Things To Do In Marseille (for Families) – Exploring France’s Vibrant Coastal City

view of Marseille, France from the top of the ferris wheel in the old part area

Welcome to Marseille! Marseille is France’s dynamic port city nestled along the sun-kissed shores of the Mediterranean Sea. With its rich history, diverse culture, and breathtaking scenery, Marseille offers an abundance of things to do in Marseille for families seeking adventure, relaxation, and exploration. We sure loved it during our visit and couldn’t get through of all the things to do in Marseille.

Whether you’re drawn to its ancient landmarks, tantalizing cuisine, or vibrant atmosphere, Marseille promises to captivate your senses and leave you enchanted with its unique charm. Let’s uncover the top things to do in Marseille, from wandering through historic neighbourhoods to indulging in mouthwatering culinary delights, and discover why this bustling metropolis is a must-visit destination for any traveller.

The city of Marseille is located on the beautiful southern coastline of France. It’s often skipped by travellers in favour of Aix-en-Provence, Nice and the glamorous area of Cannes but skipping Marseille when travelling with kids is a big mistake! From culinary to culture and ease of location, Marseille is a must-do in the south of France with the family. 

As one of the oldest and the second biggest cities in all of France, Marseille is easily accessible by travellers by train, by car or by bus. It’s a bustling area with an average of 300 days of sunshine per year, so you won’t get bored or find yourself deficient in Vitamin D. The city is extremely walkable with kids if you choose or you can take a tram around. 

my children playing in a kid's playground in the old port area of Marseille, France

The city of Marseille does have a rugged feel, but its character and charm will win you and the family over. It did mine! We visited Marseille as a stop when I took my kids through Lisbon, Barcelona and different parts of France. You can read all about that trip here:

Best of Western Europe With Kids – Portugal, Spain and France


Things To Do In Marseille (With Kids)

Unlock the treasures of Marseille as you embark on an unforgettable journey through its eclectic streets and picturesque landscapes. There are so many things to do in Marseille with your family.

Marseille offers a plethora of activities tailored for families, including boat tours around the Calanques, bike rentals along the coastline, and guided walking tours through the city’s vibrant streets. Families can also enjoy strolls through the bustling markets or enjoy a relaxing afternoon in one of the many parks.

Good to know – The Metropolitan Tourist and Conventions Office awards the tourism label “Famille Plus” to tourist establishments throughout Marseille (hotels, restaurants, etc.) whose welcome and services bear in mind the needs of families.

Marseille features attractions specifically designed for children, such as the Parc Borély with its playgrounds and botanical gardens, the Palais Longchamp with its fountains and spacious lawns, and the Marseille Zoo, which houses a variety of animals from around the world.

Begin your exploration at the iconic Vieux Port (Old Port), where centuries-old maritime traditions blend seamlessly with modern-day allure.

Author family selfie in Marseille on a mission to find things to do in Marseille

Visit The Vieux Port of Marseille

Strolling this area means strolling twenty-six centuries of history! The Old Port, or Vieux Port, stands as one of Marseille’s most iconic and historic landmarks. It has been the heart of the city for over 2,600 years, serving as a bustling hub of maritime activity, trade, and cultural exchange. We were enchanted!

While the buildings themselves aren’t that old, there is an amazing historic vibe here and the imagination can run wild. Where did fisherman from the Meditteranean dock and bring in their haul? The ancient harbour has borne witness to trading and nation-building. Which explorers walked the same sidewalks as you are right now?

There are almost always street performers to entertain and every restaurant there is a hit. See if you can find the best pizza (or the first pizza van) in all of France in the Old Port because all of the restaurants are divine. The Old Port buzzes with activity day and night, offering a wide array of dining options, from traditional Provençal cuisine to international fare.

Visitors can sample fresh seafood at waterfront restaurants, enjoy a leisurely drink at a seaside café, or explore the lively fish market (Marché aux Poissons) for local delicacies. In the evenings, the port comes alive with street performers, live music, and a festive atmosphere, making it a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike.

