With runways along a huge lake and dramatic approaches across the coastal hills or the sea, Marseille-Provence airport - also near Aix - is a memorable introduction to the region.
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Located in Marignane, some 25 km / 15 miles north-west of central Marseille and the same distance south-west of Aix-en-Provence, the airport (IATA code MRS) consists of four (in practice, three) terminals, all within easy walking distance of each other.
Terminal 1 and Terminals 3/4 are connected by a corridor. They're known collectively as mp1. The newest terminal, mp2, caters exclusively to low-cost flights to and from Europe and North Africa.
It is located in an adjacent shed, previously used for freight. Click here for maps of the local area and the airport itself.
Click here for the English-language website for Marseille-Provence airport. Marseille-Provence airport (sometimes shortened to amp) has also launched a free mobile / cell phone app.
We'll be reporting on the very many planned changes as they happen. But, in the short term, passengers travelling can't fail to notice the disruption, notably the re-routing of traffic around the airport.
The aim is to create a landscaped space in front of the terminals and reduce car and taxi congestion: this architect's impression, pictured, is what it's meant eventually to look like. At the moment, though, it's a bit of a building site, especially in front of the main entrance.
In preparatuon the airport launched a public relations campaign, Il Faut Souffrir Pour Etre Beau (No Pain, No Gain), and, intriguingly, set up a website where users could post bright ideas to improve the airport and vote on other people's suggestions.
These make entertaining reading: some are very good, other wacky (a cable car connection between the airport and its car parks, anyone?)
Over a thousand suggestions were put forward. The most popular ones urge the airport environment, currently rather bland and nondescript, to reflect a stronger regional identity.
Among the promised innovations: a vegetable wall in Terminal 1, more greenery in general, a provençal market and a "sensory immersion corridor" involving images, sounds and even smells which will vary according to the season.
Flight notes: Air France offers a low-cost tariff called MiNi with fares to a limited number of French, European and North African destinations. The prices are all-inclusive, with no extra charges for allocated seating or light refreshments and newspapers on board. Book a low-cost MiNi Air France flight to or from Marseille.
Despite strenuous efforts by the airport to attract a carrier, there is currently no direct flight to New York: the one operated by XL Airways was discontinued in 2015.
Click here for details of the current low-cost schedules to and from Marseille airport on the mp2 website.
British Airways flies to and from Marseille out of London Heathrow (and no longer from London Gatwick).
Many of the national carriers, including British Airways, land at Terminal 1, but most leisure travelers from Europe are likely to arrive at mp2. Europe's first terminal entirely dedicated to low-cost airlines.
It opened in 2006 in response to the catastrophic drop in air traffic to the airport following 9/11 and the arrival of the high-speed TGV rail link to Paris in 2001. As well as Ryanair, mp2 hosts, among others, easyJet, Pegasus and German Wings.
Ryanair has check-in machines in mp2, which allow passengers to print off their own boarding passes. Their sole advantage is that they enable you to avoid queuing for the check-in desk. But the Ryanair fee for checking in at the airport still applies.
You'll want to wear your sunglasses when you arrive at mp2 even if it's raining, as the internal areas are decorated in garish shades of puce, orange and lime green.
Compared to the other terminals, services are basic. You need to carry your own hold baggage to the drop-off point. No trolleys are available, though mp2 does claim to have special facilities for travellers with restricted mobility.
There are no toilets at the departure gates. This area also has no air-con or heating, which can get unpleasant in extreme temperatures. Incoming passengers requiring to go through passport control can sometimes suffer very long waits at busy periods.
At one point mp2 was scoring very low on the scale of standards set by Iata, the trade association which represents the international airline industry. But the airport completed a major upgrade of facilities in 2014.
The security check area is now much larger and so is the departure lounge, which is on the same level as the security checks and passport control instead of, as previously, on an upper floor.
There is now a lot more seating, including some seats at the departure gate, a larger and better stocked snack bar air side and bigger duty-free, souvenir and newsagent shops.
Even so, if you have a very long wait before your flight leaves and haven't gone through security, you would be more comfortable in the nearby Terminal 1. Go out of mp2 and turn right; it's a three minute walk.
