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Living In Marseille – Expats Ultimate Guide

This guide unlocks the secrets of Marseille's diverse neighborhoods, cultural offerings, and the captivating local way of life. Immerse yourself in Marseille, France's oldest city, a vibrant tapestry woven with history, culture, and stunning Mediterranean beauty.

1. The Appeal of Marseille

3. Everyday Life

4. Work and Education

5. Community and Social Life

6. Challenges and Considerations

7. Conclusion

 

1. The Appeal of Marseille

Cultural Diversity and Historical Richness

Marseille is a world-famous multicultural city located in the Bouches-du-Rhône department in Southeast France. As a gateway to the Mediterranean Sea, it has a prosperous economy and a significant cultural wealth influenced by Southern Europe, the Near East, North Africa, and Asia.

Marseille wouldn’t be the first great trading port to combine grit and grandeur, but its unpolished image sets it apart from most French cities. It was founded by Greek-speaking Phocaeans 2,600 years ago, making it France’s oldest city. As French colonial rule expanded in the 19th century, Marseille’s strategic location in the Mediterranean transformed the city into a place where all kinds of people, goods, and ideas converged. 

As a port city, Marseille’s population is a mix of native French citizens, foreign-born residents, and expatriates. The largest groups of foreign-born residents in the city are Algerian, Comoran, Tunisian, and Moroccan.

The main religions are Catholicism and Islam, and the city also has the third-largest Jewish community in Europe, with 80,000 Jewish residents.

Moving to Marseille means adjusting to a Mediterranean climate, which usually brings mild winters and hot, dry summers. In general, the average summer temperature is around 28–30°C, but it drops slightly the nearer you are to the coast. The winter months bring temperatures around 12°C and very little rainfall. Marseille is also officially the sunniest city in France, experiencing over 2000 hours of sunshine yearly.

Of the events here, Marseille is most known for its role in the French Revolution.

In 1792, hundreds from Marseille marched to Paris to support the revolution. Along the way they sang the “Chant de guerre pour l’Armée du Rhin.” It later became the national anthem and was named “La Marseillaise,” after the people of Marseille.

Natural Beauty of Marseille

Marseille is a haven for outdoor lovers, boasting various activities for every adventurer.

If you like water-based activities, you’ll have your choice. From sailing and paddle boarding to diving, there are tons of options.

Likewise, there are also lots of land-based excursions.

Hiking and climbing are popular in the Calanques National Park. And, if you’re willing to go further, you’ll find natural parks. Some of the most popular include the Parc naturel régional de la Sainte-Baume and the hills of Garlaban.

And, best of all, Marseille’s mild climate means you’ll have access to all these outdoor activities year-round.

Marseille isn’t considered a green city but has some beautiful parks. The Parc Borély is one of the biggest, with its lake and bike tracks (you can hire little four-wheeled carts). It’s where you’ll find everyone on a Sunday afternoon.

The Parc Longchamp is a great pit stop after visiting the nearby Palace. Or try the small but perfect Parc Valmer along the seafront. It’s a great place to get some shade from the seaside sun.

Marseille’s coastline blends sandy beaches and dramatic rocky cliffs, making it a nature lover’s paradise. 

Beyond the city, you’ll find the beauty of the Calanques National Park. It’s a treasure trove of dramatic cliffs and crystal-clear waters. 

Beaches

Beaches of Corbières – l’Estaque

These are perfect beaches for families. Nearby is a refreshment bar and a playground, and spaces are also set up for picnics, sports, and creative activities.

Transport:

  • Address: Plage de Corbières 13016
  • Ferry « la navette » from the Old Port in the high season (April to September)Direct access by bus n°35 – stop Estaque Riaux

Catalan Beach

The sandy beach near the Old Port and the city center is Marseille’s most accessible sandy beach. Located a few minutes walk from the Old Port, it is a good place to come early in the morning to enjoy tranquility.

For a taste break, Chez Michel welcomes you with one of the best bouillabaisses in Marseille.

Transport:

  • Access : bus n°83 – stop « Les Catalans »
  • Opening hours : 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. from April to October and 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. from November to March. 

Malmousque

Bathing spot and small picturesque harbor in a small village in the 7th district, still in the center of the city, Malmousque hides treasures for walkers. A maze of quiet, flower-lined little streets, almost all of them lead to the small fishing port. 

