Marseille or Lille? – Which City Will You Visit?

Marseille or Lille

Marseille or Lille? Which city should you visit?

Struggling to decide between Marseille or Lille for your next French getaway? This guide will help you choose! Hereโ€™s a quick rundown of both cities and what they have to offer.

๐Ÿ› History Buffs: This one isnโ€™t easy! Marseilleโ€™s is the oldest city in France with plenty of historical attractions to keep you entertained. On the flip side Lilleโ€™s unique history French/Flemish history is very interesting and the battlefields of WW1 are just a stones throw away.

๐Ÿ– Beach Lovers: Lille doesnโ€™t have a beach so this is an easy win for Marseille!

๐Ÿฅ Foodies: Marseilleโ€™s famous Bouillabaisse and incredible seafood dishes take the win here, but Lilleโ€™s hearty Flemish cuisine are very good if youโ€™re learning that way.

๐ŸŒณ Nature Enthusiasts: Thereโ€™s a few nice parks within the city of Lille but nothing can compare to the jaw dropping Calanques National Park that sits on Marseilleโ€™s doorstep.

๐Ÿข Urban Explorers: Lilleโ€™s lively atmosphere, beautiful architecture and great art scene give it the edge for those that love urban exploration.

๐Ÿท Wine Lovers: Marseilleโ€™s proximity to the Provence’s wine regions makes it a clear winner here.

๐ŸŽ’ Backpackers: Lilleโ€™s more reasonable cost of living make it a better destination for backpackers looking to get more for their money.

๐Ÿ‘ต Over 60โ€™s: Lilleโ€™s pretty squares and interesting architecture make it a great destination for a relaxing few days away. Marseille is an amazing destination but it can get very touristy and its hilly terrain isnโ€™t ideal for those that struggle with mobility.

๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ‘ฆ Family-Friendly: Marseille offers a lot of outdoor activities that can be fun for the whole family, from beaches to boat trips. However, the city can get busy, and not all areas are ideal for kids. Lille, with its more laid-back atmosphere, charming squares, and kid friendly attractions, are perfect for a family city break. Lille wins in the family-friendly department.

If youโ€™re into beaches, outdoor adventures, seafood and wine Marseille should be top of your list. But, if youโ€™re looking for some hearty food, a more affordable trip, a great art scene or a family friendly destination, Lille is the place for you.

Still not sure? Keep on reading to learn more about both of these incredible cities

Marseille

Marseille might not boast the romantic feel 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.

Vieux-Port de Marseille
Vieux-Port Marseille – Photo by shakrea

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.

Lille

Nestled near the border with Belgium, Lille has a unique charm that’s all its own. This vibrant city blends French and Flemish influences, creating an ambience that’s distinct yet welcoming. The old town, Vieux Lille, enchants visitors with its narrow cobbled streets and colourful old houses. But it’s not just about the past here.

Vieux Lille
Vieux Lille – Photo by couleursdumondemty

Lille is also a young city, thanks to its large student population, and this brings a dynamic, energetic feel to the place. Whether you’re exploring the bustling markets, diving into the lively arts scene, or just relaxing in a cosy cafรฉ, Lille has something for everyone. It’s a city that knows how to live well and invites you to share in that.

While weโ€™re comparing Marseille and Lille in this post, weโ€™ve also looked at how Marseille stacks up against other cities like Nantes, Strasbourg or Lyon. Weโ€™ve linked to those articles below if you want to take a look!

Marseille or Nantes

Marseille or Strasbourg

Lyon or Marseille

Pros and Cons of Marseille and Lille

Marseille Pros:

  • ๐Ÿ› History: As France’s oldest city, Marseille offers lots of historical sites.
  • ๐Ÿ– Beaches: Easy access to several beaches and Calanques National Park for nature fans.
  • ๐Ÿด Cuisine: Seafood is a big deal here, especially the famous Bouillabaisse.
  • ๐ŸŒ Diversity: A mix of cultures gives the city a dynamic feel.
  • ๐Ÿšข Port: Major Mediterranean port, ideal for boat trips and sea excursions.

Marseille Cons:

  • ๐Ÿ’ธ Cost: It can be a bit expensive, depending on where you go and what you do.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ซ Crowds: Some areas can get packed, especially during tourist season.
  • ๐ŸŒ„ Terrain: The city is hilly, which may be a downside for some.
  • ๐Ÿ”’ Safety: Some areas have a reputation for being less safe.

Lille Pros:

  • ๐ŸŽจ Culture: Rich in museums, theatres, and art venues.
  • ๐Ÿ›’ Shopping: Known for its markets and boutique stores.
  • ๐Ÿฐ Architecture: Offers a range of architectural styles, including Flemish and French.
  • ๐Ÿš† Transport: Well-connected by train to other European cities like Brussels and London.
  • ๐ŸŽ‰ Festivals: Hosts the annual Braderie de Lille, one of Europe’s biggest flea markets.

