Nice or Marseille – Which city should you visit?
Considering a trip to the French Riviera and can’t decide between visiting Nice or Marseille? Here’s a quick rundown to help you choose:
🏛 History Buffs: Marseille’s maritime history and ancient landmarks edge it past Nice in this category. Nice has its fair share of historical sites but Marseille is more diverse.
🏖 Beach Lovers: Nice’s world-famous Promenade des Anglais takes this one. Marseille’s beaches are good but it doesn’t offer the same beachfront experience as Nice.
🥐 Foodies: Marseille’s world-famous Bouillabaisse and North African influenced dishes edge out Nice’s Mediterranean dishes. Both cities offer incredible food, but Marseille’s diversity beats Nice here.
🌳 Nature Enthusiasts: The incredible Calanques National Park just outside of Marseille is the dream location for nature lovers, and puts Marseille ahead in this category.
🏢 Urban Explorers: This isn’t an easy choice, Nice’s glamourous feel makes it a top choice for those who like the finer things in life, whereas Marseille’s multicultural, gritty feel makes it better for people who prefer more down to earth cities.
🛍 Shopping Enthusiasts: Nice’s typically chic French boutiques and designer stores make it the ultimate destination for shoppers. Marseille has its fair share of shops but, most people would prefer Nice.
🍷 Wine Lovers: Both of these cities have great wine experiences. Nice has the Bellet wines on its doorstep. But with Marseille being in the middle of the Provence wine region, it’s surrounded by vineyards.
🎒 Backpackers: Marseille’s youthful energy and down-to-earth feel will probably be more appealing to backpackers. Nice does have some budget options but not as many as Marseille either.
👵 Over 60’s: Nice’s beautiful promenades, stunning squares and pretty old town make it perfect for a relaxing getaway. Marseille is more of a busy, multicultural city so it’s all down to personal preference.
The choice between Nice or Marseille is all down to what you look for most in a destination. If you love a glamorous, beachfront location, Nice is for you. But if you prefer a more down-to-earth, multicultural city that is full of history, choose Marseille.
Still not sure? Read the rest of this blog to learn more about both cities and what they have to offer.
Nice, the jewel of the French Riviera! If you’re the kind of person who loves to bask in the sun while enjoying breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea, then Nice is your dream come true. It’s a vibrant, colourful city where the beach meets the streets, and there’s always something to see or do. Plus, the Old Town is just amazing – it’s like stepping back in time. And let’s not forget the food, which is a heavenly mix of French and Italian flavours.
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 Nice and Marseille in this post, we’ve also looked at how Nice stacks up against other cities like Cannes, Paris and Montpellier. We’ve linked to those articles below if you want to take a look!
Pros and Cons of Nice and Marseille
- 🏖 Stunning Coastline: Nice offers a breathtaking coastline with the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
- ☀️ Weather: Its year-round mild climate is perfect for those who enjoy the outdoors.
- 🎨 Art and History: Nice is home to many museums and historical sites, such as the Matisse Museum and the Old Town.
- ✈️ Accessibility: Nice has an excellent public transport system and is also well-connected to other major European cities via the Nice Côte d’Azur Airport.
- 💶 Expensive: As a popular tourist destination, it can be pricey, especially during peak tourist season.
- 👫 Crowded: It can get crowded, particularly during the summer months.
- 🇲🇦 Not as Culturally Diverse: Compared to Marseille, Nice is not as culturally diverse.
- 🏛 Rich History and Culture: Marseille’s history dates back to ancient times, and it offers a diverse cultural scene.
- 🚢 Vibrant Port: The Old Port is a bustling area filled with boats, restaurants, and shops.
- 🍤 Cuisine: Known for its seafood, especially the famous Bouillabaisse.
- 🌊 Natural Beauty: With the Calanques National Park nearby, Marseille offers stunning natural landscapes and outdoor activities.
- 👮♀️ Safety: Certain areas of Marseille are known for higher crime rates, though tourist areas are generally safe.
- 🍸 Not as Elegant: Compared to Nice, Marseille might not meet some visitors’ expectations of a more stylish and refined setting.
- 🇬🇧 Not as English-Friendly: While this is improving, fewer people speak English compared to Nice.
Which City Has Better Food? Nice or Marseille?
Marseille, with its rich culinary traditions stemming from its diverse population and coastal location, is often regarded as a paradise for food enthusiasts. Bouillabaisse, the city’s signature dish, is a must-try and showcases Marseille’s seafood heritage.
But let’s not forget about Nice’s own unique cuisine. Its food reflects its location, with Italian influence evident in dishes like Socca and Salade Niçoise. Both cities, in truth, provide an incredible gastronomic experience that will satisfy any foodie.
Which City is Better For Couples? Nice or Marseille?
When it comes to romantic getaways, both Nice and Marseille have their own charm.
Nice’s beautiful beaches, incredible sunsets and cute old town are probably more in line with most people’s idea of a romantic holiday.