Transport:

  • Address : Plage des Catalans 13007 
  • Access : bus n°83 – stop « Endoume »

Prophète’s beach

Below the Corniche Kennedy, Prophète’s beach is an iconic free-access beach in Marseille. It is very famous among Marseille’s inhabitants and tourists because it is suitable for children and adults! 

Transport:

  • Address : Plage du Prophète – 178 Corniche Kennedy 13008
  • Access : Bus n°83 – stop « Le Prophète »
  • Opening hours : Free access.

Prado Beach

It is the largest beach in Marseille, with a succession of several free access beaches (Roucas Blanc, Prado Nord, Prado Sud, Plage de Borély, Vieille Chapelle, Huveaune…) over a distance of 3.5km. It is one of the busiest in Marseille and stretches from David, the famous Prado statue, to the Vieille Chapelle near the Pointe Rouge.

Prado offers nautical activities, playgrounds for children, private beaches, and volleyball courts. It also has a complex with restaurants, bars, and shops: l’Escale Borély. Thanks to its skatepark, it hosts several festivals every summer, such as the Delta Festival or the Freestyle Cup.

Transport:

  • Address : Plage du Prado – 142 avenue Pierre Mendès France 13008
  • Access : Bus n°83 and bus n°19 stop « La Plage »
  • Métro 2 arrêt « Rond-Point du Prado » 

Pointe-Rouge beach

A few minutes from the Prado seaside park, you can enjoy the Pointe-Rouge beach, the largest sandy beach in Marseille, next to the small port of the same name. 

You can rent a pedal, go kite-surfing or paddle-surfing, dive from the small port, or rent a deckchair on one of the private beaches.

Transport:

  • Address : 25 avenue Montredon 13008
  • Access: bus n°19 stop « Pointe Rouge » and in summer via la navette maritime “La navette” from the Old Port


Anse du Bain des Dames

Made up of three beaches ranging from pebbles to sand and gravel, the Anse du Bain des Dames is very popular with the locals of Marseille. Further from the center than its counterparts, it is relatively quiet.

Authentic Marseille fishermen’s cottages, now owned by individuals, are still present.

Transport:

  • Address : 38 Promenade du Grand Large 13008
  • Access: Bus n°19 stop « Engalière » then 5mn walk.

Local cuisine

Marseille is a city that takes its food rather seriously. You’d be forgiven for thinking that no one works in Marseille as restaurants seem permanently busy, and lunch lasts for three hours.

Marseille is like Rome meets Istanbul, with a unique Mediterranean and French flavor. Restaurants sell everything from kebabs to bouillabaisse, the local specialty: a mouth-watering spicy fish stew crammed with fish and flavor.

The old town, known as La Panier, is an excellent place for lunch (not so much for dinner, less choice). It is pretty, artistic, and atmospheric, with several quirky and charming cafés. The locals like it here, and it has a reputation for being “bobo” – bohemian bourgeoise.

Top dishes to try in Marseille

The region is best known as a gastronomic paradise because, as a gateway to the south, the port has attracted everyone from Greeks, Italians, and Armenians to North Africans and Vietnamese, to name a few ethnicities.

To help you experience the uniquely mixed style of cuisine found in Marseille, we’ve compiled a list of dishes to eat in Marseille.