Lille Cons:

  • ๐ŸŒง Weather: The climate is more temperate, which means it can get quite rainy.
  • ๐Ÿด Cuisine: Doesn’t have as diverse a food scene as Marseille.
  • ๐Ÿ– No Beach: It’s not a coastal city, so no beaches to relax on.
  • ๐Ÿ” Less Touristy: While this can be a pro for some, others might find it less exciting.

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 Chรขteau d’If, without feeling rushed.

Mucem Marseille
MuCEM – Photo by chaacqc

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 Lille

For a short trip, 2-3 days in Lille should give you enough time to see the main sights. You can explore the charming old town, visit a museum or two, and enjoy some local food. This is a good option if you’re on a tight schedule or if you’re visiting Lille as part of a larger trip.

If you have a bit more time, a week in Lille allows you to experience the city more fully. You can take your time exploring the city’s different neighbourhoods, visit more museums, and even take day trips to nearby cities like Bruges or Ghent.

So, whether you’re planning a quick visit or a longer stay, Lille has plenty to offer. But remember, the best trip length for you will depend on your personal interests and how much time you have available.

Rue Lepelletier, Lille, France
Rue Lepelletier, Lille. – Photo by cafesalleyways

How much is food and drink in Marseille and Lille?

Item Marseille Price Range (โ‚ฌ) Lille Price Range (โ‚ฌ)
๐Ÿบ Beer โ‚ฌ5 – โ‚ฌ8 โ‚ฌ5 – โ‚ฌ7
๐Ÿท Glass of Wine โ‚ฌ4 – โ‚ฌ10 โ‚ฌ3 – โ‚ฌ10
โ˜• Coffee โ‚ฌ2 – โ‚ฌ4 โ‚ฌ1.50 – โ‚ฌ3
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Midrange Meal โ‚ฌ20 – โ‚ฌ40 per person โ‚ฌ20 – โ‚ฌ40 per person

These are estimated average prices for food and drink in both Marseille and Lille. Actual prices may vary based on the specific establishment and location.

How much is it to stay in Marseille or Lille?

Accommodation Type Marseille Price Range (โ‚ฌ) Lille Price Range (โ‚ฌ)
Luxury Hotel โ‚ฌ150 – โ‚ฌ500 or higher โ‚ฌ150 – โ‚ฌ500 or higher
Midrange Hotel โ‚ฌ80 – โ‚ฌ150 โ‚ฌ70 – โ‚ฌ150
Budget Hotel โ‚ฌ40 – โ‚ฌ80 โ‚ฌ40 – โ‚ฌ70
Hostel โ‚ฌ20 – โ‚ฌ40 โ‚ฌ20 – โ‚ฌ40

These are estimated average prices for accommodation in both Marseille and Lille. Actual prices may vary based on the specific hotel or hostel, time of year, and location within the city.

When is the best time to visit Marseille?

Spring: ๐ŸŒผ From April to June, the weather in Marseille is comfortably warm, with temperatures averaging between 15-23ยฐC (59-73ยฐF). The city isn’t too crowded, and the beautiful Calanques (rocky inlets) are perfect for hiking and picnicking.

Summer: โ˜€๏ธ July and August are the hottest months, with temperatures reaching 30ยฐC (86ยฐF). 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: ๐Ÿ‚ 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: โ„๏ธ 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.

Always remember to check the local weather forecast before your trip, as weather conditions can change unexpectedly.

When is the best time to visit Lille?

๐ŸŒผ Spring: (March to May) Spring is a time when the city begins to revive after winter. The temperatures are mild, and the cityโ€™s parks and gardens are blossoming. This is a great time to visit if you enjoy outdoor activities and want to avoid the summer crowds.

โ˜€๏ธ Summer: (June to August) Summers in Lille are warm and lively, perfect for exploring the cityโ€™s charming old town and its vibrant markets. The city is bustling with festivals like the Lille Braderie, a huge flea market event and a unique cultural experience.

๐Ÿ Autumn: (September to November) Autumn in Lille brings mild weather and changing colors, turning the city into a vibrant palette. The falling leaves in the city parks create a beautiful spectacle, making it an ideal time for photographers.

โ„๏ธ Winter:ย (December to February)Winter in Lille is fairly chilly, but it’s also when the city turns into a festive wonderland. The Christmas market lights up the city, and while it might be cold, the magical atmosphere more than makes up for it.

