Which city is for you? Marseille or Nantes
Marseille or Nantes? Two amazing cities with their own distinct personality. Which one do you think you’ll prefer? The sun-soaked Mediterranean city of Marseille? Or the historical port city of Nantes? In this guide, we’ll compare the art, history, and natural beauty of these destinations to help you choose the one that best fits your style.
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.
Not far from France’s west coast, Nantes is the sixth largest city in France. Not as well known as some other French cities like Paris, Bordeaux and Marseille it doesn’t make it any less interesting. There is plenty of culture to take in here, alongside some amazing food!
Pro’s and Con’s of Marseille and Nantes
- 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.
- Rich history: Nantes is steeped in history, with a variety of historic sites, such as the Château des Ducs de Bretagne and the medieval quarter, Bouffay.
- Arts and culture: The city is known for its thriving arts scene, with venues like Le Lieu Unique and the Machines de l’île, showcasing innovative art installations and performances.
- Green spaces: Nantes is home to several beautiful parks and gardens, such as the Jardin des Plantes and Parc de Procé, providing ample opportunities for relaxation.
- Proximity to the coast: Located near the Atlantic Ocean, Nantes offers easy access to coastal destinations and beaches, such as La Baule and Pornic.
- Vibrant atmosphere: With a large student population, Nantes has a lively atmosphere, with numerous bars, clubs, and live music venues.
- Sustainable city: Nantes is recognized for its environmental initiatives and green urban planning, making it an appealing destination for eco-conscious travellers.
- Weather: Nantes has a temperate oceanic climate, with relatively cool summers and mild winters, which may not appeal to travellers seeking warmer temperatures.
- Smaller city: Nantes is smaller in size compared to other major French cities, which may offer fewer activities and options for extended stays.
- Less internationally renowned: Nantes may not be as well-known to tourists as some other French cities, so it may not have as many iconic landmarks.
Best for: History and architecture enthusiasts, art and culture lovers, and eco-conscious travellers seeking green spaces and a lively atmosphere.
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 Nantes
As it’s not a particularly big city, you could easily see most of the attractions in two days. But for a more relaxing stay, we recommend staying for three days. Especially if you fancy visiting some local vineyards.
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 Nantes?
Nantes is known for its delicious food and drink, and there are plenty of great places to eat and drink throughout the city. Here are some estimated average prices for food and drink in Nantes:
Beer: A pint of beer in a typical bar or restaurant in Nantes will likely cost between €5 and €8.
Glass of wine: The Loire Valley is famous for its wines, and you’ll find plenty of great local wines to try in Nantes. A glass of wine in a typical bar or restaurant can range from €4 to €10, depending on the quality and rarity of the wine.
Coffee: A cup of coffee in a typical café in Nantes will likely cost between €2 and €4.
Meal at a midrange restaurant: A meal at a midrange restaurant in Nantes will likely cost between €20 and €40 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 Nantes?
The cost of accommodation in Nantes can vary depending on the location and the type of accommodation you choose. Here are some estimated average prices for accommodation in Nantes:
Luxury hotel: A room in a luxury hotel in Nantes can cost anywhere from €150 to €400 per night, or even higher for the most exclusive properties.
Midrange hotel: A room in a midrange hotel in Nantes will likely cost between €70 and €150 per night, depending on the location and the amenities.
Budget hotel: A room in a budget hotel in Nantes will likely cost between €40 and €70 per night, depending on the location and the quality of the hotel.
Hostel: A bed in a hostel in Nantes 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 Nantes?
When planning any trip, timing is always important. But, we’re sure whenever you visit you’ll have a good time.
Weather: Nantes has a mild oceanic climate, which means it’s generally quite temperate year-round. But let’s be honest, the weather can be a bit unpredictable. You might be basking in the sun one minute, and then running for cover from the rain the next. But hey, that’s all part of the fun, right?
Festivals: Nantes is renowned for its cultural scene, and there are several festivals throughout the year that make it a good time to visit. Le Voyage à Nantes is very popular with over 500,000 people flocking to the city to be there. The festival features live music performances, food and art installations. It’s held from July to September and definitely worth a look!
Crowds: Summer is great for catching one of Nantes’ many outdoor events or festivals. But, it can get very busy. If navigating bustling streets isn’t for you, try visiting between September and November.
