Is Marseille safe for tourists ?

Safety in Marseille

Now that you’ve decided to travel to Marseille, it won’t be long before you meet someone who tells you: Please be careful, it’s a dangerous city! Now you probably wonder if going on a trip to Marseille is safe for tourists.

People who tell you that may be under the influence of the “Marseille bashing”, a tendency that we often see in films, in the media and sometimes among French people as well.

I am going to explain you where does Marseille bad reputation come from and why this is more a fantasy than a reality.

Before your trip, if you wonder how safe is Marseille, make sure you read this.


Here are the topics I am going to talk about:

  1. A nefarious reputation

    a. A port city

    b. Imagination vs reality

  2. Marseille is an atypical city

    a. The city center is poor

    b. Marseille people are friendly

  3. Safety tips in Marseille

    a.1st and 3rd district are busy and noisy

      b. Marseille by districts to help you plan your trip

1. A nefarious reputation

a. A port city

Marseille is a port city, the oldest city of France and its Mediterranean port is known since Antiquity.

As any other port cities, Marseille suffered the bad reputation attached to it. All sorts of smuggling and traffics always took place in commercial ports.

This situation has been a fertile ground for the imagination of many authors and film makers who used Marseille as a background for their stories and portrayed it as an unsafe destination.

b. Imagination vs reality

The most famous stories about Marseille are Alexandre Dumas’s book “The count of Monte Cristo” who took place on the island of the Château d’if and the film “French Connection” (1971) of William Friedkin.

Unlike what many people think, the count of Monte Cristo is not a true story and in the French Connection film, where Marseille is portrayed as a drug capital city, it was in reality just a city among many others where the international drug trafficking took place.

French Media also like to portray Marseille as a crime capital bringing the spotlights only on drugs related crimes that often take place in the north of the city…but in reality, statistically, Marseille is not different from any other cities in France concerning the organised crime rates and drug related crimes.

Marseille crime statistics show one thing, cars and two-wheeled vehicles are slightly more stolen than in other places. If you bike ride in Marseille, keep that in mind.

2. Marseille is an atypical city

a. The city center is poor

When traveling to Provence expect to see some charming city, very clean and organized like Aix-en-Provence, relaxing and elegant like Nice on the french riviera or Avignon, and…atypical like Marseille.

We are used to consider the heart of a city as a front window, everything must be clean and polished.

It is is changing now due to gentrification, but for decades the heart of Marseille, which is the old port and the neighborhood around the St-Charles train station, has concentrated a lot of poverty.
These districts were and still are the poorest areas of Marseille.
During the day, apart from a few beggars and drunk people, you don’t really see it as it is very busy. But during the night poverty is more visible and the atmosphere is different. This makes it a very popular city, where poverty is not hidden  where social classes and social and cultural differences coexist. For this reason Marseille is unique.

b. Marseille people are friendly

Marseille people are known for being friendly. They are chatty and helpful too. You often see strangers talking to each other in public transport or in cafes. Unlike many big cities, you will always found someone to talk to ! Especially as a tourist.

People of Marseille are also very keen on giving you a hand or a direction. They are not shy, they talk loudly and have a tendency to exaggerate when telling a story. Welcome to the south of France!

Actually, one ancient world famous navigator, Pytheas, was from Marseille. He is the one who sailed to the northern sea of Europe for the first time, when he came back and told what he saw, nobody believed him… Later on, historians found out that he was telling the truth!

3. Travel safety tips in Marseille

Since Marseille became the European capital of culture in 2013 the city center has been transformed.

Facades have been cleaned, some streets have been forbidden to cars but poverty remains. 40% of inhabitants of the 1st district live under the poverty line but it does not make marseille less safe.

a. 1st and 3rd district are busy and noisy

Around Saint-Charles train station, Noailles and la Canebière (all parts of the 1st district) pickpockets are very active and during the night it is very noisy.

Do not expose any valuable belongings like photo camera, jewelery or mobile phone particularly in these areas. (1st and 3rd districts).