On the other hand, Marseille’s rustic charm, along with its vibrant arts scene, historic neighbourhoods and stunning views from Notre Dame de la Garde are hard to ignore!
The ultimate decision depends on the couple’s preferences – the laid-back, beachy charm of Nice or the cultural, dynamic vibrancy of Marseille.
Which City is Better For Families? Nice or Marseille?
In terms of family-friendly activities, both cities have something to offer. Nice, with its calm beaches, pedestrian-friendly Promenade des Anglais, and kid-friendly parks like Parc Phoenix, is perfect for families who prefer a relaxed, outdoor holiday. The city also has a number of museums, like the Musée Matisse, which are enjoyable for both adults and kids.
On the other hand, Marseille is great for families who are looking for an adventure-filled vacation. The city offers numerous outdoor activities such as boat trips to the stunning Calanques, visits to the iconic Château d’If, and exploration of the city’s historic districts. Marseille’s renowned aquarium, the MuCEM, is another hit among kids.
Again, it boils down to the family’s preference – tranquil beach life in Nice or exciting city adventures in Marseille.
Which City is Better For Partying? Nice or Marseille?
Nice is known for its elegant nightlife, with stylish bars and clubs located right by the seafront. These venues often keep the party alive until the sun comes up. The city is particularly famous for its jazz music, making it a great destination for those who enjoy vibrant live performances.
On the other hand, Marseille has a much grittier and eclectic nightlife. Its Vieux-Port area is buzzing with energy, packed with diverse bars, clubs, and live music venues.
So, if a sophisticated, music-filled night scene appeals to you, Nice might be your top choice. But if you’re into dynamic, culturally rich nightlife, then you’ll probably love Marseille.
Which City is Safer? Nice or Marseille?
Generally, Nice is considered safe, particularly in the well-touristed areas where most visitors spend their time. Like any city, it has its less safe areas, but they’re far from the usual tourist spots. Usual precautions, such as not displaying expensive belongings and avoiding deserted areas at night, should be taken.
Unfortunately, Marseille has a bit of a bad reputation. But is it actually unsafe for travellers? There are areas of the city that should be avoided, the majority of the city is safe for tourists. Just make sure to take the usual precautions of keeping an eye on your belongings, staying in the tourist areas, and not wandering around late at night.
How long to stay in Nice
Deciding on the perfect duration for a trip to Nice can be a bit difficult, given the city’s stunning beaches, rich history, and flourishing art scene. Ultimately, the length of your stay will hinge on your personal preferences and how leisurely you plan to explore.
If you’re all about soaking up the sunshine, meandering through the charming Old Town, and indulging in the Riviera’s culinary delights, a stay of 2 to 3 days should suffice. This provides enough time to bask on the beautiful beaches, get lost in the winding alleyways of Vieux Nice, and savour mouth-watering local dishes like ‘Socca’ or ‘Salade Niçoise’.
However, if you’re intent on immersing yourself in Nice’s rich cultural tapestry and history, think about extending your visit to 4 to 5 days. This way, you can explore the exquisite art at the Musée Matisse and Musée Marc Chagall, soak in the views from the Colline du Château, and visit the iconic Cours Saleya market, all without feeling rushed.
For those desiring a deeper dive into the Côte d’Azur lifestyle, spending a week in Nice can be a fantastic choice. This period will not only provide time to thoroughly explore the city’s attractions but also offer opportunities for leisurely strolls along the Promenade des Anglais, indulging in the café culture, and embarking on day trips to nearby gems like the glamorous Cannes or the independent microstate of Monaco. A week in Nice allows you to truly immerse yourself in the relaxed yet vibrant Riviera 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 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.
Which City is More Budget-Friendly? Nice or Marseille?
Marseille typically emerges as a more budget-friendly option. It has a wider range of affordable accommodations, from quaint B&Bs tucked away in narrow lanes to budget hotels that don’t skimp on comfort.
When it comes to dining, Marseille also tends to be more cost-effective. The city boasts a plethora of local markets where you can buy fresh produce at reasonable prices, ideal for those picnics by the old port!
However, Nice has its own set of budget attractions. Despite being generally more expensive, you can still find decently priced accommodations and eateries if you do some digging. There are plenty of outdoor activities to do as well which are always free.
As usual, just make sure you do your research. There are always going to be hotels and restaurants that are more expensive than others wherever you go.
How much is food and drink in Nice and Marseille?
|Beer (500ml draught)
|6 – 8
|6 – 8
|Glass of Wine
|4 – 6
|4 – 6
|2 – 4
|2 – 4
|Meal at a Mid-range Restaurant (for two)
|50 – 70
|50 – 70
How much is it to stay in Nice or Marseille?
|Type of Accommodation
|Nice (Average Price per Night)
|Marseille (Average Price per Night)
|€150 – €500
|€150 – €500
|€80 – €150
|€70 – €150
|€40 – €80
|€40 – €70
|€20 – €40
|€20 – €40
When is the best time to visit Nice?
