Marseille's majestic Italianate Old Port is a focal point for nightlife and restaurants. Board a ferry to the offshore Frioul Islands and the eerie, fortified Chteau d'If, setting for Alexandre Dumas' novel The Count of Monte Cristo. Climb through the alleys of the historic Le Panier district, take in sweeping panoramas from Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica and follow broad La Canebire avenue to the Palais Longchamp museums. For beach life, travel the coast road to South Marseille's Calanques (rocky creeks) and sandy expanses.
Marseille, though probably France's oldest city, seems to sweep you up in its explosive energy. A vibrant arts and music scene centred on the powerfully fortified Old Port reflects the city's unique fusion of Mediterranean cultures. Close to the harbour, visit ruins dating to the ancient Greeks. Explore Le Panier, site of the original Marseille. You'll find chic shopping and stylish bars off the impressive La Canebire avenue that slices through the city centre.
Gaze at the rectangular expanse of the Vieux Port, or Old Port, enclosed by Italianate 17th-century buildings and guarded by twin fortresses. Sip a pastis, Marseille's anis-flavoured aperitif, before you explore the intriguing narrow streets on the south side, studded with unpretentious fish restaurants specialising in classic Marseille bouillabaisse chunky fish stew. Make your way up the steps and alleyways of Le Panier, the city's oldest neighbourhood. For fashionable bars and stylish shopping, turn off Le Canebire, the wide, arrow-straight central avenue.
Linger over one of France's best collections of 20th-century art (including fauvism and surrealism) in Muse Cantini just off Marseille's Old Port. Or if you prefer something more contemporary, head to the MAC modern art museum south of the centre which picks up where Cantini leaves off in the 1960s. Explore the lovely bays and harbours on the corniche road as it edges the South Marseille shoreline, especially the picture-book harbour of Anse des Auffe, with its excellent fish restaurants.
France's fourth largest airport, Marseille Provence Airport transports around 6 million passengers a year to over 91 cities in 37 countries. Frequent shuttle buses take you to Marseille Saint-Charles train station in downtown Marseille in 25 minutes.