The Ultimate Backpacker’s Guide to Marseille on a Budget

The Ultimate Backpacker’s Guide to Marseille on a Budget

Marseille isn’t your typical tourist trap.  Sure, it’s got the glitz of the Mediterranean and the grandeur of history, but this city thrives on its raw energy, infectious spirit, and unapologetically funky charm.  But let’s face it, even funky fun can take a toll on your wallet.  
This ultimate budget guide will have you navigating Marseille like a seasoned local, indulging in delicious food, exploring hidden gems, and all without breaking the bank. 

Travel Costs: Detailed Breakdown

Marseille is a city that caters to all budgets, from backpackers to luxury lovers. Is marseille expensive to visit? Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect to spend:

Suggested Budget per person

  • Low Budget: €40-€60
  • Mid-Range: €60-€120
  • High Roller: €120+

Detailed Costs: Marseille Travel Guide 


  • Low: Hostels or budget guesthouses: €25-€35 per night for a dorm bed, €50-€70 for a private room.
  • Mid-Range: Mid-range hotels or B&Bs: €65-€100 per night for a comfortable room with basic amenities. You can find charming B&Bs in the Panier neighborhood for a touch of local character.
  • High: Luxury hotels or upscale apartments: Spoil yourself with stunning sea views or a rooftop pool! Expect to pay €200+ per night.

Read: best hostels in Marseille

Public Transportation:

  • Metro ticket: €1.70 per ticket (valid for 1 hour, including transfers)
  • Daily pass: €5.20 allows unlimited travel for 24 hours.
  • 3-Day tourist pass: €15.50, a great deal for exploring the city at your own pace.

Entrance Fees:

  • Low (mostly Free Activities): Noailles market, Catalans beach. Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica
  • Mid-Range: Château d’If (historic island fortress): €10-€15, Mucem: €11
  • High: Private boat tour of the Calanques National Park: €50+, Marseille Boat Cruise with Dinner: €80+


  • Low: Grab a delicious and filling “Panisse” chickpea flour pancake for just €3-€5.
  • Mid-Range: Indulge in a Bouillabaisse seafood stew, a Marseille specialty, for €20-€30.
  • High: Treat yourself to a waterfront fine-dining experience with stunning views. Expect to pay €50+ per person.

Food Staple: Bouillabaisse! This hearty fish stew is a must-try in Marseille.

  • Low: Street food stalls or small cafes: €10-€15
  • Mid-Range: Traditional restaurants: €20-€30
  • High: Upscale restaurants with a focus on fresh seafood: €50+


  • Low: Grab a café noir (strong black coffee) at a local bar for €1.50-€2.
  • Mid-Range: Relax in a charming cafe with a cafe au lait (coffee with milk) for €3-€4.
  • High: Sip on a fancy latte with a view in a touristy spot for €5+.

Beer & Wine:

  • Low: Enjoy a local beer or glass of house wine at a local bar for €3-€5.
  • Mid-Range: Sample a selection of Provençal wines at a trendy bar for €6-€8.
  • High: Treat yourself to a craft beer or a glass of vintage wine for €10+.

Exploring Marseille: Things to See & Do

Marseille is a city with a rich history, stunning natural beauty, and a contagious zest for life. Get ready to explore ancient neighborhoods, dive into the turquoise waters of the Calanques National Park, and savor the city’s incredible food scene. Here’s a taste of what awaits:

What to Do in Marseille

  1. Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica: Ascend to this iconic basilica for panoramic views and a dose of architectural splendor. Don’t forget to snap a photo with the city’s beloved “Good Mother” guarding over Marseille. If you’re feeling energetic, you can hike up to the basilica for an even more rewarding experience.
  2. Vieux Port (Old Port): The beating heart of Marseille, this port is lined with cafes, shops, and bobbing boats. People-watch, grab a fresh seafood lunch, or take a boat tour.
  3. Le Panier: Wander the charming streets of this historic quarter. Once a working-class neighborhood, Le Panier is now a maze of colorful houses, art galleries, and trendy boutiques.
  4. Calanques National Park: Escape the city and explore this breathtaking national park. Hike dramatic cliffside trails, kayak through turquoise waters, or relax on secluded coves.
  5. MuCEM (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations): Delve into Marseille’s rich history and Mediterranean culture at this impressive modern museum.
  6. Château d’If: This imposing island fortress inspired Alexandre Dumas’ novel “The Count of Monte Cristo.” Take a ferry to explore the ramparts and dungeons.
  7. Abbey of Saint-Victor: Step back in time at this Romanesque abbey, founded in the 11th century. Admire the beautiful architecture and serene cloister.
  8. Cours Julien: Marseille’s edgy artistic heart. This neighborhood is packed with street art, independent shops, and alternative cafes.
  9. Plage des Catalans: Soak up the sun on this sandy beach, a favorite among locals. Enjoy a refreshing swim in the Mediterranean Sea.
  10. Stade Vélodrome: Catch a football (soccer) match at this iconic stadium, home to Olympique de Marseille, one of France’s most passionate teams.

