Bordeaux or Marseille – Which City Will You Visit?

Bordeaux or Marseille

Bordeaux or Marseille – Which city should you visit?

Are you torn between Bordeaux and Marseille for your next trip to France? We’ll compare the must-see sights, the unique experiences, the local cuisine, and so much more. By the end of this, we hope to make your decision-making a little less complicated. So, are you ready to dive in?

🏛 History Buffs: Bordeaux’s beautiful 18th-century architecture and history of winemaking edge out Marseille here. But, if you’re into maritime history, Marseille is a great destination.

🏖 Beach Lovers: Being 55km for from the sea, Bordeaux loses this one. Marseille and its local beaches are a clear winner here.

🥐 Foodies: The classically rich French cuisine in Bordeaux is out of this world! But, on the flip side, the seafood in Marseille, especially the world-famous Bouillabaisse is incredible. This one is all down to personal choice!

🌳 Nature Enthusiasts: Bordeaux’s surroundings are beautiful but they’re no match for the Calanques National Park which is right on Marseille’s doorstep.

🏢 Urban Explorers: Bordeaux’s beautiful architecture, amazing restaurants and class wine bars make it the choice for those seeking a sophisticated getaway. But, Marseille’s gritty, multicultural streets make it a better fit for those who appreciate a more down to earth city.

🛍 Shopping Enthusiasts: Bordeaux designer stores and chic French boutiques make it a clear winner in this category.

🍷 Wine Lovers: Whilst Marseille may be in the Provence, Bordeaux is synonymous with wine and winemaking. It’s the destination for wine lovers.

🎒 Backpackers: Whilst Bordeaux is beautiful, it does tend to be more expensive than Marseille. Marseille’s down to earth feel and more reasonable prices might suit backpackers more.

👵 Over 60’s: Bordeaux’s beauty and more refined feel make it perfect for the older traveller. Marseille might be considered a better location for a younger crowd.

Bordeaux stands out as a destination perfect for those seeking luxury, fine wine and classic French food. Marseille, on the other hand, offers a culturally diverse, historic city with a rugged charm. Which you choose is entirely up to you.

Still not sure? Continue reading to learn more about both of these French cities.


Bordeaux, often referred to as the “Wine Capital of the World,” is a port city on the Garonne River in southwestern France. It’s known for its Gothic Cathédrale Saint-André, 18th- to 19th-century mansions, and public gardens lining the river’s curving banks. The city’s historic centre, with 347 listed monuments, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.

Bordeaux had a population of approximately 250,000 people, making it the sixth-largest city in France. The city is the hub of the famed wine-growing region and is home to the world’s main wine fair, Vinexpo. With its pedestrian-friendly layout and vibrant food scene, Bordeaux offers an immersive cultural experience that caters to a wide range of travellers.

Cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux
Cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux


Marseille might not boast the romantic allure of Paris or the glamour of the French Riviera, but its unique charm is undeniable. Perched on the Mediterranean coast, Marseille is a melting pot of cultures, an attribute reflected in its vibrant streets and diverse cuisine. With a history dating back to ancient Greece, it’s a paradise for those who love delving into the past.

Its old port, Vieux Port, bustles with fish markets and boats, while the iconic Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica watches over the city from a hilltop. But there’s more to Marseille than just history and picturesque views. It’s also a city of dynamic cultural life, with a myriad of museums, art galleries, and music festivals. If you’re in search of a city that combines rich heritage, gastronomic delights, and a laid-back seaside atmosphere, Marseille is the place to be.

Port de Malmousque Marseille
Port de Malmousque

While we’re comparing Bordeaux and Marseille in this post, we’ve also looked at how Bordeaux stacks up against other cities like Nice and Cannes. We’ve linked to those articles below if you want to take a look!

