the city, showcases the history of soap making in Marseille and the various techniques and tools used throughout the centuries. The museum displays a range of antique soap making equipment, including large cauldrons used to boil the soap and various molds used to shape the soap into its familiar cube form. Visitors to the museum can also learn about the traditional methods used to produce Marseille soap, such as using olive oil and salt to create a hard, long-lasting soap.

The museum also offers workshops and classes for visitors to learn about the soap making process and make their own Marseille soap to take home. Additionally, there is a shop where visitors can purchase authentic Marseille soap and other traditional soap-making products.

The history of Marseille soap is an important part of the city’s heritage and the Marseille Soap Museum provides a fascinating insight into this long and rich history. If you are interested in learning more about the traditional methods of soap making and the history of Marseille, the museum is a must-visit.

Why it is worth visiting

The Marseille Soap Museum is worth visiting for several reasons:

  1. Learn about the history of soap making: The museum offers visitors an opportunity to learn about the history of soap making in Marseille, including the traditional methods and techniques used to make this iconic soap. Visitors can see antique soap making equipment and learn about the process of making Marseille soap.
  2. Experience a unique aspect of Marseille’s heritage: Marseille soap is a staple of the city’s history and culture, and visiting the museum is a way to experience this aspect of Marseille’s heritage firsthand.
  3. Make your own soap: The museum offers workshops and classes where visitors can learn about the soap making process and make their own Marseille soap to take home. This is a unique and fun activity that provides visitors with a hands-on experience of the soap making process.
  4. Shop for authentic Marseille soap: The museum has a shop where visitors can purchase authentic Marseille soap and other traditional soap-making products. This is a great opportunity to bring home a piece of Marseille’s history and heritage.
  5. Explore the old port of Marseille: The museum is located in the heart of the old port of Marseille, which is a vibrant and historic area of the city. After visiting the museum, you can explore the surrounding area, visit the nearby market, or simply enjoy the sights and sounds of the old port.
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Source: https://www.divento.com

7. Jardin des Vestiges

Jardin des Vestiges is a garden and archaeological site located in Marseille, France. It is situated in the heart of the city and is one of the most important archaeological sites in France.

The garden was created in the 1990s on the site of the ancient Greek city of Massilia, which was founded in the 6th century BC. Visitors to the garden can explore the remains of the ancient city, including the foundations of houses, streets, and public spaces. The remains have been partially reconstructed to give visitors a better idea of what the city would have looked like in its prime.

In addition to the archaeological remains, Jardin des Vestiges features a lush garden with a variety of plants and flowers, as well as a small museum showcasing artifacts from the ancient city. The museum includes a range of exhibits on the history and culture of Massilia, including pottery, jewelry, and other objects from everyday life.

Visiting Jardin des Vestiges is a unique opportunity to step back in time and explore the remains of one of the oldest cities in France. The combination of the lush garden and the ancient remains makes for a peaceful and fascinating visit. If you’re interested in archaeology, history, or simply want to explore a unique and beautiful corner of Marseille, Jardin des Vestiges is definitely worth a visit.

Why it is worth visiting

Jardin des Vestiges is worth visiting for several reasons:

  1. Explore the remains of an ancient city: Jardin des Vestiges is built on the site of the ancient Greek city of Massilia, which was founded in the 6th century BC. Visitors can explore the remains of the city, including the foundations of houses, streets, and public spaces, and get a sense of what life was like in this ancient city.
  2. Learn about the history and culture of Massilia: The garden features a small museum that showcases artifacts from the ancient city, including pottery, jewelry, and other objects from everyday life. This is a great opportunity to learn about the history and culture of Massilia and to gain a deeper understanding of the city’s past.
  3. Enjoy a peaceful and beautiful garden: In addition to the archaeological remains, Jardin des Vestiges features a lush garden with a variety of plants and flowers. The combination of the ancient remains and the beautiful garden makes for a peaceful and relaxing visit.
  4. Discover a unique aspect of Marseille’s history: Marseille is a city with a rich and diverse history, and Jardin des Vestiges is a way to discover one of the oldest and most unique aspects of that history.
  5. Explore the heart of Marseille: Jardin des Vestiges is located in the heart of Marseille, near the old port. After visiting the garden, you can explore the surrounding area, visit the nearby market, or simply enjoy the sights and sounds of this vibrant and historic area of the city.

In short, Jardin des Vestiges is worth visiting for anyone interested in archaeology, history, or simply looking for a unique and peaceful experience in Marseille.

In conclusion, Marseille is a city that is rich in history, culture, and natural beauty, and it is filled with hidden gems that are just waiting to be discovered. Whether you are interested in visiting historic landmarks, exploring charming neighborhoods, or experiencing the city’s vibrant cultural scene, there is something for everyone in Marseille.

From the breathtaking views at Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde to the picturesque streets of Le Panier, and from the serene Calanques de Morgiou to the historic Basilique Saint-Victor, Marseille is a city that is truly a gem in its own right. And, with its rich history and traditions, the Marseille Soap Museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in learning about the city’s heritage and culture.

So, if you are planning a trip to Marseille, be sure to add these hidden gems to your itinerary. You won’t regret it! Whether you are a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, you are sure to discover something new and exciting in this beautiful city.


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