1. Panisse   If you’ve ever wanted to taste chickpea delicacies, try the panisse specialty. It’s similar to a French fry, yet made from chickpeas. It’s fried, baked, and served with a dipping sauce. For the best, head to L’Estaque. It’s a quiet neighborhood with seaside vendors selling fresh Panisse daily. You won’t find a better place to immerse yourself in Marseille’s culinary culture.  
2. Madeleines   One of Marseille’s specialties is the iconic shell-shaped and sweet sponge cake called a madeleine. These almond-flavored cakes are trendy throughout France and taste best when fresh.  
3. Moules Marinière   Moules marinière, or marinated mussels, are fried, simmered in stock, then baked, and are always fresh and delicious. Also, try moules frites — mussels with fries, a traditional dish in Marseille.  
4. Navettes   Have a nibble on a navette! Marseille is all about nautical themes, and even its biscuits are boat-shaped. Navettes are orange-flavored biscuits that are very popular during Christmas yet are always available year-round. The best place to buy them is Le Four des Navettes, the oldest bakery in Marseilles, opposite the Abbey of Saint-Victor. They’ve been baking them since 1781 in the same oven they’ve used for the last 230 years.   
5. Pissaladière   This little treat, which has black olives, is a pizza blend and a puff pastry tart. It’s a Marseille tradition made with onions and anchovies all tucked into a tart crust.  
6. Bouillabaisse   Marseille’s most famous and classic dish is bouillabaisse, once known as the poor man’s soup. Thanks to its popularity and higher price, it’s hardly that way now. This dish is a hearty meal and is loved by true seafood enthusiasts. Ingredients can range from multiple types of fish, shrimp, crab, lobster, mussels, and sea urchins and often include any combination of vegetable seasonings such as garlic, onions, potatoes, and fresh herbs. Locals will attest to the deep, rich quality of the bouillabaisse created in Marseille. Marseille’s signature dish should cost at least €60 to €100 per person. It is always served in two parts: the soup de poisson (broth), rich with tomato, saffron, and fennel, and the cooked fish, de-boned tableside and presented on a platter. On the side are croutons, rouille (a bread-thickened garlic-chili mayonnaise), and grated cheese. Spread rouille on the crouton, top with cheese, and float it in the soup.  
7. Pieds et paquets   Roughly translated, pieds et paquets means tripe and trotters; as some say, it implies stomach and feet. The dish is not for the faint of heart or stomach. You’ll find pied et paquets in restaurants throughout Marseille that cook this traditional, local food.  
8. Aïoli   It looks like mayonnaise, but in Marseille, aïoli is a gourmet spread made of garlic, lemon juice, eggs, and olive oil. It’s a famous dipping sauce for fries, cod, vegetables, shellfish, and almost any other dippable food.  
9. North African Food   Marseille has a large North African immigrant community from the former French colonies of Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, which has resulted in vibrant cuisine. Try leblebi, a Tunisian soup, or merguez, a spicy stew made of Moroccan sausage.  
10. Tapenade   You may need to develop a taste for this delicious spread —  it’s made from a purée of capers, anchovies, black olives, and lots of garlic and olive oil. It’s inexpensive yet is also a real gourmet treat.  
11. Moitié-moitié pizza   There’s actually a Marseille style of pizza, and it’s everywhere you turn. What sets Marseille pizza apart from authentic Italian pizza is the garlic used to flavor the dish. For a good pizza, we recommend Chez Étienne, a downtown institution, and the Brasserie du Corsaire Chez Paul in Les Goudes, an excellent restaurant for fish.  
12. Ratatouille   Provençal cuisine wouldn’t be complete without a taste of ratatouille. It’s a culinary specialty of Nice, and it is literally defined as a motley stew of vegetables, which you can find in your travels around Marseille.  
13. Spices       Like many other spices, Saffron is a mainstay spice in Marseille cuisine. Interestingly, the French typically don’t cook with many spices, but they do in Mediterranean-influenced Marseille. The more exotic the flavor, the better.  
14. Pastis   While in the Old Port of Marseille, pick up a bottle of pastis, an Italian-inspired, anise-flavored aperitif. It’s a refreshing and robust drink made from star anise, a spice originally from China. The best place for a pastis is La Relève and Café de l’Abbaye, right next to Saint-Victor Abbey, with a superb view of the old port. There is also a bar near the Pointe Rouge or Escale Borély. It’s still very local and looks like a Californian seaside made by people who’ve never seen California.                                                      
15. Wine   One of the more popular things to do in Marseille is to take a shore excursion to Avignon and visit a local winery, Chateauneuf, to tour age-old vineyards.                        
Marseille’s cuisine

As a rule, when you’re wondering what to eat in Marseilles and scanning a menu, note whether the advertised prices are followed by the letter “P.” This is short for “à partir de” and translates to the word “from.” You could be charged more than you expect for small menu additions, such as adding a sauce to an otherwise plain dish of mussels.

Best place for a coffee meeting?

On Boulevard Vauban, at Carlotta With. The brunch is excellent, and everything is locally sourced—alternatively, there is Le Café de la Banque, near La Préfecture, and Café Luciani.

Looking for a great dinner party spot in town?

Le Petit Nice is the place to go!

You cannot miss out on Marrou for a satisfying lunch, Chez Paul for a memorable dinner, and Le Fioupélan at the port for an experience that will leave you wanting more. These are the top picks for dining in Marseille.

2. Neighborhoods and Living Spaces

Marseille is a city that attracts more and more people, especially young people who come to study. To rent a furnished apartment, you will need to pay around €800 and €734 for an unfurnished apartment. 

Marseille is a more affordable option for those who want to live in France. The overall cost of living here is about 41% lower than in Paris. As Marseille is the second largest city in France, you would think that the cost of living there is high. But it’s not.