Free things to do in Marseille

  1. Explore the Noailles Market: Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells of this market. Hunt for fresh produce, local crafts, and Marseille’s soul.
  2. Hit the Beach: Marseille boasts several beautiful beaches. Relax on the sand, swim in the clear waters, and soak up the sunshine (free of charge!).
  3. Basilica Visits: Many of Marseille’s churches offer free entry, including the Abbey of Saint-Victor and the Notre-Dame de la Garde (though a small fee applies to access the rooftop).
  4. Free Walking Tours: Get to know the city with a free walking tour. Learn about Marseille’s history, landmarks, and hidden gems from a local guide. Just remember to tip your guide if you enjoyed the tour!
  5. Window Shopping: Marseille is a great city for strolling and admiring the architecture. Wander the Vieux-Port, Le Panier, and Cours Julien, taking in the unique styles.

Top Museums in Marseille

  1. Marseille History Museum: Delve into the city’s fascinating past, from its Greek founding to its modern transformation. (Paid)
  2. Cantini Museum: Admire a collection of European paintings from the 16th to 20th centuries, including works by Renoir and Cezanne. (Paid)
  3. Museum of Fine Arts: Marseille’s oldest museum houses a collection of sculptures, paintings, and decorative arts. (Free on the first Sunday of each month)

Day Trips: Backpacking Marseille Itinerary

Marseille is a launchpad for incredible adventures. With a day trip or two, you can escape the urban buzz and delve into Provence’s stunning scenery, charming villages, and rich history. Lace-up your walking shoes, pack a picnic basket, and get ready to explore!

  • Calanques National Park: Just a short walk or a boat ride away lies this breathtaking national park. Hike along dramatic cliffs, swim in crystal-clear coves and kayak through turquoise waters. Bonus: Many boat tours depart from the Vieux Port (Old Port), offering stunning views of the Calanques from the water.
  • Aix-en-Provence: Craving a dose of elegance? Aix-en-Provence awaits! Stroll along tree-lined boulevards, admire the ochre-colored buildings and soak up the city’s artistic heritage. This charming town was a favorite haunt of Cezanne, so art lovers, be sure to visit the Musée Granet.
  • Cassis & Cassis Calanques: Escape to the picturesque fishing village of Cassis. Explore the charming harbor, savor fresh seafood at a waterfront cafe, and hike or boat through the dramatic Cassis Calanques, a smaller yet equally stunning national park.
  • Arles & the Camargue: Journey to the historic city of Arles, where Roman ruins mingle with vibrant cafes. Explore the ancient arena and amphitheater, and lose yourself in the captivating beauty of the Camargue, a vast wetland region known for its wild horses and unique ecosystem.
  • Nîmes & the Pont du Gard: Step back in time and explore the Roman city of Nîmes. Marvel at the perfectly preserved arena, the Maison Carrée temple, and the Jardins de la Fontaine gardens. From Nîmes, take a day trip to the Pont du Gard, an awe-inspiring Roman aqueduct bridge standing majestic in the French countryside.
  • Remember: Public transportation is readily available for most of these day trips, making them easy and budget-friendly options. For the Calanques National Park and Cassis Calanques, consider joining a boat tour or renting a kayak for a unique perspective.
Marseille Calanque

Where to Stay on a Budget

Finding a budget-friendly place to stay in Marseille is totally doable. While the Vieux-Port area undeniably glitters with fancy hotels and gorgeous views (and equally gorgeous price tags), Marseille has a treasure trove of affordable neighborhoods, each with its own unique charm. 

Read: best hostels in Marseille

Affordable neighborhoods in Marseille for backpackers:

Le Panier: This historic quarter is a labyrinth of colorful houses, art galleries, and hidden cafes. Think cobblestone streets, laundry hanging from windows, and a bohemian vibe that whispers “make yourself at home.” While not exactly a party zone, there are always lively bars with local musicians tucked away in unexpected corners. Just be prepared for some uphill climbs – those charming streets come at a price (for your calves, that is).