🌼 Spring: From April to June, Nice enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate with temperatures ranging from 15-20°C (59-68°F). The city sparkles with the vibrant colours of blooming flowers, making it an ideal time to visit parks like the Colline du Château. Outdoor events and festivals also start popping up, creating an energetic atmosphere.
☀️ Summer: July to August in Nice is truly summertime. The temperatures can go up to 30°C (86°F), offering perfect weather for beach activities and enjoying the stunning coastline. However, be prepared for the crowd as these are the peak tourist months, and prices for accommodation and other services may also be higher.
🍁 Autumn: In the months of September and October, the temperature stays around 20-25°C (68-77°F). The city is less crowded during this period, and the changing colours of foliage give the city a beautiful look, ideal for walks and bike rides along the Promenade des Anglais.
❄️ Winter: From November to March, temperatures in Nice can drop to around 10-15°C (50-59°F). While it’s not the ideal time for beach activities, it’s a good opportunity to explore Nice’s museums, like the Matisse Museum, and enjoy indoor events without the tourist rush.
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.
Average Monthly Temperatures
|Nice High/Low (°C)
|Nice Rainy Days
|Marseille High/Low (°C)
|Marseille Rainy Days
|12° / 8°
|12° / 5°
|12° / 7°
|13° / 6°
|14° / 9°
|16° / 8°
|16° / 11°
|18° / 9°
|20° / 14°
|23° / 13°
|24° / 18°
|26° / 17°
|27° / 21°
|29° / 19°
|27° / 21°
|29° / 19°
|24° / 19°
|26° / 16°
|20° / 15°
|21° / 13°
|16° / 11°
|16° / 9°
|13° / 9°
|13° / 6°
Note: The temperatures are indicated as high/low in Celsius (°C), and the number of rainy days represents the average for each respective month.
Getting around Nice:
Nice has a well-connected public transportation system, with trams and buses covering the city comprehensively. Tickets are interchangeable between buses and trams, making transfers easy. For those preferring a more active exploration, the city offers a bike-sharing scheme, Vélo Bleu, and plenty of bike lanes.
Walking is another great way to explore, especially in the Old Town and along the Promenade des Anglais. Taxis and Uber are also available, but keep an eye on fares during peak tourist seasons.
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 Nice
- Promenade des Anglais: Stroll along this famous seafront walkway, taking in the stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea and Nice’s elegant architecture. Don’t miss the iconic Hotel Negresco, an architectural marvel.
- Vieux Nice (Old Town): Lose yourself in the narrow, winding streets of Nice’s old town, filled with vibrant markets, charming shops, and delightful eateries. Check out the Cours Saleya Market for fresh produce and local specialities.
- Colline du Château (Castle Hill): While the castle itself no longer stands, this hill offers panoramic views of Nice and the surrounding coastline. It’s also home to a beautiful park, ideal for a picnic.
- Matisse Museum: Art enthusiasts must visit this museum, housing an extensive collection of works by the French painter Henri Matisse, who lived and worked in Nice for many years.
- Take a day trip to Monaco: Only a short train ride away, this glamorous city-state offers a slice of luxury with its casinos, yacht-filled harbour, and the Royal Prince’s Palace.
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.
How to spend three days in Nice
Day 1: Discovering the Charms of Nice
Start your day with a stroll along the famous Promenade des Anglais, enjoying the stunning views of the Mediterranean. Follow this with a visit to the iconic Hotel Negresco, an architectural gem with a fascinating history.
Head to the Old Town, Vieux Nice, for lunch. Lose yourself in the narrow, winding streets filled with vibrant markets and charming shops. Don’t miss the Cours Saleya Market for some local produce.
In the afternoon, visit the stunning Nice Cathedral with its richly decorated Baroque interior. Then, make your way up to Colline du Château, or Castle Hill. Even though the castle is no longer there, the hill offers breathtaking panoramic views of Nice and the coastline.
Day 2: Artistic Endeavors and a Monaco Adventure
Kick off your second day with a visit to the Matisse Museum, showcasing a vast collection of works by the famous artist Henri Matisse who lived in Nice.
In the afternoon, take a short train ride for a day trip to glamorous Monaco. Explore the Royal Prince’s Palace, the luxurious casinos, and the yacht-filled harbour. Back in Nice, enjoy dinner at a chic restaurant on the beach.
Day 3: Riviera Relaxation
Your last day in Nice is all about leisure. Spend the day on one of Nice’s beautiful pebble beaches, soaking up the sun and swimming in the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean. For lunch, try a beachside café for some fresh seafood.
In the evening, enjoy some shopping in the city’s chic boutiques and souvenir shops. End your Nice adventure with a delicious farewell dinner in one of the city’s gourmet restaurants, reminiscing about the highlights of your visit.
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.
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