Bordeaux or Nice

Bordeaux or Cannes

Pros and Cons of Bordeaux and Marseille

Bordeaux Pros:

  • 🍷 Wine Culture: Bordeaux’s wine heritage is world-renowned, a haven for wine enthusiasts. There are numerous vineyards offering wine-tasting tours.
  • 🏛 UNESCO Heritage: Bordeaux’s historic city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site, packed with historical monuments and stunning architecture.
  • 🥐 Food and Cuisine: Bordeaux boasts a dynamic food scene with numerous markets, bakeries, and restaurants, highlighting regional cuisine.
  • 🚶‍♂️ Scenic Riverfront: The beautiful Garonne Riverfront is ideal for scenic walks or bike rides.

Bordeaux Cons:

  • 💶 Cost: Bordeaux can be pricier than other French cities, especially during peak tourist seasons.
  • 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Crowded: During the summer and the wine harvest season, Bordeaux can become quite crowded.

Marseille Pros:

  • 🌍 Cultural Diversity: Marseille, France’s oldest city, offers a rich blend of cultures and traditions, evident in its architecture, food, and lifestyle.
  • 🎨 Bustling Arts Scene: Marseille is home to numerous museums and regularly hosts cultural events. Its street art scene is particularly vibrant.
  • 🏖 Mediterranean Charm: The city’s location along the Mediterranean coast means beautiful beaches, stunning Calanques (natural inlets), and fresh seafood.
  • 🏰 Historic Attractions: Marseille has many historic attractions, including the iconic Notre-Dame de la Garde and the old port, Vieux-Port.

Marseille Cons:

  • 🏙 Urban Grime: Some parts of Marseille have a reputation for grittiness and can be less polished than other French cities.
  • 🔒 Safety: While Marseille is generally safe, some areas have higher crime rates than others. Visitors should take standard precautions, particularly at night.

Which City Has Better Food? Bordeaux or Marseille?

In Bordeaux, food is deeply intertwined with wine culture. Local dishes are often rich, gourmet, and perfectly paired with the region’s world-class wines. As mentioned earlier, Bordeaux is renowned for its fresh seafood, especially oysters from nearby Arcachon Bay. Other regional specialities include ‘Entrecôte à la Bordelaise’ (steak cooked in a wine and shallot sauce) and ‘canelés’, the small, sweet pastries with a soft and tender custard centre and a dark, thick caramelized crust.

On the other hand, Marseille, being a port city, is a paradise for seafood lovers. The city is world-famous for its ‘Bouillabaisse’, a traditional Provençal fish stew that originated in Marseille. Other must-try dishes include ‘Moules Marinières’ (Mussels cooked in white wine and herbs) and ‘Tapenade’ (a spread made from olives, capers, and anchovies). Marseille’s culinary scene reflects the city’s diverse cultural influences, with North African, Italian, and Corsican elements present in many dishes.

It’s a close call. If you love gourmet cuisine paired with exquisite wines, Bordeaux is a safe bet. However, if you’re a seafood lover and enjoy a blend of Mediterranean flavours, Marseille might be more your style. As always, one of the joys of travelling is to immerse yourself in the local gastronomy. So wherever you go, make sure to taste as much of the local cuisine as you can!

Which City is Better For Couples? Bordeaux or Marseille?

Bordeaux: If you and your partner are wine enthusiasts, then Bordeaux might just be your romantic paradise. Known globally for its world-class vineyards and wineries, Bordeaux offers countless opportunities to enjoy wine tastings and vineyard tours together. Besides, the city is brimming with elegant architecture, and its riverfront provides a romantic backdrop for evening walks.

Place de la bourse, Bordeaux
Place De La Bourse

The Mirror d’Eau, located across from Place de la Bourse, especially illuminates the city’s romantic charm. High-end restaurants are also plentiful in Bordeaux, providing perfect settings for a romantic dinner.

Marseille: For couples seeking a blend of urban life, coastal charm, and cultural diversity, Marseille is an ideal destination. The city’s old port, Vieux-Port, is an enchanting place for a stroll, dotted with yachts and surrounded by cafes and seafood restaurants.

The stunning views from Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica add a romantic touch to the city’s seascape. Marseille’s multicultural vibe is reflected in its vibrant culinary scene, offering couples an array of diverse culinary experiences. The Calanques National Park is also nearby, perfect for couples who love hiking and nature.