La Joliette: Edgy and industrial with a serious dose of cool, La Joliette is Marseille’s up-and-coming district. Think converted warehouses housing trendy bars and art galleries, all set against a backdrop of the port. Here, you’ll find budget-friendly hotels and hostels with a modern twist, perfect for those who like their stays with a side of urban grit.

Cours Julien: Calling all alternative souls! Cours Julien is the beating heart of Marseille’s artsy scene. Street art explodes from every corner, independent shops peddle unique finds, and quirky cafes serve up organic lattes. Budget hostels and guesthouses abound, placing you right in the middle of the action. Just be prepared for the occasional late-night revelry – after all, inspiration can strike at any hour!

Noailles: Foodies, rejoice! Noailles is a feast for the senses, a labyrinthine market overflowing with fresh produce, local spices, and enough cured meats to make your carnivorous dreams come true. While not brimming with hotels, you’ll find some hidden gem guesthouses and Airbnbs tucked away amongst the stalls. Embrace the organized chaos and wake up to the intoxicating aroma of fresh baguettes each morning.

Passing by Paris? check out our guide to the best hostels in Paris.

Eating and Drinking

Forget overpriced bouillabaisse by the harbor and tourist traps peddling overpriced panisses – Marseille’s culinary scene offers a delicious adventure for the broke backpacker and savvy budget traveler alike. Here’s how to eat like a local without feeling the pinch in your pocket:

Water: Marseille’s tap water is perfectly safe to drink.

Affordable Food in Marseille

  • Formules: Become a “formula fiend”! Look for restaurants offering “formules,” fixed-price menus that usually include a starter, main course, and sometimes dessert at a discounted price. Think of them as your three-course meal BFFs for €10-€15. Look for cafes and small bistros outside the main tourist areas – they’re more likely to offer formules.
  • Ethnic Eats on a Budget: Marseille’s multicultural vibes extend to its food scene in a major way. Dive into the aromatic world of North African cuisine with falafel wraps for €5-€7 or a steaming bowl of couscous at an affordable kabab shop. There are also plenty of Asian eateries in Noailles offering huge portions of phở (Vietnamese noodle soup) or bibimbap (Korean rice bowl) for under €10.
  • Tourist Traps? Hard Pass: The closer you get to the glistening yachts of the Old Port, the higher the prices tend to climb. Wander a few streets away from the main tourist drags like the Canebière and you’ll discover a treasure trove of affordable local gems. Think working-class cafes over overpriced bistros with waiters in berets. 

Marseille food markets:

  • Marché Noailles: This labyrinthine market in the Noailles neighborhood is a feast for the senses, overflowing with fresh produce, local specialties like plump calissons (almond sweets), and enough spices to rival a Moroccan souk. Grab a picnic basket and stock up on ingredients for a delicious (and cheap!) DIY lunch of fresh baguettes, tapenade, and local cheese for under €10. Bonus tip: Haggling is expected here, so don’t be afraid to practice your best French bargaining!
  • Marché de Lourmarin: Located in the trendy Cours Julien district, this market is a haven for discerning foodies. Sample local cheeses from Provence like creamy Banon or pungent Roquefort, cured olives from Aix-en-Provence, and fresh seafood straight off the boat, all at reasonable prices. Or grab a quick bite from one of the many food vendors selling things like Provençal vegetable tarts or savory crêpes.
  • Cours Julien Food Trucks: Every Tuesday and Thursday evening, the Cours Julien district transforms into an open-air food market with a fleet of food trucks offering everything from gourmet burgers to Senegalese stews. This is a great option for trying a variety of international flavors without breaking the bank – most dishes are around €7-€10.

Affordable All-Stars:

  • Socca Stand: Socca, a chickpea flour pancake cooked on a hot stone griddle, is a Marseille must-try and a true friend to your wallet. It’s cheap (around €2-€3 per pancake), filling, and utterly delicious. Find street vendors selling them all over the city, especially near the Old Port and Noailles – the perfect on-the-go snack. Just be warned – they’re addictive!
  • Panisse: Panisse are deep-fried chickpea flour fritters, another local favorite. Enjoy them as a side dish with a salad for a light lunch (€5-€7) or order a larger portion as a vegetarian main course.
  • Boulangerie: Start your day like a true Marseillais with a fresh croissant or pain au chocolat from a local boulangerie (bakery). They’re affordable (€1-€1.50 each) and oh-so-satisfying. Bonus tip: Bakeries often offer a “deux pains, une baguette” (two pastries, one baguette) deal in the mornings, which is a great way to save a few Euros.

