Marseille Vieux Port with many yachts and boats anchored in the marina and the Cathedral on the hill in the background

Marseille on Your Own: The Ultimate DIY Shore Excursion Guide

Marseille is one of the most popular cruise ports in the Mediterranean, welcoming over 3 million visitors each year. Whether you’re a history buff, art lover, or simply want to soak up the Mediterranean atmosphere, Marseille has something to offer. Located on the sunny southern coast of France, it’s the country’s oldest city and the third-largest (after Paris and Lyon). From historic attractions to gorgeous beaches, Marseille is truly a destination with something for everyone.

Fancy a day-trip to Aix-en-Provence? Then read my DIY Day Trip Guide to Aix-en-Provence (& Lavender Fields during Summer)

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Marseille Cruise Port: Is a DIY Shore Excursion Easy? 😎😎😎😎😎

My DIY Shore Excursion Rating for Marseille is 😎😎😎😎😎(Super-Easy). Independent exploration in Marseille is incredibly simple – here’s why:

  • Free Port Shuttle: This free port shuttle takes you directly to the centre of Marseille!
  • Public Bus to City Centre: Queues for the free city centre shuttle may be long but don’t worry, there’s public buses from the port to the city.
  • Excellent Bus, Tram & Metro Network: Marseille’s excellent public transit network will take you to all the attractions, and all for a day-pass of €5.20

👇 See my Marseille DIY shore excursion map below – all the public transit stops are marked. I loved my DIY visit to Marseille. Due to weather, our ship missed its call in Villefranche (for Nice) and was luckily rerouted to Marseille with nearly a full extra day in port!

Marseille Cruise Port Essentials: What Your Need to Know

Aerial photo of Marseille Cruise Port with 6 cruise ships docked
Image courtesy of Port of Marseille Fos

Marseille Cruise Port Address: Port of Marseille – Gate 4, Chemin du Littoral, 13015 Marseille

Note that there are two ports in Marseille. Large cruise ships will dock at Terminals A/B/C/D/E/F at Marseille Provence Cruise Terminal (aka Gate 4, The Grand Port Maritime de Marseille). Small ships may dock at the Port de la Joliette (J4) near the Cathédrale de la Major.

Marseille Cruise Port Map

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Getting from Marseille Cruise Port to City Centre: Your Options

You have several options to reach the city center, which is about 5-6 miles away and not easily walkable from the port. All the stops are marked on my Marseille Cruise Port DIY Excursion Map above:

  1. Free Port Shuttle: When cruise ships are docked, this bus runs from 9:20 am to 5:20 pm. The walk to the shuttle stop is well signposted. For your return trip, the free port shuttle buses depart from the white gates marked “Grand Port Maritime de Marseille” near the shopping centre Les Terraces du Port.
  2. Cruise Line Shuttles: Lines like Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, NCL, and Princess may offer a paid shuttle. Inquire with your specific line. Celebrity Cruises charged $15 return on my cruise.
  3. Public Bus (35T): Catches this right by the main port gate. Purchase tickets with the machine first (€1.70, cards accepted) or pay with contactless card onboard (€2). The bus is timetabled to run every 20 mins and will drop you at “Les Terraces du Port” – almost at the same spot as the free port shuttle drop off. Use Citymapper for live bus arrival times.
  4. Other Public Buses: Routes 35, 36, and 36B stop just outside the port gate and provide additional service options. Route 35 will take you to Joliette metro station (similar route to 35T) and Route 36/36B will take you to Bougainville metro station (3 stops north of Joliette metro station). Purchase tickets at the 35T stop above, or pay with contactless card onboard (€2).
  5. Taxi or Rideshare: Taxis are easily found, but Uber and Bolt also operate in Marseille. Expect to pay around €20 each way to the city centre.

Important note: Traffic can get heavy. My trip back to port from the city took over an hour on a Friday evening! Give yourself extra time, particularly if taking the free shuttle back to the ship.

Free Port Shuttle or Public Bus to City Centre? If multiple ships are at port, then the free port shuttle bus queue is usually long, especially at peak times. Skip the queue instead and head to the Bus #35T stop by the main port gate. Purchase a 24-hour public transit pass (€5.20) at the ticket machine (cards accepted) and you’ll have unlimited trips on buses, trams & metro for your port day. This also saves time and you can hop onto buses and metro to the Basilica and Vieux Port.

Top Things to Do in Marseille on a Cruise

The bus and shuttle options from Marseille cruise port will drop you off at or close to Joliette metro station. The stop is usually outside the shopping centre “Centre Commercial Les Terraces du Port“. Here are my top picks along with a “DIY Sweat Index” showing how easily you can reach them yourself:

1. Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde (DIY Sweat Index: 😅Super Easy)

View of Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica in Marseille, France
By Epgui

Situated on the hill of “Garde”, the Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica offers a 360 degree view of the city. This is a wonderful viewpoint to see Marseille, even if you’re not interested in churches. The Basilica is free to enter and there are toilet facilities and vending machines at the bottom level.