Both cities hold their own charm for couples. Bordeaux might sway you with its romantic ambience, vineyards, and gourmet dining, while Marseille could win you over with its coastal charm, cultural diversity, and adventurous opportunities. It depends on what kind of experience you and your partner are seeking.

Which City is Better For Families? Bordeaux or Marseille?

Bordeaux is a city that blends its rich historical heritage with family-friendly offerings, making it an appealing choice for families. The Miroir d’eau, where children can splash and cool off in the summer, is always a hit. The interactive Cap Sciences museum engages young minds with educational exhibits.

If your kids are animal lovers, then a day trip to the Zoo de Bordeaux Pessac will surely delight them. The city’s manageable size and easy navigation is another plus when travelling with kids.

Marseille, with its unique blend of urban and natural attractions, also caters wonderfully to families. Parc Borély, with its playgrounds and lakeside cafes, makes for a great family day out. Marseille’s beaches, especially the Prado Seaside Park, offer a family-friendly environment for a day of relaxation and fun.

The city’s historic sights like the Old Port and the emblematic Notre-Dame de la Garde are not just visually appealing but also educational for kids. For adventurous families, a boat trip to the Frioul Islands or a hike in the Calanques National Park would make a great day out!

Calanques National Park Marseille
Calanques National Park Marseille

In summary, both cities are quite child-friendly, each offering a variety of experiences. Bordeaux’s compact size and educational offerings may appeal to some, while Marseille’s blend of urban and outdoor activities might draw others. It depends on your family’s interests and preferences.

Which City is Better For Partying? Bordeaux or Marseille?

Bordeaux: This city, with its youthful spirit and vibrant atmosphere, promises an eclectic nightlife. The city teems with a mix of traditional wine bars, contemporary cocktail lounges, and energetic nightclubs, especially in the lively Saint Pierre district.

Notably, I.Boat, a popular club located on a boat, is a go-to spot for electronic music enthusiasts. Bordeaux also hosts numerous music and wine festivals throughout the year, adding to its appeal for party-goers.

Marseille: Marseille offers a diverse and vivacious nightlife scene as well, with a distinct Mediterranean flair. Whether you prefer a relaxed evening at a waterfront bar at the Old Port, or dancing the night away at a bustling club in the Cours Julien district, there’s something for everyone.

Don’t miss out on the city’s lively music scene, which ranges from jazz to electronic music. Marseille also hosts a range of festivals and events throughout the year, further enhancing its nightlife.

Both cities present dynamic and varied nightlife scenes. Bordeaux may cater more to wine lovers and diverse music fans, while Marseille offers a unique mix of nightlife options with a Mediterranean twist.

Which City is Safer? Bordeaux or Marseille?

Generally considered a safe city for tourists, Bordeaux has a low crime rate. As with all urban areas, some incidents of pickpocketing or minor theft can occur, particularly in crowded tourist spots, but these are not widespread. Maintaining the usual safety measures such as being aware of your surroundings, particularly at night, and securing personal belongings should help ensure a secure visit.

Marseille, too, is mostly safe for tourists. However, it has a somewhat higher crime rate than Bordeaux, and certain neighbourhoods, especially in the northern districts, are best avoided. Like all major cities, Marseille has areas where pickpocketing and petty theft are more common, particularly in crowded public places. As a traveller, you should remain alert, keep an eye on your belongings, and stay in well-travelled areas, especially at night.

In comparison, while both cities are generally safe for tourists, Bordeaux tends to have a slightly lower crime rate than Marseille. Regardless of where you choose to visit, remember that common-sense precautions go a long way towards ensuring a safe trip.

How long to stay in Bordeaux

Figuring out the ideal duration for your stay in Bordeaux can be tricky. As someone who’s been there, I can tell you that the city has enough to keep you occupied for days. However, the optimal length of your stay depends largely on what you want to do and see.

If you’re in Bordeaux primarily for the wine, you’ll want at least a few days. This will allow you to visit several châteaux, take part in wine tastings, and possibly engage in a wine-making workshop. Remember, the Bordeaux wine region is vast, and it’s worth taking the time to explore it thoroughly.

