With a couple of days in Marseille you’ll have plenty to do and see. You’ll find yourself busy running around the Old Port visiting fortresses, churches, and other interesting attractions. But the fun doesn’t stop there, there are plenty more awesome places to visit around the South of France. All you need is a spare day or two and you’ll have no problem visiting some of the best places to visit from Marseille. To show you what we’re talking about, here are some of the best day trips from Marseille which you won’t want to miss.
How to Get Around
Although many of the day trips mentioned below can be done by public transport, consider renting a car for the day to give yourself more flexibility and independence. Your own four wheels allow you to be in control of your time and schedule, and depending on how many people are in your group, renting a car might even work out cheaper than other forms of transportation. You can compare car rental deals and find the cheapest prices at Rentalcars.com, an aggregation site that searches and displays prices and availability from hundreds of car rental companies so that you can be sure of getting the best possible car for your budget
Don’t want to drive or deal with the hassle of public transport? No worries, we have listed the best tour for each day trip (where available).
To explore more of the Provence region, start with the city of Aix-en-Provence. This pretty university city is one of the most classic Marseille day trips thanks to its historical character. Begin by strolling down the Cours Mirabeau, the city’s main boulevard, to see its lovely fountains as well as mansions and cafes. Next, head for the Aix Cathedral, an eclectic looking building that even includes several Roman columns. To marvel at elegant mansions and residences from the 16th to 18th century, head for the Quartier Mazarin. Art-lovers will want to follow the walking trail dedicated to local painter Paul Cézanne which will bring them to places like his childhood home and the studio where he worked. Aix-en-Provence also has hot springs, so you can treat yourself to a relaxing spa session.
Getting there: To get from Marseille to Aix-en-Provence you have a choice of bus or train. Buses run frequently and only take 30 minutes, while trains are hourly and take 50 minutes. However, to combine Aix-en-Provence with other destinations it’s best to go on a guided tour.
Nice is the other major city in this corner of France, that’s why it’s high among the best side trips from Marseille. Get going with a walk along the Promenade des Anglais, Nice’s famous beachside promenade which is home to elegant cafes and hotels. From there, you can head to Place Massena and check out its grand architecture. Nice is also home to two impressive religious buildings; the Nice Cathedral and the Notre-Dame de Nic, both of which are worth visiting. Continuing up the hill you’ll eventually reach the Castle Hill, where a pleasant public garden with great views has replaced what was once the Castle of Nice. As for museums, Nice has many to choose from, but the Musée Matisse and the Marc Chagall National Museum are the most popular.
Getting there: Regular trains travel from Marseille to Nice and the journey takes 2 hours 40 minutes. You can combine Nice with other spots along the French Riviera on a guided tour.
3. Calanques National Park
Just a short trip from Marseille along the coast lies the untouched nature of the Calanques National Park. This coastal reserve mostly covers islands and marine area, but there’s also plenty of rugged terrain to explore on the mainland. Trails for hiking and mountain biking stretch throughout the park and are the best way to see the peaks of the rocky Massif des Calanques and the many inlets and caves that dot its coast. Popular spots to visit within Calanques National Park include picturesque inlet beaches like Calanque de Sormiou and Calanque de Sugiton. Alternatively, you can choose to experience the underwater treasures of Calanques National Park by snorkelling or scuba diving near one of the park’s islands.
Getting there: You can take one of several local buses into different parts of Calanques National Park, but perhaps the easiest is the 21 which goes to Luminy, in the park, and should get you there in under an hour. Alternatively, take a mountain bike tour of Calanques or go on a snorkeling and diving tour there.
4. Sénanque Abbey
One of the real highlights of the Provence region that you won’t want to miss is Sénanque Abbey near Gordes. Not only is this Cistercian abbey from the 12th century a significant historical landmark, it’s also a captivating one. This is because the abbey is bordered by lavender fields which, when in bloom during summer, are just magical. The resident monks support the abbey by harvesting the lavender and also sell honey. Before enjoying this scenery though, you’ll want to take a tour of the active abbey. Walking through Sénanque Abbey you’ll get to visit the church, the cloister, and other rooms which have hardly changed for centuries.
Getting there: With no public transport options, the only way to get from Marseille to Senanque Abbey is by car.
If you’re after a quiet escape to the seaside, Cassis is where you’ll want to go. One of the more popular day tours from Marseille, this fishing port on the edge of Calanques National Park boasts classic Mediterranean charm. Start in the town’s ultra-scenic harbor and walk between its pastel buildings and the many small boats docked along the waterfront. Head down to the Plage de la Grande Mer beach for a pleasant spot to sit and relax. A more active alternative is to take one of the many local walking trails and make your way to Cap Canaille, a rocky promontory with wonderful views of the sea below. Back by the harbor you can feast on some of the excellent local seafood at one of the many seafood restaurants.
Getting there: Shuttle buses run from Marseille to Cassis roughly every two hours, the journey takes around 40 minutes. To be shown around town though you’ll want to go on a guided tour.
6. Frioul Islands
Exploring Marseille you’re bound to have spotted the Frioul Islands just off the coast. There are four islands which make up the Frioul archipelago, but the most popular is the smallest of them: If. If is home to the infamous Château d’If, a fortress-turned-prison that is featured in the well-known novel The Count of Monte Cristo. But there are things to see on the other islands as well, particularly the connected islands of Ratonneau and Pomègues. On Ratonneau you’ll find beaches, bars, and restaurants which make it perfect if you want to take it easy, whereas Pomègues features unspoiled nature that suits those looking for somewhere to go hiking.
Getting there: Ferries leave Marseille for Ratonneau and Château d’If about every hour and take about 30 minutes to get there.