  • How To Get There:
    • Walk: For keen walkers, the Basilica is a 45-minute uphill walk from the Old Port (“Vieux-Port”) area, so if you choose to walk, the DIY Sweat Index would be higher! But there’s an easier (and faster) way to get to the Basilica.
    • Bus: Take Bus #60 from either the Mucem St Jean stop (15 mins walk from port shuttle drop off) or right outside the Vieux Port metro station. Pay €2 fare with a contactless card onboard.
    • Petit Train: The Petit Train Marseille also runs a tourist train up to the Basilica (€10) from Vieux-Port. (This is definitely the scenic slow option, it takes about 1 hour 15 minutes return trip, with a photo stop at the Basilica. But it will bring you back to Vieux Port).
    • Segway: For something different, take a Segway tour from Joliette (shuttle drop off point) all the way to the Notre Dame.

Bus #60 will drop you off right at the main stairs to the Basilica, so there’s only one big flight of steps to tackle before you start enjoying the marvellous views. The stop “Notre Dame de la Garde” is the last stop on the route, so you don’t need to worry about when to get off the bus.

2. MUCEM Museum & St Jean Fort (DIY Sweat Index: 😅 Super Easy)

Entrance to MUCEM museum in Marseille, France
Main Entrance to MUCEM where the ticket office is located; in the background is the Cathedral Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille

The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MUCEM) is the first major national museum dedicated to the rich history and cultures of the Mediterranean. MUCEM is a 10-min walk on flat ground towards the harbour on Quai de la Joliette, after you get off the port shuttle bus. You’ll see the “Mediterranean Villa” with a spectacular overhang.

Bridge linking the two buildings at MUCEM museum in Marseille, France

Next to the Mediterranean Villa is the “J4 Esplanade“, a latticework of concrete blocks that resemble a fishing net, a nod to Marseille’s maritime heritage. From there, you can walk across to Saint Jean Fort, which dates back to the 12th century, via the 115m footbridge. Even if you’re not a museum buff, I would still recommend that you visit Saint Jean Fort. It’s possible to walk around the fort for free and the views from the fort’s terrace are well worth it.

  • Opening Hours: Closed Tuesdays. Otherwise 10am to 7pm during peak summer months. 11am to 6pm from September to April.
  • Tickets: €11 for adults, €7.50 for kids. €18 family pass for 2 adults and up to 5 kids. Buy fast track MUCEM tickets here.

3. Vieux Port (Old Port) (DIY Sweat Index: 😅 Super Easy)

Marseille Vieux Port with many yachts and boats anchored in the marina and the Cathedral on the hill in the background
Image by keopol from Pixabay

Le Vieux Port (the Old Port) is where the first boats dropped anchor when they sailed from Ancient Greece in 600BC. Today, it is a pedestrian-friendly area with lots of bars, restaurants and shops. It’s a great place to stop for a coffee or lunch, either on the way to/fro the Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica and MUCEM. Or it’s an excellent starting point to join a walking food tour due to the “bars/restaurant density” in the area.

  • How to Get There:
    • Walk: It’s a nice 15 minute walk from MUCEM, with great views along the way.
    • Metro: From Joliette station near port shuttle stop, take Red M2 line (2 stops) and change at Saint Charles to Blue M1 line (2 stops) and get off at “Vieux Port” stop.
    • Bus: Vieux Port is along the bus route #60 to the Basilica

Marseille is famous for its soap. The “Savon de Marseille” is made with specific methods and ingredients, dating back to 1688 when King Louis XIV of France established regulations to protect the authenticity of Savon de Marseille. (Savon de Marseille is still a protected designation of origin under EU law today.)

You’ll see many soap shops around the area, selling the distinct cube shape soaps that make a good souvenir or gift from Marseille. Stop by the Marseille Soap Museum (Le Musée du Savon de Marseille) for a free guided tour. You can even make your own personalised soap here!

4. La Cathédrale La Major (DIY Sweat Index: 😅 (Super Easy)

Le Cathedrale La Major in Marseille France

La Cathédrale La Major ((aka Cathédrale Basilique Sainte-Marie-Majeure) is a Roman Catholic cathedral built in the Neo-Byzantine style in the mid-1800s. It is the largest cathedral in France after the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Its foundations are superimposed on an old church from the 4th century.

Situated between the cruise shuttle bus stop Joliette and the MUCEM complex along the waterfront, you won’t miss the cathedral along the way. The cathedral is free to visit and I would highly recommend you stopping by for a quick visit either on the way to MUCEM or on your way back to the shuttle bus.

5. Palais Longchamp (DIY Sweat Index: 😅 Super Easy)

Palais Longchamp's fountains in Marseille, France

When I hopped off the tram, this spectacular view of Palais Longchamp’s water tower (Château d’Eau) was what greeted me! The Palais Longchamp was built in the 19th century to celebrate the completion of the Canal de Marseille, which brought fresh water to the city of Marseille from the Durance River.