For those interested in the city’s rich history and culture, a two to three-day stay might be sufficient. This should give you enough time to visit major attractions like the Gothic Cathédrale Saint-André, the Musée d’Aquitaine, and the contemporary art installations at CAPC, not to mention leisurely strolls along the Garonne River and through the charming city streets.

However, if you’re like me and enjoy immersing yourself in the local culture, you might want to stay longer. A week in Bordeaux would give you ample time to visit the city’s attractions, dine in its best restaurants, explore the surrounding vineyards, and simply soak up the atmosphere.

How long to stay in Marseille

Deciding on the ideal length for your Marseille visit can be a bit complex, given the rich cultural, historical, and natural attractions the city offers. The city has an abundance of experiences that can keep you engaged for days on end, but how long to stay will largely depend on your personal interests.

If your primary goal is to experience the unique Mediterranean vibe of the city, sample local seafood, and explore the historic district, a 2 to 3 day visit might suffice. This should give you ample time to wander through the narrow streets of Le Panier, the city’s old town, take a leisurely walk around the Vieux Port, and indulge in authentic bouillabaisse at a seaside restaurant.

For travellers drawn to Marseille’s rich history and culture, a stay of 4-5 days would be ideal. This gives you enough time to visit the iconic Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, explore the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MUCEM), and take a ferry to the historic Château d’If, without feeling rushed.

Mucem Marseille

However, if you’re like me and prefer a deeper immersion into the local culture, you might want to consider staying longer. A week in Marseille would provide ample time to not only explore the city’s attractions, but also to enjoy its beautiful beaches, take day trips to the nearby Calanques National Park or the charming town of Cassis, and truly soak up the laid-back Marseille lifestyle.

Which City is More Budget Friendly? Bordeaux or Marseille?

Bordeaux, renowned for its world-class vineyards and grand neoclassical architecture, tends to be on the pricier side. Dining can be a bit costly, particularly if you’re looking to indulge in the city’s celebrated wines and high-end restaurants. Accommodation expenses can also be higher, especially if you aim to stay in the city centre or close to the popular vineyards.

In contrast, Marseille, a bustling port city in Southern France, is famous for its diverse culture, compelling history, and delectable seafood. Accommodation in Marseille can be slightly cheaper than in Bordeaux, presenting a good mix of budget and mid-range options. The dining scene, especially for seafood aficionados, offers a range of affordable restaurants around the Old Port and throughout the city.

That being said, both cities provide an array of options for budget travellers, including reasonably priced attractions, economical food choices, and public transportation. However, when weighing all factors, Marseille might edge out as the more budget-friendly option compared to Bordeaux due to its generally lower accommodation and dining costs.

How much is food and drink in Bordeaux and Marseille?

Item Bordeaux (€) Marseille (€)
Beer €5-€7 €5-€8
Glass of wine €3-€10 €4-€10
Coffee €1.50-€3 €2-€4
Meal at a midrange restaurant €15-€30 €20-€40

How much is it to stay in Bordeaux or Marseille?

Accommodation Bordeaux (€ per night) Marseille (€ per night)
Luxury hotel €200-€500 or higher €150-€500 or higher
Midrange hotel €80-€150 €80-€150
Budget hotel €40-€70 €40-€80
Hostel €20-€40 €20-€40

When is the best time to visit Bordeaux?

Choosing the perfect time to visit Bordeaux can be as important as deciding what to see and do. The city has a temperate oceanic climate, which means it can be visited at any time of the year, but some seasons offer unique experiences.

🌼 Spring (March to May) in Bordeaux is a beautiful time, with moderate temperatures and the vineyards coming alive with new growth. This is a great time to visit if you’re interested in wine, as many châteaux begin to offer tours and tastings for the new season.

☀️ Summers (June to August) in Bordeaux are warm and sunny, perfect for exploring the city’s historical sites or enjoying a cruise on the Garonne River. This is also the time for numerous festivals such as the Bordeaux Wine Festival and the River Festival, offering an extra layer of entertainment for visitors.

