Marseille's history dates back to the Ancient Greeks. Even then, it served as one of the Mediterranean's main ports. After picking up a rental car in Marseille, many visitors head straight to the narrow streets of the Vieux Port area. Above the Old Town is Fort Saint-Jean, where you take in spectacular views across the city and out to sea. Just across the water from the fort is the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations, and art buffs won't want to miss the city's various art galleries. A popular day trip is to take a ferry from the port out to the island of If, a prison island where the Count of Monte Cristo was imprisoned. Renting a car in Marseille also gives the flexibility to head further afield, perhaps down the coast to Cassis or Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer, or inland to Aix-en-Provence or Avignon, where you can explore medieval streets and the ornate Papal Palace. It's only a two-hour drive from where you collect your rent a car in Marseille to famous Saint-Tropez, perhaps the most sophisticated spot along the Mediterranean coast.
A good starting point for any visit is the Marseille History Museum, which tells the story of the city and its people from ancient to modern times. On a sunny afternoon, there's no better location than the Vieux Port for strolling – explore its cafés, bars, and wide quay. A quieter spot is beautiful Palais Longchamp, which boasts manicured gardens, fountains, and a museum housing European paintings and sculptures from the 16th to 19th centuries. Modern art is also represented in the city: stop in at the Museum of Contemporary Art to see works from the 1960s to the present day at this ultra-modern building just a short drive from the Old Town. The Stade Vélodrome, home to the Olympique de Marseille football club, is a must-see for sports fans, even if you're not there to catch a game.
Just a short drive down the coast is the seaside town of Cassis, known for its pretty harbour with pastel buildings and local vineyards, many of which welcome visitors for tours and product sampling. And between Marseille and Cassis is Calanques National Park, famous for its steep limestone cliffs and narrow creeks, perfect for snorkelling. Anyone visiting the area with kids will enjoy a day out at Aqualand, a massive water park with rides, slides, and tube rides for swimmers of all ages.
|Time-Zones||Central European Time|
After picking up a rental car from Marseille Airport, it's just a 25-minute drive into the centre of the city. Speed limits vary depending on the type of road, with a maximum speed of 80km per hour on A-roads and 110km per hour on motorways. Speed limits are lower when it's raining, and in urban areas, you're limited to 50km per hour, unless otherwise indicated. Penalties for using a mobile when driving are severe, with heavy fines imposed at the roadside. Parking is strictly regulated in Marseille, so it's best to stick to the well-signposted, official car parks when possible. If you're travelling with children, the law requires that all children under the age of 10 sit in the back of the car, with an appropriate booster seat. Throughout France, the blood-alcohol limits for drivers are stricter than in most of the UK, with the limit set at 0.5mg/mL. Fines for exceeding this limit can be as high as 750 euros. Drivers are also required to carry a warning triangle and reflective jacket, and these are usually provided in rented vehicles.