Which city is for you? Marseille or Cannes
Are you having trouble deciding between Marseille or Cannes for your next trip to the French Riviera? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this guide, we’ll compare the two cities, highlighting their unique features to help you decide which one to visit.
Marseille, the vibrant port city in Southern France, is a melting pot of culture. This port city sits on the Mediterranean coast and is world-renowned for its architecture and cuisine.
Located on the world-famous Côte d’Azur, Cannes is known for its yearly film festival. But there’s so much more to this city than just the red carpet. Beautiful beaches, luxury shopping and delicious food all await. If you like the finer things in life, Cannes is the place for you.
Pro’s and Con’s of Marseille and Cannes
- Rich history: Founded by the Greeks, Marseille has a long and storied past, offering visitors numerous historical sites and museums.
- Vibrant food scene: Marseille is famous for its delicious seafood, including its signature dish, bouillabaisse, and lively markets.
- Diverse neighbourhoods: Explore the unique character of each district, from the colourful Le Panier to the picturesque seafront village of Vallon des Auffes.
- Access to Calanques National Park: The stunning park features dramatic limestone cliffs, turquoise waters, and hidden coves for hiking and swimming.
- Multicultural atmosphere: As a melting pot of cultures, Marseille offers a unique and diverse atmosphere, with influences from North Africa, Italy, and other Mediterranean regions.
- Old Port (Vieux-Port): This historic harbour is the heart of Marseille, filled with boats, restaurants, and lively public spaces for people-watching and relaxation.
- Street art: Marseille is known for its vibrant street art scene, with many impressive murals and graffiti throughout the city.
- Sporting events: Home to the Stade Vélodrome and the popular football team, Olympique de Marseille, sports enthusiasts will have plenty of opportunities to catch a game.
- Safety concerns: Some areas of Marseille have a reputation for higher crime rates; it’s essential to be cautious and informed.
- Traffic and parking: Navigating the city by car can be challenging due to congestion and limited parking.
- Limited public transportation: The city’s public transportation system is not as extensive as in other major cities, making it less convenient for tourists.
Best for: History buffs, foodies, nature lovers, and sports enthusiasts.
- Glamorous atmosphere: Known for its film festival, Cannes exudes luxury with its upscale shops, hotels, and marinas.
- Beautiful beaches: Cannes boasts pristine sandy beaches along the Mediterranean, perfect for sunbathing and swimming.
- Proximity to other attractions: The city’s location on the French Riviera makes it easy to explore nearby destinations like Nice, Antibes, and Saint-Tropez.
- Cultural events: Cannes hosts numerous events throughout the year, including the famous Cannes Film Festival and the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
- Île Sainte-Marguerite: A short boat ride from Cannes, this island offers a peaceful escape with lush forests, quiet beaches, and a historic fort that once imprisoned the Man in the Iron Mask.
- La Croisette: This iconic promenade, lined with palm trees and luxury hotels, is perfect for leisurely strolls and people-watching.
- Art museums: Cannes is home to several art museums, such as the Musée de la Castre and the Musée de la Mer, offering a taste of culture and history.
- Outdoor activities: With its stunning coastline and nearby mountains, Cannes provides plenty of opportunities for water sports, hiking, and cycling.
- Expensive: The city is known for its high prices, especially during peak seasons and events.
- Crowded during events: Major events like the film festival can cause overcrowding and make it difficult to find accommodations.
- Limited historical sites: Compared to other French cities, Cannes has fewer historical attractions for visitors to explore.
Seasonal tourism: Cannes can be relatively quiet outside of peak season, with some businesses and attractions closing.
Best for: Luxury travellers, beach lovers, culture enthusiasts, and those looking to explore the French Riviera.
How long to stay in Marseille
As France’s second-largest city, Marseille has plenty to see and do. You’ll want a minimum of three days here, but four days would be better. This should you give you enough time to see the main attractions. If you’re planning day trips or exploring nearby towns, maybe it might a good idea to stay for a little longer.
How long to stay in Cannes
Cannes isn’t a big city, so you could comfortably see most of the main attractions in two to three days. But, there are plenty of tourist hot spots nearby like Saint-Tropez and Nice to visit if you want a longer break. You could even do a road along the French Riviera!
How much is food and drink in Marseille?
Marseille has a wide range of dining options, from budget-friendly street food to high-end restaurants. Here are some estimated average prices for food and drink in Marseille:
Beer: A beer in a typical bar or restaurant in Marseille will likely cost between €5 and €8.
