Basic information about Marseille

What are the most important things to know if you are planning a visit to Marseille?

What to expect

To get a general idea, have a look at the Wikipedia page on Marseille and our page on how Marseille is reported in the media. Marseille's main raison d'être is not tourism. It is a bustling city with a lot of traffic. Like most cities it has very wealthy and very poor residents. Its population is a mix of Europeans, North Africans, Comoreans and a lot more. Most people speak very little if any English, but many are learning so that they can talk to visitors during 2013.

The weather

Marseille boasts 320 days a year of sunshine. It does, however, get very windy, courtesy of the Mistral that blows along the Rhone valley. It also gets tremendous thunder storms. France has a weather warning system. If an area is on vigilance orange or red (rouge), that means the weather is potentially dangerous; there may be disruption to traffic and transport and you should be properly prepared (or stay indoors).

When to visit

If you don't like temperatures over 30° its is probably best to avoid July and August. Similarly, if you plan to go walking avoid these months as the hills and calanques around Marseille are usually closed due to the risk of fire. See walking on the sport and leisure page for more details.

Like most of the South of France, life is lived outdoors during the summer. There are a lot of outdoor events and festivals, however many of the indoor venues will be closed. So if you like indoor music or theatre, once again it is best to avoid July and August.

Transport

Marseille struggles to cope with the traffic it has. Our advice is to use public transport to get around the city whenever you can and if you bring your car, try to avoid driving at peak times. For more information on buses, metros and trams, see "Getting to and getting around Marseille".

Safety

Despite its reputation we have not found Marseille to be any more dangerous than any other large cosmopolitan city. The usual rules apply, look after yourself and your belongings.