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. However, with plenty more awesome places to visit around the South of France, the fun doesn’t stop there. All you need is a spare day or two to reach some of the best places from Marseille. To show you what we’re talking about, here are some of the best day trips from Marseille that you won’t want to miss.
How to Get Around
Although you can make many of these day trips with public transport, consider renting a car for the day to give yourself more flexibility and independence. With your own four wheels, you control your time and schedule; depending on how many people are in your group, renting a car might even work out to be cheaper than other forms of transportation. You can compare car rental deals and find the lowest prices at Rentalcars.com, an aggregation site that searches and displays prices and availability from hundreds of car rental companies so that you can get the best possible car for your budget.
Don’t want to drive or deal with the hassle of public transport? No worries! We’ve listed the best tour for each day trip (where available).
To explore more of the Provence region, start with Aix-en-Provence. Thanks to its historical character, this pretty university city is one of the most classic Marseille day trips. Begin by strolling down the Cours Mirabeau, the city’s main boulevard, to see its lovely fountains as well as its mansions and cafés. Next, head for the Aix Cathedral, an eclectic looking building that includes several Roman columns. To marvel at elegant mansions and residences from the 16th to 18th centuries, 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, which is why it’s high among the best day trips from Marseille. Get going with a walk along the Promenade des Anglais, Nice’s famous beachside promenade, home to elegant cafés 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 Nice, both of which are worth visiting. Continuing up the hill, you’ll eventually reach 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 just under three hours. 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 snorkeling 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 but 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 selling honey. Before enjoying this scenery, though, you’ll want to take a tour of the active abbey. You’ll get to visit the church, the cloister, and other rooms that 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 taking 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 that 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. 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. Pomègues, on the other hand, 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.
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 lived during the 14th century. Nearby, you’ll find Avignon Cathedral and its glamorous interior, which is well worth a look. Behind the cathedral lies Jardin des doms, a hilltop park that provides some great views over the city and the riverfront. For a great view back to Avignon, it’s best to walk 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 an easy train trip 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. The town has attractions as well, even beyond the famous beaches of Plage de Pampelonne and Plage de Tahiti. You can see some fantastic Postimpressionist 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 for 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. 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 that will get you from Marseille to Monaco, but they take around 3.5 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 waters. 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 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-story amphitheater is in phenomenal shape for a structure that’s almost 2,000 years old. Next, take a wander through 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 as it is 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, where you can walk down cobblestone lanes and past stone houses. Then head up to the Point de Vue, where you’ll enjoy stellar views of the coast that make all that uphill 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 takes around 3.5 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, known as a source of inspiration for Vincent van Gogh. 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, 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. However, 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, and plenty within easy reach.