Perched atop the city’s highest hill, the magnificent Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde, which is visible from all over the Marseille, is one of the city’s most striking landmarks. The Romano-Byzantine basilica dates back to the 19th century and is best known for its grand bell tower, which is capped with a gleaming gold statue of the Virgin Mary.
No sightseeing tour is complete without a visit to the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde; in fact, the religious site is one of Marseille’s most-visited attractions. There are many ways to absorb the highlights of the port city: you can take a half-day shore excursion, zip around by electric bike, or combine a tour with a visit to other Provencal villages, such as Cassis and Aix-en-Provence. Tours and shore excursions also run to Marseille from Toulon, Avignon, and Aix-en-Provence, typically in combination with other towns around Provence.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Entrance to the cathedral is free, but there’s a small fee to visit the cathedral’s museum.
- Visitor facilities include two gift shops, a café, and parking.
- Most areas of the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde are wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
The Basilica Notre Dame de la Garde perches on a steep hill. From Vieux Port (Old Port) just to the north, it’s a 20-minute bus ride—bus 60 runs from Cours Jean Ballard—to the basilica. You can also get there on foot (about an hourlong hike from the Old Port) or by taking the Petit Train from Quai des Belges.
When to Get There
The cathedral is open daily year round, but it can get busy in peak season (July and August), when it’s best to visit in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the tour groups. Assumption Day (August 15), when a special mass is held at the church, tends to draw large crowds.
Inside the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde
After admiring the basilica’s elaborate facade and Virgin Mary statue, marvel at the lavish interior, which is adorned with colorful marble, maritime-inspired murals, and intricate mosaics. The cathedral was painstakingly restored in 2006, but bullet marks and shrapnel scars on the northern façade are visible remnants of the fighting that took place during the Battle of Marseille in August 1944. And don’t miss checking out the view from the dome—it’s a dramatic panorama of the terracotta roofs dotting the city below.