I moved to Marseille 8 months ago and it is now officially the worst place in the world, in my opinion. Within those 8 months, I have been shouted at more or less everytime I left my apartment. 3 months ago, my apartment got broken into, and everything valuable was stolen. Apparently, sunday afternoons is their favourite time because the majority of people go to the beach at this time. Myself and 2 female friends were walking home from a night out, and got followed home by a group of teenage boys, 1 of whom ran into us and tried to steal my bag. Luckily, we were holding on tightly so they ran off with nothing. And last night, to top all of this off, as I was at my friends front door, with the key almost in the lock, we turned around to see a guy pointing a gun at us, shouting at us in french. We didn't understand what he wanted, so he took the safety off the gun, which is when I gave him my bag, with my passport, purse, phone, iPod, keys... everything inside. He ran off. We called the police, asking to speak with an English speaking officer, but when I told him what had happened, he replied, with, 'Yeah...?' as if it was nothing and then hung up on me.
I strongly recommend that you don't travel to Marseille unless absolutely necessary. Women should definitely NEVER walk alone, and even in the daytime, be on your guard. If these people see any opportunity, they will take it. I'm leaving as soon as possible and I will never ever return.
After reading all the tips here i decided to throw in my two cents. I moved to marseille when I was 21. I didn't speak french and had never even left my country! ( american). Bright blond, pale and completely ignorant of the world around me. It was one of the most liberating but toughest things I have done on my life so far. I would say to all women travelling, more so if you look '' western'', be very careful about how you talk to the men, try not to make eye contact on the street with any man as this is almost an invitation. I made the mistake even after three years. My openess as an american would just suddenly pop out and I would regret it later.
It is a VERY dirty city. Urine and fecal matter is everywhere, watch where you step!. If you are blond I suggest wearing some head gear, a scarf maybe. I felt more comfortable.
Avoid side streets and back streets. Men are aggressive so assert yourself if you have to.
watch out for theives. Everyday, even after walking the same market everyday i was mistaken for a tourist and almost pickpocketed ( i almost made a shirt that said " I am NOT a tourist)
On the upside, the food is AMAZING, the water is AMAZING the culture, music and art scene is amazing and I have marseille to thank for giving me this american/marseille accent when I speak french :)...ohhh, excuse me, when i speak marseille :)!!!!
I feel obligated to write something here after my short stay in Marseille. I went with a friend for the weekend after finding a flight . I was harassed and grabbed by some older man who was yelling things at me in French near the Viex Port. Later that night I was attacked by a random women in a nightclub and my wallet was stolen. The next day at dinner, we witnessed a stabbing while we were eating at one of the nicer restaurants in the Viex Port. We watched the fight break out and 2 men attack another with punches and a fork. There was blood all over the restaurant window, which the restaurant staff didn't even bother to clean up! I wish we had known how dangerous the city is before traveling there. We certainly would have changed our plans. The city itself is dirty and full of poverty. It was an eye-opening experience for me but I hope that my experience there will help someone else avoid a similar one.
Whilst walking from Gare St Charles near Boulevard Dugommier and La Canebiere, I was pestered by a guy who asked for money. I ignored him and walked on but he persisted for a few minutes, not in a threatening way but it was obvious that he wanted something. It was rather disconcerting since I didn't know if he had any accomplices. By blanking him, I was able to avert any potential issues, but I can see how a single female could have felt very threatened. The lessons are obvious and had I not had cause to go there to buy a TGV ticket, I would have avoided the area. On the other hand, the area around the Le Vieux port is not threatening and there are lots of tourists. Just avoid the red light district around Rue Glandeves, more embarrassing then intimidating.
If you have to visit the area around Gare St Charles at night, I would recommend taking le velo. There are a couple of bike stations close by and cyclists seem to be invisible to the local population. Also, avoid taking passports, credit cards and excess cash. I think that leaving these at your hotel is the lesser of two evils.
Marseille is full of people coming from other countries, opposite of Aix its very rough town. You would see people vistling, wheezing at beautiful ladies. Dont bother even they vistle at you, ignore and keep on walking at same pace. Quarrel can turn into some real danger.. Some areas are town are not to be ventured at any cost, please ask tourist information centre about it. Stick to the tourist area there should not be any problem. Take care of your pockets and passports, and do not hand over anything to strangers even if they say they are police, better take them to the police station and show whatever documents they ask over there.
e.g., questions could be
May I see your passport?
Do you have fake bills? I want to check your bills? etc.
The whole town smells and looks like it could do with a good wash! Areas are full of men who hang around and leer at passing women. It seems acceptable to shout out comments and when no answer is given to harrass the individual with obscene gestures. The town either smells of off food (loads of bins full everywhere) or urine.
There are two things that you should take into consideration when travelling to Marseilles: firstly, try not to flash your cash around when in public places.. don't carry large amounts of cash around with you.. it may attract the wrong kind of attention. Secondly, beware of forged euro notes, particularly 20s and 50s. Familiarise yourself with real notes and you won't get caught when receiving change for purchases.
Imagine you have bought tickets from Marseilles to Nice two days before a trip. When you arrive to railway station you see that part of railway staff are on strike and trips to Nice are delaying. Then starts a chaos because all passengers try to take a seat in next trip but for all passengers seats are not enough then part of them have to wait next trip.
I had the luck because I bought the ticket when strike was started and new schedule came into effect. So I didn't have to be nervous.
Le Mistral is a strong wind in the region around Marseille that occurs mostly in the winter and spring. We experienced it while in the region in November - and we can agree: it really is strong. Those who know us will know that we are not really the tiniest persons (despite my VT nick), but that wind even pushed us a couple of steps backward.....
So you better beware and find a safe spot!
The mistral is a typical wind of the region. When I was in Marseille, I had 5 days of Mistral...so even if it is sunny, it can be really chilly sometimes...and it is also quite dangerous to be in some places in the calanques because the wind can make you loose your balance! So it is better to be in a safe place when the mistral is really strong...