Welcome to Marseille cruise port, France!
Marseille is the second most populated city in France and the capital of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. It has been a crossroads of immigration and trade since ancient times and in the 19th century, it became a prosperous industrial and trading city.
Today, Marseille is a colorful and diverse city known for its magnificent architecture, unique culture, vibrant Vieux-Port (Old Port), beaches and a variety of historic landmarks. It is also a gateway to the popular cities of Aix-en-Provence, Avignon and a breathtaking Calanques National Park.
In this article, read about:
- Marseille cruise port (Marseille cruise terminal, getting around)
- 12 top things to do in Marseille on a cruise (including Marseille shore excursions to Cassis, Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Parc National des Calanques)
Marseille Cruise Port
Officially called Marseille Fos Port, the port of Marseille is one of the leading ports in France and one of the major transit ports for cruises and ferries in the Mediterranean. It consists of two cruise ports: La Joliette Cruise Port (operated by Port of Marseille Fos) and Marseille Provence Cruise Terminal (operated by M.P.C.T).
Joliette cruise terminals – This cruise port is located near Place de la Joliette and within a walking distance of the Vieux-Port de Marseille (Old Port), the main tourist district where the city’s main landmarks and attractions are located. La Joliette cruise terminal has several berths and is dedicated to small and medium-size vessels including cruise ships, tender boats, cargo ships, mega yachts and ferries with lengths less than 200 m/565 ft. Small cruise ships usually dock at J4 Terminal, however, the majority of the cruise vessels are too big to dock here, so they dock at MPCT (read more below).
Joliette cruise port also serves ferries to Corsica, Sardinia and North Africa (Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco).
Marseille Fos Port’s official website is https://www.marseille-port.fr/en
MPCT (Marseille Provence Cruise Terminal) – This terminal is also known as MPCC (Marseille Provence Cruise Center) or Môle Léon Gourret piers. MPCT is located in the industrial zone northwest of the Vieux-Port de Marseille, approximately 8 km/5 miles (a 20-minute drive) from the city center.
MPCT has six berths that can accommodate up 6 cruise vessels at a time, regardless of the size. There are six cruise terminals (Terminal A, B, C, D, F, E) with modern cruise terminal buildings offering embarkation/disembarkation facilities, luggage drop-off, check-in areas and large car parks. MPCT is both an embarkation port and a port of call. You will also find a cafeteria, a tourist information office point and several ATMs.
Visit MPCT’s official website https://www.croisiere-mpct.com/
The motorway A55 connects MPCT and the Vieux-Port de Marseille. To get to the cruise terminals from the city center, you need to drive along A55 and take the Exit 5 (Sortie no 5) – Porte 4 (Gate 4) after a few kilometers. Porte 4 is the port entrance/exit and here you’ll find bus stops for bus lines 35, 36 and 36B (the nearest stop is “Terminal Croisières”).
You have a few options to get to the Marseille city center from MPCT:
- The first option is to take bus 35 which leaves from the port exit (Porte 4). There is a considerable amount of walk to reach Porte 4 from the terminal buildings, from 800 m to 2 km, depending on where your ship docks. You can either take a taxi for a short drive or simply walk up to 20 minutes following the green line to reach it. Once you arrive at Porte 4, look for the “Terminal Croisières” bus stop and take the bus to the Joliette terminus. Once you arrive at Joliette, you can either take a 15-minute walk to the Vieux-Port de Marseille or catch a tram (line T2 or T3), bus or metro line 2 to all points within the city center (tram and metro station are both located around 250 m from the Joliette terminus).
- Alternatively, the port of Marseille may offer a free shuttle bus service exclusively for cruise passengers. The shuttle bus runs approximately every 30 minutes between the Môle Léon Gourret (you’ll find the shuttle bus stop on the way to the port exit) and Joliette terminus, stopping at the huge Les Terrasses du Port shopping mall along the way. The schedule of these free shuttles may vary based on the season and the number of ships in port. You may encounter long queues on busy days. Cruise lines normally don’t advertise this option to the passengers in order to avoid their competitor (cruise lines tend to sell their shore excursions/paid shuttle buses).
- Cruise lines normally offer paid shuttle bus service to Marseille city center which may cost 10-15€ round trip depending on the cruise line. It takes around 20 minutes drive to reach Marseille downtown.
- Taxis are available in the terminal area. It is more convenient to share a taxi if you travel with a group than to buy individual shuttle bus tickets. The taxi costs roughly 20€ per vehicle one way.