Terminals 1 and 3/4
Terminal 1 has all the facilities of a conventional airport and displays the mp2 flights on its departure boards.
Aviation buffs will be interested in a plaque in Terminal 1 by departure gate 29 dedicated to Henri Fabre, a pioneer who undertook the world's first successful seaplane flight over the Berre Lake on 28 March 1910 in a craft that he had designed and constructed himself, Le Canard (The Duck).
Look up and you'll see a full-size replica of Fabre's seaplane (pictured) soaring above unsuspecting modern air travellers.
Catering throughout Marseille-Provence airport was revamped for 2013, when the entire region was the European Capital of Culture. Outlets currently include - landside in Terminal 1 - Starbucks and Burger King. In this area of the airport, a small branch of the supermarket chain Casino also sells (pricey) takeaway food.
In 2013 a football bar, the OM Café, opened in Terminal 4 landside on the ground floor, so you can keep tabs on an Olympique de Marseille match while you're waiting for your flight.
The flagship new dining option at the airport is Chefs en Provence, which aims to be a gastronomic restaurant showcasing the best of regional cuisine and produce. Located on the first floor landside in Terminal 1, it's run by leading guest chefs from the area on a rotating three-month basis.
The chefs aren't dropping their own restaurants in order to toil in the kitchens at Marignane, of course. But they will be devising menus and keeping an eye on quality.
Among the guest chefs have been: Guillaume Sourrieu of L'Epuisette, Michel Portos, of Le Malthazar, Sébastien Richard, from La Table de Sébastien in Istres and Lionel Lévy, pictured, formerly of Une Table, au Sud and now running the catering at the swish new InterContinental Hôtel Dieu in Marseille. Read our full review of Chefs en Provence restaurant.
Other Facilities at Marseille-Provence Airport
Cashpoints (ATMs) are situated in Terminal 1 (international departures), Terminal 3 (domestic arrivals), Terminal 4 (domestic departures) and mp2 (departures). There is a bank, the Crédit Mutuel, in Terminal 4 (ground floor) and a bureau de change in Terminal 1 (ground floor). The business centre is in Terminal 4.
There is now unlimited free wi-fi access in all terminals of Marseille airport.
Left luggage facilities are in Terminal 1 (this service is only available to travellers holding a valid air ticket departing from Marseille) and lost luggage is at the PCPA office on the ground floor of Terminal 3. Tel: (+33) 8 20 14 24 10.
Emergency first-aid: ground floor, Terminal 4. Tel: (+33) 4 42 14 24 24.
Information desks are located in the international arrivals lounge of Terminal 1 and the domestic arrivals lounge (ground floor) of Terminal 4.
French SIM cards for mobile phones / cell phones are sold in Relay newsagent's shops. At Marignane, these are located in Terminals 1 and 4. The French word for a SIM card is une puce.
There are two VIP lounges at Marseille-Provence airport. One, the Cézanne, is located in Terminal 1, the other, the Luberon, is in Terminal 3. They offer the usual comforts: newspapers, magazines, snacks, drinks, television and wi-fi.
In 2011 the airport introduced a "coupe file" ("queue jumping") service which you can take advantage of in Terminals 1 and 3/4. It's available by annual subscription. If you are a frequent traveller and are interested, you can sigh up here to the coupe file service at Marseille-Provence airport.
Marignane has a number of airport car-parks offering spaces for 12,000 cars. Even so they can get very full - and not only in high summer. Motorists are advised to arrive early to be sure of a spot. Alternatively you can now book airport car parking in advance on the link above.
The cheapest option is the "chèque parking" scheme which offers very favourable rates. However this website is in French only and the booking system is rather complicated. It's aimed at passengers beginning and ending their journey in Marseille and the car-park is slightly further from the terminals (there's a free shuttle bus).
Also aimed at Marseille-based travellers, a new, very long-term car-park called XXL was launched in 2014. Vehicles can be left there for between 25 and 90 days for a very modest daily rate.
The XXL car-park is located near the chèque parking one and can be booked via the link above on the general car-park page of the airport website. Despite its name, though, it's rather XXS and quickly gets filled up in summer.