Glass of wine: A glass of wine in a typical bar or restaurant can range from €4 to €10, depending on the quality.
Coffee: A cup of coffee in a typical café in Marseille will likely cost between €2 and €4.
Meal at a midrange restaurant: A meal at a midrange restaurant in Marseille will likely cost between €20 and €40 per person, depending on the restaurant and the menu.
How much is food and drink in Cannes?
Cannes is known for its high-end dining options, but there are also plenty of more affordable options available. Here are some estimated average prices for food and drink in Cannes:
Beer: A beer in a typical bar or restaurant in Cannes will likely cost between €6 and €8.
Glass of wine: A glass of wine in a typical bar or restaurant can range from €5 to €12, depending on the quality.
Coffee: A cup of coffee in a typical café in Cannes will likely cost between €2 and €4.
Meal at a midrange restaurant: A meal at a midrange restaurant in Cannes will likely cost between €25 and €50 per person, depending on the restaurant and the menu.
How much is it to stay in Marseille?
The cost of accommodation in Marseille can vary greatly depending on the time of year and location. Here are some estimated average prices for accommodation in Marseille:
Luxury hotel: A room in a luxury hotel in Marseille can cost anywhere from €150 to €500 per night, or even higher for the most exclusive properties.
Midrange hotel: A room in a midrange hotel in Marseille will likely cost between €80 and €150 per night, depending on the location and the amenities.
Budget hotel: A room in a budget hotel in Marseille will likely cost between €40 and €80 per night, depending on the location and the quality of the hotel.
Hostel: A bed in a hostel in Marseille will likely cost between €20 and €40 per night, depending on the location and the amenities.
How much is it to stay in Cannes?
The cost of accommodation in Cannes can vary greatly depending on the time of year and location. Here are some estimated average prices for accommodation in Cannes:
Luxury hotel: A room in a luxury hotel in Cannes can cost anywhere from €300 to €1000 per night, or even higher for the most exclusive properties.
Midrange hotel: A room in a midrange hotel in Cannes will likely cost between €100 and €300 per night, depending on the location and the amenities.
Budget hotel: A room in a budget hotel in Cannes will likely cost between €60 and €100 per night, depending on the location and the quality of the hotel.
Hostel: A bed in a hostel in Cannes will likely cost between €20 and €40 per night, depending on the location and the amenities.
When is the best time to visit Marseille?
Marseille is a great city to visit all year round. But, like most tourist destinations, there are certain times of the year that are busier and more crowded than others. Here are a few things to consider before planning your trip:
Weather: Marseille has a Mediterranean climate, meaning hot, dry summers and cool winters. Summers here get hot, reaching up to 30°C so make sure you pack accordingly. Spring and autumn are mild. Winters can be cold but you’ll rarely see temperatures below freezing.
Festivals: Marseille has a number of festivals that are worth checking out. Marseille Jazz des Cinq Continents festival is fantastic for jazz lovers. Fiesta des Suds is also a good festival for music fans. The city also hosts a number of cultural and sporting events throughout the year, so it’s worth checking the calendar before you go.
Crowds: Like most popular destinations, Marseille can get very busy during the summer and school holidays. Try visiting in the off-season if you can, or visiting through the week.
When is the best time to visit Cannes?
Cannes is great to visit all year round. But it gets extremely busy during summer and the Cannes Film Festival. Here are a few things to consider before booking:
Weather: Cannes has a beautiful Mediterranean climate. So mild winters and hot summers, you’ll rarely see freezing temperatures here, even in winter. It can get very hot in summer, so don’t forget your sun cream!
Festivals: Cannes is world famous for its film festival. But there, are other festivals like the Cannes Dance Festival held in December and the Cannes Yachting Festival in September.
Crowds: Cannes is a popular holiday destination so it can get very busy during peak seasons. It also gets crowded during the famous film festival when the world of glitz and glamour descends on this small coastal city.
Average Monthly Temperatures
The average monthly temperatures for Marseille are:
January: 9°C (48°F)
February: 9°C (48°F)
March: 11°C (52°F)
April: 14°C (57°F)
May: 18°C (64°F)
June: 22°C (72°F)
July: 25°C (77°F)
August: 25°C (77°F)
September: 22°C (72°F)
October: 17°C (63°F)
November: 12°C (54°F)
December: 9°C (48°F)
The average monthly temperatures for Cannes are:
Getting around Marseille:
Marseille has a good public transportation system, including buses, trams, and a metro system. Taxis are also available but can be expensive. Walking is a great way to explore the city centre, but if you want to cover more ground, consider renting a bike or taking a boat tour. The Marseille city pass is worth getting if you’re planning on using public transport.
