Toulouse or Marseille? Which city should you visit?
Considering a trip to France and can’t decide between Toulouse or Marseille? Here’s a quick rundown to help you choose:
- History Buffs: Marseille’s Roman history and maritime tales might be more up your alley, but Toulouse isn’t far behind with its architectural gems.
- Beach Lovers: It’s clear – Marseille is the go-to for stunning beaches and Mediterranean vibes.
- Foodies: Got a taste for seafood? Marseille calls you. But if rich, traditional French cuisine tempts you, Toulouse is for you.
- Nature Enthusiasts: If the coast calls you, Marseille is your spot. But for mountain vibes, Toulouse is unbeatable.
- Urban Explorers: For a balanced blend of tradition and contemporary, try Toulouse. For something edgier, Marseille has you covered.
- Adventure Junkies: Exploring mountains? Toulouse. Sea adventures? Marseille.
- Wine Lovers: For a wine experience with a difference, Toulouse is a treasure, but for those intrigued by coastal wines, Marseille shines.
- Backpackers: For a tranquil, cultural soak, Toulouse wins. But if you’re after energy and variety, it’s Marseille.
- Over 60’s: Toulouse, with its laid-back atmosphere, cultural landmarks, and easily navigable cityscape, is ideal for the mature traveller. Marseille, while energetic, offers a rich tapestry of experiences for those with an adventurous spirit.
Intrigued? Read on to dive deep into what each city can offer.
Toulouse, a city perfectly perched between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, offers an intriguing mix of history, innovation, and charm. Its historic centre, known as Vieux Toulouse, boasts a tapestry of coral-hued buildings that have earned it the moniker ‘La Ville Rose’, or ‘The Pink City’. But Toulouse is not just about reminiscing about the past. It’s a dynamic city teeming with academic vigour, courtesy of its vibrant student population, and is a hotbed for aeronautics and space exploration. With an array of museums, a thriving arts scene, and lively local markets, this city caters to a broad spectrum of travellers. Plus, the local cuisine, characterized by hearty Southwestern French specialities, is a gastronomic adventure in itself. If you’re seeking a unique and vibrant destination for your next vacation, Toulouse should unquestionably be on your radar!
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 Toulouse and Marseille in this post, we’ve also looked at how Toulouse stacks up against other cities like Montpellier and Biarritz. We’ve linked to those articles below if you want to take a look!
Pros and Cons of Toulouse and Marseille
- 🏦 Architecture: Toulouse, known as “La Ville Rose,” is a must-visit for its beautiful streets and buildings.
- 🚀 Aerospace: Holding the title of Europe’s largest space centre, Toulouse provides insights into space exploration.
- 🎓 Education: Toulouse is a hub for higher learning in France, hosting a lively student community.
- 🍽 Cuisine: Toulouse’s culinary scene with specialities like cassoulet and Toulouse sausage is incredible.
- 🌦 Weather: Seasons in Toulouse can vary, with very hot, stuffy spells in summer and cooler periods in winter.
- 🚗 Traffic: Busy hours can be taxing due to the city’s congestion.
- 🏖 No Beach: Those seeking coastal getaways might find Toulouse’s inland location less appealing.
- 🏞 Natural Beauty: Calanques National Park in Marseille offers beautiful landscapes perfect for hiking enthusiasts.
- 🌊 Port City: Being a port on the Mediterranean, Marseille has scenic harbours and offers fresh seafood dishes.
- 🎼 Culture: With a blend of French and North African influences, Marseille presents diverse festivals and music scenes.
- 🍲 Cuisine: The city offers an incredibly diverse culinary scene with influences from the Mediterranean and North Africa.
- 🌦 Weather: At times, the city experiences the strong Mistral wind which can be quite cooling.
- 🚶♂️ Size: The expansive layout means distances between attractions can be considerable.
- 🌃 Nightlife: While there are nightlife options, it may not be as bustling as in other French cities.
Which City Has Better Food? Toulouse or Marseille?
