Chances are if you’re visiting Marseille, you want some sun. I’ve been living in Marseille for more than two years now and am head over heels for this Mediterranean port city’s 300 days of sunshine. Being the second largest city in France, Marseille is certainly urban, but what I love about this city is that you can have both big city and stunning nature. Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly beach or a beach where you can jump off cliffs, I’ve got you covered. If you’re heading to Marseille and want to enjoy some time on the beach, I’m rounding up the best beaches to visit in Marseille, along with their pros and cons and how to get there on public transportation.
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What to pack for Marseille beaches
Note: when swimming and diving in the sea, caution should always be exercised. This post contains merely suggestions, and weather, sea depth and water conditions should always be taken into consideration. If you’re not sure the water is deep enough to jump or dive, air on the side of safety.
Plage du Prado
This beach is one of the largest Marseille beaches and one of the few sandy beaches. Plage du Prado is a popular choice for beach goers in Marseille for its family friendliness, ample space and close proximity to restaurants. This beach is one of the farthest from Vieux Port, which makes it a trek, but the bus goes directly to this beach from Vieux Port.
How to get to Plage du Prado
Vallon des Auffes
Out of the best beaches in Marseille, Vallon des Auffes is one of my favorites. It’s nestled in a small Provençal port with docked boats, several restaurants and small, brightly colored homes. According to Marseille Tourism, auffe is a plant that is used to make ship ropes and fish nets. Every time I walk by these darling apartments overlooking the port, I ask myself why I don’t live in this Marseille neighborhood.
There’s no sand at this beach, but there is a wading area that may be suitable for children, under adult supervision. Vallon des Auffes is a beach made up of large rocks and there’s very limited space to “lay out.” Personally, I love Vallon des Auffes for its calmer waves (thanks to its rock peninsula), the darling port ambience and sunset views. Pack a picnic, take a dip, marvel at its golden hour.
How to get to Vallon des Auffes
Take Bus 83 from Vieux Port to the Vallon des Auffes stop (about 15 minutes depending on traffic). You can also take Bus 83 in the other direction from Rond Point du Prado (about 25 minutes depending on traffic).
Plage des Catalans
Out of the best beaches in Marseille, Plage des Catalans takes the cake for closest to downtown. This beach also has sand, which isn’t as easy to find in very rocky, cliff-filled Marseille. It’s much smaller than the sandy Plage du Prado and fills up quickly on nice days. There always seems to be a round of sand volleyball going on at this beach.
Personally, Plage des Catalans is much lower on my list of best beaches in Marseille: as it’s highly frequented, it seems to be much dirtier and it’s hard to find a spot. However, if you have a short amount of time in Marseille but still want to see the sea, Plage des Catalans is easily accessible and is the closest beach to Vieux Port. Don’t forget a visit to Le Glacier du Roi for a sweet treat.
How to get there
Take Bus 83 from Vieux Port to the Corniche Audeoud stop (about 10 minutes depending on traffic). You can also take Bus 82 or 82S from Vieux Port to the Pharo Catalans stop (about 10 minutes depending on traffic).
Calanque de Sugiton
You know that scene in Monte Carlo with Selena Gomez where Leighton Meester’s character is lying on a rock with an Australian hunk in the Mediterranean? Okay, there’s a good chance you don’t since it’s certain that I have the award for the most times watching this movie. But that scene reminds me of the views from Calanque de Sugiton.
I published a post on how to visit Marseille’s calanques, or rocky inlets, including the Calanque de Sugiton. This is my favorite hike in Marseille, which culminates in a postcard-worthy swimming spot. Fair warning: it does take some effort to get to this beach as it’s farther from downtown and requires a hike. There’s no sand at this beach, but the views are breathtaking. This is not the beach to take small children to as the water is deep and waves can be strong.
How to get there
From Vieux Port, take either Metro 1 or 2 to Castellane. From Castellane, leave the metro station and take bus B1 toward Campus de Luminy. Hop off at stop Luminy PN des Calanques. It takes about 40 minutes. Here’s the Google Maps route. Once you get off the bus, you’re right at the entrance to the park.
Anse de la Fausse Monnaie
This beach is located in a ritzy neighborhood along La Corniche. One time I was in the bus just a stone’s throw away from this beach, and the bus was stopped and we all had to get out as the road was blocked. Why, you might ask? Apparently, President Macron was dining at Le Petit Nice Passedat, the étoilé restaurant overlooking this beach. All that to say, l’Anse de la Fausse Monnaie feels like living in a postcard and is even a spot frequented by the French president himself.
In terms of views, l’Anse de la Fausse Monnaie is one of my favorite beaches in Marseille. And the neighborhoods around the beach are also quite picturesque and therefore a great place to meander. This is definitely a rocky beach and thus not the best place to lie out. Don’t that deter you too much, as it truly has some of my favorite views and is in a boujee part of town. But it’s not going to be the most comfortable spot to take a nap at the beach.
How to get there
Take Bus 83 from Vieux Port to the Fausse Monnaie stop (about 15 minutes depending on traffic).
