Are you looking for the best things to do in Marseille in winter? This guide has you covered – keep reading for our top winter tips and activities!
In this guide, you will get an idea of all the things you can do during winter in Marseille – from city walks to food tours and more!
Planning a winter trip to Marseille means you can escape the colder temperatures of Northern Europe for something a bit milder!
Did we miss any of the top Marseille winter activities and things to do? Let us know in the comments!
In this post...
Temperatures During Winter in Marseille
Marseille has pretty mild temperatures in the winter months, but it is definitely not a beach destination during those months, so leave the swimsuit at home (unless you’re going to an indoor pool and spa).
Here are the average winter temperatures in Marseille:
- Marseille in November: highs of 6 C (59 F), lows of 1 C (46 F)
- Marseille in December: highs of 2 C (54 F), lows of -3 C (41 F)
- Marseille in January: highs of 1 C (53 F), lows of -4 C (39 F)
- Marseille in February: highs of 2 C (54 F), lows of -4 C (40 F)
- Marseille in March: highs of 7 C (59 F), lows of -1 C (44 F)
Marseille typically does not see snowfall during the winter months (but, hey, anything can happen).
Best Things to Do in Marseille in Winter
1. Go on a Walking Food Tour (with Food!)
Discover the local flavors and gastronomical culture of Marseille with a walking tour.
Explore the downtown area with a local guide and taste a variety of traditional French dishes, treats, and beverages that originate from the area from numerous gourmet eateries.
The three-and-a-half-hour tour will take you to modern cafes, trendy restaurants, and historic eateries that will dive deep into the city’s culinary history and culture, which your expert guide will elaborate further as you walk or as you rest and eat.
Enjoy a range of specialties, from tapenade, rillettes, and tartare, to Panisse and sardines, roasted Camembert with croutons and pastis, and anise-flavored alcohol.
Mingle with the locals during your tour and immerse yourself in their stories of the city’s history and ambiance.
Your first stop on the tour will include a tasting at a historic brasserie on the old port where you can try typical dishes with aioli and some tapas.
At the end of your meals, enjoy sweets, and crunchy pastries, and wash them down with tea.
2. Stroll Along the Vieux Port (Old Port)
Marseille’s major street, Canebière, is home to Marseille’s famous Old Port, a picturesque pedestrian zone with boats lining a marina and seafront cafes, seafood restaurants, trendy hotels, boutique shops, and exciting nightlife full of late-night bars and clubs lining the waterfront.
Observe the variety of vessels docked in the marina, specifically the yachts, as they’re a testament to the nautical and maritime culture of the region.
The Old Port has been the heartbeat and city center of Marseille for centuries and thus has shaped the cultural heritage of the city since the time when its regional economy was dominated by maritime trade.
Every morning, vendors line the Old Port with fresh fish caught hours before its opening – called the Quai des Belges fish market.
Other highlights of the Old Port include taking a ferry to observe the stunning views of the Old Port from the sea, with an opportunity to see Fort Saint-Jean at a distance.
Some attractions near the Old Port include MUCEM, from which you can look down at the port from the walls and towers of its connecting fortress.
3. See More of the City with a Hop-On Hop-Off City Bus Tour
Board Marseille’s only Hop-On Hop-Off city sightseeing bus with the Colorbüs and discover the culture and beauty of the city.
Drive by the city’s best attractions and listen to informative commentary with headphones provided in up to 8 languages.
An excellent option if you have little time in the city and want to catch all the districts and major monuments.
Choose between the panoramic double-decker bus or a convertible minibus to discover the city’s historical charm and its newer emblematic destinations.
There are two circuits available, the red circuit and the blue circuit.
The red circuit leads you along 14 stops, which include the Old Port, the Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica, the Vallon des Auffes, and the Corniche Kennedy.
The blue circuit has 11 stops, which takes you more toward the village atmosphere and the calmer seaside of Marseille’s bustling city. Both buses depart from 10 AM to 5 PM, give or take 15 minutes.
4. Admire the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde
Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde is the emblem and icon of the city, and to the locals, it is known as La Bonne Mère.
It looks over the city as its “guard” on the top of the highest hill in Marseille, granting a 360° panoramic view over the city, the islands of the Frioul archipelago, and the soaring mountains behind it.
You can climb the scenic stairway or mount the funicular up toward the basilica. You’ll be greeted by the signature striped entrance leading into a world of mosaic tiles, ornate floors, and golden ceilings.
The single nave interior has several chapels on each side of the church. Journey deeper into the Romanesque crypt and find the historic statue of The Virgin of the Bouquet, bordered by six chapels devoted to other saints.