Today, the Palais Longchamp houses two museums, the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Fine Arts Museum) and the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle (Natural History Museum). If it’s a sunny day, the landscaped gardens in Longchamp Park, located right behind the Palais Longchamp are well worth a quick turn too.

To get here, take the Blue M1 metro line to the “Cinq Avenues Longchamp”. Walk through Longchamp Park or walk a few minutes downhill towards Palais Longchamp. Alternatively, the T2 tram line links Joliette (2-minutes from port shuttle drop off), directly to “Longchamp” stop. You can pay via contactless card on the tram, too.

6. Walk around “Le Panier” District (DIY Sweat Index: 😅Super Easy)

Street Art in Marseille's Le Panier District
Street Art in Le Panier District of Marseille

Le Panier is the oldest district of Marseille. Within walking distance from MUCEM and the Cathédrale La Major, you can easily spend an hour or two wandering around the narrow, winding streets and admire the vibrant street art there.

The Old Charity Centre (Centre de la Vieille Charité) is at the heart of Le Panier. It houses archaeology and art museums but the main courtyard area is free to enter. I found this to be a nice place to take a break, with access to toilets. Go through the main gates’ security checks. You’ll be free to roam around the large courtyard without having to go through to the ticket office.

Looking for something different? Then do a Segway Tour around the Panier neighbourhood instead.

If this isn’t your first time in Marseille, consider adding the following to your Marseille trip:

  • History buffs: I would recommend visiting the Abbey of Saint-Victor, walking distance from the Old Port. Fort Saint-Nicolas (aka La Citadelle de Marseille) is closed currently.
  • Architecture lovers: Don’t miss the ‘Cité Radieuse’ of Le Corbusier. The ‘Unité d’Habitation’ is free to enter. You can visit a few designated floors of the building where there’s a design concept store, a bookshop, a coffee shop and a restaurant.
  • Sport fans: you may want to visit the Orange Velodrome Stadium
  • Sunbathers: If you’re just craving for a beach day, visit Plage du Prado, Marseille’s largest beach.
  • Further afield day trips:
    • Day Trip to Aix-en-Provence, where you can do a walk in the Lavender Fields between June and August
    • Calanques of Marseille, is definitely possible for a DIY day trip – no group excursion needed! The Chateau D’If are also possible as a day-trip option.

Marseille is truly a delightful port to experience on your own. The well-connected public transport makes DIY exploration an absolute breeze!

Featured Image courtesy of keopol from Pixabay

Are you heading to Marseille in your upcoming Mediterranean cruise? Have any questions about your day at port in Marseille? Drop me a line in the comments below! If this DIY port guide has been helpful to you, please do pass it along! This motivates me to write more DIY port guides. The share buttons are on the side.

9 thoughts on “Marseille on Your Own: The Ultimate DIY Shore Excursion Guide”

  1. Love your DIY posts! I’m a college professor from USA in Indiana (Butler University) here in the Med researching a trip I am planning to take next Spring 2025 with a group of Tourism Communication students. Would love to connect and see about weaving your content into my syllabus and preparation for said trip.

  2. Marseille on Saturday! I am so excited to find your DIY posts! We are on a cruise to Rome and left from Barcelona. We stop along the coast and every port is listed! I am not much of a group tour person, I would rather discover on my own so I can’t tell you how happy I am to come across your site. I may have some questions as I cram my planning in while I am at sea!! Thanks for all you have provided.:)

    1. Thanks so much for reading my blog and I’m glad to hear that you find the posts helpful! Please feel free to ask any questions that you have! 😊

  3. Carol Franklin

    I’m interested in seeing the lavender fields and wondered how we could visit on the day we port inexpensively

    1. Hi Carol,

      Thanks for your comment! I’m afraid that inexpensive DIY options to see the lavender fields are limited and the only one I know of, if you’re visiting between June and August is Maison de Lavender – Terre Ugo. From Marseille cruise port, get yourself to Marseille Saint-Charles station – it’s a 20 minute walk from Joliette metro station – close to where the free port shuttle bus drops you off, or catch M2 metro line for 1 stop.

      Then catch the train to Aix-en-Provence and then Bus #12 will get you there. The train ride takes about an hour. Entry to Maison de Lavender is €7 – more details on how to get there is on the website link above.

      The most famous lavender field walk is probably the Chemin Des Lavenders in Sault but that would involve a train ride to Avignon and a very limited bus schedule to Sault and I don’t think it’s do-able if you’re only in port for a day using public transport but if you’re okay to rent a car, visiting Sault yourself is do-able.

      Hope you’ll enjoy your port day in Marseille!

  4. Here today and found your website before getting off the ship this morning. Such great info! Thank you for the help!

    1. Hi Kevin,

      Thanks so much for dropping me a comment! I’m so glad that the blog post is helpful to fellow cruisers 😁. I hope you’ll have a most wonderful port day in Marseille! Happy cruising!

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