From rent to groceries, dining, and entertainment, the cost of daily life in Marseille is much lower than in cities like Paris or Lyon.

You’ll be able to go out to eat and enjoy everything Marseille offers without worrying about emptying your wallet.

Plus, it makes relocating affordable.

In Marseille, the estimated monthly expenses for a family of four is €3,489, and a single person usually spends €1,675 monthly.

Moreover, housing prices in Marseille are relatively affordable. However, prices can be higher or lower depending on the location and size of the property. Therefore, if you want to save more money, it’s best to find a home outside the city center area.

Generally, the most expensive neighborhoods are the Vieux-Port, the Panier, and the 6th and 7th arrondissements, while the least expensive neighborhoods are located in the 13th and 14th arrondissements. 

The median price of rental apartments has risen sharply over the past four quarters. A T1 now costs €15/m², and a T2 €13/m². These small surfaces have seen the strongest increase. They are favored by young people who live alone.

If you’re ready to take the plunge and make new friends, coliving is for you. An ingenious mix between a classic rental and a hotel, you will have your own space where you will keep your privacy. Next to it, you will share common rooms with your roommates. The advantage? You are not financially bound to each other. Everyone has an individual contract that allows them to come and go.

Overview of Neighborhoods

The best arrondissement to live in Marseille depends on your lifestyle and preferences. If you prefer a vibrant, bustling atmosphere, the 1st arrondissement is the place to be. The 8th arrondissement might be perfect for a quieter, residential feel. Then, there’s the 7th arrondissement. It offers that dreamy waterfront lifestyle.

The wealthiest part of Marseille is the 8th arrondissement. You will find luxury apartments, villas with panoramic views, and high-end shops here. The area is also home to several beaches and offers a serene and sophisticated living environment.

Here are the five districts of Marseille to discover, each with its unique charm and attractions:

1. Le Panier – 2nd district: Known as Marseille’s oldest district, Le Panier is a colorful and vegetated area with lively squares, offering a glimpse into authentic Marseille. It’s an open-air museum with fascinating frescoes and cultural venues like the Maison Diamantée and the Vieille Charité. It is ideal for artisan shopping, enjoying local specialties, and experiencing the vibrant nightlife.

2. Les Cinq Avenues – 4th district: A hotspot for nightlife, Les Cinq Avenues boasts restaurants, bars, and pubs for an unforgettable evening. The district also appeals to families and culture enthusiasts with the Palais Longchamp, a tribute to water, housing two museums and surrounded by gardens and an observatory park.

3. The Vieux-Port – 1st district: The iconic Vieux-Port, or Old Port, is the heart of Marseille, bustling with fish markets, shopping avenues like the Canebière, and the Mucem museum. It’s a vibrant area to explore any time of the year, offering insights into the city’s history and contemporary culture.

4. Notre-Dame-du-Mont – 6th district: This district is the epicenter for artists, featuring street art, designer boutiques with a bohemian vibe, and a farmers’ market on Cours Julien. Known for its restaurant terraces and festive atmosphere, it’s as lively in the evening as it is during the day.

5. La Pointe Rouge – 8th district: Ideal for water sports enthusiasts and families, La Pointe Rouge is famous for its trendy bars, discos, and beaches like l’anse des Sablettes and the Pointe Rouge beach. It serves as a gateway to the Calanques National Park, offering a mix of leisure and nature.

6. Belle de Mai: This ever-evolving space is known for its small North African stores and graffiti-covered walls featuring La Friche Belle de Mai, an arts center inside a former tobacco factory. The area is also home to Cinema Le Gyptis, which showcases large-format street art by JR as part of the “Inside Out” project.

7. Endoume: A breezy seaside neighborhood famous for its beaches and local swimming holes like Vallon des Auffes, a fishing haven, and Calanques de Malmousque, a hidden swimming spot favored by locals for sunbathing and swimming.

8. Les Calanques: Known for its wild, cliffside swimming holes, it offers a natural escape with secluded spots like Calanque de Sugiton, accessible through a bit of hiking.

9. Cinq Avenues: This place of relaxation is characterized by the elegant Palais Longchamp, which celebrates the construction of the local canal. The neighborhood is a favorite among families and students for its relaxing park and cultural significance.

10. Joliette: It is a mix of the old and new. Visitors can enjoy attractions like a Ferris wheel, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Cultures, and beautiful views over the Mediterranean.

Average monthly rent per square meter of apartments and houses in Marseille by district

Data by Statista

Housing Market

For more information about the real estate market, you can check the following online sources:

Additionally, jump to our guide for housing options in France.