Nearby is the silver Virgin situated on the top of a golden engraved pillar, and on the belfry and bell tower is the golden statue of the Virgin Mary with Christ as an infant.
5. Visit Le Panier (Old Town)
Le Panier is Marseille’s old town notable for its narrow streets and steep alleys found throughout its hilly neighborhood area. It is the oldest district of Marseille and is adorned with murals and frescoes all over its closely packed buildings.
It is also home to some of the best local small bistros, concept stores, creative stores, boutique shops of specialty items, antiques, and craft stores in the city.
If you’re looking for an authentic Marseillais experience, then the Quartier du Panier is where you should venture into. You can also explore the quarter with the Petit Train and skip out on all the slopes and stairs.
Some of the major attractions in Le Panier include the Vieille Charite, a building built in the Baroque architectural style with an ellipsoidal dome, notable for housing a cultural center and museum for Mediterranean and Celto-Ligurian archaeology as well as rotating exhibitions.
Its nearby streets and alleyways lead into the Place des Pistoles, a pleasant square packed with terraces belonging to a variety of popular restaurants.
6. Enjoy Oursin (Sea Urchin) Season in Nearby Rouet
There is a sea urchin and shellfish tasting and festival in several towns along the Côte Bleue, which extends from the north of Marseille to Martigues.
The most popular sea urchin can be found in a port village located 30 kilometers from Marseille, Carry-le-Rouet.
The festival dates back to 1952 and has ever since taken place in February since it is the time of year when sea urchins are the most filled.
For the whole month, every Sunday is packed with parades, live music, art exhibitions, as well as fresh sea urchin tastings and other seafood for the Les Oursinades, or Sea Urchin Festival.
It takes place in the port of Carry-le-Rouet where you’ll find several stands with trays of freshly caught sea urchins and shellfish.
Enjoy as much sea urchin as you want with some champagne whilst taking in the music and the seaside scenery before dancing along with other guests at the festival!
7. Watch the Parades at Carnaval de Marseille
Carnaval de Marseille has about 10,000 people gathered to celebrate every year. Witness a parade of costumes and floats at Parc Borély in the 8th arrondissement.
The carnival has been held annually in Marseille since 1989 and is a real cultural and social treat for the city, animating and collaborating with its various departments.
The public traditionally gathers on-site at the park from the beginning of the afternoon, which is typically around 1:30 PM, and they watch as the parade comes to life about an hour later.
The area is then packed with several dozen floats and hundreds of costumed individuals.
The finale takes place at the end of the afternoon, and you find a variety of carts and vendors dispersed throughout the area for you to enjoy a crepe or waffle after a pleasant and colorful event in the city.
There are numerous other carnivals held in the city, some of the most popular being in Noailles, Réformés, Belle-de-Ma, and the Independent Carnival of La Plaine.
8. Fuel Up with Some French Coffee
At the intersection of Place de Rome and the tram stop of the same name is a small cafe by the name of Bernie Cafe. It’s a delightful spot with tasty food and a wide variety of drinks and hours longer than most cafes in the area.
Their large selection of vegetarian options and creative toasts make it a great spot for a quick, relaxing coffee break.
Not too far from the Old Port is Deep Coffee, which has more of a vintage and indie vibe and an excellent drink, pastry, and brunch menu to choose from.
Enjoy a flat white or chai latte in the laid-back ambiance of the cafe.
La Caravelle is located in the typical “tourist trap” part of town, with waterfront views of the Old Port, however, the vintage bistro actually boasts a wonderful ambiance for an amazing coffee break.
It is a popular spot for jazz concerts, so you may just get lucky on your visit there, and if you want to get your coffee after some food, they have a lovely Provençal style menu.
9. Dine at Marseille’s Best Restaurants
Le Petit Nice Passedat is a five-star hotel restaurant and one of the best seafood restaurants in the world.
It has a white, minimalist dining room with majestic and sweeping views of the Mediterranean and a menu that changes every day depending on what the fishing boats bring in.
Enjoy dishes like sea anemone beignets with seaweed sauce, carpaccio of seabream with caviar and bottarga, or sea bass in an herb bouillon with chopped tomatoes.
Chez Michel is another notable restaurant in town serving up the iconic Marseillais dish Bouillabaisse, a stew made with locally caught rockfish with saffron potatoes and tomatoes.
Enjoy the dish served in two courses, with the soup followed by a platter of fish and shellfish that have been cooked in the soup.
The restaurant is steps away from the Plage des Catalans. Sépia is another quality dining establishment with views of the harbor on an elevated, hilltop bungalow location surrounded by a garden.
The seasonal bistro classics for lunch change daily whereas the dinner menu rotates every few weeks.