Notre Dame de la Garde from the old port area in Marseille, France

Ride the Grande Roue de Marseille

The second tallest Ferris wheel in France gives you a perspective of the city like no other! Take in a breathtaking 360-degree vantage point from one of the 42 gondolas. It’s a great place to take a break from all of the sightseeing in the Vieux Port area as long as you aren’t afraid of heights.

Families visiting Marseille can also enjoy a ride on the Grande Roue de Marseille, or Marseille Ferris Wheel. Located on the Old Port (Vieux Port) waterfront, the Marseille Ferris Wheel offers families a unique perspective of the city’s landmarks, including the historic harbour, Notre Dame de la Garde basilica, and the bustling streets below. As families ascend to the top of the wheel’s towering heights, they can marvel at Marseille’s breathtaking scenery and capture unforgettable photos to cherish for years to come.

The Marseille Ferris Wheel operates year-round, allowing families to enjoy spectacular views regardless of the season. Whether it’s a sunny summer day or a crisp winter evening, riding the Grande Roue de Marseille offers a thrilling adventure and a chance to appreciate the beauty of Marseille from a new vantage point.

Grande Roue de Marseille, Marseille Ferris Wheel attraction

Visit The Museum (MuCEM – Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations)

The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM) is a must-see in Marseille. The MuCEM is a museum of 21st-century civilizations, covering all aspects of the cultures of the Mediterranean area in Europe. The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM) is a renowned cultural institution, dedicated to showcasing the diverse cultures, histories, and civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean region. 

MuCEM hosts both permanent and temporary exhibitions that offer engaging and immersive experiences for visitors. MuCEM is strategically located on the historic J4 esplanade, adjacent to the Old Port (Vieux Port) of Marseille. Its proximity to the sea symbolizes the museum’s connection to maritime history and the Mediterranean’s role as a crossroads of civilizations. Visitors can explore the museum’s indoor galleries as well as its outdoor spaces, including a rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the harbour and the Mediterranean Sea.

With its innovative architecture, thought-provoking exhibits, and vibrant programming, MuCEM offers a unique and enriching experience for all who visit.

Hot tip – On the main floor is a library/bookstore set up where the kids have an opportunity to sit and read. This is also a great place for a break on a hot day.

Did you know that Marseille is the oldest city in France? And that France is One Of The Oldest Countries In The World? Read about the history here.

Stay in Marseille! Look for accommodations here:

Please note that if you make an accommodation booking through this map, at no cost to you, KathrynAnywhere may make a small commission.

Ride The Belle Epoque Carrousel

As the music fills the air and the colourful wooden horses gracefully gallop around, families can’t help but be captivated by the charm and nostalgia of this classic ride. With intricately painted carriages and intricately carved animals, the Belle Epoque Carrousel offers a picture-perfect backdrop for creating cherished memories with loved ones.

Need a latte break? The kids can ride an old Venetian carousel that dates back to the 18th century while the adults enjoy a breather with a coffee on a streetside cafe patio (hit up Emilie And The Cool Kids – you’re welcome). Families visiting Marseille should make time to experience the enchanting Belle Epoque Carrousel.

The Marseille carousel is open every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tokens are not refundable but reusable.

Old Port Marseille things to do

Visit Notre-Dame de la Garde

Climb the steps and get a workout to take in the views from the most visited site in all of Marseille. So popular, that it tends to see over 2 million visitors a year!

Perched atop a hill overlooking Marseille, Notre-Dame de la Garde offers panoramic views of the city and the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. Children and adults alike will be mesmerized by the breathtaking scenery spread out below, making it a perfect spot for family photos and memorable moments.

View of Marseille from Notre Dame de la Gard

Since the Middle Ages, this church, known as the “Bonne Mère” (Great Mother) watches over the city day and night. Considered a guardian for sailors and fishermen, the exterior of the church is an architectural marvel. The interior basilica is stunning. The intricate artwork here is to be appreciated.

