Lyon or Marseille – Which City Will You Visit?

Lyon or Marseille

Lyon or Marseille – Which city should you visit?

Planning a trip to France and torn between Lyon or Marseille? Well, fret not, my travel-savvy friends, this blog post will help you decide exactly which city is best for you! We’ll dive into each city and show you exactly what they have to offer, from affordability to the nightlife, we’ll cover it all.


Lyon might not have the worldwide fame of Paris or the glamorous beaches of the Riviera, but boy, does it have charm! Set between two rivers, Lyon is like a treasure chest for history buffs. It’s crammed full of Renaissance-era architecture, with the old town, Vieux Lyon, being a UNESCO World Heritage site. But that’s just scratching the surface. Lyon’s also known as France’s ‘culinary capital’, and once you’ve tried a local ‘bouchon’ restaurant, you’ll see why. The city is also famed for its vibrant cultural scene, with a host of museums, theatres, and festivals that keep the city lively throughout the year. If you love good food, rich history, and a city that pulses with life, Lyon’s got you covered.


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.

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

Lyon or Montpellier

Lyon or Cannes

Pros and Cons of Lyon and Marseille

Lyon pros:

  • 🥐 Gastronomic Delight: Lyon, often referred to as the food capital of France, offers a culinary scene that is hard to resist. From traditional Lyonnais cuisine to Michelin-starred restaurants, Lyon is a paradise for food lovers.
  • 🏛 Rich Cultural Heritage: Lyon boasts a well-preserved Renaissance old town, Vieux Lyon, where you can immerse yourself in history and architecture. The city is also home to numerous museums and galleries, showcasing its vibrant cultural heritage.
  • 🌳 Accessible Outdoor Spaces: Lyon offers beautiful parks and green spaces, such as Parc de la Tête d’Or, where you can enjoy leisurely walks, picnics, and even rent a boat on the lake.
  • 💡 Festival Extravaganza: Lyon is renowned for its vibrant festivals, including the spectacular Fête des Lumières. This annual festival transforms the city into a magical wonderland with stunning light displays, creating a truly enchanting atmosphere for locals and visitors alike.

Lyon cons:

  • 🏖 Limited Beach Access: Lyon is situated inland, so if you’re looking for a beach experience, Marseille might be a better option.
  • ❄️ Climate: Lyon’s climate can be slightly cooler compared to Marseille, particularly outside of the summer months.

Marseille pros:

  • 🌊 Coastal Beauty: Marseille is blessed with stunning coastal scenery, including picturesque beaches and the iconic Calanques National Park, offering opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, and scenic hikes.
  • 🎨 Cultural Diversity: Marseille is a melting pot of different cultures, resulting in a vibrant and multicultural atmosphere. The city’s diverse neighbourhoods, such as Le Panier and Cours Julien, offer a blend of art, music, and international cuisines.
  • ☀️ Mediterranean Climate: Marseille enjoys a warm Mediterranean climate, making it an ideal destination for those seeking sunshine and pleasant weather.
  • ⛵️ Nautical Adventures: Marseille offers fantastic opportunities for nautical adventures. From boat trips along the coast to water sports like diving and sailing, the city provides an exciting playground for those seeking aquatic thrills and unforgettable experiences.

Marseille cons:

  • 👫 Crowded Tourist Areas: Marseille, being a popular tourist destination, can get crowded, especially during peak season. Popular attractions like the Vieux Port and Notre-Dame de la Garde can attract large numbers of visitors.
  • 👮‍♂️ Safety Concerns: While Marseille is a vibrant city, it has unfortunately experienced some safety concerns in certain areas.

Which City Has Better Food? Lyon or Marseille?

Lyon, often hailed as the food capital of France, is a haven for food enthusiasts. The city boasts a rich culinary heritage, offering traditional Lyonnais dishes that will have you begging for more. From indulging in a classic Lyonnais bouchon experience to savouring Michelin-starred delicacies, Lyon has something to satisfy every palate. With its renowned fresh produce, vibrant food markets, and a multitude of dining options, Lyon is a true paradise for food lovers.

