Marseille makes a perfect basecamp from which to explore the South of France, with the French Riviera, Provence, and the Camargue all within day-trip distance. If you’re visiting Marseille for the France Rugby World Cup 2023, why not make the most of the time between matches and take in some of the regional highlights?
Ready to explore Roman ruins, relax on Mediterranean beaches, and experience some of France’s most unique natural landscapes? Here’s our pick of the eight best day trips from Marseille.
With its sun-soaked plazas, broad tree-lined boulevards, and a backdrop of sloping vineyards, Aix-en-Provence is the quintessential Provence town. The heart of the action lies along the grand tree-lined boulevard of Cours Mirabeau, where you can while away the hours at a terrace café, browse the street markets, and duck into the many shops and boutiques.
Afterwards, set out to explore the Old Town, peek inside the Saint-Sauveur Cathedral, and admire works by Paul Cézanne and Picasso at the Granet Museum. Another must for art enthusiasts is a visit to Atelier Cézanne, the artist’s former studio, tucked in the hills north of town.
Distance from Marseille: 19 miles (30 km)
How to get there: Drive (45 mins), take the train (35 mins), or join a tour from Marseille.
Don’t miss: A visit to Paul Cezanne’s studio.
History buffs and art lovers will both find something to rave about in Avignon. Best-known for its annual arts festival—the largest in France—it’s also the former seat of the Catholic Church (yep, this is where the pope resided up until the 14th century) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A visit to the sprawling 14th-century palace-fortress Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes), should be top of your to-do list, after which you can take in the views from the Pont d’Avignon bridge, stroll through the Collection Lambert, and admire the Saint-Pierre d’Avignon Cathedral.
Distance from Marseille: 62 miles (100 km)
How to get there: Drive (1 hour 15 minutes), take the train (35 mins), or join a tour from Marseille.
Don’t miss: The magnificent Palais des Papes.
En route to St Tropez, Toulon is one of the less-visited towns of the French Riviera and a good choice for those looking to escape the beaten track. Ride the cable car up Mont Faron for a view along the Côte d’Azur, browse the exhibitions at the National Maritime Museum, then spend the rest of the day at the beach—there are four to pick from.
Rugby fans will be in good company in Toulon. Locals are passionate about the game, and the Stade Mayol, home of legendary French rugby team RC Toulonnais, is located right in the heart of the city.
Distance from Marseille: 40 miles (65 km).
How to get there: Drive (50 mins), take the train (44 minutes), or join a tour from Marseille.
Don’t miss: The view from Mont Faron.
4. St Tropez
With its private beach clubs and gleaming mega-yachts, this glamourous resort town is the flagship French Riviera destination. Rub shoulders with the jet-set as you laze on white-sand beaches, stroll around the pretty Vieux Port (Old Port) with its pastel-coloured houses and street artists, and tuck into fresh seafood at one of the port-side restaurants.
Of course, a visit to St Tropez wouldn’t be complete without visiting the beach, and there are miles of sandy shores to choose from. Pampelonne Beach is most popular, dotted with beach bars, private beach clubs, and water sports kiosks.
Distance from Marseille: 93 miles (150 km)
How to get there: Drive (1 hour 55 minutes) or join a tour from Marseille.
Don’t miss: Celebrity spotting on the beach.
5. Arles and the Camargue
Pink lagoons, salt marshes, and lush wetlands swirl along the coast in the Camargue, one of France’s most unique natural landscapes. Set out to explore the Camargue Regional Nature Park by bike, kayak, or Jeep, and keep a look out for the region’s animal inhabitants—the Camargue is famous for its black bulls, white horses, and pink flamingos.
Combine your visit with the region’s historic sites. The UNESCO-listed city of Arles is home to a remarkably preserved Roman amphitheatre, ‘Les Arenes’, and several other Roman ruins, while the medieval walled city of Aigues-Mortes affords magnificent views across the pink-tinted lagoons from its ramparts.
Distance from Marseille: 56 miles (90 km)
How to get there: Drive (1 hour 10 minutes), take the train (53 minutes), or join a tour from Marseille.
Don’t miss: The pink salt lakes of Salin d’Aigues-Mortes
Not far from Arles, Nimes is another French city renowned for its impressive Roman ruins. The headline act is the awe-inspiring Arena of Nimes, a doubled-tiered amphitheatre dating back to 70 AD, which is the closest France gets to the Colesseum.
Just north of the city, the Pont du Gard aqueduct is an equally jaw-dropping feat of Roman engineering, and you’ll find more Roman ruins dotted around the city. The Maison Carrée temple, Temple of Diana, and Tour Magne tower are some of the most notable.
Distance from Marseille: 75 miles (120 km)
How to get there: Join a guided tour from Marseille, take the train (1 hour 7 minutes), or drive (1 hour 35 mins).
Don’t miss: A tour of the Roman amphitheatre.
7. Cassis and the Calanques
Just west of Marseille, the dramatic landscapes of the Calanques National Park are best admired from the water. Set sail beneath towering sea cliffs and cruise between the rocky coves and narrow inlets of this fjord-like landscape, stopping to swim, kayak, or snorkel in the turquoise waters.
Further east, the coastal town of Cassis has soaring cliffs, coastal vineyards, and sandy beaches in abundance. After strolling around the picturesque fishing harbour, head up to the top of the Cap Canaille, France’s highest cliff, for a view over the calanques, then drive back through the vineyards to sample Cassis’ full-bodied white wines.
Distance from Marseille: 22 miles (35 km)
How to get there: Drive (40 mins), take the train (22 mins), or join a cruise or tour from Marseille.
Don’t miss: A cruise around the Calanques National Park.
8. Verdon Gorge
Glittering lakes, raging rivers, and 700-metre-high cliffs await at Europe’s largest canyon, which extends some 50 kilometres between Castellane and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. Bring your sense of adventure as the Verdon Regional Natural Park was made for exploring, whether hiking or mountain biking along the top of the canyon or tackling one of the many rock climbing trails.
Looking for a bigger dose of adrenaline? You can also try paragliding over the gorge, enjoy white-water rafting along the Verdon River, or join a thrilling canyoning tour.
Distance from Marseille: 102 miles (165 km)
How to get there: Drive (2 hours 20 mins) or join a tour from Marseille.
Don’t miss: Hiking or kayaking in the gorge.