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The Best Way To Experience Marseille And Its Cruise Port

The Best Way To Experience Marseille And Its Cruise Port

Marseille is a top-rated stop for Mediterranean cruise holidays. Located on the south coast of France, it has been a hub of immigration and trade since 600 B.C. Nowadays, it attracts visitors as the gateway to Provence, with stunning scenery and plenty to see and do.

Welcoming over 1.5 million cruise passengers every year, Marseille cruise port can get pretty busy, and as the largest port in France, it is worth doing your research to decide how best to navigate it. Here’s our guide on what your options are when you get there.

What to expect when you arrive at Marseille cruise port

Most cruise ships will arrive at Marseille Provence Cruise Terminal (MPCT). Built in 2009, it is one of the world’s 15 largest cruise terminals, seeing 500 cruising calls in 2018. With several terminal docking points (A-F), it is designed to cater for embarkation, disembarkation and transit passengers and offers parking, luggage drop-off points (but not left luggage storage) and lounges. You’ll also find ATMs, a café, toilets, tourist information and shore excursion pick-up and drop-off locations.

Marseille Provence Cruise Terminal (MPCT), also known as Môle Léon Gourret, is around 5-6 miles from the Old Port (Le Vieux Port), the main centre of Marseille. Walking there is not advised, so free shuttle buses, running approximately every 30 minutes, offer transport to Joliette Station. From here, you can get a tram (line T2 and T3) or the metro (line 2) to the centre. Cruise ships also often provide their own shuttles, and plenty of taxis are available, costing upwards of €17.

Things to do in Marseille

Most cruise guests opt to explore the charming Old Port (Le Vieux Port). As a vibrant harbour and meeting place for many of Marseille’s residents and visitors, it has an array of cafes and seafood restaurants, where you can sample the region’s infamous bouillabaisse. There are also boutiques and traditional fish markets selling the freshest produce.

For those seeking to discover the city’s history and architecture, the Roman Catholic church, Saint-Ferréol Les Augustins, is well-worth a visit. With influences dating back to the 12th century, an Italian-style bell tower and neo-baroque façade, it is a beautiful building to admire. Phare de Sainte-Marie or Sainte Marie lighthouse also provides a good photo opportunity. It is now inactive; nonetheless, the 60-foot high, white limestone cylindrical turret looks impressive against the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean.

Taking a 20-minute ferry ride to Château d’If is a popular choice for many visitors. This intriguing island was uninhabited until the 16th century when a fort was built under the instruction of François I. It then went on to become a prison and holds fascinating stories of the prisoners held there. 

Nearby places to visit

Cruise guests looking to explore further afield often opt to visit the artistic and beautiful locations of Arles and Aix-en-Provence. Shore excursions are available and usually cover both these locations, or you can opt to travel independently.

Arles is a historical city notorious for being the home of the artist Vincent Van Gogh. Here he painted his famous ‘Sunflowers’ and ‘Café Terrace at Night’ paintings. The city is also home to various UNESCO-listed ancient monuments, such as the renowned bullring, Les Arènes and a Roman theatre, thermal baths and necropolis. Arles is around 58 miles or an hour’s drive from Marseille. You can also catch the train, which takes just under an hour and a half.

Aix-en-Provence is a university city and the birthplace of the post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne. For art enthusiasts, you can walk a trail that links all the sites he frequented. Aix-en-Provence is also known as the ‘City of Counts’, once being the home of the Counts of Provence. For this reason, there are several impressive aristocratic palaces to explore, as well as numerous inviting fountains. Aix-en-Provence is 22 miles from Marseille or just over a 40-minute train ride.

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