10. Go to the Foire Aux Santons de Marseille Festival
Marseille’s big santon fair in winter is for Christmas and takes place from mid-November to New Year’s Eve. You’ll find a large variety of traditions accompanying the holiday season at Foire Aux Santons de Marseille.
These santonniers, craftsmen specializing in creating small hand-painted figurines, perpetuate traditions from centuries ago and invite you to Place Charles de Gaulle for a cultural experience.
This tradition dates back to the 12th century when Franciscan monks in Provence introduced the crib and santons.
According to the local history, the first Santon Fair took place in the early 19th century on the Cours Saint-Louis, making Marseille the capital of the santon.
At that time, there were only three sellers – today there are thirty! The holiday event is of course accompanied by musical groups in the middle of the chalets on specific days, particularly Saturdays and Wednesdays.
Santa Claus will be present with a photographer, and the chalet ‘Atelier des Santonniers’ will present all the stages of the creation of santons through a real reconstruction.
On Wednesdays and weekends, you can watch a live demonstration of how the santons are crafted!
11. Explore the MuCEM (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations)
The Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean is one of Marseille’s most notable attractions found at the entrance of the Old Port.
It is right in front of the medieval fortress of Saint Jean and Marseille Cathedral, spanning 15,000 square meters.
The structure is divided into two squares, one of which inserts into the other to form the center of the complex, with two ramps in between.
It is divided into three sections, one being the fortress of Saint Jean, the other being the Conservation and Resource Center, and the J4, which houses the museum’s large exhibitions on its two levels.
The MUCEM has a capacity of 40,000 square meters and is packed with nearly one million works organized in exhibitions, and permanent and temporary displays, all dedicated to the Mediterranean basin.
Additionally, the museum hosts one of the most attractive restaurants in the city due to its stunning, panoramic view of the sea in the former port mall.
The first floor is entirely devoted to the permanent Mediterranean collection, whereas the second-floor brims with items from its temporary exhibitions.
Address: 1 Esp. J4, 13002 Marseille
12. Marvel at the Palais Longchamp
Palais Longchamp is the majestic neoclassical water fountain and stairway that you don’t want to miss.
The magnificent monument and its scenery are included as one of the Notable Gardens of France according to the French Ministry of Culture.
The stunning neoclassical architecture of the monument conceals the fact that it is actually a water reservoir designed to bring water to the city.
In the 19th century, an 85-kilometer canal was to be created in order to bring water from the Durance River all the way to the city.
The architect of the Notre Dame Basilica, Henry Espérandieu, elegantly fashioned the arrival of water from the aqueduct bridges to the Palais Longchamp monument.
The Palais’ central fountain presents sculptures of four large bulls and three women, behind which water flows down into the pond.
The stairway fountain houses a museum in each of its wings, the Natural History Museum on the right, and the Musee des Beaux-Arts on the left. There is also a park at the back of the monument!
Address: Bd Jard. Zoologique, 13004 Marseille
13. See the Magnificent Cathédrale de la Major
The emblematic and striped Cathedrale de la Major can be found near the Vieux Port and between the Panier and the Joliette and it is an icon of Marseille!
Its architecture combines Roman and Oriental styles and it exemplifies the Roman-Byzantine revival style.
Numerous materials are used in the construction of the cathedral, including green stone from Florence, onyx from Italy and Tunisia, stone from Calissane and Gard, white marble from Carrara, and mosaics from Venice.
The cathedral’s dimensions make it one of the largest in the world, measuring up to a total length of about 146 meters.
The main dome is nearly 70 meters in height and 18 meters in diameter! Cathédrale de la Major is most renowned for its interior and exterior decorations and use of mosaic cycles.
Its façade is decorated with statues of numerous saints from Provence, including a bishop of Marseilles, Monseigneur de Belsunce, and of course statues of Christ and the twelve apostles.
The balustrades and domes are ornamented with elements inspired by the cathedrals of Lucca and Siena.
Address: Pl. de la Major, 13002 Marseille
14. Get in the Holiday Spirit at the Quai de la Fraternité Christmas Market
Every year on the Quai de la Fraternité, a Christmas Market takes place. It is near the great wheel and is not far from the Santon’s Fair. It typically takes place from the third Saturday of November onward to the 2nd of January.
The market is highlighted by the LED illuminations adorning the city, particularly around the Old Port, the town hall, Cours Estienne d’Orves, and the Canebière.
The market is lined with wooden chalets, depicting a village aesthetic, where craftsmen and creators offer a wide assortment of products, ranging from soaps, jewelry, ceramics, paints, candles, fabrics, leathers, wooden toys, fused glass, and decorations, to chocolates, biscuits, and other sweets treats.
Access to the Christmas Market is free and runs from 10 AM to 7 PM on weekdays and 8 PM on weekends.