🍁 Autumn (September to November) is grape harvest time, a significant event in any wine region. This season allows visitors to experience the winemaking process firsthand. The weather during this period remains pleasant, and the changing colours of the vine leaves add an extra charm to the city’s surroundings.

❄️ Winter (December to February) in Bordeaux is relatively mild, with fewer tourists around. While not the peak season for outdoor activities, it’s the perfect time to explore the city’s museums, enjoy its culinary delights, and perhaps get a chance to attend the Bordeaux Christmas Market.

Garonne River Bordeaux
Garonne River

When is the best time to visit Marseille?

🌼 Spring: From April to June, the weather in Marseille is comfortably warm, with temperatures averaging between 15-23°C (59-73°F). The city isn’t too crowded, and the beautiful Calanques (rocky inlets) are perfect for hiking and picnicking.

☀️ Summer: July and August are the hottest months, with temperatures reaching 30°C (86°F). It’s a great time for beach activities, water sports, and enjoying the vibrant nightlife. However, it’s also peak tourist season, so it can get crowded, and prices for accommodation can be higher.

🍁 Autumn: September to October is another lovely period to visit. The weather remains warm but becomes more comfortable. It’s an ideal time to explore the city and its surrounding countryside without the summer crowds. Also, the sea is still warm enough for swimming.

❄️ Winter: From November to March, Marseille experiences mild winters compared to other parts of France. While it isn’t beach weather, it’s a good time to explore the city’s museums and historical landmarks. There are fewer tourists, and you might find some great deals on accommodation.

Average Monthly Temperatures

Month Bordeaux (°C) Bordeaux Rainfall (days) Marseille (°C) Marseille Rainfall (days)
January 10° / 3° 12 12° / 5° 6
February 12° / 3° 10 13° / 6° 4
March 15° / 5° 10 16° / 8° 4
April 17° / 7° 10 18° / 9° 5
May 21° / 11° 10 23° / 13° 4
June 24° / 14° 8 26° / 17° 2
July 27° / 15° 6 29° / 19° 1
August 27° / 15° 7 29° / 19° 2
September 24° / 13° 8 26° / 16° 3
October 19° / 10° 9 21° / 13° 6
November 14° / 6° 12 16° / 9° 5
December 11° / 3° 11 13° / 6° 5

Please note that the temperatures are shown as average highs and lows in Celsius (°C), and the number of rainfall days is indicated for each month.

Getting around

Getting around Bordeaux:

The city’s public transportation system consists of trams, buses, and a bike-sharing service. The trams are well-connected and cover most of the city’s major attractions. The tickets allow you to use any form of public transport for a certain period of time, (usually an hour). So if you needed to get one bus and a tram to get somewhere you’d only need one ticket if the journey was less than an hour.
Bike sharing is a good option for people who want to be a bit more active. Bordeaux has a lot of small windy streets so we spent most of the time walking, which I feel is the best way to see a city. Taxis and Ubers are readily available but you might struggle to get one right in the heart of the old town where a lot of it is pedestrianised.

Getting around Marseille:

Marseille has a good public transportation system, including buses, trams, and a metro system. Taxis are also available but can be expensive. Walking is a great way to explore the city centre, but if you want to cover more ground, consider renting a bike or taking a boat tour. The Marseille city pass is worth getting if you’re planning on using public transport.

Top things to do in Bordeaux

  1. Place de la Bourse: One of the city’s most iconic sights, Place de la Bourse is a must-see. Be sure to check out the ‘Miroir d’Eau’, the world’s largest reflecting pool, located directly across from the square.
  2. La Cité du Vin: A modern museum dedicated to the world of wine, La Cité du Vin is a unique experience. Learn about the wine production process and enjoy tastings with an amazing view of the city.
  3. Saint-André Cathedral: This impressive Gothic cathedral offers a stunning view over Bordeaux from its bell tower, Tour Pey-Berland.
  4. Rue Sainte-Catherine: As one of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe, Rue Sainte-Catherine is perfect for shopping enthusiasts. It’s lined with a variety of shops and restaurants, offering a real taste of Bordeaux’s vibrant culture.
  5. Bordeaux Riverfront: Take a stroll along the picturesque Garonne River, which offers lovely views of Bordeaux’s historic facades. Consider a river cruise to truly appreciate the city’s beauty.