Average Monthly Temperatures

Month Marseille (High / Low ยฐC) Marseille Rain Lille (High / Low ยฐC) Lille Rain
January 12ยฐ / 5ยฐ 6 days 12ยฐ / 5ยฐ 6 days
February 13ยฐ / 6ยฐ 4 days 13ยฐ / 6ยฐ 4 days
March 16ยฐ / 8ยฐ 4 days 16ยฐ / 8ยฐ 4 days
April 18ยฐ / 9ยฐ 5 days 18ยฐ / 9ยฐ 5 days
May 23ยฐ / 13ยฐ 4 days 23ยฐ / 13ยฐ 4 days
June 26ยฐ / 17ยฐ 2 days 26ยฐ / 17ยฐ 2 days
July 29ยฐ / 19ยฐ 1 day 29ยฐ / 19ยฐ 1 day
August 29ยฐ / 19ยฐ 2 days 29ยฐ / 19ยฐ 2 days
September 26ยฐ / 16ยฐ 3 days 26ยฐ / 16ยฐ 3 days
October 21ยฐ / 13ยฐ 6 days 21ยฐ / 13ยฐ 6 days
November 16ยฐ / 9ยฐ 5 days 16ยฐ / 9ยฐ 5 days
December 13ยฐ / 6ยฐ 5 days 13ยฐ / 6ยฐ 5 days

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 youโ€™re planning on using public transport.

Getting around Lille:

Getting around Lille is a breeze thanks to its efficient public transport system, which includes buses, trams, and a metro. The Lille Metro is particularly notable as it was the world’s first fully automated light rail network. For shorter distances, walking or cycling is quite feasible as Lille is a compact city with many pedestrianized areas.

There’s also a bike-sharing program known as V’Lille. If you plan on exploring the wider region, trains from Lille’s stations offer quick connections to other major cities in France and Belgium.

Lille is easy to get around due to its buses, trams and metro system. City passes are a good way to save money if you plan on making the most of public transport. Lilleโ€™s city centre is quite compact so itโ€™s very walkable. You could hire a bike too if you wanted.

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 Provenรงal 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.
Notre dame de la garde
Notre Dame De La Garde – Photo by jumpermikko

Top things to do in Lille

1. Visit the Palais des Beaux-Arts: As the second-largest general interest museum in France, the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille houses an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, and drawings from the likes of Rubens, Van Dyck, and Delacroix.

2. Stroll around the Vieux Lille: The old town of Lille, with its cobblestone streets, beautiful old houses, and chic boutiques, is perfect for leisurely walks. Take time to enjoy the area’s charm, and don’t forget to try a Merveilleux, a local pastry.

3. Explore the LaM: Standing for Lille Mรฉtropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art, the LaM holds over 4,000 works including pieces by Picasso, Modigliani, and Miro. Its beautiful park is also a must-see.

4. Take a walk through the Citadel: Designed by Louis XIV’s engineer Vauban, the Citadel is a star-shaped fortress. The surrounding park, Bois de Boulogne, is a great place for a picnic or a jog.

5. Visit the Wazemmes Market: This is one of the largest markets in France and a must-visit spot in Lille. From fresh produce to clothing, you’ll find almost everything here. Try to catch it on Sunday when it’s at its liveliest.

Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille
Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille – Photo by rizanovska

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 cafรฉs, 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 cafรฉs. 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 Marseilleโ€™s fine art museum and natural history museum, surrounded by a grand park. After lunch, consider visiting Chรขteau 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 Provenรงal cuisine.

Calanques National Park
Calanques National Park – soso.hgm

How to spend three days in Lille

Day 1: Get Acquainted with Lille and Its Historic Heart

Begin your Lille adventure by meandering through the streets of Vieux Lille, the city’s old quarter. Marvel at the charming Flemish architecture, visit the imposing Lille Cathedral and indulge in some retail therapy at upscale boutiques. After lunch, head over to the Grand Place, the city’s main square, where you can admire historic buildings like the Vieille Bourse. Cap off your day with a delicious meal at one of the local French or Flemish restaurants in the area.

Grande Place Lille
Grande Place – Photo by cafesalleyways

Day 2: Dive into Lille’s Cultural Treasures and Parks

Start your second day by visiting some of Lille’s renowned museums. Explore the Palais des Beaux-Arts to see masterpieces from Goya, Rubens, and other great artists. Post-lunch, take a leisurely stroll or have a picnic at the Citadel Park, home to the impressive 17th-century Citadel. In the evening, venture back to Vieux Lille for dinner, opting for a cosy bistro for its delightful atmosphere.

Day 3: Embrace the Local Atmosphere and Farewell Meal

On your final day, immerse yourself in the local vibe at Wazemmes Market in the morning. Here you can sample local delicacies and pick up fresh produce. Consider a picnic lunch at the beautiful Jardin des Plantes, one of the city’s lovely green spaces. In the afternoon, pay a visit to the Maison Natale de Charles de Gaulle, the birthplace of the former French president. To wrap up your Lille trip, enjoy a farewell dinner at a restaurant serving traditional Northern French cuisine.

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