Grocery Gems:

  • Carrefour: This national chain is your best bet for a good selection of budget-friendly groceries,
  • Lidl: Another budget-friendly supermarket chain with a decent selection of fresh produce and pantry staples. They’re known for their own brand products which can be significantly cheaper than name brands.
  • Leclerc: A major French supermarket chain offering competitive prices on a wide range of groceries, from fruits and vegetables to household items. Look for their “Marque Repère” brand for affordable alternatives to popular products.
  • Epiceries: Small neighborhood grocery stores, often run by families, can be a great place to find local specialties and fresh produce at good prices. They often have daily specials on meat, fish, and cheese. Bonus tip: Don’t be afraid to chat with the owner – they might recommend some hidden foodie gems in the neighborhood!

How to Get Around

Marseille may sprawl along the stunning Mediterranean coast, but fear not, intrepid explorer! Getting around the city is a breeze with a well-developed public transportation network. Here’s your ultimate guide to navigating Marseille like a seasoned local, all without breaking the bank:

Understanding Marseille’s Public Transportation

  • Metro Marvels (Metropole): Marseille’s two metro lines (M1 and M2) are the speed demons of the public transport system. They crisscross the city, connecting major points like the Vieux-Port, Castellane shopping district, and Saint-Charles train station. Tickets are very affordable, and a single ticket allows transfers between metro and tram lines within the validity period (usually 1 hour).
  • Tramway Trio (Tramway de Marseille): Marseille’s three tram lines (T1, T2, T3) are a great way to explore the city above ground. They offer a more scenic journey than the metro, especially tram T2 which winds its way along the Corniche Kennedy, showcasing breathtaking sea views. Trams connect many popular areas, including the Old Port, Le Panier district, and the hip Cours Julien. Just like the metro, tickets are valid for transfers within the network for one hour.
  • Bus (Bus RTM): Marseille’s bus network is the most extensive, reaching even the farthest corners of the city. Buses are a fantastic option for budget-conscious travelers, with fares slightly cheaper than the metro or tram. However, they can be a bit slower due to traffic, so plan accordingly if you’re short on time. Download a bus route app or grab a map beforehand, as some stops might not be announced onboard.

Ticketing Tactics:

  • Solo Tickets: These single-journey tickets are perfect for occasional riders. You can buy them at metro stations, tram stops, or from bus drivers (on buses only, with a slight price increase).
  • Carte Zou! Consider yourself a public transport pro? Then the rechargeable Carte Zou! is your best friend. This card offers discounted fares and works across all public transportation networks in Marseille, including metro, tram, and bus. Top up your card at metro stations, authorized retailers, or even designated machines at some tram stops.
  • Pro Tip: If you plan on staying in Marseille for a while, consider multi-day passes like the Pass 24h (valid for 24 hours), Pass 72h (valid for 72 hours), which often includes unlimited public transport usage along with free entry to museums and other attractions.

Cheapest Way to Get To and From the Airport in Marseille

Marseille Provence Airport (MRS): Most international flights will land here, and thankfully, getting to the city center is a breeze.

  • Shuttle Bus: The most budget-friendly option is the shuttle bus that takes you directly from the airport to Saint-Charles train station, a major public transport hub. Tickets can be bought online or at the airport, and the journey takes around 25-30 minutes.
  • Train: For a slightly more scenic option, hop on the train from the Vitrolles Aeroport station, which is connected to the airport by a free shuttle bus. Trains run regularly to Saint-Charles station, with the journey taking about 20 minutes.
  • Taxi: Taxis are the most convenient option, especially with luggage, but be prepared to pay a premium, particularly during peak hours or at night. There’s a designated taxi rank outside the airport arrivals hall.

Marseille Landmarks

Best Time to Visit Marseille

Marseille basks in sunshine almost year-round, making it a tempting city break destination no matter the time of year. But to help you decide when to embark on your Marseille odyssey, here’s a breakdown of the high, shoulder, and low seasons:

  • High Season (June-August):

Pros: Glorious weather, great atmosphere, long sunny days perfect for exploring.
Cons: Crowded tourist spots, higher accommodation prices, and intense summer heat can be uncomfortable.