A side of the vieux port is also part of the 1st district, where there is the tourist information office and the Opéra neighbourhood .

b. Marseille by districts to help you plan your trip

The 2nd district is the new business district (La Joliette, Docks village, Terraces du port area, Museums, hotels)

The 4th 5th and 12th district are calm and more residential, that’s were you will found a cinema and plenty of nice local shops. The 4th and 5th district are the best places to found  accomodations as it is close to the city center and calm.

The 6th district is where you’ll find the Basilica Notre dame de la Garde ( and a breath taking panoramic view )

7th 8th and 9th districts are the wealthiest, near the beaches of Prado, the Corniche, the Pharo, Saint Victor Abbaye (7th) and the Velodrome.

The 15th and 14th are deprived neighborhood in the north of the city.

The 16th district is also in the north and more like a small fishermen village, you can go there by sea shuttle from the Vieux-port.

Overall, I think Marseille is a safe place for tourists, people who travel alone and women can be reassured, there is nothing dangerous about Marseille and I am pretty sure that you will always find someone willing to help you if you need help. You will be surprised by the beauty of the city and its rich history. With a few precautions concerning your valuables, I am sure you will have a great trip. If you want to learn about the history of Marseille, come with me and book your free tour right here : → City Tour

2 days in Marseille: an itinerary for your trip

By Nadège

Since you only spend 2 days in Marseille and there are so many great things to see and do, here is a selection of the best places.

A two days itinerary to get the most out of your stay in Marseille

Up in Marseille - Sea

 Morning Day 1 – Relax on the sea side

To start your 2 days trip in Marseille you can have a walk on the Vieux-port in the city center, from there you will see the fish market which has been there forever and sell fresh fish caught in the morning. You’ll have a look at all the historical monuments that you will visit later. The first beach is at a 20 minutes walk towards the Corniche kenedy, a long balcony on the sea with an amazing view on the Mediterranean. When you get there you can have a nice coffee with view on the sea at one of the many coffee shop along the coast.

 In the heart of Marseille – Visit Noailles Market

Out of the many markets Marseille has, Noailles market is the most atypical. Cheap, multicultural, colorful, you will find all the spices and ingredients you need to cook some good Mediterranean food and taste Asian or oriental dishes. Restaurants there are some of the cheapest of the city and the food is good. Open 8 till 7 pm Monday to Saturday

Up in Marseille - Noailles

 Afternoon Day 1 – Mucem and Fort Saint-Jean for a stroll out of time in Marseille

If you are staying only two days in Marseille, you cannot miss two of the most beautiful monuments of the south of France. Located at the most strategic point, at the entrance of the port, in the oldest neighborhood of Marseille, the Fort Saint-Jean offers an incredible view on the Pharo Park and on the sea, its Mediterranean garden, its rich history and the presence of the Mucem (The museum of the Mediterranean) inside the fort will amaze you.
Mucem 1 Esplanade J4, 13002 Marseille Open 11 till 6 pm – Closed on Thursday

View from Notre-dame-de-la-Garde

The Basilica Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde to enjoy a fantastic panoramic view of Marseille

You will be amazed by what you are about to see. The basilica of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde is the highest point of the city, perched up a hill, the “good mother” of the people of Marseille protect the city and its inhabitants who go there mostly to pray and light a candle for protection. You can visit the basilica and the fort for free and have a break at the restaurant hold by missionary sisters. Make sure you do not forget your camera!

jazz singer

Evening Day 1 – Jazz concert at La Caravelle bar

After a long day of visiting Marseille, you might want to relax around a cocktail in one of the best piano bar of Marseille. La Caravelle is located on the Vieux-port and will ravish you. The place attracts a lot of jazz lovers as it offers jazz concert. And the best spot to be sitting in is the balcony, make sure you get one of the table outside! The cocktails are exquisite and the good atmosphere guaranteed.