Walk along the illuminated chalets and Christmas decorations whilst eating fondue from a cup and raclette sandwiches, or tasty Christmas waffles or crepes!
Enjoy delicious hot wine and hot chocolate with a ton of whip cream while looking through the handmade crafts on display!
15. Explore the Beaches at Corniche Kennedy
Corniche Kennedy presents some of the most beautiful landscapes on the Mediterranean Sea. The panoramic walkway grants views of islands, and access to popular beaches, and highlights Marseille’s gastronomy.
The panoramic boulevard spreads for three kilometers and has numerous historical monuments, luxury hotels, famous restaurants, bars, beaches, as well as mansions from the 19th century, and some fishermen’s houses.
One of its most famous beaches is the Plage des Catalan, which is steps away from the famous Chez Michel seafood restaurant.
About a hundred meters from the beach is the Underwater Museum of Marseille, which takes you 5 meters below the surface to admire underwater statues for free.
The Corniche has a three-arched bridge that passes over the Vallon des Auffes and the Vallon de la Fausse Monnaie. A 2-kilometer bicycle path also links Plage des Catalan to Praco Park.
The Plages du Prado are the most famous and are the largest beach in Marseille, with a seaside park covering 26 hectares over a length of 3.5 kilometers.
16. Discover Marseille’s History at Fort Saint-Jean
Fort Saint-Jean played a significant role in Marseille’s military history, dating all the way back to the Crusades when it functioned as the starting point for troops journeying to Jerusalem.
It has experienced numerous reconstructions and seen a number of lives since it was first created. The complex includes the Commandery, which consists of a church, a chapel, a hospital, and the Commander’s palace, an addition from the 14th century.
The large square tower built by the decree of King René was added a century later. It was during the 17th century that the fort began to assume its current shape when the Tour du Fanal or Tour Ronde was built.
These towers functioned as the state prison and ammunition depot for numerous, following centuries.
The iconic fort can be found along the right side of the Old Port, and access to the Fort are typically free after passing the security check at the entrances.
There are numerous wonderful terraces with excellent views of the Old Port marina, the sea, and the Cathédrale de la Major at the top of the fort.
17. Get Artsy at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Marseille (Fine Arts Museum)
The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Marseille can be found in the magnificent neoclassical monument, Palais Longchamp.
It is one of the main museums in the city of Marseille and occupies the right wing of the monument. Its collection includes paintings, drawings, and sculptures from the 16th to 19th centuries.
Some of its most famous paintings include works by Eustache Le Sueur, Sébastien Bourdon, Simon Vouet, Étienne Peson, and Charles Le Brun, all of which are in the French school.
For the Italian and Spanish schools, you can find a collection of works by artists such as Pietro Perugino, Jacopo Bassano, Giulio Romano, Giovanni Cariani, Lavinia Fontana, Giorgio Vasari, Jusepe de Ribera, and Antonio de Pereda.
There is a wonderful collection of drawings from Pierre Paul Puget, Pontormo, and Guercino, whereas, for sculptures, Pierre Paul Puget’s works are in the spotlight.
Finishing up your visit from the museum includes a great opportunity to admire the Palais Longchamp monument.
18. Celebrate New Year
Marseille celebrated the New Year by throwing parties along its dynamic waterfront.
There are numerous cruising parties available, from the young nightlife to a romantic dinner cruise allowing you to dance with your partner all night.
Virtually any pub, club, and restaurant in town is open to celebrate the transition into the new year with parties or some sort of specials; many restaurants arrange musical concerts and have live singing or local bands perform.
Additionally, at this time of year, there are numerous exhibitions, music performances, theatrical performances, festivals, and carnivals animating the city.
The center of the city illuminates with a firework display every year, which is a wonderful sight to behold when it reflects against the Mediterranean Sea.
Marseille Arc de Triomphe also organizes different parties in its vicinity.
Things to Do in Marseille in Winter (On a Map!)
Where to Stay in Marseille
If you’re looking for a great place to stay in Marseille, here are some top picks!
- App-Arte Marseille Vieux-Port (best option!)
- La Residence Du Vieux Port (amazing view!)
- Terrasse by MaisonMars (great location!)
Did we miss any of the top things to do in Marseille in winter? Let us know your winter in Marseille tips in the comments!
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Aram is a travel blogger and writer from Armenia who spends his time between Spain and his home country. He is passionate about music and football (the European kind) and covers a lot of Western European destinations on the blog. Aram is a laidback traveler who enjoys meeting new people and finding the best food in each city that he visits (hence his frequent trips to France, Italy, and Greece!). He has been featured in (or written for) Forbes, BBC, The Guardian, Fodor’s Travel, and more.