Legend says that in 600 B.C., Greek sailors from Phocaea chose to land and concentrate on their activity in the Lacydon Creek- known today as the Vieux Port. Upon their arrival, the leader of the Greeks, Protis visited the native Ligure tribe. On that same day, the Ligurian princess, Gyptis, was to be married. She chose Protis to be her husband above a number of other suitors. Luckily, he was just as crazy about her as she was about him – hence, Massalia/Marseille was founded. Today Marseille is the oldest French city and the second largest after Paris, so a car hire in Marseille service is an excellent choice for comfortable sightseeing. In the 20th century, Marseille suffered from a serious image problem due to urban decay and high crime rates. Lately, the city had undergone a massive urban renewal. There are new galleries, designer hotels, chic restaurants and high-end shops and a wonderful Marseille Airport accepting tourists from all around the world, though the role of a port city is still preserved.
Basic info and car hire in Marseille
- Location: Southeast coast of France
- Population: 855,000 (2014)
- Official language: French
- Currency: Euro (€)
- Weather: Marseille’s climate is Mediterranean with mild, humid winters and warm to hot, mostly dry summers. Average daily winter temperature in Marseille is around 12°C (53 °F) but drops to around 4°C (39 °F) at night. Average summer temperatures are above 25°C (77 °F). Autumn and spring have the average temperature of above 15°C (59 °F). Winter and spring are often subject to Mistral, a cold, dry wind.
- Holidays in Marseille: Check for public holidays in France.
- Internet coverage: If you need internet access in Marseille, there are a lot of open free Wi-Fi networks. Check for a map of Wi-Fi networks in Marseille and the app for your smartphone.
- Road conditions: Roads are well maintained but congested.
Driving in Marseille
- Suitable for tourists: Very good connections. Motorways offer quick travel over large distances but are expensive.
- Problematic areas: Traffic in Marseille is heavy.
- Age limits: 18 (In order to hire a car, some companies require that a driver must have a driver license for at least a year and be older than 21)
- International Driving Permit: Yes
- Additional papers: ID (passport) and the proof of insurance (It is advisable to buy insurance at car hire company, in case your policy does not cover your insurance while driving in France.)
- Additional requirements: A warning triangle is compulsory and a reflective jacket must be kept within reach of the driver inside vehicle. There is no current legislation demanding a fine for not carrying a self-test breathalyser (alcohol test) in the car, but it is required by the law.
- Children in the car: Children under the age of 10 must travel in the back seat. If they weigh less than 15 kg, a child seat is needed and if they weigh from 15-36 kg, they have to use a booster seat with an adult seat belt. If travelling with children, you can hire a baby seat or a booster seat under extras during the booking process and collect them at your car hire agency’s pick-up location.
- Drink & drive: Maximum BAC = 0.05 % (0,02 % for new drivers with less than 3 years of driving experience)
- Driving side of the road: Right
- Lights: Dipped headlights are recommended day and night and must be used not only at night, but also in poor daytime visibility.
- General speed limits: 80 mph (130 km/h) on motorways (70 mph (110 km/h) in wet weather and on urban motorways), 55 mph (90 km/h) on other roads outside built-up areas, 30 mph (50 km/h) in build-up areas
- Parking suggestions: There are plenty of parking stations in Marseille. Don’t leave any valuables in your vehicle.
- Best time to visit: Spring and autumn are the best seasons if you want to have an active holiday in Marseille, since many walking trails on the hills and calanques around Marseille are closed in the summertime due to the risk of fire. However, it all comes down to your points of interest, budget, weather preferences and tolerance for crowds. If planning activities that require extra space in your car, hire an adequately sized car.
What to see in Marseille
If you’re planning to visit Marseille, there are a number of possibilities your car hire service offers you. The heart of the Marseille is still Vieux Port (Old Port). It has been the natural harbour of Marseille since the antiquity and is one of the most scenic natural ports on the coast. Visit Saint Nicholas Fortress, explore the old quarter called “Le Panier,” taste the traditional Bouillabaisse fish dish and try the strong drink Pastis. High-end restaurants, ancient squares, abundance of historic buildings, lively districts, buzzing nightlife, breathtaking nature- anything you could possibly think of, Marseille has it all.
Our favourite spots
Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde
(English: Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica), or Bonne Mère (Good Mother) as it is called by the locals, is a mind-blowing iconic basilica overlooking the city. Walking down the hill from Notre Dame de la Garde, you should visit Abbaye St-Victor (English: Abbey of St. Victor), one of the oldest churches in Marseille with history of over 1,000 years. See the frightening crypt and catacombs as well. Another one of Marseille’s masterpieces is the Baroque former almshouse and prison, Centre de la Vieille Charité (English: Centre of the Old Charity). It has been converted into an art centre and a cinema.
Park your hired car at Societe Parking Du Centre just 10 minutes' walk form the Marseille's Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica.
Cathédrale de la Major
(English: Marseille Cathedral) – This bombastic Neo-Romanesque cathedral is admired for its size and interior. Be careful not to confuse it with Notre Dame de la Garde, the hilltop church that many think is Marseille’s cathedral.
If visiting Marseille and enjoying the comfort of a car hire service, your parking options are Phocéens and Vieux-Port - Fort Saint-Jean, which are both 7 min away.
(English: Old Port of Marseille) is perfect for shopping and eating and is also the place of Marseille’s first settlement.
Parking Options for your hired car: Vieux Port La Criée and Vieux Port - Hôtel de Ville are both 7 min away
Palais de Longchamp
(English: Longchamp Palace) is a noble complex with museums and beautiful gardens.
