Urban walks in Marseille

Walk in the streets of Marseille and discover the city in a different way

There are many urban walks in Marseille that allow you to explore the city on foot. Here are some ideas for itineraries and walks to visit the city at your own pace, to discover its heritage and its 111 districts, each one richer than the next.

Discover Marseille on foot

In Marseille, each district is typical, it has its own history, it allows you to discover private mansions with facades that know how to hide their secrets, sumptuous bastides, places of worship for all beliefs, fishermen’s huts, unusual places, hidden gardens and colourful inhabitants.

The best way to explore Marseille’s neighbourhoods is to wear comfortable shoes, carry water and bring walking sticks if you have to, because here in the city it’s often up and down.

Here are some suggestions for walking around Marseille at your own pace.

Each urban walk is a circuit for which we indicate the distance and the walking time. Sometimes, after climbing a hill or a long flight of stairs, a short break to catch your breath will be necessary, while admiring the panorama!

Are you ready? Then let’s go!

Walk on the south bank of the Vieux Port

The itinerary begins on the Canebière, a mythical and historic artery, lined with majestic facades, which in its heyday was home to grand hotels and the most beautiful cafés in Marseille. At number 9 is the Palais de la Bourse, the chamber of commerce and industry. Rue Beauvau leads to the Opera House. It was partially destroyed by fire in 1919, hence its Art Deco façade. At the back of the building, turn right onto rue Francis Davso, which leads to the Cours Estienne d’Orves.

A real city within the city, the Arcenaulx were the former warehouses of the arsenal of the royal galleys at the time of Louis XIV. Today, this Italian-style square is an attractive district with its cafés, restaurants and artists’ galleries. Parallel to this is the Rue Sainte, which leads to the Abbaye Saint-Victor. Just before reaching it, stop at the Four des Navettes, the oldest bakery in Marseille (1781) where you can taste the navettes, a typical Marseille orange blossom biscuit much appreciated by gourmets. To the right of the Bertie Albrecht square, enjoy the panoramic view of the Vieux-Port and the old town.

Then head for Fort Saint-Nicolas (17th century), the work of the Chevalier de Clerville. During the construction of the Palais du Pharo, the fort was cut in two to create an access road, so that today, Fort Saint-Nicolas is composed of Fort d’Entrecasteaux for the upper part and Fort Ganteaume for the lower part. When you arrive in front of the gates of the Palais du Pharo, cross the public garden which offers other magnificent views of Marseille.

Walking tour in the city centre of Marseille

This urban walk is not difficult and allows you to combine the contemplation of the heritage with a shopping activity. The route passes through the shopping streets of the city centre. For all tastes and budgets, you will find the biggest luxury brands, the brands of the big international chains or the small traders. Look up and you will see beautiful facades from the 18th and 19th centuries, witnesses of a sumptuous era. Some shops have even preserved architectural elements (staircases, railings, marble, gilding, etc.) from these former private mansions, so don’t hesitate to go in and admire them. In order, you will pass by the place du Général de Gaulle, to then go up the rue Saint Férréol, which ends in the place de la Préfecture. The Prefecture building is the symbol of the power of the Second Empire. From there, the Boulevard Paul Peytral leads to the Place Estrangin-Pastré and its fountain representing the four continents and underlining the maritime vocation of Marseille. Continue the visit to explore the antique dealers’ district (Rues Paradis, Sylvabelle, Saint-Jacques, Dragon, Saint-Suffren and Sainte-Victoire). A wrought-iron arch at the bottom of Rue Edmond Rostand marks the entrance to this district, which has been home to second-hand dealers, art galleries, second-hand booksellers and decorators since the 1950s. 

Did you know?

Zarafa, France’s first giraffe, was offered to Charles X by Mehemet-Ali and travelled by boat from Egypt, landing in Marseille on 23 October 1826. After being quarantined, she was escorted to the private gardens of the Prefecture. The animal, used to the African climate, spent the winter in Marseille to acclimatise, before walking to Paris. She was walked every day under the astonished eyes of the Marseillais, who had never before seen such an animal in real life.

