What to do on may 1st in Marseille?

How to survive May 1st (labour day) in Marseille? No public transport, shops closed, museums closed (well, not all of them!) you’re thinking, what’s the point of going out? Well, think again! We’ve put together a list of places that are open (or closed, at least, so there are no surprises!) and things to do to get out and about on May 1st!

Published on 16 April 2024

Public transport

And yes, on May 1st, you won’t find any public transport in the Phocaean city, as in many other French cities. If you want to get around, use the self-service bicycles, scooters or even … your feet. If you want to visit the city, the little tourist trains (Panier and Notre-Dame de la Garde) normally run all day long, as does the double-decker bus: Le Colorbüs.
Ferries will take you as far as the Pointe-Rouge or l’Estaque.
The ferry to Frioul will be running as usual, but please note that the Château d’If will be closed on this day.

If you need to get to your cruise ship, the free shuttles will operate as usual. (Place de la Joliette <> Cruise port)

Open or closed?

Places closed

All the municipal museums will be closed (weekly closure on Mondays), as will the Mucem, the Musée Regards de Provence and the MX Expérience. The Orange Vélodrome will also be closed on Labour Day.

Places open

But all is not lost! The replica of the famous Cosquer cave will be open all day, so make the most of the opportunity to discover this jewel of prehistory! Notre-Dame de la Garde, the symbol of Marseille, is also open from 7am to 6pm. You can also check out the “Van Gogh- The Immersive Experience” exhibition currently on show at the Dock des Suds, or have some fun at the Musée de l’illusion, a surprising experience!

If you’re feeling sporty, head to the Palais omnisport (Le POMGE) where the skate park and ice rink will be open from 10am to 6.30pm.

This day is also an opportunity to visit Marseille in a different way, and on foot. We’ve selected a wide range of urban walks for you to do, depending on what you want to do and how much time you have. Let us guide you, we’ll tell you all about it!

Our tours and activities

The Tourist Office has a whole host of activities and visits on offer for May 1st. Treasure hunts in the town, electric bike rides, Tuk Tuk tours, orienteering races in Frioul or Pastré? the choice is yours!

Why is May 1st celebrated?

Historically, May 1st dates back to 1886 in the United States. The American workers’ unions demanded an 8-hour working day. For American companies, May 1st corresponds to the start of the new accounting year. On May 1st of that same year, thousands of workers demonstrated peacefully across the country.

In France, it was 3 years later, in 1889, during the centenary celebration of the French Revolution, that it was decided that May 1st would be a day of pacifist demonstrations. The first demonstration took place in 1890. In 1891, the demonstration turned tragic and ended with a dozen deaths in the city of Fourmies in northern France.

In 1919, the French Parliament decided that May 1st would be a public holiday. In 1941, it was celebrated as ‘Labour Day’. In 1948, a law definitively established May 1st as a public holiday.

Traditionally, a sprig of Lily of the Valley is given on May 1st. In fact, you’ll find vendors selling their lucky sprigs on every street corner!