3. Everyday Life

Public Transportation

Marseille is home to the world’s largest commercial port, handling over 100 million tons of cargo annually. The port is a central hub for trade between Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.

It also boasts a large international airport, a high-speed train station, and an extensive network of motorways. Its port also offers frequent ferry services to Corsica and other picturesque locations, making it easy to travel in and out of the city.

Driving is not an effective commute method in Marseille since parking is a hassle. The best way to get around the city is on foot or by bike because most neighborhoods here are pedestrian-friendly.

You will also find trains, buses, and boats that effectively take you to your destination.

While Marseille doesn’t have the most extensive public transport system, it’s affordable and efficient.

The bus network covers most of the city and is very dependable. You can pay with cash or a card to recharge when needed. Trams and metros are also available. These networks are not as extensive as the buses, but they are reliable.

Then, boat services link different districts along the coast of Marseille. They run from early morning until late evening, and tickets are discounted for residents.

Finally, the high-speed train network (TGV trains) runs across France if you want to explore beyond Marseille. TER regional trains are a great way to get around for regional trips.

If you plan on working and living within the city limits, you can get by without a car.

Marseille has a bike-sharing program called Le Vélo. You can rent bikes from stations throughout the city and return them to any station when you’re done. It’s a great way to see the sights while getting some exercise.

Quick tips:

  • Be familiar with standard transport because they are difficult to understand.
  • Don’t overestimate the city’s size. Marseille is relatively small, and the main roads are everywhere you want to go.
  • Also, get a motorcycle or a bicycle, because a car will lead you to lose all your time.
  • Marseille metro guide map plan
  • Public transport in Marseille

Language and Communication

The language barrier might be one of the biggest hurdles you’ll encounter as an expat in Marseille. In more tourist areas, you’ll find a few people who speak English, but, in general, most locals only speak French.

Learn French the fastest you can; only view Marseillais speak English.

This can be the most challenging part. You’ll struggle with simple day-to-day activities like grocery shopping and doctor’s visits. It can be frustrating, and, at times, you could feel incredibly isolated.

But locals will appreciate it when you try to communicate in French. They are more willing to engage with and help you when needed. Remember, the Marseillais are known for their warmth. A smile, a “bonjour” (bon-zhoor, hello!), and a little effort with their language go a long way.

Check out our insights into the language challenges.

Entertainment and Leisure

Marseille offers an eclectic blend of history, culture, and scenic beauty that’s hard to find elsewhere. With its vibrant markets, tasty cuisine, and breathtaking views, it’s a city that will show you the best of French living.

Marseille contrasts ancient history with modern architecture. The famous Notre Dame de la Garde basilica overlooks the city and is one of its most famous landmarks. The city is also home to contemporary architectural marvels like the CMA CGM Tower, one of the tallest buildings in France.

Marseille has been a magnet for artists for centuries. Between the 18th and 20th centuries, it was a hub for renowned painters like Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Paul Cézanne.

Today, it’s home to a thriving art scene that blends traditional heritage with cutting-edge creativity:

Mucem

It is the first museum dedicated entirely to the culture of the Mediterranean. Exhibitions cover everything from trade and conflict to questions on why the Mediterranean diet is thought to lead to longer lives. 

Street art tour

Cours Julien’s neighborhood and street art give context and color to Marseille’s distinct identity.

Le Panier

The ancient Greeks settled north of the Vieux Port, Marseille’s oldest district. Today, it has a typically Mediterranean street scene.

City beaches

Marseille’s coast may lack the glamour of Saint-Tropez and Antibes, but its 21 beaches still provide a change of pace. Those of the Prado is the largest, while Plage des Catalans is the closest to the center.

Château d’If

Bit more than 3km from the Vieux Port is the rocky fortress made famous by its fictional inmate Edmond Dantès, otherwise known as the Count of Monte Cristo. Prison cells and ramparts can be explored on a self-guided tour.

Calanques National Park

Less than 10km south of the city is a coastline of limestone cliffs carved into deep inlets over millions of years. Boat tours of the coast are popular, as are kayaking and paddle boarding. 

Useful tips:

  • Marseille’s Calanques are so popular in the nature-rich Parc National des Calanques that a booking system is being introduced to reduce visitor numbers. From June 2022, admission to the overcrowded Calanque de Sugiton will be limited to 500 visitors daily. 
  • If you plan to see most key sights, buy a Marseille City Pass online or at the tourist office. Valid for one to three days, the pass covers museum admissions, unlimited public transport, public bike shares, a guided city tour, and a Château d’If boat trip. Do the sums before buying a child’s pass—most museums offer free admission to under-18s or under-12s.