Another picturesque beach, Malmousque is the perfect spot for an afternoon dive into the cool water or an evening apéro to watch the sunset. This is another very rocky beach and is thus not ideal for children. Be sure to pack your water shoes as you’ll want to protect your feet from the rocks. Malmousque is also located in a chic neighborhood and will have you wondering why you haven’t put your life savings into property in this part of town.
Malmousque is an oasis of breathtaking nature just a bus ride from the bustling city. It has great cliff jumping, places to swim and sunset views. Given its rocky nature, it’s not suitable for small children. Compared to other rocky beaches like Anse de la Fausse Monnaie and even Vallon des Auffes, I find Malmousque harder to get to.
How to get there
Take Bus 83 from Vieux Port to the Endoume stop (about 15 minutes depending on traffic) and take a short walk to the beach.
Plage du Prophète
I find la Plage du Prophète to be a happy medium between two of Marseille’s sandy beaches: Plage du Prado and Plage des Catalans. The Plage du Prophète is one of Marseille’s few sandy beaches and is farther from Vieux Port than Plage des Catalans, and I find it to be cleaner than it, too. This beach is certainly not as big as the Plage du Prado but is still a great place to lie out, tan, have a picnic and not worry about rocky beaches.
Pros: The Plage du Prophète is a sandy beach, making it easier on your feet and back. There’s a shallow basin on this beach, making it suitable for children. Cons: It’s a bit farther from Vieux Port and can become crowded quickly.
How to get there
Take Bus 83 from Vieux Port to the Le Prophète stop (about 15 minutes depending on traffic).
Escape from downtown and explore the beautiful Goudes. These calanques are massive rock formations jutting in and out of the Mediterranean and are some of the most magnificent sights I’ve seen. Les Goudes are still technically in Marseille but are on the outskirts, with a completely different vibe than downtown. Each time I visit the Goudes, it feels like a mini vacation because it’s a world apart from the urban Marseille where I live.
You cannot beat these breathtaking views, and unlike the Calanque de Sugiton, you don’t have to hike to enjoy the views. Les Goudes are certainly a rocky beach and not suitable for children. They’re also more “in the wild” and therefore caution should be exercised as the ground becomes steep. The water gets deep very quickly and the waves can be stronger.
How to get there
From Vieux Port, take La Navette, or the city boat, to Point Rouge. Then at Point Rouge, switch boats to head toward Les Goudes. Here are the hours on the RTM website. However, the boats do not run yearlong. Be sure to check that the boats are in service during your visit. Tickets for la Navette to Les Goudes cost 8 euros.
If the boats aren’t working or they’re not your thing, you can still get to Les Goudes by bus. From Vieux Port, take the metro to Castellane. Exit the metro and get onto bus 19. Take the bus to the Madrague Mont Rose stop, and then switch to bus 20, which you’ll take to Les Goudes. Here’s the Google Maps route.
What I love most about Marseille is how many things and experiences there are to be had, especially the raw, unedited nature at arm’s length. Just as a visit to Les Goudes feels like a mini vacation, spending a day at Le Frioul is the perfect summer getaway. Le Frioul is an archipelago right off the coast of Marseille. I mean, taking a day trip to a nearby island? Sign me up!
Not only does Le Frioul have beaches where you can lie out or jump cliffs, but it also has a history of its own. The island is small, but you can still explore its several restaurants (read: ice cream shops) and historical sights. You can explore Fort Ratonneau, which dates back to the 1880s but was used by the German army during World War II. From Fort Ratonneau, you can enjoy one of my favorite views of Marseille. This island is also home to Hôpital Caroline, where patients were quarantined before going to Marseille as early as the 1500s. The hospital is still being restored and can only be visited on few occasions.
However, Le Frioul isn’t a beach that you can just hop over to. You need to book your tickets in advance, and given the 30-minute commute each way from Vieux Port, it’s a good idea to plan a day trip. During the summer and on holidays, tickets can and do sell out. You can buy them on the website or go to the ticket booth at Vieux Port.
How to get there
Le Frioul is easy to get to from downtown Marseille. From Vieux Port, take le Bateau that goes directly to Le Frioul. The boat ride is direct and takes about 25-30 minutes. Be sure to buy your tickets in advance as you need to book a specific time. Tickets for the boat to Le Frioul are around 11 euros.
Marseille beach overview
Whether you’re looking to simply lie out or want to hike to find the best swimming spot, Marseille has an array of beaches to suit your fancy. If you’re looking for sandy beaches, my best recommendations are the Plage du Prado, Plage du Prophète and Plage des Catalans. If you’re looking for charm, I’d recommend Vallon des Auffes, Anse de la Fausse Monnaie and Malmousque. And if you’re looking for an escape from downtown, you can’t go wrong with the calanques (Les Goudes, Calanque de Sugiton and le Frioul). When you’re not exploring the rest of this port city, you’re sure to be wowed by some of the best beaches in Marseille. Just don’t forget your sunscreen!