- You can always book a shore excursion by your cruise line/independent tour operator if you opt for a guided option.
- The currency in France is EURO (€). Local currency and credit cards are widely accepted. See the currency converter
- Marseille Provence Airport (Aéroport Marseille Provence) is located around 20 km/12.5 miles (a 20-30 minute drive, depending on the traffic) from MPCT. The distance to the Joliette cruise terminal is 23 km/14 miles (a 20-25 minute drive). The distance from the airport to the Vieux-Port de Marseille is roughly 25 km/15.5 miles (25-30 minutes drive).
- Since MPCT is also a turnaround port (cruises start and end here), you may need a transfer from the airport to the cruise terminal. Some cruise lines offer transfer options for a fee. Alternatively, to get to MPCT from the airport you can take the airport’s shuttle bus to Marseille Saint-Charles station (8.30€ one-way ticket) and then take public transport (metro line 2 to Joliette and then bus 35) or a taxi to the cruise terminal (the taxi costs around 20€). However, this option is very time-consuming and complicated, and it’s better to arrange a private transfer or take a taxi directly from the airport.
- Public transport in Marseille (bus, tram, metro) is operated by RTM (Régie des transports métropolitains). The ticket purchased at the terminal costs 1.60€ and is valid for 1 hour of connection (including round trip) throughout the RTM network. However, keep in mind that you are limited to only one access to the metro. You can recharge the same ticket later, so make sure you keep it. There are other packages available which you can check online or with the tourist information office in the cruise terminal. Visit the official RTM website here https://www.rtm.fr/
- Marseille-Saint-Charles train station (Gare de Marseille-Saint-Charles) is the main railway station in Marseille, located 8 km/5 miles (20 minutes drive) southeast of MPCT and around 2 km/1.2 miles (10 minutes drive) from Vieux-Port de Marseille and Joliette terminals. Trains in France are operated by SNCF (National railway network) and you can check the departures and fares on the official website https://www.sncf.com/en
- Petit Train de Marseille (Train Touristique de Marseille) is a little touristic train that allows you to have a commentated train ride through the city with stops at major tourist attractions. The trains depart from the Old Port (Vieux-Port de Marseille), at 174 Quai du Port. There are 3 different routes and the duration of each one is around 30-40 minutes. You can find all the necessary information on the official website https://petit-train-marseille.com/
- Colorbüs is Marseille Hop on Hop off sightseeing bus that allows visitors to hop on and off at 25 stops in the city as many times as they want. There are a Red line, Blue line and Combined pass (Red+Blue) that cover all main Marseille attractions including the seaside and the city suburbs. Colorbüs Marseille also departs from the Vieux Port de Marseille (86 Quai du Port). Find more information on https://www.colorbus.fr/en/
- Check out the best hotels in Marseille
12 Top Things to Do in Marseille Cruise Port
Before I share with you the best things to do in Marseille on a cruise, I invite you to sign up below and get my exclusive SHORE EXCURSION GUIDE FOR FREE!
1. Vieux-Port de Marseille (Old Port)
The Old Port of Marseille is located at the bottom of the famous Canebière, the main shopping street of Marseille. Guarded by two massive forts (Fort Saint-Nicolas and Fort Saint-Jean), the iconic Old Port is the oldest part of the city and the place where the history of Marseille began. Vibrant, colorful and bustling with people, the Old Port has been the beating heart of the city for centuries and is nowadays a symbol of Marseille.
Besides promenades packed with cafes, restaurants and shops, here you can find a fish market (Marché aux Poissons) on Quay des Belges, the picturesque Sainte Marie lighthouse, the 17th-century Baroque building of the City Hall (Hôtel de Ville), a metro station, Colorbüs hop on hop off bus station, ferry boats, Petit Trains de Marseille and many other attractions.
If you are interested in the arts, history and culture of Marseille, in the surrounding streets, you’ll also find a few museums and churches including the Marseille History Museum, The Marseille Soap Museum and others. Old Port is also one of the main places to eat in Marseille, so make sure you try out delicious local seafood specialties.
2. Notre Dame de la Garde
Built in the 19th century on the foundations of an ancient fort on the top of the city’s highest hill, Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde (known as “la Bonne Mère” – “the Good Mother” among the local population) is the symbol of Marseille and the city’s most visited landmark.
The impressive Romano-Byzantine basilica is famous for its lavish interior and grand bell tower capped with the golden statue of the Virgin Mary. The church dominates the city skyline and can be seen from downtown. It is located at approximately 2.5 km/1.5 miles (a 35-minute walk) from the Old Port and you can reach it on foot (multiple stairs involved) or via bus (bus no. 60 stops in front of the basilica). Access to the church is free.