Top things to do in Marseille

  1. Old Port (Vieux Port): This bustling harbour is the heart of Marseille. It’s lined with cafes and restaurants, and it’s the perfect place to enjoy a bouillabaisse, the traditional Provençal fish stew. Don’t miss the fish market that takes place every morning at the port.
  2. Le Panier: Just north of the Old Port is Marseille’s old town, Le Panier. Wander through its narrow, winding streets to discover charming squares, art galleries, boutiques, and cafes.
  3. Notre-Dame de la Garde: This iconic basilica sits on the city’s highest point and offers panoramic views of Marseille. Its interior is equally stunning with beautiful mosaics.
  4. The Calanques: These rocky inlets with crystal clear waters are perfect for hiking, swimming, and boating. They can be found along the coastline between Marseille and Cassis.
  5. MuCEM (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations): This museum is notable not only for its comprehensive exhibits but also for its stunning architecture and sea views.
Calanques National Park
Calanques National Park

How to spend three days in Bordeaux

Day 1: Discover the City Centre

Start your Bordeaux adventure in the city centre. Begin at the Place de la Bourse and marvel at its grandeur. Don’t forget to take a memorable picture at the Miroir d’Eau. Continue to Rue Sainte-Catherine for a spot of shopping and lunch. In the afternoon, explore the Gothic Saint-André Cathedral and climb the Tour Pey-Berland for panoramic city views. End your day with a delicious dinner at a restaurant in the historic Saint-Pierre district.

Day 2: Dive into Wine and Culture

Begin your second day at La Cité du Vin. Immerse yourself in the world of wine and enjoy a tasting with a view. After lunch, head to the Musée d’Aquitaine to learn about Bordeaux’s history from prehistoric times to the present. Spend the rest of the afternoon at the CAPC, Bordeaux’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Finish the day with a relaxing dinner at the Chartrons district, known for its wine trading history and trendy eateries.

Day 3: Explore the Outskirts

On your last day, consider exploring beyond the city. Take a half-day tour of the Saint-Émilion wine region, where you can visit vineyards, enjoy tastings, and discover the charming namesake village. Back in Bordeaux, spend the rest of your afternoon strolling along the Garonne River, or explore the Public Garden for a leisurely end to your trip.

Porte Cailhau
Porte Cailhau

How to spend three days in Marseille

Day 1: Exploring the Heart of Marseille

Kick off your visit to Marseille by exploring the vibrant Vieux Port (Old Port). Watch fishermen selling their catch, enjoy a cup of coffee at one of the numerous waterside cafés, or simply admire the hundreds of moored yachts. Next, stroll to Le Panier, Marseille’s old town, with its charming cobbled streets, colourful houses, artisan shops, and inviting cafés. After lunch in one of the local bistros, take a ride on the tourist train or climb the hill to visit Notre-Dame de la Garde, the city’s iconic basilica, offering panoramic views of Marseille. End your day with a delicious seafood dinner back at the Vieux Port.

Day 2: Discovering Culture and History

Start your second day at the MuCEM (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations), known for its exhibits as well as its stunning architecture. Then make your way to the Palais Longchamp, home to Marseille’s fine art museum and natural history museum, surrounded by a grand park. After lunch, consider visiting Château d’If, a former fortress and prison on a small island off Marseille’s coast, famously featured in Dumas’ ‘The Count of Monte Cristo.’ Wrap up the day with dinner at one of Marseille’s excellent restaurants, perhaps trying the city’s signature dish, bouillabaisse.

Day 3: Nature and Leisure

Devote your last day in Marseille to the Calanques National Park. Depending on your preference, you can hike, kayak, or take a boat tour to explore these stunning limestone cliffs and turquoise waters. Make sure to pack a picnic to enjoy by the sea. After returning to the city, enjoy a leisure stroll along La Corniche, a scenic seaside boulevard, or visit Prado Beach for a more relaxing time. End your trip with a farewell dinner, relishing the flavours of Provençal cuisine.”




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