The capital of the French region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Marseille’s history goes back to the days of Ancient Greece and Rome, when it was known as Massalia. It has been an important trading center in Europe throughout the centuries and it is still the largest commercial, freight, and cruise port in the country.
Here’s what you need to know for planning a hassle-free trip to Marseille:
ARRIVING in Marseille
Marseille is easily reachable both to domestic and international visitors. Realistically, on a short trip, you’ll arrive in Marseille by plane or train. But you could certainly also reach it by bus, ferry, cruise or car.
Marseille is served by the Aéroport de Marseille Provence (MRS), located 25km away from the city center. There’s no direct rail connection to the city center, so you have a few options to reach Gare de Marseille Saint-Charles, where you can connect to the rest of the transport system:
- direct shuttle bus (line 91), running every 10-40min, with a journey time of 25-50min depending on traffic. Tickets costs €10 and €16 for single and round-trip for adults, respectively. Buy tickets online (careful: print out on A4 paper is obligatory) and the ticket offices in the departure points. When the offices are closed, you can also buy them onboard. Lastly, there’s an option to combine the shuttle with a pass to the Marseille public transport.
- free shuttle from the airport to Vitrolles-Aéroport Marseille Provence (running every 10-15min, with a journey time of approx. 5min). From there, a TER (regional express train) to St. Charles, which runs roughly every 20 minutes, with a journey time of 20min. Prices can vary, check the prices and buy tickets at SNFC.
If your point of departure allows, arriving by rail is the most practical arrival. Gare de Marseille Saint-Charles is the main rail station in the city. It connects the city to various domestic and international destinations, including high-speed routes. Marseille is only 3h away from Paris with TGV, which makes it a practical weekend trip or even day-trip.
To reach the city center from St. Charles, in other words, Vieux Port (Old Port), there are two easy options:
- a short 1.3km walk;
- M1 for 2 stops.
Although the Vieux Port de Marseille remains the main popular place in the city, nowadays it’s mainly used as a marina, as a terminal for local boat trips, as well as hosting a fresh fish market.
The actual point of arrivals and departures for cruises and ferries is a complex called the Grand Port Maritime de Marseille, also called Marseille-Fos Port. The passenger terminals are right next to the Joliette metro, tram and bus station, providing easy access to Vieux Port:
- direct bus no. 49, with barely any walking, for 8 stops and roughly 8min journey time;
- M2 to St Charles (2 stops), then a change onto M1 until Vieux Port (2 stops), with a total journey time of roughly 15 minutes;
- direct bus no. 55, with a little bit of walking, for 4 stops and roughly 12min journey time;
- T2 to Canebière Capucins (4 stops) with a journey time of 6min, followed by a 5min walk.
There are several bus international routes connecting Marseille to other French cities and beyond. The main coach station is Gare Routière Saint-Charles, directly connected to Gare de Marseille Saint-Charles, with rail and métro connections. You can easily walk to Vieux Port, or take the M1 for 2 stops only.
GETTING AROUND Marseille
The public transport system is operated by Régie des transports de Marseille (RTM) and includes the subway (métro), trams, buses, and the ferry boat. Don’t confuse the ferry boat, which crosses the Vieux Port from Quai du Port/Mairie to Quai Rive Neuve/Place aux Huiles, with la navette, a sea shuttle connecting the piers of L’Estaque, Vieux Port, Pointe Rouge and Les Goudes, which are paid separately.
Although Marseille is very walkable, you might want to use the transport network to reach a couple of places of interest, like the Notre-Dame de la Garde, from where you have amazing views over the city. For short-term visitors, the best cost/benefit is the time-based tickets:
- Pass 24h, costing €5.20;
- Pass 72h, costing €10.80, both valid from the first validation for unlimited travel within Zone Bleue.
- Combinés Aéroport Marseille + Pass 7 Jours, costing €25.60, valid for 7 days from the first validation, including the airport shuttle and the lanavettes.
As mentioned before, the sea shuttles are not included in the 24h/72h passes, so you’ll have to pay extra for the lanavettes if you choose to use them:
- Vieux Port — L’Estaque: €5;
- Vieux Port — Pointe Rouge: €5; and
- Vieux Port — Les Goudes: €8.
However, if the passes are too much for your needs, a single ticket (unlimited travel for 59min, but limited to only 1 métro access) costs €1.70 at points of sale; or €2, if bought directly in the bus.RTM_Marseille_Plan Centreville