Getting around Cannes:
Cannes is a small city, that’s very easy to walk around. There are regular buses that are cheap and easy to use. But, on a nice day why wouldn’t you walk?
There are plenty of bike hires available if you want to cover a bit more ground.
Top things to do in Marseille
Vieux-Port: This bustling marina is one of the main attractions in Marseille. Boats come and go all day. There are cafes and restaurants along the waterfront to visit. It’s a great place to relax with a beer or wine and watch the boats come in.
Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde: A must-see when visiting Marseille, this beautiful basilica sits high above the city and offers staggering views. The walk is really quite steep so make sure you wear some comfortable shoes. You can get a bus to the top if you can’t be bothered walking.
Le Panier: This is Marseille’s oldest neighbourhood and definitely worth a visit! A maze of narrow streets, colourful buildings and charming squares. Perfect for a relaxing afternoon wandering around.
Calanques National Park: Just outside the city, the Calanques is an area of stunning natural beauty. Spanning 20km of coastline between Marseille and Cassis. This national park is great for hiking and kayaking across the coast.
MuCEM: The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations is dedicated to the history and culture of the region. The building is an architectural masterpiece and definitely worth seeing, even if you don’t fancy going to the museum.
Palais Longchamp: This impressive palace and park is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Home to a botanical garden and several museums, it’s worth a visit. The grounds are really pretty and a great place to spend a relaxing afternoon.
Château d’If: Made famous by the novel “The Count of Monte Cristo”, this fortress can be reached by boat from Marseille. It’s very interesting to learn about the history of the fortress. The views out over the Mediterranean and Marseille are pretty spectacular too.
La Corniche: The coastal walk is well known amongst tourists and locals alike. It stretches for around 5kw and has some amazing views along the way. There’s even a little beach you can stop at for a quick swim!
Les Terrasses du Port: Located at the port of Marseille, this shopping centre is full of shops and restaurants to explore. There’s also an outdoor terrace you can sit out in and enjoy views over the Mediterranean.
Cours Julien: Marseille’s ‘hipster district’, this neighbourhood is home to lots of street art, independent shops and cool cafes. Perfect for experiencing Marseille’s creative side.
Top things to do in Cannes
La Croisette: Take a stroll along the famous promenade, La Croisette. This palm-lined boulevard runs parallel to the sea and is home to designer boutiques, upscale hotels, and glamorous restaurants. It’s the perfect spot for a leisurely walk or a spot of people-watching.
Le Suquet: Visit Cannes’ charming Old Town. There are plenty of narrow streets to wander through, colourful houses to look at and cute little squares to sit in. Make sure to visit the beautiful Notre-Dame-de-l’Espérance church, too.
Palais des Festivals et des Congrès: This convention centre is where the world-famous film festival is held! Go and take a picture on the red carpet, or you could even go and see a show.
Îles de Lérins: Go on a boat trip to Îles de Lérins, these four islands are just off the coast of Cannes. Only two are inhabited, one is home to an 11th-century monastery and the other is home to a 14th-century castle. The islands are seriously beautiful, make sure they go on your must-see list!
Rue d’Antibes: If you’re fancying a bit of retail therapy head to Rue d’Antibes, one of the main shopping streets in Cannes. You’ll find plenty of boutique shops and high-end fashion stores here.
Musée de la Castre: Sitting at the top of a hill in Le Suquet, this medieval castle is home to a museum featuring a variety of art and artefacts. The views over Cannes and Îles de Lérins are incredible. Even if you’re not into art, just go for the view!
Le Marché Forville: This daily marketing has amazing fresh produce on offer, cheeses, meats, vegetables and anything else you can think of. If you’re into cooking or food you have to go! It’s perfect for finding ingredients for a picnic or just grazing.
Villa Rothschild: Built in 1881 for Baroness Betty Rothschild, this beautiful mansion is definitely worth visiting. The manicured gardens are great for relaxing in, it’s location also offers amazing views of the city and the sea.
