Marseille or Cannes? Which city should you visit?
Thinking of jetting off to France but torn between Marseille or Cannes? Here’s the lowdown to help you decide:
🏛 History Buffs: An easy win for Marseille here, whilst Cannes’ old town is beautiful and the Lérins Islands are fascinating to explore, they can’t quite Marseille’s 2600 year history!
🏖 Beach Lovers: Cannes is the better beach destination, the whole city is built along the beachfront. Whereas Marseille’s beaches are slightly out of the city centre.
🥐 Foodies: Marseille’s world famous Bouillabaisse and incredible seafood takes this one! Cannes has amazing food and lots of high-end restaurants but they can’t quite match Marseille’s down to earth food scene.
🌳 Nature Enthusiasts: If you love the outdoors, you have to visit Marseille’s Calanques national park. The rocky coves here are perfect for swimming, hiking and canoeing. Cannes doesn’t have anything like this!
🏢 Urban Explorers: For a more down to earth, bustling city experience, choose Marseille. Cannes is beautiful but it feels more like a resort town.
🍷 Wine Lovers: Sitting right it the middle of the Provence wine region, Marseille is the clear winner here for wine addicts!
🎒 Backpackers: Marseille’s rough-and-ready feel, great art and nightlife scene and lower cost of living make it a great destination for backpackers. Cannes is lovely but it’s not cheap and can feel a bit pretentious.
👵 Over 60’s: Cannes’ relaxing beachfront and pretty old town are perfect for the older generation. Marseille is fantastic but it can get very busy and is quite hilly.
👨👩👦 Family-Friendly: Cannes, with its beautiful beaches and relaxed pace, makes for a better family destination. You’ll find child-friendly activities and areas to play or relax in Cannes. Marseille, while a fascinating city, may require a bit more planning to ensure family-friendly activities and experiences. So, for a family-friendly trip, Cannes wins.
In a nutshell, if you’re into history, great food, and natural landscapes, then Marseille is for you. But if you’re all about the beach, glamour, and a more family friendly destination, choose Cannes.
Still not sure? Keep on reading to find out more about both of these fantastic cities.
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.
Known worldwide for its famous film festival, Cannes truly is a star of the Côte d’Azur. Here, you can wander along La Croisette, a boulevard lined with palm trees and luxury boutiques, with the sparkling Mediterranean Sea as your backdrop.
The Old Town, known as Le Suquet, offers a change of pace with its winding streets and panoramic views of the city and sea. But Cannes isn’t just about the glitz and glamour. It’s also a city with beautiful sandy beaches, splendid villas, and a rich history. Whether you’re looking for luxury, culture, or simply a place to relax in the sun, Cannes has got everything.
While we’re comparing Marseille and Cannes in this post, we’ve also looked at how Marseille stacks up against other cities like Biarritz, Montpellier or Bordeaux. We’ve linked to those articles below if you want to take a look!
Pros and Cons of Marseille and Cannes
- 🏛 History: Being France’s oldest city, there’s no shortage of historical sites and museums.
- 🏖 Beaches: Multiple beaches and the Calanques National Park make this a great spot for nature lovers.
- 🍴 Food: Known for its seafood, especially Bouillabaisse, the city offers a wide range of culinary experiences.
- 🎉 Diversity: Marseille is a melting pot of cultures, which makes it interesting and dynamic.
- 🚢 Port: It’s a major Mediterranean port, offering lots of boating and ferry options.
- 📈 Cost: While not as pricey as Cannes, Marseille can still be expensive.
- 👫 Touristy: Some areas can get crowded, especially during peak seasons.
- 🌄 Terrain: The city is hilly, which might not be ideal for everyone.
- 🔒 Safety: Some neighbourhoods are considered less safe compared to other French cities.
- 🎥 Film Festival: Known worldwide for its prestigious film festival.
- 🏖 Beaches: Beautiful beaches make it a paradise for sun-seekers.
- 🛍 Shopping: High-end boutiques and luxury shops abound.
- 🍴 Dining: Lots of fine dining options, especially for fans of Mediterranean cuisine.
- 💶 Cost: It’s a pricey destination, especially during festival season.
- 👫 Crowded: Can get really crowded, particularly during high-profile events.
- 🏛 Few Historical Sites: Not as rich in historical landmarks compared to Marseille.
- 🎉 Less Diverse: Doesn’t offer as much cultural diversity as Marseille.
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.
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.
How long to stay in Cannes
Deciding how long to stay in Cannes depends on what you’re looking to get out of your visit. With its sunny beaches, luxurious lifestyle, and vibrant cultural scene, Cannes has something for everyone.
For those looking to enjoy the sun and sand, a weekend getaway might suffice. This gives you time to soak up the sun on Cannes’ beautiful beaches, take a leisure stroll along the glamorous La Croisette Boulevard, and perhaps enjoy a meal at a seaside restaurant.
However, if you’re interested in exploring Cannes’ cultural attractions, such as the Le Suquet old town, the Musée de la Castre, or the various art galleries around town, a stay of three to four days would be more suitable. This will allow you to experience these attractions without feeling rushed.
