10 things to do away from the rugby in Marseille

While two Rugby World Cup quarter finals is reason enough to visit Marseille in October 2023, there’s enough to do away from the rugby in France’s second biggest city to justify booking in at least a few extra days before or after the matches, or as part of a bigger trip to France. 

Here are our 10 must do activities in Marseille away from the rugby. 

Play Pétanque in le Panier, the old town

Spending an hour or two wandering the streets of le Panier is a perfect way to spend a morning in Marseille. If your travelling companion has more endurance than you though, particularly in the craft shops, then it’s well worth sneaking away to one of the many Pétanque courts hidden around the streets of le Panier. 

Pétanque is similar to bocce, but very serious business in Marseille and most of the south of France. Played on small sand or gravel courts, it’s the French equivalent of lawn bowls and fantastic for people watching or for a game if you’re up for it. 

Visit Mucem and wander the terrace and gardens

When you’re finished with Pétanque and the craft stores and cafes of le Panier, wander down the hill to Mucem – Marseille’s Museum of Civilisations of Europe and the Mediterranean.

While the exhibitions are worth a visit, the terrace and gardens on top of Mucem are free and offer one of the best views of Marseille and Notre-Dame de la Garde in the distance.   

Calanques National Park

The Calanques National Park is a must see. The natural landscape is incredibly unique, it almost feels like the ends of the earth. You then turn a corner or walk down a hill to find incredible sandy beaches and some of the brightest turquoise waters the Mediterranean has to offer.

Accessible by either boat or car, there are plenty of hikes and beaches to discover and it’s all just over 30 minutes from the centre of Marseille. 

The National Park is a protected area and visitors must ensure they take all rubbish with them. Hikers are also encouraged to pack at least two litres of drinking water. 

Eat Bouillabaisse

The multicultural nature of Marseille means you can find the best of just about every cuisine around town, but seafood is undoubtedly the star of the show. Bouillabaisse, a seafood stew local to Marseille is a must try and le Miramar, a famous restaurant in the Vieux Port is the ideal place to do it. 

Sidecar tour

While much of Marseille is within walking distance from the centre of town, the city does spread right across more than 40 kilometres of coastline. If you’re short on time, the best way to see it all is from the back or the side of a Vintage Sidecar. La Belle Échappée will wizz two of you around the main sights of Marseille over a few hours and give you the low down on the city. 

Eric and his team are fantastic and offer similar tours throughout the vineyards and breweries of Provence. 

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. 

Wander the markets of Noailles 

Noailles’ markets are the “belly of Marseille” and showcase the city at its multicultural best. African and Asian cuisines feature prominently alongside the best local produce from the countryside of Provence and the Mediterranean sea. 

Cosquer Cave museum

The Cosquer Cave was discovered by French diver Henry Cosquer in the Calanques National Park in 1985. Cosquer ventured more than 130 metres into a rock wall, 36 metres below sea level and eventually discovered a cave featuring close to 500 prehistoric artworks dating back 30,000 years. 

Earlier this year, a replica was built on the Marseille waterfront to allow those of us with brain cells an opportunity to explore a replica of Cosquer’s discoveries and remain dry at the same time. 

MX Pastis museum

Pastis is a traditional aperitif, local to Marseille and you can learn all about it at a concept store/museum built next to the Pernod-Ricard headquarters in the old docks of Marseille. The old docks have been recently renovated into a high end commercial centre filled with boutique stores, bars and restaurants. After learning about the history of the drink and the brand that made it famous, you finish in a bar where a pastis cocktail making class will get you going at any time of the day. 

Watch the city change colour from above 

Marseille is beautiful by day but spectacular at night and watching the transition with a drink and some Panisses in hand is a fantastic experience. While you can’t see the sun set over the water from Vieux Port, the view from the western end of the harbour, looking back at the city is amazing. At night, the lights of Palais du Pharo and Notre-Dame de la Garde can be seen right around the city and are both a sight to be seen. 

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