3. Le Panier (Marseille’s Old Town)
Le Panier neighborhood is Marseille’s Old Town, located just north of the Vieux-Port. The Panier is famous for its steep alleys, artistic ambiance, colorful murals, old and tall buildings, historic squares and hilly streets filled with authentic cafes, eateries and shops.
Some of the major city landmarks are located in Le Panier such as:
- Marseille Cathedral – Also known as Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille and Cathédrale de la Major, this stunning cathedral built in the Byzantine and Roman Revival styles dates back to the early 19th century and is renowned for its magnificent interior lined with murals, mosaic and marble. The cathedral overlooks La Joliette cruise port.
- Vieille Charité (Centre de la Vieille Charité) – Situated in the heart of Le Panier, only 600 m from Marseille Cathedral, this exceptional building was designed by the Marseille-born architect Pierre Puget and built between 1671 and 1749. Originally built as an almshouse (a charitable housing for the city’s poor and beggars), this domed architectural gem today houses the Marseille International Poetry Centre, the Museum of Art of Africa, Oceania and Amerindia, research centers, art galleries, museums and a bookshop.
- Église Saint Laurent – The 12th-century church of Saint Laurent and adjoining 17th-century chapel of Sainte-Catherine dominate La Joliette, Le Panier district and the Old Port from a hilltop.
- Mucem – Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean – A museum stands at the entrance to the Vieux-Port and offers an amazing insight into the civilizations of the Mediterranean.
- Musée Regards de Provence – This classic and modern art museum overlooks La Joliette wharves and is located across Mucem, next to Marseille Cathedral.
- Église Notre-Dame-des-Accoules – Another beautiful place of worship located right behind the City Hall, a few blocks away from the Vieux-Port.
- Place de Lenche – One of the most famous squares where you’ll find numerous eateries and cafes.
4. Vallon des Auffes
Located in the 7th arrondissement of Marseille, 2.5 km/1.5 miles (a 30-minute walk) southwest of the Vieux Port, Vallon des Auffes is a small Provençal fishing village and a fishermen’s paradise. Nestled between two cliffs, at a stone’s throw from the Catalan beach, this charming village boasts picturesque fishermen’s huts and small traditional fishing boats scattered on both sides of Pont du Vallon des Auffes, a concrete arched bridge built in the 19th century, during the construction of the Corniche of President John F. Kennedy.
Vallon des Auffes is a true hidden gem of Marseille and if you look for a peaceful oasis and fresh fish specialties, this is the place to go!
5. Palais Longchamp
The breathtaking Palais Longchamp is located in the 4th arrondissement of Marseille, roughly 2 km/1.2 miles (a 30-minute walk) east of the Vieux-Port. This impressive historical monument was constructed in the 19th century to bring water to the city and nowadays is home to the Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des beaux-arts de Marseille, east wing of the palace) and Natural History Museum of Marseille (Muséum Histoire Naturel de Marseille, west wing).
The palace is surrounded by a wonderful park filled with animal sculptures and an imposing fountain with cascades (known as château d’eau or “water castle”). Palais Longchamp area is open to the public and is a true green oasis in the middle of the bustling city.
6. Château d’If
The iconic Château d’If is a fortress and former prison famous for being one of the settings of Alexandre Dumas’ adventure novel “The Count of Monte Cristo”.
Château d’If is located about 1.5 km/1 mile offshore from Marseille and 5.5 km/3.5 miles from the Vieux-Port. It is the smallest island in the Frioul archipelago known for being entirely fortified and centered around the “château”, a square, three-story building flanked by three towers with large gun embrasures.
The château was built in the 16th century for military and defensive purposes, however, it was mainly used as a dumping ground for political and religious detainees throughout the centuries.
Today, Château d’If is a historic monument and a tourist attraction that can be visited by ferry from the Vieux-Port. The admission fee to the Castle is 6€. Find more information on https://www.chateau-if.fr/
7. Park National des Calanques
The Calanques National Park is a paradise for nature lovers and those of you who seek breathtaking landscapes. Calanques are narrow, steep-walled inlets found along the Mediterranean coast and the most beautiful examples of this formation can be found in the Massif des Calanques, in the Bouches-du-Rhône department.