On the other hand, Marseille offers a delightful fusion of Mediterranean flavours and influences. From mouthwatering bouillabaisse, a traditional fish stew, to fresh seafood delights, Marseille is a seafood lover’s dream come true. The city also embraces its multicultural heritage, infusing its cuisine with North African and Middle Eastern flavours. Marseille’s lively markets, bustling street food scene, and charming waterfront restaurants offer a culinary adventure like no other.

Both Lyon and Marseille take pride in their gastronomic offerings, celebrating the diversity and richness of French cuisine. Whether you prefer Lyon’s traditional Lyonnais food or Marseille’s vibrant Mediterranean flavours, both cities offer an amazing experience for foodies!

Which City is Better For Couples? Lyon or Marseille?

Lyon is a great city for a romantic weekend away. The cute little streets of Vieux Lyon are perfect for wandering around, looking in shops and getting food at all the bistros and cafes. You’ll be surprised and how beautiful this city is and how few people seem to actually go. There are over 5 km of walkways along the Rhône River, which makes it great for romantic walks along the water. You could even go for a picnic in the beautiful Parc de la Tête d’Or.

Lyon Old Town

On the other hand, Marseille’s coastal location offers a different kind of romantic getaway. Here it’s all about the Mediterranean, spending time at Vieux Port. Relaxing at the many restaurants, cafes and bars whilst soaking up the amazing views of the sea and the harbour. A boat ride to the incredible Calanques is definitely recommended to see all the hidden coves and secluded beaches too. Marseille’s coastal beauty, Mediterranean vibes, and lively ambience creates the perfect setting for a romantic weekend.

Both Lyon and Marseille offer unique romantic experiences that cater to different couples. Lyon captivates with its culinary delights and historical charm, while Marseille entices with its coastal beauty and vibrant atmosphere. But which one is for you?

Which City is Better For Families? Lyon or Marseille?

Lyon, with its rich history and cultural attractions, has something for the whole family. Explore the charming streets of Vieux Lyon, where kids can marvel at Renaissance architecture and parents can enjoy a leisurely stroll. Lyon’s parks, such as the expansive Parc de la Tête d’Or, are perfect to spend the day, with playgrounds, a zoo, and even a lake for boat rides there’s so much to keep the kids entertained. The city also boasts several family-friendly museums, like the Musée Miniature et Cinéma, where kids can discover replicas of famous movie sets and props.

Marseille, with its coastal beauty and diverse attractions, also caters to families. The city’s beaches are perfect for fun in the sun, building sandcastles and splashing in the Mediterranean. Kids will love the natural history museum which is filled with incredible animals from all over the world. Kids will love spending time at Vieux Port, eating good food and marvelling at the luxury yachts anchored there.

Parc de la Tête d'Or

Both Lyon and Marseille have plenty to keep all of the family entertained. Lyon’s historical charm and cultural offerings, combined with Marseille’s coastal beauty and vibrant atmosphere, create the perfect blend for a family adventure.

Which City is Better For Partying? Lyon or Marseille?

Lyon, with its lively student population and diverse venues, knows how to throw a party. The city is dotted with cool bars, bustling nightclubs, and intimate music venues that cater to most people’s tastes. From the vibrant nightlife hotspot of Rue Mercière to the chic bars in the trendy Confluence district, Lyon offers a vibrant party scene. Whether you prefer dancing to the latest beats or enjoying live music performances, Lyon has something to keep you entertained.

Meanwhile, Marseille boasts its own brand of nightlife excitement. The city’s vibrant Vieux Port area comes alive after dark, with a plethora of bars and clubs lining its picturesque waterfront. From trendy rooftop bars offering stunning views of the city to underground music venues that host eclectic performances, Marseille’s nightlife scene offers something for everyone. The city’s diverse population and lively ambience create an electric atmosphere that is sure to satisfy anyone looking for a good time.

Both Lyon and Marseille know how to party, each offering a unique and vibrant nightlife. Lyon’s trendy venues and diverse music scene cater to a youthful crowd, while Marseille’s dynamic waterfront and multicultural vibe create an energetic atmosphere.

Which City is Safer? Lyon or Marseille?

Lyon, with its well-preserved historic centre and bustling city atmosphere, is generally considered to be a safe destination. Lyon’s streets and neighbourhoods are safe to explore but it’s advisable to take precautions in busy areas or late at night.