A petrol / gas station is in the airport precinct. Its opening hours are 6.00am to 11.30pm (Mon-Fri), 6.00am to 10.30pm (Saturday) and 7.00am to 11.30pm (Sunday).
The airport will give you a free jump start if your car's battery has gone flat while you were away. Tel: (+33) 4 42 14 32 32, or go to the car park office on the ground floor of Terminal 4.
If you're just dropping someone off at the airport, you can use the dépose minute (kiss-and-ride) facility in front of Terminal 1 (eight minutes' free parking) or the very short-term parking in car-parks P2 or P10 (30 minutes free).
Hotels near Marseille airport include Pullman, Best Western, Novotel, Ibis and Etap. All are in the same general area, a 10-15 walk from the terminals. Free courtesy bus services run until 11pm or midnight, depending on the hotel. You can phone for these buses in the arrivals hall of Terminal 1.
More details of other services on the Marseille-Provence airport website.
Getting to and from Marseille-Provence Airport
A motorway joins Marignane with Aix, Avignon and Saint Charles, Marseille's main train and bus station, which has a network of onward bus, coach and metro connections.
Taxis from the airport leave from the rank between Terminal 1 and Terminals 3/4 and the fare to either central Marseille or Aix en Provence should be 50-60€.
A higher tariff applies between 7pm and 7am and on Sundays and public holidays, and you will be charged extra for large items of luggage. Taxis can be booked in advance online via the link above. You can also pre-book a holiday taxi to or from Marseille airport here.
Recently a new company, Hello Shuttle, has started offering a shared taxi service between the airport and central Marseille.
A number of car hire companies including Hertz, Avis, Budget and Europcar, are clustered together opposite Terminal 1 and the bus-stand near car park 8.
Our affiliate partner is a comparison search engine for all grades of hire car from Smarts to 4x4s and limousines. It will instantly compare the current rates on offer from all the suppliers at Marseille airport to ensure you get the best deal.
It's possible to get into Marseille from the airport by train from Vitrolles station (pictured below). This service requires you to take a (free) shuttle bus to Vitrolles station, and has been irregular in the past.
Trains have now become more frequent and connect the airport with a range of towns and cities in Provence including Montpellier, Nîmes, Arles, Avignon-Centre, Cavaillon, Orange, Montélimar and Valence.
In 2015 a new (though very sporadic) direct train service began to Toulon via Aubagne, La Ciotat and Sanary sur Mer. The entire journey takes just over an hour and is presumably intended to attract passengers away from Toulon-Hyères airport.
If you go for the option of onward travel by rail, you can buy train tickets at the airport from machines by the entrance to Terminals 3-4 as well as at the station itself, and you can plan your journey to and from the airport online here. The shuttle between the airport and Vitrolles stations takes five minutes.
However the best choice of transport if you are going into Marseille itself is the Marseille airport shuttle bus (navette), which leaves from a stop by Terminals 3/4.
You need to buy a ticket at the nearby office before boarding. This also applies if you are travelling to the airport from Saint Charles station.
Tickets are sold on the bus at times when these offices are closed. It runs every 20 minutes in the early morning and evening and every 15 minutes during the middle of the day.
If you know you will be in a hurry, you can buy airport shuttle tickets in advance online. The journey rarely takes more than half an hour unless the traffic is very bad.
Slightly annoyingly, this bus does not pick up passengers outside mp2, but leaves from a stop by the taxi rank.
As you exit mp2, turn right and walk for about five minutes along the front of the airport. However, the bus from Marseille to the airport does drop off passengers at mp2.
A regular bus navette plies every half hour between the airport and the Aix-en-Provence TGV and bus stations and the city centre (again, it will let passengers out at mp2, but not pick them up from there).
There is also a handful of buses to other parts of Provence, and a new bus station area is opening in spring 2017. Details of the shuttle bus services to Aix and other towns from Marseille airport.
In winter the navettes blanches (snow buses) to ski resorts in the Southern Alps leave from the airport (as well as from Aix TGV station). Tickets should be booked in advance online.
The office for the navettes blanches as well as for the cruise ship shuttle bus is in a small cabin outside the entrance to the departure lounge for Terminals 3/4, and the bus-stop is nearby.