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 Nantes 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 Nantes:
Nante has a good public transport system that covers most of the city’s major sights and attractions. But, due to the size of the city, you’d be better off walking most of the time. You’ll be able to experience the city properly and see all the interesting little things you miss when you’re on a bus or a tram.
If you do plan on making the most of public transport, the trams and buses are clean and reliable. Getting a Nantes City Pass is a good way to save money and hassle. Renting a bike is a nice way to see the city at a quicker pace. A ride down the river is a nice way to spend an afternoon too.
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 Nantes
Visit the Château des Ducs de Bretagne: Once home to the Dukes of Brittany, this beautiful castle is now a museum. Its rounded walls and moat are particularly impressive. You can walk around the walls for free. But, if you want to go inside the museum you have to pay.
Explore the Île de Nantes: The island of Nantes is a former industrial area that has been transformed into a cool and trendy district. There are some very impressive art installations to see like ‘The Rings’ by Daniel Buren.
Take a Vineyard tour: Nantes is located in the Loire Valley, one of the most famous wine regions in the world. So it would be rude not to tour some of the local vineyards! Well, that’s our excuse.
Walk through the Passage Pommeraye: This three-tiered shopping arcade is stunning and a must-see when visiting Nantes. Its beautiful architecture and elegant shops are great for wandering around.
Visit the Musée d’Arts de Nantes: One of the largest museums of its type in the region, it has an extensive collection of over 12,000 works of art. Including works by famous artists like Monet, Picasso and Kandinsky.
Take a boat tour on the Erdre River: Known as the most beautiful river in France, is there a better way to see it other than being on it? Some of the countryside and chalets along the river are stunning.
Walk along the Quai de la Fosse: This promenade along the river is perfect for an afternoon stroll. You can enjoy the views and look at all the boats.
Visit the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle: Filled with skeletons of animals. You’ll marvel at the impressive collection of specimens on show here. There’s even a whale skeleton that’s over 18 meters in length.
Go to Les Machines de l’île: The Machine de l’île is an experience you won’t forget! A park featuring giant mechanical creatures, it’s not something you see every day. Great for kids and adults alike!
Explore the Musée de l’Imprimerie: This museum is dedicated to the history of printing, and is a fascinating look at how technology has evolved over the centuries. Be sure to check out the old printing presses and other historic artefacts.
Explore the Musée de l’Imprimerie: Take a tour of this impressive museum and learn all about Nantes’ long history with printing. You’ll never appreciate how much work used to go into printing until you’ve visited here!
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 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 Nantes
Morning: Grab a coffee then head to Château des ducs de Bretagne. This 15th-century fortress is very impressive. Walk around the walls for nice views of the city, or visit the museum if you want to learn more about its history.
Afternoon: After a morning of history, why not visit the Musée d’arts de Nantes and see some artwork from renowned artists? Even the building itself is very beautiful so it’s definitely worth visiting.
Evening: Head to Bouffay, a great neighbourhood full of bars and restaurants. Grab some traditional French food and local wine and relax for the evening.
Morning: Head to Les Machines de l’île nice and early to avoid the crowds. This crazy art project combines sci-fi with real-world engineering. Make sure to reserve a ticket in the high season.
Afternoon: After a morning of watching a robotic elephant walk around, head to the Jardin des Plantes and have a relaxing afternoon. There are so many interesting plants and trees to see and even a herbal garden.
Evening: Go for a walk down the Loire River. It runs through the heart of Nantes and there are plenty of bars and restaurants on its banks. Is there a better way to spend an evening than watching the sunset whilst eating amazing food and drinking good wine?
Morning: Head out of the city and visit a local vineyard. There are plenty of local wine tours that will take you. It’s a great way to see how the wine is made and sample some of the local produce.
Afternoon: After lunch, visit the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle. This natural history museum will keep adults and kids entertained for a while! Theres plenty of exhibits featuring a wide array of animals. There’s even a vivarium with live snakes!
Evening: Wander around the Graslin district, this beautiful part of Nantes is full of chic shops, amazing restaurants and cool bars. Make sure you try some seafood dishes and indulge in some local wines and beers.
Food and drink: 8
Culture and history: 8
Total score: 55
Food and drink: 8
Culture and history: 7
Total score: 56