Marseille, being a larger city with a more diverse population, does have some areas that may require extra caution. The majority of the city is known to be safe. But the 16th, 5th, 14th, 9th and 3rd arrondissements have a bad reputation, so it might be better to avoid them. But if you avoid these areas and don’t wander around alone late at night you should be ok.

While Lyon generally has a reputation for being safer, it’s important to exercise common sense and be cautious in any city.

How long to stay in Lyon

Deciding how long to stay in Lyon truly depends on your personal interests and the pace at which you prefer to travel. Known as the gastronomical capital of France, with its rich history and vibrant cultural scene, Lyon offers a wide variety of experiences for every type of traveller.

If you’re mainly keen to absorb the unique vibe of the city, enjoy its amazing food, and stroll through its historical streets, a weekend getaway of 2-3 days might be sufficient. This gives you time to explore Vieux Lyon (Old Town), visit a traditional “bouchon” for some authentic Lyonnaise cuisine, and perhaps enjoy a relaxing evening walk along the Rhône River.

However, if you have a passion for art, history, or culture, I’d recommend staying in Lyon for around 4-5 days. This allows enough time to discover the city’s key cultural landmarks, including the Musée des Confluences, the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon, and the stunning Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, without feeling rushed.

For those who prefer a more leisurely pace or wish to delve deeper into what Lyon and its surroundings have to offer, consider a week-long stay. This provides ample opportunity to fully appreciate the city’s charm, take day trips to the nearby vineyards or beautiful towns in the region like Annecy or Perouges, and truly immerse yourself in the Lyonnaise lifestyle.

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 be enough. This should give you plenty of 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.

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.

Marseille Port

Which City is More Budget-Friendly? Lyon or Marseille?

Lyon can be a bit pricier compared to Marseille. Accommodation and restaurants tend to cater to a wealthy clientele, with a range of boutique hotels and high-end restaurants (Lyon has the second most Michelin-starred restaurants after Paris).
But, Lyon also offers budget-friendly alternatives, such as affordable guesthouses and local eateries, where you can savour delicious Lyonnais specialities without breaking the bank.

Marseille is known for being a working-class port city and as a result, tends to be more budget-friendly overall.
The city offers a range of affordable accommodation options, from budget hotels to cosy guesthouses. Marseille’s street food scene is also a wallet-friendly delight, with incredible snacks and affordable eats available throughout the city. Exploring Marseille’s attractions, such as the Vieux Port and the stunning Calanques, can be done without hurting your budget too much

Both Lyon and Marseille offer experiences that accommodate different budgets. Lyon may have a higher price tag in some aspects, but it also provides opportunities to indulge in more high-end culinary delights than Marseille. Marseille, with its more affordable options, allows you to explore the city without stretching your budget. So, whether you choose Lyon or Marseille, we’re sure you’ll manage to have a great time whatever your budget.

How much is food and drink in Lyon and Marseille?

Lyon Marseille
Beer €5 – €8 €5 – €7
Glass of wine €4 – €10 €3 – €10
Coffee €2 – €4 €1.50 – €3
Meal at midrange restaurant €30 – €50 €20 – €40

Please note that these prices are estimates and may vary depending on the specific establishment and other factors.

How much is it to stay in Lyon or Marseille?

Lyon Marseille
Luxury hotel €150 – €500+ €150 – €500+
Midrange hotel €70 – €150 €80 – €150
Budget hotel €40 – €70 €40 – €80
Hostel €20 – €40 €20 – €40

Please note that these prices are estimates and may vary depending on the specific hotel, location, and seasonal factors. Additionally, prices for accommodations can fluctuate based on demand and availability.

When is the best time to visit Lyon?

In Lyon, springtime (March to May) marks the city’s awakening post-winter. The temperatures are pleasant, and the city’s parks and gardens come alive with blooming flowers. If you appreciate outdoor activities and want to avoid the summer rush, this is an ideal time to visit.

Summers (June to August) in Lyon are warm and energetic, making it an excellent time for exploring the city’s historical old town and lively food markets. The city comes alive with numerous festivals, such as the Fête de la Musique, a nationwide music festival celebrating the summer solstice.

Autumn (September to November) in Lyon brings mild weather and a change of colours, painting the city in vibrant hues. The falling leaves in the city parks offer a delightful visual treat, creating an ideal environment for photography enthusiasts.