Walk in the Noailles district

This urban walk starts on the Canebière and will lead you to the Palais Longchamp and its monumental fountain. The route follows the Cours Saint Louis, the “Petit Cours” which takes its name from Louis d’Anjou. This is where the first santon fair was held in 1803. Then we enter the Noailles district. In a colourful effervescence, plunge into the Mediterranean cultures and discover the different stalls. After crossing the Boulevard Garibaldi, you reach the Rue du Théâtre Français. This is an Italian-style theatre and was once called the “French Theatre” to mark its vocation dedicated to French literature. Then you reach the upper part of the Canebière again. There is a self-service book terminal in the shape of a giraffe to pay homage to the famous Zarafa, mentioned in the urban walk that leads to the Prefecture, and the Monument aux Mobiles, which celebrates the soldiers of the Garde Mobile from the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. At the very end of the Canebière, you find yourself facing the Saint-Vincent de Paul church, nicknamed “les Réformés” because it is located on the site of the chapel of the Augustins Réformés. Its 2 spires rise 70 m above the Canebière. As you walk up the majestic avenue of plane trees on Boulevard Longchamp, you will see on your right the town house that houses the Grobet-Labadie museum. To end this urban stroll, you can discover the Palais Longchamp which was built to celebrate the arrival of the waters of the Durance in Marseille. Discover also its museums and its English garden.

Walking tour of the new districts of Marseille

Discover the various emblematic architectural elements that shape the urban panorama today. The esplanade, which marks the starting point, takes its name from a former port area that housed the J4 hangar. Today it is home to the Mucem and the Villa Méditerranée, two museum spaces inaugurated in 2013 when the city was European Capital of Culture. A third site completes the cultural offer, it is the Regards de Provence Museum, a former 20th century sanitary depository. Then you arrive in front of the monumental Cathedral de la Major. Below, there are the Voûtes, a real link between the old town, the Panier district and the new seafront, where you can find places to relax and shop. Continuing on, the urban stroll leads to the historic Docks building and the Terrasses du Port, a shopping centre. On its second level, it has a 260-metre long terrace that offers a 180-degree panoramic sea view. The itinerary continues towards the Cepac Silo, a former port grain silo that has been transformed into a theatre. Enter to admire the udder room. You will walk along the CMA-CGM tower (145 m high) to reach the Departmental Archives. The FRAC and its pixelated glass facade, which looks like a Paco Rabanne dress with sequins, when in fact it is more a question of opening up the structure to a space of subdued light according to Japanese tradition, closes this urban walking route.

Did you know?

The Nouvelle Major is the last cathedral built in France since the 19th century and the largest in existence. Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte laid the first stone. It took no less than three architects to complete the work: Léon Vaudoyer and Henry Espérandieu, the architect of Notre-Dame de la Garde, and Henri Revoil completed the construction. La Major was consecrated in 1896.

Walk in the hills of Roucas Blanc

After visiting Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, explore the Roucas Blanc. This district, a veritable maze of narrow streets, can only be visited on foot and offers magnificent views of the city. It is also the place of free expression of the Rocailleurs Marseillais of the 19th century: craftsmen and creators of ornaments, sometimes very singular, one finds their creations in the dream gardens of the rich houses of the district. Via the uphill crossings and sloping streets, you will reach the Corniche Kennedy and the Plage du Prophète. Its fine sand and turquoise waters will offer you a nice reward after a rather sportive walk. This is really the most amazing urban walk, so we invite you to look at your surroundings with curiosity and attention.

Walking in the Traviolles of the Vauban district

Perched on the foothills of the Colline de la Garde, the Vauban district oscillates between tradition and modernity. In a “village” spirit, you will find renowned food shops and designer boutiques.

The starting point of this urban walk is the path that leads down next to the big cross at the foot of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde. This is where the funicular once started. Pedestrian signposts make it easy to follow this route, which is all downhill and allows you to take the discreet alleys and little-known staircases that Marseille is famous for.

At the level of rue Edmond Rostand, you enter the Antiquaries district and reach Place Castellane.

Did you know?

At number 14 of the present rue Edmond Rostand, formerly known as rue Monteaux, is the house where the author, made famous by his play “Cyrano de Bergerac”, grew up. He left Marseille at the age of 17 to go to the capital. It was after his death in 1918 at the age of 50 that the street was renamed to honour him. He is buried in the Saint-Pierre cemetery in Marseille.

Walking in the old town of Marseille, the Panier district

When you arrive in Marseille, it’s usually with this urban walk that you begin your discovery of the city. The ombrière is the spot for selfies, thanks to the structure’s mirrored ceiling. When it was created by the Greeks and until the arrival of Louis XIV in 1660, the city of Marseille was limited to these 60 hectares on the north bank of the Old Port. This is therefore the oldest district of Marseille, called the Panier, after the name of the eponymous inn. Few monumental traces remain because the great cleaning of the district by the Germans in 1943 spared only a few large monuments: the Town Hall, the Hôtel de Cabre, the Maison Diamantée, the former Hôtel-Dieu, the Saint-Laurent church …. Today, in this district steeped in history, there are a multitude of small craftsmen, restaurants and also the Vieille Charité museum. The typical narrow streets of the Panier are representative of Mediterranean cities. Here you have the opportunity to explore a real village in the city.