After immersing yourself in Marseille’s artistic, cultural, and culinary life, you might want to take a dip in the sea—or even in a freshwater lake—to cool off. The best beaches in Marseille, a city renowned for its distinctive character and delicious bouillabaisse fish stews (another connection to the sea) are diverse in size and shape, and worth getting to know.
From gorgeous pockets of Mediterranean shoreline in the protected Calanques National Park to secluded island beaches located near the Old Port of Marseille, plus larger beaches lined with bistros and bars inside and close to the city, you’ll find plenty of waterside options in this stretch of southern France to entertain you while you frolic in the sea.
Here are some of the most outstanding beaches in and around Marseille.
Plage des Catalans
Marseille is a lively, energetic city and one of the best summer destinations in Europe. And so, it follows that a beach more or less in the center would share similar characteristics.
Plage des Catalans, a short walk west of the Vieux-Port de Marseille, is a popular spot for a swim. You’ll also be treated to magnificent views of the rocky Frioul archipelago just offshore from here.
If you decide to visit Plage des Catalans, don’t expect any measure of peace and quiet. It’s a busy sweep of sand, with beach volleyball being a big draw for the residents of Marseille. You’ll also notice lots of local kids and teens stopping by to play and hang out on the beach.
The aquamarine water is attractive and inviting, beckoning you to plunge into the sea. If you’re feeling peckish, you’ll come across assorted restaurants fronting the Plage des Catalans coastline area.
Plages du Prado
In the collection of Marseille beaches, another city great option is the pebbly Plages du Prado, which, despite being urban in feel (they’re located along Marseille’s southern flanks), should offer you a little more tranquility than the animated Plage des Catalans.
Plages du Prado is actually a cluster of several different artificial beaches, including Plage du David and Plage de la Vielle Chapelle. These French Riviera beaches were created in the 1970s, and when considered as one comprise the largest sandy seaside expanse in the city.
Due to the Mediterranean winds that often swoop in, windsurfing is quite popular here, with board rentals and surfing classes offered along the beach. On the off-chance you skate or are simply a fan of the sport, you’ll find a big skatepark here, Le Bowl de Marseille, next to a green lawn near the water.
After visiting Plages du Prado, if you’d like to gaze upon boats bobbing in a pretty anchorage, head south to Port de la Pointe Rouge.
You can also stop for a tasty meal at a dining establishment like Le Carré, with a Lebanese-influenced menu, or Le Cabanon De La Pointe Rouge, which serves Mediterranean fare and overlooks the sand and sea.
Nestled among the Plages du Prado, you’ll find the sand and pebble Plage Borély, easily identifiable by the white Ferris wheel located on the beach.
On most days, you should be able to locate a place here to lay down your towel, as there’s usually plenty of space. You can rent lounge chairs and parasols as well, for added comfort while you bask in the warm sun.
If you’re a kite surfing or windsurfing enthusiast, Plage Borély is a locale where people hooked on water-based wind sports often come out in force to zip across the waves.
The Escale Borély shoreline is also full of bars, bistros, restaurants, and shops selling French souvenirs. If you enjoy dining out and shopping near the sea, Plage Borély won’t disappoint.
Plage de la Batterie (Corbières)
One of the best beaches in Marseille, or to be more precise roughly 20 minutes or so northwest of the center by car, has to be Plage de la Batterie. You can also swing by the adjacent beaches here, including Plage du Fortin, and Plage de la Lave, with the latter butting up against the breakwater of a small marina.
Plage de la Batterie is a compact pebble and sand beach, situated in front of the arches of the Viaduc de Corbières. These beaches are ideal for folks who want to avoid busier spots but don’t have a lot of time to venture too far outside of Marseille.
Paths link the beaches together. You can walk up to the Corbières Garden, west of the beaches, where locals often set up impromptu barbeques.
You can also visit Fortin de Corbières, an elegant 19th-century palace originally built to monitor port traffic. This historic palace now offers elevated views back across Marseille’s harbor and serves as an events space.
You won’t find a lot of amenities at Plage de la Batterie, so bring some drinks and snacks. You can stroll over to the marina to Ma Rotisserie, which specializes in grilled meat dishes, or opt for Le Cabanon de l’Estaque, featuring Mediterranean cuisine, outside seating, plus tableside views of the small anchorage and sea.
Plage de Saint-Estève
When considering the best beaches in Marseille, don’t forget the four islands that make up the Frioul archipelago. Ferries running from Marseille take approximately half an hour to reach the islands, while the Frioul Express, departing from the Vieux Port, runs even faster.
Before getting into the particulars of Saint-Estève beach, you should note, especially if you’re a literature lover, that the Château d’If is located on the island of If.
This fortress was the location where the character of the Count was imprisoned in the Alexandre Dumas novel The Count of Monte Cristo. It’s definitely worth a visit.
After strolling along the walkways connecting the two principal islands, you can head to Ile de Ratonneau and Plage de Saint-Estève. And while you’ll likely bump into locals and families here, the beach, with its shallow blue water, retains a semi-secluded vibe.
Plage de Saint-Estève, situated inside a narrow cove, is surrounded by a rocky landscape that’s ideal for a tranquil swim.
