Car rental in Marseille
Rent a car in Marseille

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The Provence area of France has it all – history, vibrant cities, and gorgeous beaches. Renting a car in Marseille provides the flexibility to see the best of the region and get to those hidden corners that most people miss. Marseille, 2,500 years old, combines historic forts with galleries showcasing some of France's best art. Close to the city is Calanques National Park, protecting both marine and limestone landscapes.

It's your choice: Where to go in Marseille

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.

What to do in Marseille

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.

Important info about Marseille

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.

Weather in Marseille
Country France
Language French
Currency Euro
Time-Zones Central European Time
Country Code +33

Good to know

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.

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What to taste in Marseille

As Marseille is a port city, it's no surprise that the most famous dishes associated with the region are fish and seafood based. Each restaurant has its own twist on bouillabaisse, a tomato-seafood stew usually served with chunks of freshly baked crusty bread. A hearty alternative is daube, a delicious mix of beef, vegetables, and garlic slowly cooked for tenderness. In recent decades, Marseille has seen an influx of people from all over Africa and the Middle East, resulting in many restaurants offering world cuisine for more adventurous palates. Whatever you choose to eat, wash it down with a glass of pastis, the traditional Provencal liqueur flavoured with aniseed and served neat, over ice. The region is also famous for its rosé wines, best enjoyed ice cold on a warm summer's afternoon.

What to bring to your friends from Marseille

Marseille is the largest city in the south of France, and shopping opportunities are plentiful. Perhaps the most popular souvenir is handmade soap, which is often produced using local olive oil and scented with lavender. Prettily coloured macarons make good edible souvenirs, though these sweet almond treats are so tasty, you may just eat all of them before boarding the plane home. Jams and tapenades made from local fruit and olives are more delicious souvenirs, as are little bags of fresh herbs – they give a boost to any dish, and will remind you of your French holiday. A longer-lasting gift would be colourful Provence-style fabric, or tablecloths, bread baskets, or wall hangings made with the pretty material. The city's Old Port area is the best district for souvenir shopping, with endless little boutiques and shops selling handicrafts and other typical products from Marseille and the wider Provence region.