Toulouse has some culinary delights that will make your mouth water. Ever had cassoulet? It’s a slow-cooked meat and beans casserole in a terracotta dish, it comes straight from the oven to your table still bubbling with the heat. It’s very filling but seriously good. We love it!
Plus, there’s the famous Toulouse sausage that you’ll find all over the city. If you’re looking to try more than local French cuisine, Toulouse has got an incredibly diverse food scene. The cakes are amazing too! Make sure to visit Salon Cacao’T, you won’t regret it!
Marseille is all about its Mediterranean and North African flavours. Think fresh seafood, sunny tomatoes, and olive oil. Bouillabaisse, the iconic fish stew, hails from here!
You’ll find it bubbling away in local pots, filled with the day’s catch and aromatic herbs. And if you’re into a bit of spice, make sure to try some North African food, Restaurant Chez Soi is a Tunisian Restaurant that serves up seriously good Tajines and Cous Cous.
Which City is Better For Couples? Toulouse or Marseille?
Toulouse is all about the city, beautiful architecture, great food and the lively atmosphere. Wander around the Capitole de Toulouse, a grand square surrounded by cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy a romantic dinner or a coffee. The surrounding streets are full of bars too, we loved the atmosphere here, it was summer and everyone just seemed to be enjoying themselves. For a touch of history and architecture, the Basilica of Saint-Sernin is pretty spectacular. Fancy a boat ride? Glide along the Canal du Midi, and perhaps pack a picnic to enjoy along its banks. And if you both are fans of aerospace, the Cité de l’Espace is extremely interesting.
On the other hand, Marseille offers the beautiful Mediterranean. Calanques National Park, a haven of limestone cliffs and azure waters is highly recommended for a day out. The water is beautiful so make sure to take your swimming things, you won’t be able to resist a dip in the sea. The Old Port or Vieux-Port is a picturesque spot for leisurely walks, and food and drinks overlooking the harbour.
If you don’t mind a climb, the Notre Dame de la Garde offers incredible views of the city and the sea – the perfect Instagram backdrop. For a deep dive into the local culture, Le Panier district is a maze of narrow alleys, filled with art, boutiques, and cafes. We could spend hours wandering around the streets here.
Ultimately, whether you’re drawn to Toulouse’s riverbanks and historic charm or Marseille’s coastal beauty and Mediterranean vibes, both cities promise an amazing romantic break.
Which City is Better For Families? Toulouse or Marseille?
Toulouse is the perfect destination for families that love learning! Famous for its aerospace industry, it is home to Cité de l’Espace. This museum features an array of interactive exhibitions that is always a hit among curious minds. It doesn’t matter if you’re five or fifty, it’s extremely interesting! But, that’s not all for aerospace museums, there is also Aeroscopia, a museum full of legendary aircraft.
They’ve even got a Concorde which you can walk inside and take photos! Great for aviation geeks! If your kids aren’t into aerospace, there’s the Museum of Natural History which has more than 2.5 million items to look at. Or you could go and spend a day in the park at Jardín de Plantas.
Now to Marseille, this city has got a good mix of things for kids to do. With it being on the coast there’s the option of spending days at the beach, or wandering around the harbour looking at the yachts. I still love doing this even though I’m definitely not a kid anymore!
There are also boat trips to the Calanques National Park, an incredibly beautiful national park located along the coast. The turquoise waters here are irresistible, kids love it! You can also get a boat trip to Chateau D’If an island fortress that was used as a prison. Kids interested in castles and history will absolutely love this, the views over Marseille are incredible too.
Which City is Better For Partying? Toulouse or Marseille?
If nightlife is always a factor when deciding where to visit, neither Toulouse nor Marseille will disappoint.
Toulouse has an energetic feel to it. The streets are filled with bars and outdoor seating areas to sit out and enjoy a few drinks. There is a big student population here, so there are plenty of clubs too. Amanita Muscaria is a great place to visit if you love live music. There is also Bièrographe, a beer hall where you could easily spend hours trying all the different beers.
On the flip side, Marseille, with its Mediterranean spirit, offers a different party scene. Its harbour, the Old Port, transforms into a hub of activity once the sun sets. There are bars dotted all around the harbour where people enjoy wine and cocktails whilst looking out over the water. If rooftop bars with panoramic views sound like your scene, “R2 Rooftop” is where you’d want to head.
