Big cities always have this electrifying charm: speedy live, lots of traffic, thousands and thousands of people. And yet, it’s still kind of great if you escape that from time to time. Besides that, we just love to have some spots only to ourselves – not just for the peace but also for creative moments while taking pictures. During our stay in Marseille we looked for that quiet areas and maybe even secret spots and found the 10 best viewpoints in Marseille.
1. Notre-Dame de la Garde
The Notre-Dame de la Garde is basically THE landmark of the city and our favorite of the 10 best viewpoints in Marseille. It is located on a 161 meters high hill and you can spot it from almost everywhere. There are different ways to get up to the Basilica. And one of them is an amazing alternative to escape the crowds and get rewarded with a nice view over the city and the surrounding islands. Honestly, we have found this little trail by accident and while we were already on the top. So, we cannot really say, which way you have to take if you start from downtown.
If you are on the platform of the basilica, stay on the first level and don’t go any higher. Walk along the main entrance up to the front where you can see the ocean. Go to the middle of the platform. There you should see a small gate on your left. If you walk through it, you discover a huge arrangement of smaller trails around the hill. You can walk through the area or just sit there and enjoy the view.
2. Palais du Pharo
You can find this beautiful spot very close to the Vieux-Port. If you are in this area you should definitely give this one a try. Simply walk down the main road heading south for around 10 minutes (depends on where your start). Pass the Sofitel and the New Hotel of Marseille and you’ll find the entrance to the park on your right. There is also a bus station in the front (lines 82, 82S). The parc is named after Émile Duclaux, a French microbiologist. The Palais du Pharo itself was built by Napoleon III approx. in 1851. After his death it became a medical school. Now it is used as a congress center. The surroundings are still accessible for everyone from 07:00 am till 9:00 pm for free. Up there you have an incredible view over the entire Vieux-Port, the MuCEM, the Cathedral and the islands.
The area of the Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean is basically free of charge. You can enter through the main entrance on the ground floor or pass the bridge next to the Vieux-Port. We recommend you to walk over the bridge, because from there you’ll already experience a great view over the Port. Except of that, it doesn’t matter which entrance you choose. You still have to pass security control and might have to say “see you later” to your tripod. After that you can feel free to explore the surroundings. Only if you want to visit the exhibitions you might have to buy a proper ticket.
In case you’ve been to the Palais du Pharo before or you drove though the city by car, you might have recognized a very strange building: a black cube with curved and transparent ornaments. Yeah well, that’s the main building of the MuCEM. On the top you can find a roof terrace that offers you great views over the Palais du Pharo and the ocean. You can sit on one of the chairs and just relax for a bit. Fun fact: it faces west – so you could get lucky and see a hell of sunset up there. Due to the unconventional architecture the light breaks through the ornaments and leaves an astonishing image on the ground.
4. Palais Longchamp
At the very end of the Boulevard Longchamp you will find an architectural masterpiece. Due to water shortage since the late middle ages this building actually is an upgrade for a pipe and water supply system that provided the entire city. The park and the outsides of the building are free of charge and can be discovered by yourself. Only if you want to visit the enclosed museums you have to buy a ticket. On the top of the stairs you can enjoy a beautiful view over the city, spotting the Notre Dame de la Garde on the horizon. Because it’s higher than most of the other buildings and it faces west as well, you can stay for the sun to go down.
5. Main Station – Gare de Marseille-Saint-Charles
In case you travel by train you will probably arrive at the main station Saint-Charles. If not, you should definitely stop by. The outside building is really beautiful. On top of the that, its location makes this station kind of unique. The station lays on a hill way over the city and you can access it through a huge and stunning staircase. Because it lays it little higher than the rest, you have a great view over Marseille and maybe can even enjoy a romantic sunset. You can reach the station within a 15min walk from the city center, the metro M1 and M2 or the bus 509.
6. Vallon des Auffes
Vallon des Auffes is a small port which is mainly used for fishing. It is located right on the Corniche Kennedy. From there you don’t really have a view over something but rather AT something. If you are on top of the Corniche Kennedy face the small port, turn left and take the steps down. Once you’re at the same level as the boats turn left again and walk through the entire port until you find a small but really natural swimming pool (It actually is the ocean but it has handles on the side and it is shaped like a pool).
Go along the entire pool, but be careful – in case of a moody ocean the waves can become pretty huge, swap over and soak you up. After you walked the entire path you’ll end up at a huge amount of stones – that you now can climb on. It’s not that risky, but you should be aware of what you are doing, wear good shoes and maybe have a flashlight in case you want to spent the sundown over there. At that is what this spot actually really is amazing for: having a beer and watching the sunset.
7. Plage des Catalans
This is a small beach that is located close to the city. You can also play a match of volleyball or enjoy the view over the ocean and the island on a small platform. We visited the Plage des Catalans during December. Except of some brave swimmers and sunseekers we had the beach almost to ourselves. In the summertime it’s probably really crowded. Where is this platform? If you are close to the Vieux Port you can give this small beach a try and visit it. You can easily go by feet or take the bus. It’s 20-30min walk (depends on where you start). If you go by bus you can take the busses 82 or 82s to Station Pharo Catalans (approx. 14min) or 83 or 583 to Station Corniche Audeoud (approx. 14min).
8. La Corniche
The corniche is a picturesque road along the coast of Marseille. It starts after the Vieux-Port and follows the sea towards south for approx. 5km. If you drive along that road with your car (or maybe even with the bus) you get rewarded with some of the best views a street can offer you. Next to the road there is also an area for strolling, running and riding the bike. The Corniche is named after the President Kennedy and a walk by foot lasts about 2 hours (both directions). You can either walk both directions or only walk one and use the bus 82 for the return. Along the way you have several opportunities to take stunning pictures – so make sure that your batteries are charges.
9. Plage du Prado
At the end of the corniche you can find one of the biggest beaches in Marseille: Plage du Prado. Different to the Plage des Catalans, which is closer to the city center, this beach is kind of surrounded by mountains. If you walk along the beach for a little stroll or just to enjoy the sun, you can see some of the peaks of the Parc National des Calanques. The highest one is up to 434 meters high and is characterised by a rugged and karstified landscape. If you start at the Viuex Port you can reach the beach by taking the bus 83 (approx. 30min.) or by taking the metro M1 and the bus 19 (approx. 29min).
10. Friche la belle de Mai
This cultural institute gives several artists a platform, offers kids the opportunity to spend their free time with activities within a great community and also offers sport actions like football, basketball and skating. Friche la belle de Mai is built in a former tobacco factory and also has a pretty amazing roof terrace. We already found that one while we prepared our trip and were really eager to go up there. Unfortunately, it was closed during our visit and we couldn’t get up. During summer it is open and you can not just enjoy the view but also could get lucky with cool events, like music festivals or movie screenings. Check out that link for any further Infos: La Friche.