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- There are eleven main car hire companies operating out of Marseille airport.
- The car hire desks in Marseille Airport are either at the front of Terminal 1, after passport control and baggage reclaim, or just outside in the car park.
- If you don't need a hire car from the start of your trip, it's easy to pick one up later in central Marseille.
- To rent a car in France you must be at least 21 years old (some agencies require you to be 25) and have a credit card in your name. Some rental companies also require you to have had your license for at least one year. Check specific rules with individual rental companies before booking.
- Marseille is a large, busy city that can be daunting to drive around at first. However, much of the city is laid out in a relatively easy to understand grid, and the roads are well maintained and signposted
- Street parking can be very difficult to find in Marseille, especially around Hotel de Ville. You will, however, find several car parks near the city’s popular attractions, offering hourly as well as day rates.
- Avoid driving during rush hour. Marseille’s streets can become gridlocked during commuter times in the early morning and late afternoon.
- The normal speed limit on French motorways is 130 km/hr (just over 80 mph). - or 110 km/hr in rain, on dual carriageways its 110 km/hr. The normal speed limit on main roads is 80 km/hr (outside built-up areas) and in built-up areas is 50 km/hr – unless otherwise indicated.
- Driving with headphones in is illegal throughout the whole of France and will land you with a hefty on-the-spot fine if you are caught.
- By law you must carry a breathalyser with you if driving in France, the drink drive limit in France is also half of what it is in the UK.
- France has a number of peages or tolled motorways which can become costly if you are using them a lot. If you’re not in a hurry use the ‘N’ roads which are free and make for a much more attractive journey.
Guide to Marseille
Since its appointment as the European Capital of Culture back in 2013 Marseille has blossomed into the vibrant multi-cultural port city that you’ll find today. Once seen as the black sheep of the French cities on the Mediterranean coast, it definitely had stiff competition from the likes of Cannes and St Tropez. Now though its awash with trendy bars and restaurants, new galleries and museums are sprouting up regularly and it seems like there’s a new boutique hotel opening almost every day. Marseille is Frances second city and its taking its crown back.
Things To Do In Marseille
Chateau d’If is Frances very own Alcatraz. Set on its own island about 1.5km offshore this 17th century prison was the inspiration for Alexandre Dumas's novel "The Count of Monte Cristo". Other than the island there isn’t much here to see but it’s worth visiting just for the stunning views of the Vieux Port. Ferries run up to ten times a day and cost around €11 for a return trip.
Sitting 154m above the city Basilique Notre-Dame De La Guarde commands the highest point in the city. This 19th-century Romano-Byzantine basilica is Marseille's most-visited icon and a defining symbol of Marseille. The basilica is ornamented with coloured marble, superb Byzantine-style mosaics, and murals. Outside you’ll find the 9.7m tall gilded statue of La Bonne Mere and some of the best views you’ll find over the city. It’s a challenging steep walk up to the Basilique so if you’re not up for the climb then take the tourist bus that will take around an hour to get there.
Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée is the focal point of modern Marseille. This contemporary building designed by Algerian-born, Marseille-educated architect Rudy Ricciotti, and Roland Carta is home to a comprehensive collection that covers history, culture and civilisation from across the Mediterranean region. The history of the fort itself is explained in the Salle du Corps de Garde but if history isn’t for you the grounds and gardens are beautiful and free to explore.
If you’d like to venture out a little earlier in the day the Vieux Fish Market is open from 8am-1pm daily (excluding bad weather days) and is a great opportunity to see this historic port in action. The intense smell of fish and the salty sea air are sure to get the senses fired up for the day, if you’re self-catering it’s the perfect opportunity to buy some fresh fish and try your hand at the local delicacy – bouillabaisse.
Musée d’Histoire de Marseille is a captivating 15,000sq/m exhibit that takes you all the way through prehistory (the paintings of the Cosquer Cave) to the present day, across 12 chronological exhibitions. It’s built next to the remains of a Greek harbour that was uncovered during construction of the Bourse shopping centre. An English audio guide is provided free of charge to guests.
Park Borely is a 17km municipal park and classified as by the Ministry of Culture as one of the Remarkable Gardens of France. Found not far from the Prado Beach Along with the 18th-century château, there are the superbly well-maintained English and French Botanical Gardens and a rowing lake.