So, whether you opt for the energetic vibes of Toulouse or the coastal party charm of Marseille, you’re in for a treat!
Which City is Safer? Toulouse or Marseille?
Marseille, with its bustling port and rich history, unfortunately, has often been in the limelight for higher crime rates, particularly with issues like gang-related activities. I remember reading data from the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) that underscored these concerns, especially around drug trafficking in the city’s northern districts. On the flip side, Toulouse has seen its share of crime but usually at a lesser rate than Marseille. But with both of these cities, if you stay in the central tourist areas, keep your eye on your belongings and don’t go wandering around late at night you should be fine.
How long to stay in Toulouse
Figuring out how long to stay in Toulouse? That’s a great question and depends on what kind of trip you’re planning. If you’re popping by for a quick visit, I’d say two to three days should suffice. This will give you enough time to visit the main sights, such as the iconic Capitole de Toulouse, the Basilica of Saint-Sernin, and the Toulouse Museum of Natural History.
But if you’re anything like me and love to delve a little deeper, immersing yourself in the local culture and lifestyle, you might want to consider staying a little longer – perhaps around five to seven days. This will allow you to explore at a leisurely pace, have time to appreciate the city’s vibrant arts scene, meander through the charming neighbourhoods, and even try out some of the local bistros and cafes. Trust me, the cassoulet is to die for!
Toulouse is also a great base to explore the surrounding region. If you plan on taking day trips to places like Carcassonne or Albi, then a week or even ten days would be a good estimate.
In the end, remember this – travel isn’t a race. It’s about the experiences, the people, the food, the culture, and the memories you make. So, take your time in Toulouse and enjoy what the ‘Pink City’ has to offer!
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? Toulouse or Marseille?
The age-old debate of where to get the most for your money! Toulouse offers visitors a rich history, aerospace wonders, and amazing food. But, does it offer good value for money? With free attractions like the Capitole de Toulouse, Basilique Saint Sernin, Jardin Japonais Pierre Baudis and the Garonne River, there are plenty of things to do without having to spend a penny! Toulouse also has an abundance of affordable restaurants and cafes that offer amazing food at affordable prices.
Marseille also has a good range of free or low-cost activities. Wander around the old town, relax by the Prado beaches or even go for a bike ride along the coast. The food scene here, especially the Bouillabaisse – a fisherman’s stew – offers a range of options for various budgets.
Overall, while both cities have their perks, Toulouse might have a slight edge for those looking to stretch their euros a bit further. But no matter where you go, you can always find value if you look hard enough.
How much is food and drink in Toulouse and Marseille?
|€5 – €7
|€5 – €8
|Glass of Wine
|€3 – €10
|€4 – €10
|€1.50 – €3
|€2 – €4
|Meal at Midrange Restaurant
|€15 – €30
|€20 – €40
Please note that these prices are approximate and can vary based on factors such as the establishment, location, and other considerations.
How much is it to stay in Toulouse or Marseille?
|€150 – €500+
|€150 – €500+
|€70 – €150
|€80 – €150
|€40 – €70
|€40 – €80
|€20 – €40
|€20 – €40
Please note that these prices are approximate and can vary based on factors such as the location, specific hotel or hostel, and the quality of accommodation.
When is the best time to visit Toulouse?
Picking the best time to explore Toulouse is a big part of your planning. Known for its temperate climate, Toulouse can be great to visit throughout the year, each season bringing its own charm and unique experiences.
Spring: Season of Blossoms
Spring (March to May) in Toulouse is a beautiful season, the trees will be blossoming and the temperature won’t be too high. This time is ideal for sightseeing and soaking in Toulouse’s distinct architectural beauty, particularly the Capitole and Saint-Sernin Basilica. Spring is also the start of the outdoor festival season, adding an extra dash of liveliness to your visit.