For a more relaxed pace and time to explore beyond Cannes itself, consider a stay of a week or longer. This would give you ample time to enjoy day trips to the nearby Lerins Islands or other charming towns along the French Riviera like Nice, Antibes, and Saint-Tropez.
How much is food and drink in Marseille and Cannes?
|Marseille Average Prices (€)
|Cannes Average Prices (€)
|€5 – €8
|€6 – €8
|Glass of Wine
|€4 – €10
|€5 – €12
|€2 – €4
|€2 – €4
|Meal at Midrange Restaurant
|€20 – €40
|€25 – €50
These are estimated average prices for food and drink in Marseille and Cannes. Keep in mind that actual prices may vary based on the specific establishment and location.
How much is it to stay in Marseille or Cannes?
|Marseille Average Prices (per night in €)
|Cannes Average Prices (per night in €)
|€150 – €500 or higher
|€300 – €1000 or higher
|€80 – €150
|€100 – €300
|€40 – €80
|€60 – €100
|€20 – €40
|€20 – €40
These are estimated average prices for accommodation in both Marseille and Cannes. Actual prices may vary depending on the specific location and time of year.
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.
However, always remember to check the local weather forecast before your trip, as weather conditions can change unexpectedly.
When is the best time to visit Cannes?
Average Monthly Temperatures
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.
Getting around Cannes:
Navigating Cannes is surprisingly simple, even for first-time visitors. The city offers a mix of public transport and walkable districts that make getting around hassle-free. The city’s public bus system, operated by Palm Bus, covers a broad area, making stops at popular spots throughout Cannes and its suburbs. The bus service is reliable and runs frequently so you’ll never be waiting too long.
If you’re staying in the city centre, most places are easily reached on foot. The famous Boulevard de la Croisette, lined with luxury shops, restaurants, and of course, the Cannes Film Festival venue, is perfect for a leisurely walk. You’ll get to soak up the sun, enjoy the sea breeze, and maybe even spot a celebrity or two!
For more independent travel, consider renting a bike or an electric scooter. Cannes is bike-friendly with several bike paths and routes around the city. And if you’re planning to explore the French Riviera further, Cannes’ train station, Gare de Cannes, offers regular services to other glamorous towns along the coast.
Cannes-Mandelieu Airport, situated just a short drive from the city centre, serves a number of domestic and international flights, making the city easily accessible. There are also several car hire companies operating in and around the airport if you prefer to drive yourself. In short, Cannes offers a variety of ways to get around that cater to different travel styles and preferences.
Top things to do in Marseille
- Old Port (Vieux Port): This bustling harbor 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.
Top things to do in Cannes
1. La Croisette Boulevard: Cannes’ most famous promenade offers stunning sea views, luxury shops, and first-class restaurants. It’s also home to the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, where the Cannes Film Festival is held.
2. Le Suquet (Old Town): A charming area with narrow winding streets, the Old Town offers a break from Cannes’ glitz. Don’t miss the spectacular views from the historic watchtower and church at the top.
3. Lerins Islands: Just a short ferry ride from Cannes, these islands are perfect for a day trip. Visit the historic Fort Royal on Sainte-Marguerite Island and the Cistercian monastery on Saint-Honorat Island.
4. Cannes’ Beaches: Cannes is famous for its beaches. Whether you choose a private beach with amenities or a public beach, it’s a must for any visit.
5. Marché Forville: For a local experience, visit this daily market where you’ll find a range of fresh produce, cheeses, and other regional delicacies.
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.
How to spend three days in Cannes
Day 1: Explore the City and La Croisette
Start your Cannes journey by taking a leisurely stroll down La Croisette Boulevard. Visit the famous Palais des Festivals et des Congrès and walk in the footsteps of the movie stars. Spend the rest of your morning exploring the luxury shops and enjoying the sea views. After lunch, hit one of Cannes’ stunning beaches for some relaxation. Round off your day with a lovely dinner at one of the seafront restaurants.
Day 2: Discover the Old Town and Islands
Spend your second day exploring Le Suquet, the Old Town. Wander its quaint, winding streets, enjoy the local shops and cafes, and take in the stunning views from the top. After lunch, catch a ferry to the Lerins Islands. Explore the historic Fort Royal on Sainte-Marguerite Island and the Cistercian monastery on Saint-Honorat Island. Return to Cannes for dinner, perhaps choosing a restaurant in Le Suquet for its charming atmosphere.
Day 3: Enjoy the Local Culture and Scenery
On your final day, visit Marché Forville in the morning to explore the local produce and delicacies. Consider a picnic lunch with your market purchases at one of the local parks or beaches. In the afternoon, visit the Musée de la Castre for its collection of Mediterranean and Eastern artefacts, not to mention fantastic panoramic views from the tower. Conclude your visit to Cannes with a farewell dinner at a restaurant offering Provençal specialities.
Gareth is an avid city adventurer with a particular passion for finding amazing food! There’s quite literally nothing he doesn’t like. He spends most of his travelling time trying to find great restaurants and cafes to eat at. Alongside trying local street food which he loves! He’s done most of his travelling in Europe so far but would love to visit Japan and Mexico
When not travelling you can find Gareth boxing, running, or in the gym. He’s got a passion for exercise and loves physical challenges.
You can contact him at email@example.com