Plage du Midi: This beach is a short walk away from the city centre. It’s a bit quieter than Croisette Beach located in the centre. Great for a relaxing afternoon sunbathing or swimming in the sea.
Iron Mask and Fort Royal Museum: Located on Ile Sainte Marguerite, part of the Îles de Lérins. This fort contains the prison cell of the legendary man in the Iron Mask. The museum isn’t big but it’s got some great views and it’s nice to wander around the island.
How to spend three days in Marseille
Morning: Begin your holiday with a visit to Vieux Port. This bustling marina offers plenty to do and plenty of photo opportunities. Walk along the waterfront, visit the daily fish market and maybe stop off for lunch at one of the amazing restaurants here.
Afternoon: After lunch, head to the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde. This 18th-century church is stunning inside and out. The views over the city are breathtaking too!
Evening: Head over to the Cours Julien area, a trendy neighbourhood known for its street art and independent shops. There’s an abundance of restaurants here so there’s plenty to choose from!
Morning: Visit MuCEM (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations), overlooking the old port, it showcases the history and culture of the region. The exhibits are interesting and engaging. It opens at 10 am so you can stop off and get a coffee before it opens. The building is spectacular too!
Afternoon: Go on a boat tour of the Calanques National Park. These tours take you along the stunning coastline, you’ll see plenty of crystal-clear water, rocky cliffs and little coves. Some tours even stop off so you can swim and snorkel!
Evening: Try out some Bouillabaisse at a local restaurant, this famous fish soup originated in Marseille. Best enjoyed with a glass of cold white wine!
Morning: Take the ferry to the Château d’If, a 16th-century fortress located on a small island off the coast of Marseille. It’s very interesting learning about the history of the fortress. The views are amazing too! Pay attention to the weather before visiting, sometimes they close the castle if the weather is really bad.
Afternoon: Grab some lunch at a local restaurant, then spend the afternoon exploring the colourful streets of Le Panier. There are lots of shops, cafes and cute squares to explore.
Evening: For your last night in Marseille, go out for drinks in the trendy La Plaine neighbourhood. It’s a great spot for a night out, try not to drink too much though. There’s nothing worse than flying home hungover!
How to spend three days in Cannes
Morning: Begin the day with nice coffee and some pastries from a local bakery, then head to Plage du Midi beach. Soak up a bit of sun and relax on the sand. Maybe go for a quick dip to wake yourself up!
Afternoon: Treat yourself to a bit of retail therapy on Rue d’Antibes. This street is full of chic boutiques and high-end shops, perfect for shopaholics! After you’ve worked up an appetite head to Le Suquet, Cannes’ charming old town. Grab a traditional French lunch at a cosy bistro, and don’t forget to try some local specialities like a Nicoise Salad with a nice glass of rose.
Evening: Head to Quai Saint-Pierre to see the huge yachts and watch the sun go down. There are plenty of restaurants offering beautifully fresh seafood dishes. Have a few drinks and head back to the hotel.
Morning: Get the ferry to Île Sainte-Marguerite and discover the island’s hidden gems. Have a wander around the Iron Mask and Fort Royal Museum and see the cell where the island’s most famous prisoner was imprisoned. There are plenty of lush forests to explore, maybe take a picnic and have an alfresco lunch whilst looking out over Cannes and the Côte d’Azur.
Afternoon: Get a boat over to Abbaye de Lérins. An ancient monastery on Île Saint-Honorat, the second largest of the Lérins Islands. The island is still inhabited and managed by the monks that live at the monastery!
Evening: Make your way back to the mainland and visit the Musée de la Castre. A medieval castle sat on a hill overlooking the Riviera. There are plenty of exhibits to look at, the views are incredible too.
Morning: Spend the morning wandering around Le Marché Forville. This bustling market offers amazing local produce like cheeses, meats and pretty much anything else you can think of! Grab some street food for lunch or buy some local produce for a picnic.
Afternoon: See how the other half used to live at The Villa Rothschild, a stunning 18th-century mansion. This impressive villa is surrounded by well-kept gardens. Not to be confused with Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Nice.
Evening: Head over to Palais des Festivals et des Congrès to get some photos on the red carpet. You could do a tour or catch a show if there’s one on. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting at the same time as the film festival you might even catch a glimpse of some world-famous actors and celebrities.
Food and drink: 8
Culture and history: 8
Total score: 55
Food and drink: 9
Culture and history: 6
Total score: 62