Marseille Cathedral, near the Vieux Port
I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Marseilles this past June and was very impressed. It really is an excellent example of what the Capital of Culture designation can do for a city. Have a walk around and you will see restoration projects everywhere. The city is full of energy, culture, and renewed pride. And with 300 days of average of sunshine, you'll likely find good weather, just like I did. I'm going to point out some sights and some quick tips below. This just touches the surface, so please add to it!
I arrived on the initial flight of XL's New York-Marseilles route. It's a non stop flight from JFK (Long story about my experiences with that airline, but I will save it for another post). Marseille Provence Airport is 27km from central Marseilles and is actually a nice airport with a separate terminal for budget flights called M2. It's an easy bus ride or train ride away from the Saint-Charles train station in Marseilles. I took the train because it's a few Euros cheaper than the bus.
In the Vieux Port area
Marseille Saint-Charles is the main railway station and intercity bus station of Marseille. The view of the city from it is incredible and it has an iconic stairway from the street. The station has good regular train service and also TGV connections, including the new cheap Ouigo Trains. Read about that below.
The 24-hour Metro/Bus/Tram pass is a real good deal for only 5 Euros to get around Marseilles. An individual ticket is quite steep, so it really does pay to buy the pass.
The centerpiece to the Capital of Culture is the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (muCEM ) with its three locations. The new museum, built on the former J4 pier by the architect Rudy Ricciotti and Roland Carta, is a place dedicated to the discovery of the major stages of Mediterranean civilisations. No matter what the collection in the museum, the building is the big draw. It really is spectacular! Look at these links below to see photos. http://www.mucem.org/en/mucem/o
Another sight I enjoyed is Notre-Dame de la Garde, a Catholic basilica. It's on a hill visible from almost everywhere in the city. It compares to some of the nicer churches of Europe and the hike up to see it is rewarded with great views of the city and harbor.
And finally I will spotlight a day hike that I took in the Marseilles area. I hiked along the Calanque for a day. They are limestone cliffs that cascade above the sea forming natural harbors. The views from the upper paths are great. The path entrance is easy to reach from Marseille city buses. Here is the info I followed. I only walked part of that trail though and had a great time. The info I saw online was from the Marseilles Tourist Info. It gave a brief description and suggestion:
"WALKS: OUR SUGGESTIONS The GR 98 links Marseille, leaving from Calanque de Callelongue, to Cassis, around an 11-hour walk. There are several possibilities for various length hikes, we advise you to use a Topo Guide book or the IGN 1:25000 map of the Calanques in order to prepare your excursion. The easiest Calanque to access without a private vehicle is Calanque de Sugiton. To get there take bus 21 from La CanebiÈre, in front of the Monoprix store, in the direction of Luminy and get off at the terminus. From there follow the walking path (around a 45 minute walk). "
That's only a brief start. Be sure to add more!