Theater and Performance

Theater and performance are also an essential part of Marseille’s cultural scene. The Théâtre National de Marseille is a major venue for contemporary theater and dance performances. The Opéra de Marseille, with its grand interior and impressive stage, hosts a range of operatic productions throughout the year. The Ballet National de Marseille is another major institution that presents contemporary dance performances.

Marseille bars offer a range of atmospheres, from the elegance and sophistication of Dantès Skylounge to the historic charm of La Caravelle, catering to various tastes and preferences.

Marseille’s nightlife is an electrifying mix that caters to diverse tastes.

Here, you’ll find chic cocktail bars, fantastic music venues, and nightclubs that stay open until the early hours. Whether you’re looking for a tranquil spot to relax or somewhere more upbeat, there’s plenty to choose from.

And best of all, every district offers something unique.

Le Panier is a quaint neighborhood with many cafes, bars, and restaurants. It was lively and familiar, and I had the impression I was at home from day one.

Meanwhile, the area around Rue de la République consists of stylish clubs frequented by locals.

La Joliette is also very popular. It’s more modern than the other areas, and the views of the Mediterranean are unbeatable.

Here are some of the best bars in Marseille:

1. La Part des Anges: Known for serving organic and ecological wines, this affordable and stylish wine bar offers a dedicated area for wine sales and a dining section for tasty meals. Wine glasses start at only €2.50.

2. La Caravelle: A historic bar dating back to the 1930s, La Caravelle has a jazzy vibe and prewar features, now modernized with a tapas bar. It serves full meals and offers a small terrace with views of the Vieux Port.

3. Le Bar de la Marine: Featured in the movie *Love Actually*, this bar is rumored to be a filming location for Marcel Pagnol’s trilogy. It is located by the port and boasts a large terrace for enjoying a French aperitif.

4. Le Marengo: Offering affordability in the Vieux Port area, Le Marengo is known for its delicious food, drinks, lively atmosphere, and friendly service, making it an ideal spot for a memorable night in Marseille.

5. La Fabrique: Inspired by Andy Warhol’s Factory, La Fabrique has a cosmopolitan vibe reminiscent of New York City, with a beautifully decorated interior, a terrace for sunset views, and an excellent menu.

6. Dantès Skylounge Marseille: Situated in the Sofitel Hotel, this bar offers unparalleled views with its floor-to-ceiling windows, elegant decor, and sophisticated atmosphere. It is a must-visit for a classy experience.

7. Le Canebière: A simple, unpretentious bar near the Vieux Port area, Le Canebière is a haven for sports fans, broadcasting events like Formula One, football, and rugby. It also features an outdoor seating area and a top-notch brasserie.

8. Beer District

Hemmed between a cigar shop and a Tunisian restaurant near the Vieux Port, this lively spot taps pour over 25 beers.

At last, Marseille has a strong soccer culture and is home to one of France’s most successful soccer clubs, Olympique de Marseille. The city is also known for its love of rugby and hosts the annual Orange Velodrome Tournament.

Looking for some fun leisure ideas? We’ve got a few suggestions that are sure to get you excited. Check them out.

Shopping

Marseille is a great place to shop. The new Terrasses du Port is the must-go destination of the moment. It’s a new three-story mall with all the high-street stores and high-end fashion. Head to the roof for spectacular views and good restaurants.

If you want the same kind of shops but don’t like malls, head to the Old Port area and the rue Saint-Ferréol. For a more alternative experience and independent shops, head to the Cours Julien and wander the winding streets.

Torrefaction Noailles

This combined cafe and chocolaterie has been operating for nearly a century, and its heritage seduces immediately upon entering. 

Savonnerie Marseillaise de la Licorne

Marseille soap, or Savon de Marseille, is a traditional soap made in the city for over 600 years. It mixes seawater, olive oil, and alkaline ash from sea plants. Look out for a painted wooden boat in a shop window on the Vieux Port’s south shore before entering a space filled with rustic maritime decor. 

Trois Fenêtres

This concept craft store in Le Panier celebrates the warm tones of the Mediterranean through clothing, jewelry, decorations, and photography.