Visiting Notre-Dame de la Garde provides families with the opportunity to explore one of Marseille’s most iconic landmarks and immerse themselves in the city’s rich history and culture. The basilica’s stunning architecture, intricate mosaics, and ornate decorations are sure to captivate visitors of all ages.

While reaching the top of the hill where Notre-Dame de la Garde is located may require a bit of effort, there are various transportation options available to make the journey easier for families, including shuttle buses, taxis, and even a tourist train. Once at the basilica, families can explore at their own pace and take advantage of the amenities and facilities available on-site.

We took the tourist train. The train is called the “Circuit Panoramique Notre Dame de la Garde”. You can read about the tourist train options on Marseille’s Tourism website linked here.


The magnificent Notre Dame de la Gard in Marseille, France

Visit Calanques National Park

Of all of the things to do in Marseille, Marseille boasts a stunning Mediterranean coastline, with beautiful beaches like Plage du Prado and Calanques National Park offering opportunities for family picnics, swimming, and exploring nature. Calanques National Park covers 8,300 hectares and 20 gorgeous kilometres of coastline. It’s the first suburban park in France, stretching from Marseille to Cassis. This is the playground for all adventure seekers and nature lovers to find themselves in.

Calanques National Park offers numerous hiking trails that wind through rugged limestone cliffs, scenic coastal paths, and lush Mediterranean vegetation. Families can embark on short, easy hikes suitable for all ages, or opt for longer treks to explore deeper into the park. Popular trails include the Sentier des Crêtes and the Route des Crêtes, which offer panoramic views of the coastline and the sparkling Mediterranean Sea.

Many of the Calanques (rocky inlets) within the park feature crystal-clear waters ideal for swimming, snorkelling, kayaking, paddleboarding and sunbathing. Families can pack a picnic and spend the day at one of the park’s picturesque beaches, such as Calanque de Sormiou or Calanque de Morgiou, where children can play in the shallow waters and explore the surrounding coves.

Older children and teenagers with a sense of adventure can try their hand at rock climbing or cliff jumping under the supervision of experienced guides. Calanques National Park is known for its challenging climbing routes and adrenaline-pumping activities, making it an exciting destination for outdoor enthusiasts of all skill levels.

Calanques National Park is home to a diverse array of plant and animal species, including rare and endemic species unique to the Mediterranean region. Families can go on nature walks or birdwatching excursions to observe the park’s flora and fauna, including wildflowers, seabirds, and marine life.

Calanques National Park (Marseille, France) Benjamin Smith / Wikimedia Commons
Benjamin Smith / Wikimedia Commons

Savon de Marseille Soap

What trip to Marseille would be complete without a stop for Savon de Marseille soap? Did you know soap from Marseille is world famous? The kids will not stop smelling the samples and getting excited for every different scent, you’ll need a separate travel bag for what you are about to buy! This is a souvenir worth investing in.

While there isn’t a specific “Savon de Marseille soap tour” as such, visitors to Marseille can explore various soap-making establishments and museums that offer insights into the production and history of Marseille soap. Here are some ways to experience Savon de Marseille soap in Marseille:

  1. Soap Workshops: Some soap-making workshops and artisanal soap shops in Marseille offer guided tours and hands-on experiences where visitors can learn about the traditional methods of making Marseille soap. These workshops often provide demonstrations of the soap-making process and allow participants to create their own customized soap bars using natural ingredients.
  2. Marseille Soap Museums: Marseille is home to several museums dedicated to the history and heritage of soap-making in the region. The Musée du Savon de Marseille (Marseille Soap Museum) in the nearby town of Salon-de-Provence offers exhibits on the history, production, and uses of Marseille soap, providing visitors with a comprehensive overview of this iconic product.
  3. Artisanal Soap Shops: Marseille boasts numerous artisanal soap shops and boutiques where visitors can purchase authentic Marseille soap products and learn about the different varieties and scents available. These shops often source their soap from local producers and offer a wide selection of traditional Marseille soap bars, liquid soaps, and other related products.
  4. Historical Sites: Visitors to Marseille can explore historical sites and landmarks associated with the city’s soap-making heritage. This includes the former soap factories and warehouses along the Old Port (Vieux Port), some of which have been repurposed into museums, galleries, or cultural centers showcasing Marseille’s industrial past.

