The sorts of mistakes people make when visiting Marseille generally revolve around not being prepared for the city’s little quirks. You’d think there wouldn’t be that much you could get wrong when it comes to walking around and exploring, but a few miscalculations could leave you losing precious holiday days resting sore feet.

    Fortunately, there are no really disastrous consequences to not properly preparing for your first visit to this fantastic ancient city on France’s Mediterranean coast. However, to save you some potential embarrassment, inconvenience and discomfort, here are the main issues in Marseille to be aware of and how to avoid them.

    1

    Not exploring outside the Old Port

    There’s a lot more to Marseille!

    We certainly recommend spending a good amount of your time in Marseille’s Old Port (Vieux Port), just not all of it. As the city centre, it contains the best of the available nightlife, excellent restaurants, great boutique shopping and many of the top attractions among its picturesque streets and squares.

    However, the Old Port isn't the only landmark in Marseille. Beyond it are many fascinating and beautiful neighbourhoods, each with its own unique character. You should certainly take the opportunity to experience the bourgeois bohemian charm of Vauban, the bar scene in Cours Julien, and even some of the attractions outside the city, such as the famous Calanques.

    2

    Underestimating the weather

    Beware the mistral

    While Marseille has a wonderful Mediterranean climate, certain elements of it can come as a shock if you’re not prepared for it. The most famous of these is the mistral – the famous fierce wind that grows out of the entire third of southern France and gets funnelled into a small area of the country’s southern coast. It can sometimes reach speeds of 66 km/h and can last for nearly a week. It’s most common in winter and spring.

    If you're visiting Marseille in summer, it’s the sun you have to start worrying about. Temperatures can hit highs of 29°C and, when you’re spending most of your day walking around the city, it’s easy to get dehydrated or sunburnt. Whatever season you choose for your Marseille trip, pack accordingly.

    3

    Forgetting to wear sturdy shoes

    You’ll do a lot of walking during your trip

    Marseille is an old city, first founded in about 600 BC. A lot of the centre of the city consists of narrow alleys and streets, so it's best to explore it on foot. It is arguably possible to drive around the Old Port area, but parking is limited and the roads are, in some cases, barely wider than a single car’s width. That alone is a good reason to make sure you bring some comfortable footwear.

    A further complication is the terrain the city is built upon. Marseille is quite a hilly city, so some of your explorations might require climbing seemingly endless staircases on wobbly, well-trodden paths. If you want to avoid losing entire days of your holiday to recovering from blisters and turned ankles, bring suitable shoes for exploring in.

    4

    Underestimating the size of the city

    Sometimes walking isn’t the best option

    While a lot of the star attractions in Marseille can and probably should be visited on foot. Most of the best things to do in Marseille are within 1–2 km or of each other, with only extremely narrow streets in between making walking the only option. However, that is not always the case.

    Marseille is one of the largest cities in France, covering even more total area than Paris – over 240 sq km compared to the capital’s 105 sq km. Fortunately, between a pretty good bus network, a tram, a bike-share scheme, rental scooters and even taxis, at a push, there are plenty of ways to reach the more remote attractions without giving yourself sore feet.

    5

    Missing out on the local cuisine

    Avoid spending too much on your bouillabaisse, though

    With its fascinating history and combination of cultures, Marseille has a truly remarkable cuisine. Even in a country as famous for its food as France is, Marseille stands out as a culinary highlight, blending influences from Italy, Greece, North Africa and beyond. Avoiding such tasty treats as madeleines, Marseille-style pizza and the famous bouillabaisse in favour of familiar fast food is, quite simply, a wasted opportunity.

    However, there is one thing to look out for during your gastronomic exploration and that is overpriced fish stew. While bouillabaisse was once a working-class staple, its reputation as the product of this famous foodie city has led to price tags that can hit 3 figures. If you can’t find an ‘authentic’ example served at a suitably authentic price, you might want to skip this one.

    6

    Failing to observe apéro

    It’s an important part of every Marseille day

    Apéro is kind of like France’s own version of Spain’s siesta – a daily routine of rest that virtually everyone observes. However, rather than being a mid-afternoon snooze, this is a pre-dinner drink and light snack. It’s a bit like a more alcoholic version of England’s afternoon tea, usually involving rosé or spirits with olives and panisse (chickpea fries) instead of Earl Grey with cucumber sandwiches and scones.

    The name apéro is short for ‘l'apéritif’ and you’ll find it being served at pretty much every bistro in Marseille, usually immediately after work and before nightfall. It’s not essential to partake if you don’t want to, but you’ll be virtually the only person in town not doing so.

    7

    Not asking for pastis by brand

    There are dozens to choose from

    One of the more famous of Marseille’s many contributions to the world of food and beverages is pastis, an anise-flavoured aperitif. However, while the first distillery opened in Marseille in 1932, it did not remain the only one for long. Nowadays, a bar or bistro could have at least half a dozen different brands, so just asking for a pastaga – the local slang term for pastis – would be like asking a bartender for a beer.

    The most popular pastis brands are Ricard and 51, but you’ll also find Casanis and Cristal Limañana in many Marseille bars. Your beverage of choice will usually be delivered with a jug of cold water, which you add to the pastis until it turns from dark golden to cloudy pale yellow – the right concentration for you to comfortably enjoy.

    8

    Not checking the opening times of attractions

    And expecting anything to happen on schedule

    With the changing of the seasons and days getting shorter or longer, the opening hours for Marseille's museums, attractions and sightseeing spots can change accordingly. Not all sources of information will take that into account and even our Go Guides might be mistaken, in some cases. If you’re visiting in summer, it’s probably safe to assume that places will stay open longer, but be careful when scheduling excursions in other seasons.

    While we’re talking about time, it’s worth noting that “on time” in Marseille can be anything up to about 15-20 minutes later than the scheduled time. This is particularly true of public transport, but it can apply to virtually anything. That’s just how things are here.

    foto dari Florian Fèvre (CC BY-SA 4.0) dimodifikasi

    9

    Not looking out for photography fees

    Some attractions will charge you for your holiday snaps

    There are some really beautiful, highly Instagrammable places around Marseille, making the city a photographer’s dream. Unfortunately, a few of the city’s museums and more iconic places forbid visitors from taking photos or videos or may require you to pay a fee before you start clicking.

    To be fair, such rules are increasingly uncommon, especially as most people now have high-quality cameras on their smartphones. However, it’s still best to keep an eye out for signs indicating that cameras aren’t allowed to avoid any unpleasant surprises or demands for payment.

    10

    Not rooting for the local team

    Football is like a religion in Marseille

    L’Olympique de Marseille – the local football team – are loved with a devout passion by the locals. Their abbreviated name of “L’OM” is treated like the meditative chant that it sounds like, especially on match days at the 66,000-seat Orange Vélodrome.

    If you want to make friends with the locals, you should wear the team’s colour – sky blue. On the other hand, you won’t make any friends by wearing the shirt of Paris Saint-Germain, the main rivals of L’Olympique de Marseille.

    Ben Reeves | Traveler Kompulsif

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