Living Like a Local

Secluded harbour

A 30-minute walk south of the Vieux Port lies the more secluded Vallon des Auffes, a tiny enclosed fishing harbor flanked by some lovely wine bars and bistros. This languid afternoon sun trap is best enjoyed with a cold drink. 

Market scenes

Marseille’s gastronomy is a testament to its rich and diverse cultural heritage. The local markets overflow with fresh produce, so it’s a culinary paradise for food enthusiasts.

Assorted markets are set up every morning on the streets of this historic trading port. The Marché des Capucins in the old-world Noailles district brings an array of powerful North African spice aromas, while the Marché de la Plaine hawks everything from potent red chili peppers to colorful puffer jackets.

4. Work and Education

As the capital of the Bouches-du-Rhône department, Marseille is one of the most popular cities in France. Its proximity to the sea and the mountains is a considerable asset that has led many executives, entrepreneurs, students, and young professionals to move to the city. 

As a major port city, Marseille is also a trade and industrial hub, providing job opportunities to expatriates.

Marseille’s major industries include shipping, trade, tourism, and technology. Its port is one of the largest and busiest in the Mediterranean and plays a crucial role in the city’s economy. The city is also home to many major corporations and startups in the technology industry.

The average salary in Marseille is €45k. The most popular occupations in Marseille are Project Manager (Unspecified Type / General), Business Development Manager, and Quality Manager, which pay between €28k and €83k per year. The most popular employers in Marseille are CMA CGM, InfoSys Limited, and Beckman Coulter Inc.

 Job Title Average
Project Manager (Unspecified Type / General) €50,700
Business Development Manager €52,500
Quality Manager €32,000
Product Manager, Healthcare €75,000
Project Manager Information Technology (IT) €42,000
Senior Software Engineer €48,000
Mechanical Engineer €36,000
Average salary in popular occupations

For a job market in Marseille check out these online platforms:

Schooling Options

Children of expatriates working and living in Marseille can attend one of the international schools where English is the primary language. Here, they can study for international qualifications accepted in their home country. These schools offer a range of curriculums and bilingual education, catering to various ages and educational needs in Marseille:

1. CIPEC International School: An international bilingual nursery and primary school offering a unique environment for children of all nationalities to share and learn in the heart of the Luynes countryside, near Aix-en-Provence. The curriculum includes British and French, with English and French instruction languages for ages 3 to 11.

2. International Bilingual School of Provence: This independent, bilingual day and boarding school is located in southern France, near Aix-en-Provence. The IB World School offers the French national curriculum and the Cambridge (IGCSE) and International Baccalaureate (IB) for students ages 2 to 18.

3. International School of Marseille: This multilingual and entirely bilingual French and English school provides a quality, multidisciplinary, individualized education in a stimulating environment for children aged 2 to 11. The curriculum includes British and French.

4. Sainte Victoire International School: This is an IB World School offering both the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program and the Cambridge IGCSE examinations. Bilingual teaching starts at the primary level for students aged 5 to 18, and boarding facilities are available for middle school and high school students.

5. École Internationale Montessori Marseille: Based on Maria Montessori’s pedagogy, this school focuses on personalizing the pace of work to respect each pupil’s development. The curriculum is Montessori, with English and French instruction languages for ages 1 to 12.

5. Challenges and Considerations

Things we think you should know before visiting Marseille:

1. Avoid places with ‘English menus’ as the food won’t be great.

2. Book a table if there are particular restaurants you want to eat at – it does get busy.

3. Know some basic French, especially around food, as most of our menus were in French.

Most people will have only a basic knowledge of English, but you can probably find someone who speaks it in a pinch.

However, please note that it’s considered highly impolite to address someone in English in a manner where you expect them to reply as if they know it.

Typically, it goes like this:

English speakers – Bonjour! Excuse moi, ou est la gare?

French speakers – OK, go that way 2 km, it’s on the right. Twenty minutes to walk.

Here, the French person appreciates being addressed in French but knows you probably won’t understand directions in French and that it’s fruitless to try. Also, always start with a greeting. Conversely:

English speakers – Excuse me, where is the train station?

French speakers – Pardon, monsieur, je ne parle pas l’anglaise. Desole.

They may have understood you perfectly, but you’ve been rude and will be treated rudely in return.

At least try to speak French. Your skills don’t matter. Your effort is what counts. A little “Bonjour” goes a long way, as does “Desole, je ne parle pas francaise” and “Bonjour, excuse moi, parlez-vous anglaise?”

And remember, if you are extremely rude, you will suddenly find that the French person you are speaking to has completely forgotten all the English they have ever learned.