The Calanques of Marseille extends for 20 km/12 miles in length along the coast between Marseille and Cassis, culminating in Mont Puget. In this beautiful national park, you can admire unique flora and fauna, spectacular landscapes and dramatic cliffs overlooking mesmerizing turquoise waters. If you are an adventure seeker, there are many activities offered such as kayaking, rock climbing, snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing and swimming among others!
The most popular coves are Calanque de Sormiou (the biggest calanque, known for rock climbing), Calanque de Sugiton (popular for hikers), Calanque de Morgiou, Calanque d’En-Vau and Calanque de Port-Miou (near Cassis).
If you are taking a tour from the Marseille port (MPCT), you’ll reach the Calanques National Park in about 45 minutes drive (20 km/12 miles). If you are coming from Marseille downtown, it takes around 35 minutes drive (14 km/8.7 miles).
8. Frioul Islands
The Frioul Islands (Îles du Frioul) are a French archipelago located within the protected area of the Calanques National Park, about 4 km/2 miles off the coast of Marseille. Frioul archipelago is made up of four scenic islands including Pomègue, Ratonneau, Tiboulen, and If, where the legendary Château d’If is located.
The islands are home to the endemic flora and fauna and boast a rich historic heritage with fortresses, ramparts, beautiful beaches, hidden coves and a variety of restaurants and shops for tourists. L’île de Pomègues is connected to l’île de Ratonneau via a causeway and both islands can be visited on foot within a couple of hours.
There are ferry boat rides organized from Vieux-Port de Marseille. The ride takes 15 minutes each way and the boat disembarks passengers at Port du Frioul, from where you can explore the two islands on foot.
While there, make sure you visit the beautiful coves (calanques) of Saint-Estève and Morgiret, as well as Calanque de la Crine, often considered the most beautiful cove of the archipelago.
Located 27 km/17 miles (a 45-minute drive) east of Marseille, Cassis is a charming port town and the French Riviera’s popular tourist destination. This lovely town is known for its falaises (cliffs) and the Calanques (sheltered inlets), renowned wines, pebbly beaches and a picturesque harbour filled with seafront cafes and restaurants.
While there, make sure you visit Cassis Market (Marché de Cassis), Plage de la Grande Mer, Plage du Bestouan, Cassis harbour and its wonderful calanques such as Calanque de Port-Miou.
Aix-en-Provence is a university city in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region situated 32 km/20 miles (a 40-minute drive) north of Marseille. The birthplace of Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne, Aix-en-Provence has always been an inspiration for painters, writers and musicians who used to live and work in the city. Nowadays, you can visit the city’s numerous museums, art galleries, artists’ studios (Atelier Cézanne) or explore its historic monuments, fountains and squares.
One of the most lively places in the city is Cours Mirabeau, a beautiful tree-lined avenue where you’ll find cafes, eateries and the impressive, 19th-century Fontaine de la Rotonde with its extravagant sculptures. The city is divided into two parts: the new part called quartier Mazarin and the old, medieval part of the city with its narrow streets and the iconic Aix Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur d’Aix-en-Provence) dating from the 12th century, one of the main city’s symbols.
Aix-en-Provence is a historic city with many cobblestone areas that are not wheelchair-friendly. Make sure you make comfortable shoes while exploring the city.
The medieval city of Avignon is located roughly 100 km/62 miles (a 1 hour 15-minute drive) northwest of Marseille. Set on the Rhône River, Avignon is best known for being the seat of Catholic popes from 1309 to 1377. The historic center of Avignon, which includes the massive Palais des Papes, Avignon Cathedral and the famous Pont d’Avignon (The Bridge of Avignon), was listed as the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 due to its outstanding architectural and historic value.
Besides a large number of historic monuments and landmarks, Avignon is also famous for Festival d’Avignon, an annual arts festival that attracts tourists and art lovers from all across Europe.
12. Orange Vélodrome
Last but not least, if you are a football fan you can visit Stade Vélodrome, home to the Olympique de Marseille football club. This massive, multi-purpose stadium has been a venue for the 1938 and 1998 FIFA World Cups and is the largest club football ground in France, with a capacity of 67.394 spectators.
Stade Vélodrome is located 3.7 km/2.3 miles (a 10-minute drive) south of Vieux-Port de Marseille. Guided tours are available.
To Wrap Up
Marseille cruise port is one of the most visited ports in the Mediterranean cruise itineraries. It is highly recommended to plan your day in advance to get the most out of this wonderful port of call!
You May Also Like:
Don’t forget to subscribe below and get my exclusive SHORE EXCURSION GUIDE FOR FREE!
This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see my disclaimer here.