Jazz concert every Tuesday and Friday La Caravelle 34 Quai du Port, 13002 Marseille, France

Morning Day 2 – Discover the Calanques of Marseille

Seeing the best of Marseille in two days would be incomplete if you miss the “Calanques”. The National Park of the Calanques is accessible by boat from the Vieux-port. You can buy a tour of the Calanques from one of the boat company. You can as well take a bus, the first calanque is at only 30 minutes from the city center. Go to park of Montredon (bus 81) and you will get into the national park by foot, from there you can reach the calanque of Marseilleveyre or Callelongue after a good 4 hours walk. The itinerary is an easy one. Just bring some non-slippery shoes.

strawberry tart

Lunch at “La grotte”

The restaurant “La grotte” is a very good address if you are in the area of Callelongue, at the foot of the Calanques. The menu offers a provençal cuisine, the setting is cozy and the restaurant attracts hikers, people of the city who comes for the landscape and holidaymakers who rented a “shed” nearby. Callelongue is a small village where fishermen used to live in small sheds, there are now rented by tourists or occupied by locals.

Afternoon Day 2 – Visit the Panier the old town of Marseille

Back to the city center, the Panier is a charming small neighborhood with small streets and a lot of craft shops, artist studios, small cafes… As it is the oldest neighborhood of Marseille its facade and small alley are typical, the oldest building is l’hôtel de Cabre, 16th century. If you want to taste the best ice creams of Marseille, you are at the right place. Visit Le Glacier du Roi at Place de Lenche., they prepare home made ice creams with fresh seasonal fruits.

Street Art Marseille
Cathedral La major Marseille

The Cathedrale of La Major and the Terrasses du Port

During your visit of the Panier, take the direction of La Joliette, the business district. You will pass by the imposing Cathedral of La major the only cathedral of the 19th century ever built in France. And to finish your trip in Marseille, if you still have some energy left for shopping, Les Terrasses du Port, a big shopping center where you can buy local and traditional item will ravish you.

Diner Day 2 – L’eau à la Bouche – The best pizza of Marseille

If you are a fan of Pizza, you probably want to try this restaurant but make sure to book your table because it is very popular among Marseille people and seats are limited. Located on the Corniche Kennedy near the beach area, you will arrive right on time to enjoy the sunset. L’eau à la bouche 120 Corniche Président John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 13007 Marseille, France

This itinerary was made by me, I grew up in Marseille and I know the city very well, Only my thoughts and opinions are reflected. I am sure your stay will be amazing! Check out Specialities of Marseille to learn about the local food you must try!

The Mucem and fort saint-jean


By Nadège

If you visit Marseille and do not have a lot of time but still want to enjoy an amazing view, relax in a beautiful garden full of history or simply have a glimpse of the oldest neighborhood of the city, then you should not miss the Mucem and the fort saint-jean.

Mucem and Fort Saint-Jean: Heart of the history of Marseille

The Mucem museum is located in the Panier, the oldest neighborhood of Marseille.

The museum was built in the fort garden and you can visit the garden and the fortification for free.

The place is truly amazing. 2600 years ago, the first greek settlers established themselves on this promontory in order to keep an eye on the sea.

During the middle-age the Babon castle was built to protect the people of Marseille from the attacks of the barbarians and in the 17th century Louis the XIV built the fort to house its troops.

Fort Saint-jean : A Mediterranean vegetable garden

Mucem and Saint John fort - A vase of flowers sitting on a bench - Wildflower

A walk in the garden will give you an overview of what our ancestors were consuming and what they were using to cure themselves.

Vegetables, grenade,orange and olive trees, seasonings…the landscape gardeners made sure to have all the plants of the time represented in the garden.

The order of Malta

The first knights of the order of saint-john the baptist established themselves in Marseille on the 12th century

Their chapel still remains today and can be seen in the fort.

Marseille was a starting point for many pilgrims during the middle-age and the knights established their commandery in the fort.

Mucem and Saint John fort - A castle on top of a building - Facade

The Mucem is the best showcase for what’s going on around the Mediterranean.

It offers many exhibitions and a cultural program about anthropology, history, archeology, contemporary art … to show the public the multiple facet of the Mediterranean world.

Along the sea, at the entrance of the old port, its location is ideal to have a glimpse of the beauty and treasures that Marseille has to offer.


