Which city is for you? Marseille or Toulouse
Marseille or Toulouse – which city suits your taste? Marseille, with its sunny coastline and vibrant Mediterranean culture? Or Toulouse, with its impressive architecture and rich history? In this comparison guide, we’ll take a closer look at what each city has to offer and find out where your next French adventure begins
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.
Toulouse is a charming city in southwestern France that is often overlooked by tourists. We’re not too sure why, to be honest! It’s a beautiful city that is bisected by the Garonne river. Filled with amazing restaurants to try, and interesting architecture. It is also located close to a lot of other interesting places.
Pro’s and Con’s of Marseille and Toulouse
- 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.
- 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.
- Lively atmosphere: Known as “La Ville Rose” (The Pink City) due to its unique terracotta brick architecture, Toulouse offers a vibrant and dynamic atmosphere.
- Rich history: Toulouse boasts a rich history, with significant landmarks such as the Basilica of Saint-Sernin, the Capitole, and the Cité de l’Espace.
- Aerospace hub: As the center of the European aerospace industry, Toulouse offers unique attractions such as the Airbus factory tour and the Aeroscopia Museum.
- University city: With a large student population, Toulouse has a youthful vibe, with numerous bars, clubs, and live music venues.
- Proximity to the Pyrenees: Toulouse is an excellent base for exploring the Pyrenees mountains, perfect for hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities.
- Canal du Midi: This UNESCO World Heritage Site offers picturesque walks and bike rides along the scenic waterway.
- Weather: Toulouse has a temperate climate, with hot summers and mild winters. However, it may not be as sunny or warm as other southern coastal destinations in France.
- Smaller city: Toulouse is smaller in size compared to other major French cities, which may offer fewer activities and options for extended stays.
- Not as touristy: Toulouse 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, students and young travelers, aerospace enthusiasts, and those seeking a vibrant atmosphere with easy access to outdoor activities in the Pyrenees.
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 Toulouse
Toulouse may not be a big city, but there’s plenty to see and do. You could cover most of the city in a day, but you’d miss out on the best parts. Toulouse is a city best enjoyed at a slow pace. Take your time to explore and discover all that it has to offer.
Toulouse is Frances’s fifth biggest city, so there is a lot to see and do. We feel like most people would happily spend two to three days here and not get bored. If you really wanted an interesting holiday though, you could use Toulouse as a base to explore the region. There are plenty of amazing towns and cities nearby like Albi or Carcassonne, you could even hire a car and drive to Andorra!
There are plenty of museums and galleries like the Muséum de Toulouse, Georges Bemberg’s Foundation — Hotel of Assézat and even a scientific discovery centre that focuses on spaceflight called the Cité de l’Espace.
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 Toulouse?
Toulouse is home to a diverse culinary scene, and you can find everything from traditional French cuisine to international dishes. Here are some estimated average prices for food and drink in Toulouse:
Beer: A beer in a typical bar or restaurant in Toulouse will likely cost between €5 and €7.
Glass of wine: As Toulouse is located in the heart of the Occitanie wine region, wine is readily available and is often a better value than beer or cocktails. A glass of wine in a typical bar or restaurant can range from €3 to €10, depending on the quality and rarity of the wine.
Coffee: A cup of coffee in a typical café in Toulouse will likely cost between €1.50 and €3.
Meal at a midrange restaurant: A meal at a midrange restaurant in Toulouse will likely cost between €15 and €30 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 Toulouse?
The cost of accommodation in Toulouse can vary depending on the location and the type of accommodation you choose. Here are some estimated average prices for accommodation in Toulouse:
Luxury hotel: A room in a luxury hotel in Toulouse 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 Toulouse 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 Toulouse 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 Toulouse 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 Toulouse?
Toulouse has mild weather year-round, making it a great destination to visit at any time of the year. Here are some things to consider:
Weather: The weather in Toulouse is relatively mild throughout the year. Summers can get hot. Winters can be wet and mild. We recommend visiting in Spring or Autumn when the weather is mild and there aren’t too many tourists.
Festivals: Toulouse hosts a variety of festivals and events throughout the year. Like theFestival de Rio Loco (one for the music lovers) and the Violet Festival that celebrates the city’s emblematic flower.
Crowds: Like most places the summer months can get pretty hectic, so avoid July and August if you can. You’ll find a much more relaxed vibe in the off-season.