A great choice for a day trip in this part of France is the wonderfully preserved city of Avignon. Sitting along the banks of the Rhône River and surrounded by city walls, Avignon is a delightful place to explore. It’s best to begin with the city’s most important landmark, the Palais des Papes where the Pope of the Catholic Church lived during the 14th century. Nearby you’ll find Avignon Cathedral and its glamorous interior which is well worth a look. Up behind the cathedral lies Jardin des doms, a hilltop park which provides some great views over the city and the riverfront. But for a great view back to Avignon it’s best to walk out onto the Pont d’Avignon, an incomplete medieval bridge that lets you see the city in all its glory. Otherwise, you can take your pick of various palace museums or simply wander the quaint streets.
Getting there: Avignon is one of the easy train trips from Marseille with frequent trains making the 35 minute trip. If you want to visit other places alongside Avignon though, it’s best to take an organized tour.
Even though it’s popular among the rich and famous, Saint-Tropez is one of the best places to visit in France for any kind of traveler. Saint-Tropez lies on the French Riviera and boasts yachts, beaches, bars, and more yachts, which you can spend plenty of time admiring by the waterfront. But the town does have attractions as well, even beyond the famous beaches of Plage de Pampelonne and Plage de Tahiti. You can see some fantastic Post-Impressionist artwork at the Musée de l’Annonciade, from a time when the town was crawling with artists instead of socialites. For seaside views, head over to the impressive Citadel of Saint-Tropez which houses the local maritime museum and a lookout from atop its defenses.
Getting there: Unfortunately there are no public transport connections with Saint-Tropez from Marseille so you’ll need your own wheels to get there.
Who can resist the chance to pop over to another country while in Europe? Well, when you’re in the South of France, the small nation of Monaco is the easiest way to make that happen. Although known for its casinos and the annual Grand Prix motor race, the principality of Monaco has other attractions that can keep you busy on a day there. Visit Monaco City on the “Rock of Monaco” to see the city’s old town and enjoy the sweeping vistas you get from atop its old fortifications. It’s also here that you can watch the changing of the guard outside the Prince’s Palace of Monaco and see all kinds of sea life at the Musée Océanographique de Monaco. Over in Monte Carlo you can see the city’s famed casino complex and other stunning belle-époque buildings like the Salle Garnier opera house.
Getting there: There are regular trains which will get you from Marseille to Monaco, but they take around 3 ½ hours. A better use of your time may be to go with a guided tour as driving is considerably quicker.
10. Verdon Gorge
Alongside many historic cities and towns there are some impressive nature-based things to see in France outside of Marseille, like the Verdon Gorge. This immense canyon along the Verdon River is the deepest in France and adored for the turquoise color of its water. There are many different ways to experience the Verdon Gorge, with hiking trails following the canyon, climbing routes that scale its limestone walls, and kayaks available for rent. You’ll also find plenty of lookout points around the canyon’s rim, many of which are accessible by both foot and car. Of course, while you’re journeying around this region you can easily stop in at the nearby villages. Some options include the village of Aiguines, known for the pretty Château d’Aiguines, and the village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, home to the medieval Notre Dame de Beauvoir Chapel.
Getting there: Because of its location up in the mountains, the only real way to visit Verdon Gorge from Marseille is to drive yourself there.
For the chance to see some stunning ancient Roman monuments in the South of France make your way to the wonderful city of Nimes. This city in the Occitanie region is loaded with history, which you’ll see immediately if you start at the Nimes Arena. This large, double-storey amphitheater is in phenomenal shape for a structure that’s almost 2000 years old. Next, take a wander through its narrow pedestrian streets to reach the Maison Carrée, an ancient Roman temple. From there follow the nearby canal to the lovely Jardins de la Fontaine park with its elegant fountain. The park also holds the ruins of the Temple to Diana and paths that lead to the hilltop Tour Magne, a tower with superb views across the city.
Getting there: Regular trains run from Marseille to Nimes and the trip usually takes just over an hour.
Of the many pretty towns along the coastline of the French Riviera, Èze is one that’s criminally underrated. Nestled between Nice and Monaco it is understandable that the town is overlooked, but those who skip it are missing out. Start in the town’s medieval village up in the hills, where you can walk down cobblestone lanes and past old-fashioned stone houses. Then head upwards to the Point de Vue where you’ll enjoy stellar views of the coast that make all that up-hill walking worth it. One of the oldest buildings, and an icon of Éze, is the Chapelle de la Sainte Croix which dates back to the 1300s. Finish the day by venturing down to Èze-sur-Mer by the water, and relax at the Plage de la Baie beach.
Getting there: To reach Éze from Marseille you’ll need to take a train to Nice and connect from there. The trip will take around 3 ½ hours with trains going every hour. A quicker option that includes other places along the French Riviera is to go with an organized tour.
Another of the smaller destinations in this part of France is the city of Arles which is known as a source of inspiration for Vincent Van Gogh. But Arles was also a major Roman city and is home to several major Roman landmarks, including the Arles Amphitheatre which is still used today. Elsewhere in town there’s the Alyscamps, a Roman necropolis with ruins of the large cemetery, and the Musée de l’Arles Antique, which is full of ancient artifacts. As for Van Gogh, there’s the Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles which celebrates art inspired by the Dutch painter. Arles also boasts plenty of Gothic and Romanesque architecture like the Church of St. Trophime, the Montmajour Abbey, and other buildings found on the main square of Place de la République.
Getting there: Getting to Arles from Marseille is easy as there are regular trains that make the trip in less than an hour. But if you’d like to see other places nearby as well, you’re best to go with a guided tour.
You should now have plenty of day trip ideas from Marseille to get you started. It’s safe to say that there is a lot to see in the South of France, plenty of which is easily within reach.