* Marseille is one of the greatest weekend destinations in Europe in Winter. In this post, I’m describing our experience spending a weekend in Marseille in January. Moreover, I will tell you about the best things to do in Marseille in winter *
Getting to Marseille: cheap tickets to Marseille in winter
The alarm clock went off at 2:45 am, leaving me puzzled for a moment. After a second, however, I realised, that it’s the day of the weekend trip to Marseille in January and in order to get to Stansted Airport (that is located just outside London) at 4:45 am to catch my early flight, I need to get out of my bed not later than 2:45.
However, who can complain when the ticket was just £10 return?! Of course, it was the cheapest fare with Ryanair, but you can check the prices and availability of the flights to Marseille here >>> I guess it’s another benefit of off-season travel.
Read my post about the best destinations for off-season travel in Europe >>>
Stansted Airport was full as always: all the Ryanair flights are scheduled to depart in the morning, so sleepy people were queuing for check-in, bag drop and security lanes. Ryanair changed their bag policy again, so at the boarding, there was a fair amount of confusion. All that was solved very quickly and I found myself sitting in the aisle seat somewhere in the 4th row. Ryanair also doesn’t let you sit together with your travel companion unless you booked sits together for a fee.
Weather in Marseille in January
Marseille greeted us with the warm and sunny weather, but then something went wrong: the sun hid, and instead, it started raining. You know this drizzle which doesn’t let you enjoy walking around but is not enough for using an umbrella or hiding in some cafe while waiting for it to stop. Then the weather got worse and started raining even more.
However, the second day in Marseille in January was spectacular. It was sunny and warm all day. One minor downside – it was very windy.
When you’re travelling to Marseille in winter, don’t expect amazing weather. When we visited French Riviera in April, the weather was perfect! However, in winter, it can be chilly, rainy and windy.
However, it’s usually not so cold in Marseille in winter. Expect the temperatures of around 8-14 degrees and make sure to bring a proper waterproof jacket like this one. I brought a coat and it was a big mistake.
Where to stay in Marseille in winter?
You might not be very lucky with the weather in Marseille in January, but you will be lucky with a hotel. January is low season in Marseille and hence, the prices for hotels are pretty low. We were able to afford to stay in the city centre, very close to the Vieux Port (Old Port). We stayed at Mercure and it was pretty decent. We also had a great view of the city centre from our room, so I can recommend this hotel for a weekend in Marseille.
The best things to do in Marseille in January (and in winter)
Okay, so finally, let’s start with the best things to do in Marseille in winter.
1. Try the freshest seafood at Toinou
First, we went to eat at Toinou – an amazing self-service restaurant with the freshest seafood ever and really affordable prices. A massive platter (in the photo) was just 15€. They have really fresh seafood in Toinou and if you like seafood and the weather outside isn’t great, you can stay in this restaurant a bit longer.
2. Visit the Old Port in Marseille
Secondly, we went to see the Old Port. In the mornings, it’s usually very crowded, as a lot of fish is sold there. In the afternoon, however, all the stalls were closed: only the seagulls were flying around trying to find the leftovers of fish. The Vieux Port is very atmospheric and unique and I recommend spending some time walking around there.
3. Visit the Cathedrale La Major
Our next stop was the main cathedral of Marseille – Cathedrale La Major that was around 20 minutes away from the Old Port. After a nice stroll, we finally reached the cathedral and went inside. It was really huge and impressive, but what we liked the most is the beautiful door! Just look how stunning it is. This door is probably one of the most Instagrammable places in Marseille!
4. Take a ride on a Ferris wheel to see the panorama of Marseille
We spotted a Ferris wheel close to the cathedral (about 10 minutes walking) and decided to go on a ride to see the entire port and the city centre of Marseille. I must admit, that the tickets were quite expensive for the experience (8€), but as we were the only customers, we got 3 rides instead of one. If the weather allows and you would like to take some nice photos, go for it).
5. Visit the Fort of Marseille / & MuCEM
Another highlight of Marseille in winter is the Fort Saint-Jean. Fort Saint-Jean was built in 1660 and the entrance to the port is free (if you just want to walk around), however, if you want to go inside the museum, you need to pay. The museum (MuCEM) is great, so it’s totally worth it.
6. Take the train tour / bus tour of Marseille
A small train tour of Marseille is great only when it’s not raining. While we were on this train, the weather changed dramatically and we not only froze but also got wet. The way back to the Old port was as miserable as the way up, so all I wanted to do was just to jump off the train during one of the traffic light stops, but unfortunately, that was prohibited. When we returned to the Old Port, I couldn’t feel my hands for at least an hour. That’s why, if the weather isn’t great, you can take one of these bus tours (the bus is covered on the ground floor, so you can hide from the rain).
7. See Notre Dame De La Garde
All the buses and trains visit the famous Notre Dame de la Garde – a lovely Basilica, from where you can see the breathtaking panorama of Marseille. From above, the city was stretching so far to all directions, that it looked like a huge megapolis.
8. Get warm in the Galerie Lafayette
In order to get warmer, we decided to visit the Galerie Lafayette (one of the most famous department stores in France if not the most famous one). There was a nice food floor there, so we were browsing interesting french delicatessen for about an hour, before getting back to our hotel. If you want to eat something or buy something nice to eat or bring home as a souvenir, definitely head to the Galerie Lafayette.
9. Have dinner at your hotel (if you’re very tired)
Instead of going out for dinner (we were extremely tired), we just walked to a Carrefour and bought some nice French groceries. I actually love groceries in France and for me, it’s better than a dinner in a restaurant. I really like French cheeses, pate, terrine and baguettes, so if all these products are fresh, it’s just awesome.
10. Visit the calanques of Marseille
When we woke up on our second day in Marseille, we realised that the storm has finished – it was really sunny outside (and very windy), so we decided to go outside the city, to the beautiful calanques of Marseille. We took a bus to the Luminy park (just next to some University of Marseille) and then started hiking all the way to the Calanque de Sugiton. It took us about 1 hour to get to the entrance to the Parc national de Calanques.
If you don’t want to get there by public transport and you don’t want to hike either, here’s an amazing catamaran cruise of calanques (make sure to book it in advance).
I must say that in order to get there, you need to have internet access and constantly check on Google maps, where are you going. Don’t forget to bring comfortable shoes, as a huge chunk of the route is actually a hike (a medium level one). However, the Calanques of Marseille are totally worth it.
Summary: a weekend in Marseille in January
I really liked Marseille. Even during the coldest month, January, it looked cheerful and vibrant. There are many amazing Instagrammable places in Marseille as well! There are many things to do in the city and obviously, some of them you can only do in summer, spring and autumn, but not in winter. So I hope that this post about the best things to do in Marseille in winter was useful for you!
Interested in other places in France? Read my post about reasons to visit Toulouse! Here’s my post about a 3-day road trip around France And another one about Bordeaux – the most beautiful city in France. Finally, here’s my post about the most charming villages near Toulouse.
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