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 Toulouse 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 Toulouse:
Toulouse is very easy to get around, with regular buses, trams and a metro system there are plenty of options. The public transport system is clean and well maintained. You’ll find it easy to get around the city when using it. The Toulouse city pass is well worth getting if you plan on using public transport a lot. If you wanted a more active holiday, the city is very walkable. You could even hire a bike if you wanted to get around a bit quicker. As with any city, taxi’s and ubers are readily available.
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 Toulouse
Visit the Basilique Saint-Sernin: One of the most visited landmarks in Toulouse. This was once part of the Abbey of Saint-Sernin, but unfortunately only the church remains. Take a guided tour to learn more about the history of this amazing building.
Explore the historic city center: Wander around the city, take in cultural sights, admire the architecture and eat some good food. Is there a better way to experience a city?
See the Canal du Midi: Considering its 240 kilometers long, you won’t be able to see it all. But, you could go for a nice walk along its relaxing banks or even hire a bike!
Visit the Musée des Augustins: Housed in a former Augustinian convent this museum possesses an impressive collection of European art from the middle ages to the early 20th century.
See the Cité de l’Espace: Toulouse might not be the first place you think of when you think of space. But, this space museum is well worth a visit. The planetairum presents shows throughout the day, there’s plenty of exhibits to keep you busy too.
Take a food tour: Food tours are always a great way to experience a citys cuisine and learn about the history. You’ll often get to visit restaurants most tourists won’t know about. You’ll get to try cassoulet, a hearty bean stew, and other delicious dishes.
Check out the Musée Saint-Raymond: Opened in 1892 this archaeological museums went through various transformations before becoming a museums. It was even a prison at one point! It features exhibits from prehistory to the middle ages, history buffs don’t miss out.
Visit the Jardin des Plantes: Not to be confused with the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. This botanical garden is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and relax.
See the Capitole de Toulouse: This iconic building located in the heart of the city is home to the offices of the local government. Free to enter, it’s full of artworks and impressive interiors.
Take a day trip to Carcassonne: Located about an hours drive away from Toulouse. This medieval fortified city will take your breath away. Even if you’re not interested in history it’s very impressive and well worth a visit.
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 amazing restaurants here.
Afternoon: After lunch, head to the 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 neighborhood 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 Civilizations), overlooking the old port, showcases the history and culture of the region. The exhibits are interesting and engaging. It opens at 10am 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’s lots shops, cafes and cute squares to explore.
Evening: For your last night in Marseille, go out for drinks in the trend La Plaine neighborhood. 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 Toulouse
Morning: Start your day at the Place du Capitole, a stunning square in the heart of Toulouse. Try and get there early so you can enjoy a coffee overlooking the square whilst the city wakes up. Have a wander into the the Capotiole building to see the artwork and lavish rooms.
Afternoon: Visit the Musée des Augustins to learn more about the history and art of the region. The museum has a brilliant collection of sculptures and paintings.
Evening: Enjoy a leisurely dinner in the Saint-Cyprien district, once of one Toulouses roughest areas. It’s now one of the coolest parts of the city. There’s plenty of bars and restaurants to keep you busy for the evening.
Morning: Get the train to Carcassonne, an amazing fortified medieval city about an hour away by train. It almost looks like something out of a disney film. Walk around the castle and visit the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire. Opt for a guided tour to be full immersed in the city’s history.
Afternoon: Get the train back to Toulouse and spend a relaxing afternoon seeing the Canal du Midi. Either walk along the banks or hire a bank if you want to see more of it.
Evening: Go and find a nice French restaurant and try some of the local cuisine such as a cassoulet or saucisse de Toulouse. Once you’re suitably full go and explore the Carmes neighborhood. It’s the perfect place to wander around aimlessly stopping off for drinks and exploring the little side streets.
Morning: Start the day with a visit to the Cité de l’Espace, a space museum not too far from the city centre. An interesting place for adults and kids alike.
Afternoon: After lunch let your food settle with a relaxing afternoon in the Jardin des Plantes, one of Toulouse’s most beautiful parks.
Evening: Go and see a performance at the Théâtre du Capitole, one of France’s most prestigious opera houses. Or if opera isn’t your thing, go and see some live music at La Dynamo, a small club that hosts a variety of different live performers.
Food and drink: 8
Culture and history: 8
Total score: 55
Food and drink: 9
Culture and history: 9
Total score: 61