You can park your hired car at the Star Garage (7min) and Place Sébastopol (10min).
(English: Course Julien Market) is a bourgeois-bohemian district like no other: flowers on Wednesdays, books every other Saturday, antiques on Sundays and all of this accompanied with vibrant bars and colorful street art.
Parking options for your rental car: Cours Julien (2min) and Garage Notre Dame du Mont (5min).
(English: Castle of If) – The famous fortress prison near the coast of Marseille became immortalized by Alexandre Dumas’ novel Count of Monte Christo. It was there where this dashing fictional hero was kept. Many real-life prisoners were also condemned to stay behind these walls. Bring water and make sure you have enough money on you since there are no ATMs on neither of the islands. Don’t forget your swimwear as well.
Getting there: park 2 min away at Charles De Gaulle or 5 min away at Bourse, as the island is so small that you won’t need your car hire service there. Catch the GACM ferry from 1 quai des Belges at Vieux Port.
This is the place where the shimmering blue Mediterranean Sea meets the green lining of the cliffs. If you picked your car at one of the Marseille car hire agencies and you’re a nature-lover, this beautiful Mediterranean fjords shouldn’t be missed. Each one of these calanques (steep-sided valleys) has its own personality and they are all stunning. They are located on the coast east of Marseille and west of Cassis, about 30 min from Marseille’s city center by your hired car.
You can park your hired car at Marseille’s St. Charles train station or check for more parking suggestions in Marseille.
(English - Borely park). Beautiful park near the sea. It consist of three different gardens: Garden à la française, an English landscape garden and a recently renovated race track.
Parking options for your rental car: P1 Palm Beach
Hotels in Marseille
Hotel in a central near-port location, just 115 feet (35 meters) from the Vieux Port in central Marseilles. It offers a rooftop terrace for breakfast.
Hôtel Edmond Rostand
Hotel with a mix of contemporary design and vintage with great sofa area for lounging. Rooms with a view of a small private garden or Marseille’s Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde.
La Residence Du Vieux Port
Set on the banks of Vieux Port (Old Port) in central Marseilles. Most of the retro rooms have a port-view balcony.
Bastide Le Jas
Detached villa located 9 miles (14 km) from Marseille. Hire a car and stay at this beautiful five-star villa with tennis court and pool.
Drive your rental car around Marseille
To fully enjoy all the benefits of a car hire service you should take a trip outside the city. Hire a car and visit the Calanques, a series of miniature fjords on the coast near Cassis, south of Marseille. The calanques are a very popular sport’s climbing area, so if you are planning to take your climbing equipment with you. If you like beautiful countryside, visit Allauch and Plan de Couqes, communes on the outskirts of Marseille. You can grab a basket and have a picnic or take a walk in the hills to enjoy gorgeous view of the Marseille. Stunning côte bleue is also worth visiting. You can stop in L'Estaque, beautiful fishing port, the subject of many Cézanne’s paintings. Château d'If is a small island near Marseille which was used as a prison. The place was made famous by Alexandre Dumas in his novel The Count of Monte-Cristo.
Where to eat, drink and party in Marseille
Marseille is bustling with life. In past few years many new places opened in Marseille. There are three districts which you shouldn’t miss. Old Port offers numerous bars and pubs where you can hang out with your friends or party the night away. Visit La Plaine’s alternative and underground bars most famous of which are Petit-Nice, Intermédiaire, Asile 404, Molotov. If you are more into trendy and chick new bars and clubs Marseille won’t disappoint you. Go to La Joliette/J4 and enjoy the scene. Dining out in Marseille is something you shouldn’t miss out. Rich culinary menu influenced by its surroundings offers diversity of fish dishes. Most famous is bouillabaisse, fish soup which combines variety of fish spiced with saffron, fennel and orange zest. Olive oil, herbs, fresh fruit and vegetables are also abundant parts of Marseille gastronomy.
Within nine months of opening his own restaurant, the chef Alexandre Mazzia was awarded a Michelin star. Dishes are inspired by French, African and Asian kitchens.
Restaurant that offers almost all the sea food you can imagine. Outside the restaurant is a stall that sells high quality crustaceans. A must for all lovers of seafood.
With two Michelin stars, Le Petit Nice is probably Marseille’s best eatery. Although expensive, it is supposed to be well worth paying for.
If you want to have a good beer, look no further. O’Brady’s has you covered with variety of tap or bottle beer.
Suited near one of Marseille’s most beautiful beaches. The DJs play techno, dub step, hip hop and reggae.
Marseille’s British pub for lovers of good beer and music. With daily programs, you will never be bored.
Three cave-like rooms offer you different types of music in each cave. From hits to techno and house music to jazzy and 50-60s music.
If you want to visit a night club, Le Mystik is the place for you. The attire is upscale and club attendees are mainly in the 23 to 27 age group.
Major events and festivals in Marseille
The main dance festival in Marseille that lasts all summer. Dance, theatre, concerts, cinema and much more.
Festival located at the Espace Julien (one of the main concert halls in Marseille) offers concerts by French artists preforming many genres (Pop, Chanson, Rock, Folk...)
Marseille’s charming Christmas market held near the Canebière and Vieux Port. There’s an abundance of santons, terracotta figurines and nativity scenes.
Located at Marseille’s Dock des Suds, La Fiesta Des Suds offers world music. You can attend concerts of world famous artists such as Asian Dub Foundation, Buena Vista Social Club and many more.