It’s a good idea to bring some food and water, but don’t fret if you’ve forgotten the snacks, as you should be able to find a few casual dining spots near the shore, and in Port Frioul.
Calanque Port Pin, Calanques National Park
Among the wonderful Marseille beaches that you’ll encounter, Calanque Port Pin, about an hour’s drive south of the city, located in the Vallon des Rampes ravine and Calanques National Park, is a prominent standout. This natural beach, sans amenities, is nestled inside a steep and narrow inlet to the sea.
The area is known for its hiking trails and its stark coastal beauty. You’ll have to trek into this pebbly beach, passing by stands of pine trees.
But the walk into this stunning ravine is worth it once you take in the picturesque views of clear, turquoise water, sandy-colored rippled limestone cliffs, and green pine trees.
You won’t find soft sand at Calanque Port Pin, so bring some type of foot protection so that you can explore the rocky shoreline here, or head out for a swim.
Calanque de Sormiou, Calanques National Park
Still in Calanques National Park, another area you might want to explore is the sand and pebble Calanque de Sormiou. And just so you know, calanque means “cove” in French.
Calanque de Sormiou is one of the largest beaches inside the park. The beautiful aquamarine sea, pine trees, and bleached limestone hills are postcard perfect, to say the least.
There are a few small dwellings inside the cove, known as cabanons, which fishermen once used to house their boats. Some of these small cottages have now been converted into holiday rentals throughout the region.
When hunger pangs strike, you can drop by the Restaurant Le Château, the former residence of Countess Marie de Sormiou. The restaurant, which opens its doors from April to mid-autumn, specializes in seafood and hearty local fare.
Le Lac D’esparron De Verdon
When pondering the best beaches in Marseille, why not take a look at a freshwater setting for your aquatic playtime?
Le Lac D’esparron De Verdon is a gorgeous artificial lake located near the Gorges du Verdon. The lake, about an hour and a half away from Marseille, is full of pretty little coves, cool creeks, and different beaches for you to discover.
Le Lac D’esparron De Verdon’s crystal blue water is bordered by limestone cliffs covered in dense greenery. Boats using fossil fuels aren’t allowed on the lake, so if you’d like a tour through the lower Gorges du Verdon, you’ll have to book an electric boat ride.
The Sentier du Garde-Canal, or Canal de Provence monitoring path, should take you past most of the beaches you’ll want to visit, some with shade, others more sunlit.
Not far from the village of Esparron de Verdon, you’ll come across a few easily accessible beaches that are perfect for a relaxing swim, surrounded by nature.
Plage de la Baie des Singes
South of the city, you’ll find one of the best beaches in Marseille, Plage de la Baie des Singes, tucked inside the arm of a rocky breakwater. This tiny tract of sand, which sits on a small peninsula west of the little fishing village of Les Goudes, radiates charm.
You can explore the rough terrain around the village and Plage de la Baie des Singes, then walk out to the tip of the peninsula, Cap Croisette, for superb views of Maïre Island, and the jagged hills towering above Monkey Bay.
The beach itself isn’t large, but if you’d like to experience a bit of secluded village life while getting the chance to splash in the sea, Plage de la Baie des Singes, so close to Marseille, is one of your best bets.
After swimming and wandering around the rocky coastline here, you can stop by La Baie des Singes for a meal. The restaurant specializes in bouillabaisse, fresh fish, and seafood, and also comes with delightful vistas across the beach and bay.
Plage du Prophète
Slightly south of the Old Port, you’ll stumble across Plage du Prophète, which is a city beach you might want to consider visiting if you’re short on time but would still like to dip your toes in the Mediterranean.
Plage du Prophète is one of the oldest beaches in Marseille. You’ll find lockers, showers, and change rooms here, which are an added bonus if you’re running against the clock during your visit to this part of France.
Located right next to Corniche Président John Fitzgerald Kennedy (or simply “La Corniche”), a street that runs along the coast, Plage du Prophète is a span of sand that can get quite crowded in the afternoon during summer in France, enhancing the lively beachside atmosphere.
The north side of the beach has buoys demarcating the “safe” swimming zone, while the south side, pushed up against the breakwater, is where you’ll find more submerged rocks that you can snorkel over.
Calanque d’En-vau, Calanques National Park
The unadulterated natural beauty on display at Calanque d’En-vau, inside Calanques National Park and the Calanques massif, sets this sliver of coastline high atop the list of the best beaches in Marseille.
Calanque d’En-vau, hemmed in by limestone cliffs, is surrounded by striking topography overlooking crystal clear turquoise water. The pebbly cove is a lovely spot for swimming (bring protective footwear), kayaking, and snorkeling.
The steep hiking trail along the massif heading toward this slender cove is an adventure in itself, worth the effort it takes to reach this incredibly photogenic spot.
Don’t be alarmed if you notice a few wild boars sharing the beach with you. They like to occasionally take a dip in the water too.
If you’re a rock climber, you’ll find plenty of climbing routes close to the beach, plus a variety of rugged En-vau trekking footpaths to help you become better acquainted with the park.
If Marseille and the sandy and pebbly beaches scattered across its shorelines beckon, take a look at Celebrity’s cruises to Marseille, then book your next fabulous holiday to the south of France.