Found just a little way outside Marseille you’ll find Les Calanques which translates to an inlet or cove. The mesmerising limestone formations and the turquoise waters make for an excellent getaway from the city. There’s a huge range of water sports on offer here if you’d like something more energetic but there are plenty of quiet coves for relaxation if you’d prefer a little peace and quiet.
Eating out in Marseille
Le Café De Epices is the restaurant that kick started the bistro culture in Marseille which was non-existent until Chef Arnaud Carton de Grammont opened this charming little restaurant back in 2004. The chalkboard menu changes daily but if you’re lucky you’ll find the grilled turbot with a puree of escalivada or the slow-roasted free-range pork with girolles and butternut squash puree on offer.
For something a little different head to Les Grande Tables, this communal dining experience sits its guests at long dining hall style tables but still pulls of the seemingly impossible task of intimate dining. Its young and vibrant teamwork with local producers to serve up imaginative food, such as candied lamb shank with parmesan polenta, or seared tuna with thyme, sesame and chickpea puree.
L’Aromat is found right in the heart of the city and headed by the young but incredibly talented Chef Sylvain Robert. He’s already established himself as a name to be reckoned with in Marseille and his contemporary take on Mediterranean cuisine. Try the squid ravioli with tomato, chard and tapenade, or the infamous hamburger de bouillabaisse for something a little different to the traditional fish version.
Pizzerias are on almost every street corner in Marseille and a budget friendly option for most people. La Bonne Merre is somewhat of a purist in the pizza world preferring to serve up compact yet delicious menu starting at just €12. It might be bijou in size, but the flavours pack a huge punch with pizzas being made with organic flour and juicy buffalo mozzarella which cooked in a wood-fired oven for that extra yum factor.
Whilst from the outside the slightly shack like exterior of L’Epuisette might not fill you with confidence about the food on offer once you have tasted you’ll be converted to a life-long fan. Serving up some of the finest seafood on the south coast of France Chef Guillaume Sourrieu works exclusively with local fisherman to create his signature shrimp terrine and slow-cooked sea bass.
Marseille is a big city and a working port so you won’t be surprised that nightlife here isn’t in short supply or to hear that some of the parties can get a little wild. Most of the nightlife is centred around Vieux Port but more recently chic bars have been springing up in the streets around Rue Sainte et Rue d’Endoume.
If you’ve been soaking up this history all day and want to keep in going into the evening then head for La Caravelle. Opened back in 1930 this jazz-themed cocktail bar offers up some delicious tapas alongside great drinks which you can take onto their terrace to enjoy the views over the city and port.
L’Unic Bar lives up to its name, open from early morning to very late into the night this bar attracts a huge range of people throughout the day. Run by Madame Dominique the drinks never seem stop coming and the fun never ends. It’s the perfect place to start what is sure to be an unforgettable night out.
Le Bazar is aimed at the younger crowd but don’t let that put you off if you’re a little outside their early 20’s target market. This seasonal club is only open weekends October- April at which point people head outside to dance underneath the stars in La Palmeraie.
La Monata is a typical club for Marseille in the artistic district Cours Julien. If dancing all night is your goal, then you won’t be disappointed here. With a huge range of music across several dance floors there is something to get even the most reluctant dancer on their feet.
FAQs for Car Hire In Marseille
How much does it cost to hire a car in Marseille?
Car hire starts around €9 a day but it’s always best to book in advance because prices can vary widely and increase dramatically the closer you get to arrival.
Which companies are available at the airport?
You can choose from, Europcar, Sunny, Firefly, Rent-A-Car, Keddy, Sixt, Thrifty, Enterprise, Avis, Dollar, Budget and Hertz.
Which car should I get for driving in Marseille?
As we mentioned earlier most of Marseille is easily traversed by car but if you are headed into the Old Town then roads get much tighter and parking gets harder, we recommend a compact car for city driving.
How far is it from Marseille Airport to the city?
It’s roughly a 25km drive from the airport to the city and should take around half an hour depending on traffic.
Anything else I should know?
If you're going to the Calanques, allow plenty of time to get around. Getting from one cove to another means retracing your steps quite a way inland. Morgiou and Sormiou are just a kilometre apart but driving between them takes 30 minutes.
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