Winter (December to February) in Lyon can be quite chilly, but it’s also when the city exudes a festive charm. The Festival of Lights (Fête des Lumières), one of Lyon’s most renowned events, transforms the city into a mesmerizing display of light, offering a unique experience despite the cold weather.

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 Lyon (High/Low °C) Lyon Rainy Days Marseille (High/Low °C) Marseille Rainy Days
January 6° / 0° 9 days 12° / 5° 6 days
February 8° / 1° 8 days 13° / 6° 4 days
March 13° / 4° 9 days 16° / 8° 4 days
April 16° / 6° 8 days 18° / 9° 5 days
May 20° / 10° 10 days 23° / 13° 4 days
June 24° / 14° 8 days 26° / 17° 2 days
July 27° / 16° 6 days 29° / 19° 1 day
August 27° / 15° 7 days 29° / 19° 2 days
September 22° / 12° 7 days 26° / 16° 3 days
October 17° / 9° 9 days 21° / 13° 6 days
November 11° / 4° 8 days 16° / 9° 5 days
December 7° / 1° 9 days 13° / 6° 5 days

Please note that the values represent the average high and low temperatures for each month, followed by the average number of rainy days.

Getting around Lyon:

Lyon has a great public transport system. With buses, trams and a metro system it’s very easy to get around the city. If you’re planning on making the most of the public transport here, make sure you get a City Card they’re great for saving money. Walking is always a good option, it is a big city but it doesn’t take hours to walk between attractions like Paris can do.

Taxis are readily available but not particularly cheap.

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 Lyon

Visit Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière: Perched on the top of Fourvière Hill, this magnificent basilica offers breathtaking panoramic views over Lyon. Whether you’re a history buff, architecture enthusiast, or just looking for a great view, this is a must-visit.

Stroll Through Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon): This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the largest Renaissance neighbourhoods in Europe. Its narrow, cobbled streets, charming courtyards, and historic “traboules” (hidden passageways) are super cool!

Explore Parc de la Tête d’Or: This expansive urban park is perfect for a leisurely day out. It houses a zoo, botanical gardens, and a beautiful large lake. Whether you want to picnic, boat, or just relax, this park has something for everyone.

Discover Lyon’s Culinary Scene: Lyon is often referred to as the gastronomic capital of France. Try local specialities at a traditional “bouchon,” visit a local market like Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, or take a cooking class.

Visit the Musée des Confluences: This science and anthropology museum is renowned for its modern architecture. It’s located at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers, thus the name. The exhibitions are as impressive as the building itself.

Top things to do in Marseille

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

MuCEM (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations)

How to spend three days in Lyon

Day 1: Introduction to Lyon and Its Historical Centre

Start your Lyon journey by wandering the streets of Vieux Lyon, the city’s old quarter. Appreciate the charm of Renaissance architecture, visit the majestic Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste, and perhaps engage in a little retail therapy at some chic boutiques. After lunch, make your way over to the Place Bellecour, one of the largest open squares in Europe, where you can admire the statue of Louis XIV and the stunning surrounding buildings. Finish off your day with a delightful meal at one of the local ‘bouchon’ restaurants in the area, savouring Lyon’s unique culinary heritage.

Day 2: Delve into Lyon’s Cultural Riches and Parks

Start your second day by immersing yourself in some of Lyon’s renowned museums. Visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts to appreciate masterpieces from artists like Rubens, Monet, and Picasso. After lunch, take a leisurely stroll or have a picnic in the Parc de la Tête d’Or, home to a zoo and a beautiful lake. In the evening, venture back to Vieux Lyon for dinner, opting for a cosy bistro to experience the enchanting nighttime atmosphere of this historic district.

Day 3: Embrace the Local Atmosphere and Farewell Meal

On your final day, delve into the local vibe at Lyon’s Croix-Rousse district in the morning. Known for its history of silk production, the area is now teeming with local markets and boutique shops. Consider having lunch at one of the quaint cafes in the area, sampling some more Lyonnaise delicacies. In the afternoon, pay a visit to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, offering breathtaking views over the city. To wrap up your Lyon trip, enjoy a farewell dinner at a restaurant serving traditional Lyonnaise cuisine.

Basilica of Notre Dame of Fourvière

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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