4. Be careful walking around at night by yourself; certain parts of the city can be sketchy.

Marseille offers a unique mix of old-world charm and modern energy. Its rich and diverse culture welcomes and embraces expats.

But like any urban center, it comes with its share of challenges.

Marseille has safety concerns like any big city, but it’s not generally considered overly dangerous. It’s always wise to stay vigilant, be aware of your surroundings, and take precautions like avoiding poorly lit areas at night and keeping an eye on your belongings. You can safely enjoy Marseille’s vibrant culture, beautiful coastline, and delicious cuisine with common-sense measures.

Marseille is a city in the same spirit as Valparaiso, Lisboa, and Napoli. It has a vast harbor where hundreds of cultures have mixed up since 600 BC. This is not without friction, of course, and social issues. Insecurity is present, though, especially in some neighborhoods close to the central station, Noailles, and Belsunce. It is trendy in these areas, and you need to be cautious.

It is recommended that you be cautious in the northern districts, which include the 16th, 5th, and 14th arrondissements. The 3rd arrondissement, which provides for Félix Pyat and Bellevue, is also included.

Research neighborhoods thoroughly before choosing where to live.

No matter where you decide to live, you must be mindful of your safety and vigilant at night. You must be aware of your surroundings and take the same precautions if you live in Paris and London.

At the end of the day, it’s a con of every big city.

5. Marseille’s relaxed pace of life is less stressful than Paris or Lyon, but it can also be a disadvantage.

This ‘laissez-faire’ attitude translates to slower service in restaurants, shops, and administrative matters. Deadlines are often seen more as guidelines rather than firm commitments.

6. Most people in Marseille do not smoke.

They generally have a negative attitude towards cigarettes. While smoking in public may be a common occurrence in many countries, in Marseille, you need to be more mindful if you want to smoke outdoors and indoors.

6. Community and Social Life

Meeting People

The Marseillais are known for their open-heartedness and sociability. They are eager to share their love for their city, culture, and food and drink traditions.

And it’s not only the locals. Marseille’s vibrant expat community is also welcoming. From the moment you arrive, you’ll feel like you’re a part of the group. It makes it easy to build a support network to help you integrate into French culture.

Needless to say, you’ll quickly feel like part of the community here, no matter where you’re from.

People are easygoing and welcoming, so you can make new friends easily and meet new people without difficulties. If you can be introduced to local people (if you have relatives or friends in Marseille), that’s great!

One of the best things about living in Marseille is the multicultural atmosphere. This cultural diversity fosters an environment of openness and acceptance. So, as an expat, you’ll never stand out – unless you don’t speak any French.

Also, there’s a solid community of expats here. It’s a vibrant and cosmopolitan city where something is always going on, and you’ll always be able to find people who share your interests.

For Marseille, we recommend using Meetup. This is a fantastic platform where you can find other expats. They offer many online and in-person events worth checking out if you plan on moving here.

Useful links:

Cultural Etiquette

  • When traveling to Marseille, knowing that many businesses may close for a lunch break from around 12 pm to 2 pm is essential. Additionally, smoking is prohibited in most public places, including restaurants and cafes.
  • In Marseille, greeting people with a kiss on each cheek, starting with the right cheek, is customary. This is known as “la bise.”
  • You find yourself eating at an outdoor café in Marseille when the garçon asks how your meal is. You flash him the “OK” sign. He looks puzzled; you keep eating, and he storms off. … What just happened? Well, “OK” may be the best-known hand gesture in the United States, but in the south of France, it means “worthless” or “zero.” Italy, Argentina, Brazil, Tunisia, Russia, Paraguay, Malta, Singapore, Spain, and Greece are other spots where it’s not a good idea to flash the “OK” (usually because it refers to an insult). 
  • Marseille is a cash-based society, so have some euros on hand. Most places also accept credit cards.

7. Conclusion

Marseille is a genuinely Mediterranean city amid a decade-old renaissance. It has a strong personality. As they say, “You either like it here, or you don’t, but you can’t stay in the middle.”

You can often hear that “Marseille is a complete paradox. Two choices: you fall in love … or you will hate! Marseille is completely different from any other city in France, a strong identity, in both bad and good ways.”

Marseille is history, but above all, it’s alive. You can’t explain it, but the people here are alive. Dive into this adventurous spirit and don’t hesitate to reach out to us for assistance.

Bon voyage à Marseille!

Additional Resources

Health cover for expats

Local news outlets:

City government websites:

 

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