Where Are The Best Places For Families To Eat In Marseille?

For families visiting Marseille, there are plenty of family-friendly dining options offering delicious food in a welcoming atmosphere. Here are some of the best places for families to eat in Marseille:

  1. Le Grand Bar des Goudes: Located in the picturesque fishing village of Les Goudes, Le Grand Bar des Goudes is a family-friendly restaurant specializing in fresh seafood and Mediterranean cuisine. Families can enjoy dining on the outdoor terrace overlooking the harbour while sampling local specialties like bouillabaisse and grilled fish.
  2. Le Bistrot des Dames: Situated in the vibrant Cours Julien neighbourhood, Le Bistrot des Dames is a cozy and casual bistro serving homemade French cuisine with a focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients. The restaurant’s warm and welcoming atmosphere makes it a great choice for families looking for a relaxed dining experience. Note – vegetarian-friendly.
  3. La Cantinetta: Located in the heart of the Old Port (Vieux Port), La Cantinetta is a family-friendly Italian restaurant offering a menu of authentic Italian dishes, including pizza, pasta, and antipasti. The restaurant’s casual ambiance and kid-friendly options make it a hit with families.
  4. Le Chalet du Pharo: Overlooking the Pharo Gardens and the Mediterranean Sea, Le Chalet du Pharo is a family-friendly restaurant housed in a charming chalet-style building. The restaurant offers a menu of traditional French cuisine, including steak frites, salads, and seafood, along with a children’s menu for younger diners.
  5. Chez Madie les Galinettes: Situated in the Vallon des Auffes neighbourhood, Chez Madie les Galinettes is a family-owned restaurant specializing in seafood and Provençal cuisine. Families can dine on the outdoor terrace overlooking the picturesque fishing port while enjoying dishes like grilled fish, seafood platters, and homemade desserts.
  6. La Boîte à Pizza: With multiple locations throughout Marseille, La Boîte à Pizza is a popular choice for families craving pizza. The restaurant offers a variety of pizza options, including classics like Margherita and pepperoni, as well as creative toppings and specialty pizzas for adventurous eaters.
  7. Emilie And The Cool Kids: This is a coffee and cookie shop close to Old Port and by the Belle Epoque Carrousel. I normally wouldn’t just recommend this type of establishment, but it was a great atmosphere for the kids and I and we enjoyed it. We were able to relax for a bit here
  8. La Marche a Suivre: I ate here on a recommendation of a resident with my children. This is an incredibly trendy and cool restaurant in an enchanting neighbourhood. We ordered beef carpaccio and margarita pizzas

These are just a few of the many family-friendly dining options available in Marseille. Whether you’re craving French cuisine, Italian fare, or fresh seafood, Marseille has something to satisfy every member of the family.

Emilie And The Cool Kids in Marseille, France

How To Get To Marseille, France

Getting to Marseille from Toronto (Canada) typically involves taking a flight, as there are no direct train or ferry connections between the two cities (due to the Atlantic Ocean). Here’s how to get from Toronto, Ontario to Marseille, France:

  1. Flight: The most common and efficient way to travel from Toronto to Marseille is by air. Several airlines offer flights from Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) to Marseille Provence Airport (MRS), with one or more layovers depending on the route and airline chosen. Direct flights are available but may be limited depending on the time of year and airline schedules. The total travel time can vary but usually takes around 10 to 15 hours or more, including layovers.
  2. Airport Transfers: Upon arrival at Marseille Provence Airport, travellers can easily reach the city center and other destinations within Marseille using various transportation options. The airport is located approximately 27 kilometres northwest of Marseille, and taxis, shuttle buses, and rental cars are available for transfer to the city. Additionally, there’s a train station at the airport with direct connections to Marseille and other cities in the region.
  3. Alternative Routes: While flying is the most common option, travellers may also consider alternative routes such as flying to other major European cities like Paris or Frankfurt and then taking a connecting flight or train to Marseille. This can sometimes offer more flexibility in terms of flight schedules and may be worth exploring depending on individual preferences and travel plans.