How to go to The Mucem

Adress :7 Promenade Robert Laffont, 13002 Marseille
Metro Vieux port M1 +10 minutes walk on the Quai du Port
Garden and fort saint John : Free
Museum: 9.50 euros

Open everyday from 10 to 8PM but closed every Tuesday, December 25th and may 1st


The cité radieuse of Le Corbusier


By Nadège

The cité radieuse which means “the magnifiscent town” is an emblematic architectural project built in the 50’s by Le Corbusier.
After the war, the need for housing was a priority.The idea of building residential towers was a symbol of modernity as well as the most convenient.

This massive building of 337 appartments, initially social housings, took 5 years to build and was immediately considered by the people as an eyesore on the landscape.At first nobody wanted to go and live there, it was named “the house of the crazy guy” by the people and was perceived as a prison.

La cité radieuse a unesco world heritage

Inside the cité radieuse le corbusier


Today, it is a co-ownership, a Unesco world heritage and one of the most visited monument of Marseille.
The cité radieuse is praised for its originality and convenience as it was thougt and organised by Le Corbusier as a city within the city.

It includes a hotel, a school, a kindergarden, a theater, many shops and offices, an art gallery , a café  and an incredible rooftop where you can enjoy a panoramic view of  Marseille.


“The light creates the atmosphere and the sensations of a place as well as the expression of the structure”
                 Le Corbusier

However, what strucked me when I was there is the feeling you have.
It is very ambivalent. On one hand the light inside the building is absolutely amazing, the architecture  was studied to let the sunrays penetrate  beautifully which gives it a very relaxing atmosphere.
But at the same time it feels as if every wall, every block was trying to crush you.The geometry of the building, the volumes, the structure leaves you with a strange feeling. The feeling that you are  in  a box with everything you need around to sustain yourself.  A few books have been published that tarnish the image we have of Le Corbusier where we learn that his work was actually  inspired by fascist ideas.

Le Corbusier named the appartments he made “a housing unit of congruent magnitude”. Charming isn’t it?

View from the Roof top of the cite radieuse
Rooftop view

Cité radieuse
280 boulevard Michelet
13008 Marseille
Open all year 9:00 am 6:00pm
Free entrance
Métro L1 Rond point du Prado then bus 22


Specialities of Marseille

The pastis

This is a very emblematic alcohol from Marseille.Very popular, it’s an alcoholic drink perfumed with anise and liquorice and mixed with water.This is a hard liquor that people drink during the “apero” right before lunch or diner.

The panisses


The panisses are a porridge of chick pea floor mixed with water and salt.
Once fried, it is sliced and makes perfect snacking.
The panisse were originally a dish of the poor meant to fill the belly, it now represents l’Estaque, a small village in the north of the city.

The Gambetta

This syrup of vegetable extracts can be found exclusively in Provence.
It tastes delicious! You just need to add some beer, limonade, schwepps or even pastis!

The Bouïllabaisse

This delicious fish soup is the number one speciality of the city .
Back in time , the fishermen used to cook their unsold fishes till it boïl then lower the fire : here come the name : bouille (boïl) baisse (lower) bouillabaisse in provençal.
Today it became a gourmet dish .To enjoy the real traditional one I will advise you to go to Fonfon restaurant in the nice area of the Vallon des Auffes.This is the most renowned
Make sure to make a booking first.

140 rue du Vallon des Auffes

The Aïoli

Every friday, most restaurants will offer as their dish of the day ” L’aïoli “.
The traditional recipe is a gaelic and olive oil sauce that goes with cod and vegetables, it is absolutely yummy and cheap!