Summer: Lively and Sunny
Summers (June to August) in Toulouse are warm and vibrant. This is a great time to indulge in outdoor activities, such as a leisurely stroll along the Garonne River or a picnic in the lush Japanese Garden. Summer evenings in Toulouse are particularly charming with open-air concerts and night markets for you to explore.
Autumn: Artistic Colours
Autumn (September to November) brings a beautiful colour palette to Toulouse, with the tree-lined avenues transitioning to shades of gold and red. The weather remains pleasant for outdoor exploration. In addition, the cultural calendar is full, making it a perfect time for art and music lovers to visit the city.
Winter: Serene and Festive
Winter (December to February) in Toulouse is typically cool and sometimes rainy.. With fewer tourists around, you can explore the city’s impressive museums and galleries at your own pace. Don’t miss the Toulouse Christmas Market for a dash of festive spirit and warm, comforting treats.
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
|10° / 2°
|12° / 5°
|11° / 3°
|13° / 6°
|14° / 5°
|16° / 8°
|17° / 7°
|18° / 9°
|21° / 11°
|23° / 13°
|25° / 14°
|26° / 17°
|28° / 16°
|29° / 19°
|28° / 16°
|29° / 19°
|25° / 13°
|26° / 16°
|20° / 10°
|21° / 13°
|13° / 5°
|16° / 9°
|10° / 3°
|13° / 6°
Getting around Toulouse:
Toulouse is very easy to get around, with regular buses, trams and a metro system there are plenty of options. The public transport system is clean and well-maintained. You’ll find it easy to get around the city when using it. The Toulouse city pass is well worth getting if you plan on using public transport a lot. If you want a more active holiday, the city is very walkable. You could even hire a bike if you wanted to get around a bit quicker. As with any city, taxis and Uber are readily available.
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 Toulouse
Capitole de Toulouse: This stunning city hall and opera house is an iconic sight in Toulouse. Its grand façade and beautiful square are absolute must-sees when in the city.
Cité de l’espace: A unique experience for space enthusiasts, Cité de l’espace offers fascinating insights into the universe and space exploration. You can see life-sized rockets, try astronaut activities, and even observe the skies in the planetarium.
Basilique Saint-Sernin: This UNESCO World Heritage site is the largest remaining Romanesque building in Europe. Its stunning architecture and rich history make it a highlight of any visit to Toulouse.
Rue d’Alsace-Lorraine: As a main shopping street in Toulouse, Rue d’Alsace-Lorraine offers a vibrant mix of shops, boutiques, and cafés. It’s a great place to soak up the city’s lively atmosphere.
Banks of the Garonne: Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the picturesque Garonne River. The riverside is beautifully developed and offers spectacular views of Toulouse’s historic buildings and bridges. Consider a river cruise for a different perspective of the city.
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 Toulouse
Day 1: Explore the Vibrant City Centre
Kick off your Toulouse adventure in the bustling city centre. Start your day at the Capitole de Toulouse, a magnificent city hall that also houses an opera house. Be sure to take memorable photos of its grand façade. Stroll down Rue d’Alsace-Lorraine for some retail therapy and grab lunch at one of the many inviting cafés. In the afternoon, visit the Basilique Saint-Sernin, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and marvel at its Romanesque architecture. Conclude your day with a delightful dinner in the lively Saint-Georges district, a hotspot for local gastronomy.
Day 2: Immerse Yourself in Science and Space
Begin your second day at the Cité de l’espace, Toulouse’s famous space city. Dive into the world of space exploration and get a closer look at rockets, satellites, and more. Post lunch, head to the Musée des Augustins to admire a rich collection of fine arts from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century. Later in the afternoon, visit the modern art museum, Les Abattoirs. Round off the day with a relaxing dinner in the Carmes district, renowned for its chic bars and restaurants.
Day 3: Venture Beyond the City
On your last day, consider exploring the surroundings of Toulouse. Take a half-day trip to the medieval city of Carcassonne, where you can explore the old town, fortified city walls, and its fairytale-like castle. Back in Toulouse, spend the rest of your afternoon strolling along the banks of the Garonne River, or relax in the expansive Prairie des Filtres park for a leisurely end to your trip.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org