  • Shoulder Season (April-May & September-October):

Pros: Pleasant weather, fewer crowds, good deals on flights and hotels.
Cons: Some shops or restaurants may have shorter opening hours compared to peak season.

  • Low Season (November-March):

Pros: Rock-bottom accommodation prices, the chance to experience the city like a local.
Cons: Higher chance of rain, and some attractions may have shorter opening hours.

National Holidays & Peak Festivals:

  • Christmas Markets (December): The festive spirit comes alive in Marseille’s charming Christmas markets, but be prepared for increased crowds, especially on weekends.
  • Christmas & New Year’s (December-January): Celebrate the festive season in a beautiful Mediterranean setting, but be prepared for higher prices and larger crowds.
  • Carnival (February): Immerse yourself in the Marseille Carnival with its extravagant parades and colorful costumes. Just expect bigger crowds and slightly inflated prices.
  • Festival de Marseille (June-July): This prestigious performing arts festival attracts theater, dance, and music lovers from around the world. Book your accommodation well in advance if you plan to attend.
  • Bastille Day (July 14th): France’s national holiday is a day of fireworks, parades, and celebrations. Expect festive vibes, but also increased crowds and potentially higher hotel rates.
  • International Boat Show (September): Calling all boat enthusiasts! The International Boat Show showcases everything from luxury yachts to sailing boats. Accommodation prices might rise slightly during this event.
  • September Music (September): Classical music lovers rejoice! This month-long festival features concerts by world-renowned orchestras and soloists in stunning venues across the city.
  • Fiesta des Sud (September): This festival celebrates the cultures of the Mediterranean. Expect street performances, music, dance, and an awesome atmosphere in the Vieux-Port area.
  • La Toussaint (All Saints’ Day) (November 1st): A national holiday in France, some shops and restaurants may have shorter opening hours.
Marseille Nature

Essentials, Money & Safety Tips

Marseille, the beating heart of Provence, is a city that thrives on its rugged charm and infectious energy. But before you hop off the plane with your trusty backpack, here’s a quick rundown of the essentials you’ll need to navigate this port city like a seasoned pro (and stay out of trouble, of course).

Is Marseille Dangerous?

  • Keep an Eye on Your Belongings: Marseille, like any major city, has its share of petty theft. Keep your valuables close (put your backpack in front while you’re in the metro, phone not dangling out of your pocket), and avoid carrying large sums of cash.
  • Beware of Snatch & Grabs: While uncommon, bag snatching can sometimes occur in crowded areas like the Noailles market or the Vieux-Port. Stay alert, be mindful of your surroundings, and avoid carrying anything irreplaceable in your back pockets.
  • Don’t Flash Your Fancy Camera: Marseille is a beautiful city, and you’ll definitely want to capture some memories. However, avoid flaunting expensive camera equipment, especially in crowded areas. A small point-and-shoot or your phone camera should suffice for most shots.
  • No to Noisy Nights (After Dark in No-Go Zones): While Marseille is generally safe, some northern neighborhoods like La Bricarde and certain areas around the Estaque district are best avoided at night. Stick to well-lit, populated areas after dark, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the city.
  • Don’t Haggle Like a Hustle: While haggling in the Noailles market can be part of the fun, there’s a fine line between playful banter and being a rude tourist. Be respectful of vendors, and remember, they’re just trying to make a living.

Marseille Budget Tips

  • The CityPass Marseille: Consider this your magic key to Marseille’s best bits at a discounted price. This pass offers free entry to many museums and attractions, unlimited public transportation on the metro, bus, and tram networks, and even free boat tours of the Vieux-Port.
  • Museum Magic on Sundays: Most of Marseille’s municipal museums offer free admission on the first Sunday of every month. 
  • Picnic: Skip pricey restaurant meals and embrace the Marseille tradition of picnicking. Grab some fresh bread, local cheese, and seasonal produce from the Noailles market, and find a sunny spot in a park for a delicious and affordable lunch with a view.
  • Free Walking Tours: A fantastic way to get oriented, learn some local history, and discover hidden gems is to join a free walking tour. These tours are led by enthusiastic guides (who usually accept tips at the end if you enjoyed the experience).

Marseille may have a reputation for being a rough diamond, but that’s precisely what makes it so captivating (and budget-friendly!).  From navigating the city’s public transportation system like a pro to scoring delicious eats at hidden market stalls, this guide has equipped you with all the knowledge you need to have an unforgettable

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