The Navettes

The navettes are a provençal pastry made of orange flower water.The tradition wants that we eat them to celebrate candlemas.
In order to taste the traditional recipe you need to got to :

Le four des navettes
136 rue Sainte 13007 Marseille
+33 (0)4 91 33 32 12


The soap of Marseille

Marseille soap

The soap of Marseille or  “Savon de Marseille” is made with vegetable olive oil and is an emblematic product of the city.
Its production started in 1371 in Marseille and it has been exported all over the world  ever since.
In order to guarantee its quality, the king of France Louis XIV regulated its formula.
The label “Savon de Marseille was exclusively reserved to soap made with 72% of olive oil.
Today, the name is not protected and there are a lot of copies. To recognize the traditional soap of Marseille you need these 4 characteristics : A cube shape, green or white color (the green is for the skin and the white more convenient to wash linen), a stamp on each side, 6 natural ingredients. You could also visit one of the last traditional soap factories:

La savonnerie le sérail

The honey of Marseille

honey pot lavanda honey honey of marseille

This one is  not a famous  speciality but a local beekeeper named Gérard Jourdan have put his hives in the city and produce a delicious honey 100% local. You will find  the honey of marseille, the honey of the calanques and he also have some lavanda honey that I know you like !You can find him every saturday morning at place de sebastopole market near cinq avenues metro station.

The best parks of Marseille

Best Parks of Marseille


By Nadège

The park Borély

It si located in the prado beaches area and is very easily accessible by metro and bus.
 Many joggers go there as well  because it is far from the road and the air is much better. You can do biking and play golf (there is a golf club inside)
Within the park you can visit the museum of decoratives art, earthenware and fashion in the castle borely and  the botanical garden .

Park borely


The Palais Longchamps

This is one of my favourite park.

It is located in the city center, five minutes walk from the train station (Longchamps exit) and you can as well visit the Museum of natural history (the kids will love it as the permanent collection posess 83000 specimen of animals) and the Fine arts Museum.

This park of the 19th century was built in 1869 to celebrate the arrival of water in Marseille.The big fountain is an allegory of it. There used to be a zoo inside the park and the cages of the animals still remains.The zoo was closed in 1987 because of financial issues.

Palais Longchamps
Metro st charles/Longchamps
Tram 5 avenues


The Park of Montredon

This park is close to the beaches but a bit far.I like going there by bike and I ride for about 45 minutes (you can easily rent a bike outside the metro rond point du prado and leave the bike at the terminal in front of the park) but you can also take the bus 19 from the metro rond point du prado.

It is worth going there to spend an entire day because from there you can go for a walk into the Calanques of marseilleveyre and enjoy an amazing view (quite a long walk) you can also relax in the park, there are plenty of animations for kids .Or you can just go to the closest beach.Don’t forget your picnic!

park near beach

Marseille : France oldest city


Marseille is a city that won’t leave you indifferent as everyone agrees to its singularity.

The truth is Marseille has character and the richness of its history proves it.

A mixed heritage

Founded in 600 BC Marseille is the oldest city of France.

The legend says that a group of greek sailors who left Phocea (actual Turkey), arrived in Marseille the same day when the king of the Segobriges ( local ligurian tribe) decided to marry his daughter.
The greeks, whose intentions were peacefull, were invited to the banquet.
Protis the king’s daughter decided to give her nuptial cup to Gyptis the greek captain.
As a wedding gift the king Nannos gave the couple a piece of his land: Massalia was born.

Marseille quickly became a powerful state city thanks to its economic development and the growth of its population.
The commercial trade with the mediterranean contributed to the wealth of the city.
Olive oil, wine and ceramic tableware were imported from Greece and the port concentrated all the maritime and trading activities.

In the beggining, the greek settlement was peaceful but after one generation, tensions and conflicts between the Marseillais and their neighbours started.
The Marseillais had to fight  back and gained a reputation of  being brave and combative.

Ally of Rome, strongly independant and hostile to central powers, Marseille kept until today its singularity and rebelious nature which gave the Marseillais a strong sens of identity and a tradition of welcoming immigrants.

The vestiges garden of the Museum of history of Marseille

At the archeological site of the Bourse, you can visit the vestiges of the ancient port.
The acces to this calm and beautiful garden is from the Museum of history of Marseille.

Museum of history of Marseille
Metro vieux port
2 rue Henri Barbusse 13001 Marseille
Also accessible from the Bourse Shopping center
Disabled access

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