10 reasons to visit Marseille during RWC 2023
Marseille is France’s second largest city and perhaps the most intriguing of the lot. Much more than just a port town, Marseille was originally 111 small villages that combined over the years to form a beautiful, bustling city that will put on a serious show during next year’s Rugby World Cup.
The Marseillais are beautiful, proud and friendly people who feel it is their duty to show you the best of their city (and convince you it’s better than Paris).
Here are 10 reasons why you must visit Marseille during next year’s World Cup.
Marseille’s Stade Orange Vélodrome is a 67,000 seat stadium just 10 minutes by train from the centre of the city. It will host Quarter Finals 1 and 3, which could potentially feature Australia, Wales, England, Argentina or Japan over one massive weekend. The city will be buzzing and it’s the perfect place to watch rugby whether you have tickets to the games or not.
Earlier in the tournament, Marseille will also host England v Argentina, South Africa v Scotland, France v Namibia and South Africa v Tonga.
The Marseillais take great pride in the fact that Marseille is nothing like, and according to them, far superior to Paris. They love their city and they’re not shy to tell you. They are friendly, passionate, wonderful people that seem genuinely interested in showing you the best of their town, plus they’re all sports crazy, which I’ll mention again a little later.
The Vieux Port
Picture a beautiful harbour filled with traditional fishing boats, surrounded by amazing French architecture and the incredible Notre-Dame de la Garde in the distance. On ground level, the Vieux Port is packed with bars and restaurants, with many showing live sport.
Then throw a Rugby World Cup Fan Zone and 100,000 rugby fans into the middle of all that. The place is going to go off and the atmosphere will be incredible before, during and after matches throughout the Rugby World Cup
As we mentioned earlier, Marseille used to be 111 small villages that eventually came together to form one city. Because of that, there really is something different around every corner. The Vieux Port is nothing like the old town, le Panier. Noailles, the “belly of Marseille” is completely different again. Saint Victor, Cours Julien, and le Vallon des Auffes, three personal favourites of Rugby News, are again unique and incredible in their own way.
And they’re all just a short walk or a tram ride away from one another.
The food and wine
The food and wine in Marseille, like in all of France, is fantastic. As a fishing port, seafood is the star of the show and Bouillabaisse (pronounced “BOO-ya-bess”), a fish stew, is famous to the region. Many restaurants and bars proudly serve produce only from Marseille and the Provence region.
Panisse, is fried chickpea and goes down a treat at anytime of the day, but particularly in the early evening with a Pastis (local Marseille aperitif) in hand.
The sporting culture
Rugby News was lucky enough to visit Marseille on a Wednesday night as Marseille’s famous but success starved football side played Tottenham in a UEFA Champions league match in London.
The entire city packed into bars and restaurants and flooded the streets to watch a match that started at 9pm on a school night. During the warmer months, the nightlife in Marseille pays no attention to the day of the week and the atmosphere that night in particular, was electric.
Big screens showing the match were everywhere and if you couldn’t get a seat, the French had no problem serving you a beer on the street while you watched the game.
They reckon it’ll be like that for all six weeks of the Rugby World Cup in Marseille.
Calanques National Park
A calanque is a steep and narrow inlet that guards beautiful sandy beaches and incredible turquoise waters throughout the Mediterranean.
The very best can be found in the Calanques National Park, just 30 minutes from the centre of Marseille.
Accessible by car or by boat, there are countless hikes and beaches to discover throughout the national park. It is a protected area though and visitors must ensure they leave no waste behind. Those looking to hike the Calanques are also recommended to take at least two litres of drinking water with them.
The scenery really is like nothing you’ve ever seen before and it’s absolutely worth a visit.
If you can fit it in, try to visit Les Goudes, a fisherman’s village on the edge on the national park with plenty of beaches and restaurants for lunch.
The city at night
While Marseille and its harbour is beautiful during the day, at night the city comes alive. Watching the daylight disappear, the colours of the buildings change and the lights throughout the city turn on each evening is a real experience and can be enjoyed from countless vantage points around the city.
The locals also highly recommend sneaking across to le Vallon des Auffes, a small fishing port not far from the Vieux Port, for a sunset. If you can’t get a seat at one of the small restaurants or bars, grab a bottle of wine and some nibblies, take a seat around the port and watch the local fisherman finish their day in one of the most unique sunset spots you’ll find anywhere in the world.
Notre-Dame de la Garde
Notre-Dame de la Garde sits at the highest point of Marseille and watches over sailors, fishermen, and the people of Marseille at all times. The locals refer to the catholic basilica as “la Bonne Mère” (the Good Mother). She always has an eye on the people of Marseille and they can also see her from almost every point of the city.
The view of Marseille from the top of Notre-Dame de la Garde is incredible and stretches up and down the coastline. The trip from Vauban Quarter to the top of the hill of ‘Garde’ is equally as impressive.
Marseille has an international airport, a TGV or fast train station and plenty of local transport options. From Paris, a fast train to Marseille takes just over 3 hours. You can also easily explore the French countryside in Provence or the Cote d’Azur or French Riviera before or after your stay in Marseille.