Train travel to and from Marseille

How Do You Get Around While in Marseille?

Marseille has a comprehensive public transportation system, including buses, trams, and the metro, which are generally safe and convenient for families to use. Taxis and ride-sharing services are also available for getting around the city. It’s advisable to use licensed taxis or reputable ride-sharing apps to ensure safety and avoid scams.

Marseille has an extensive public transportation network consisting of buses, trams, and a metro system. The metro has two lines (M1 and M2) that connect various neighbourhoods and key attractions within the city. Additionally, the tram network covers several routes, providing easy access to different parts of Marseille. Bus services complement the metro and tram lines, offering additional flexibility for getting around the city.

There is a bike-sharing program called “Le Vélo”, which allows visitors to rent bicycles from various stations throughout the city. This is a convenient and eco-friendly way to explore Marseille, especially along the city’s scenic coastline and dedicated bike paths. Many areas of Marseille are also bike-friendly, with bike lanes and paths for cyclists.

Marseille is a pedestrian-friendly city, especially in the central areas around the Old Port (Vieux Port), Le Panier neighbourhood, and historic districts. Walking is a great way to explore the city’s charming streets, bustling markets, and scenic waterfront promenades. Many of Marseille’s attractions are within walking distance of each other, making it easy to navigate on foot.

Things to do in Marseille - street scene of Marseille Rue de la Rep

Is Marseille Safe for Families?

Marseille is generally considered safe for tourists, with adequate infrastructure and services to ensure a comfortable stay for families. However, like any major city, it’s advisable to exercise standard precautions and be aware of your surroundings.

The main tourist areas of Marseille, such as the Old Port (Vieux Port), Le Panier neighbourhood, and popular attractions like Notre-Dame de la Garde and the MuCEM (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations), are generally safe and well-patrolled by police. These areas are bustling with visitors and locals alike, creating a lively and vibrant atmosphere.

As with any destination, it’s important for families to take basic safety precautions while exploring Marseille. This includes staying aware of your surroundings, securing your belongings, and avoiding poorly lit or deserted areas, especially at night.

While most parts of Marseille are safe for tourists, some neighbourhoods may have higher crime rates or social issues. It’s a good idea to research the areas you plan to visit and be cautious in neighbourhoods that are known for having safety concerns. Additionally, be mindful of your belongings in crowded areas and tourist hotspots where pickpocketing can occur.

Marseille has emergency services in place to assist travellers in case of need. The emergency number in France is 112 for police, fire, and medical emergencies. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with this number and know how to contact local authorities if necessary.

Kids on a restaurant patio in Marseille Old Port

Know how to protect yourself from common scams and spot them. Read my Travel Safety Tips – Keep Your Family Safe + 5 Repeated Scams To Watch Out For!

With proper precautions and awareness, Marseille is a safe and enjoyable destination for families to explore. By staying informed, exercising common sense, and being respectful of local customs, families can have a wonderful and memorable experience in this vibrant Mediterranean city.

Marseille combines natural beauty, cultural heritage, and family-friendly amenities to offer a memorable experience for visitors of all ages.

Stay in Marseille! Look for accommodations here:

Please note that if you make an accommodation booking through this map, at no cost to you, KathrynAnywhere may make a small commission.

Have you been to Marseille? What did you enjoy the most? Let me know by dropping a comment or sending me an email through my contact page!

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