You might not at first think of Marseille for a beach holiday. But the city offers a vast array of seaside spaces catering to every possible taste all along its west-facing southern coastline.
Click here to book a beach hotel in Marseille
Some are perfect for families with children, others for surfing, skateboarding, a beachside drink or meal or, at the very fringes of the city, a hike into the remote rocky calanques.
This guide covers the beaches (plages) to the south of Marseille. Click on the map to enlarge the image.
Marseille offers some organised sports and activities for adults and children at the Plage des Catalans and the Plages du Prado in July and August.
These include everything from kayaking and snorkelling to beach rugby, hip-hop dancing and kite flying, and there are swimming lessons for kids. There is a nominal charge. Free wi-fi access is available on some of Marseille's beaches.
Along with other beach resorts, Marseille has made disposable ashtrays available from the lifeguard stations though unlike, say, La Ciotat, it hasn't gone as far as to make any beaches entirely non-smoking.
Near the lifeguard stations on the larger beaches are left luggage lockers, which you are strongly advised to use. Parents of small children can also get fluorescent bracelets for them here on which to mark their name and phone number.
Handicapped bathers should head for the southern Prado Beach, where there are disabled parking spaces, special toilet and shower facilities, signage for sight- and hearing-impaired visitors and marine wheelchairs (located next to the lifeguard station) to enable wheelchair-users to take a dip.
Each of Marseille's beaches is accessible by bus but, even though the service is more frequent in summer, on hot afternoons these will be jam-packed with locals out for a dip after work or school, as will be the beaches themselves, so make sure you go early (or late) to beat the crowds. Don't even think about taking a car. It's wise to leave valuables at home too.
Between the end of April and the end of September, there is another, very attractive transport option to the further beaches: an hourly boat shuttle service - the "batobus" - which runs between the Old Port and Pointe Rouge.
Between the end of June and the end of September, an extension service runs between Pointe Rouge and Les Goudes.
Started in 2012, this boat shuttle, pictured, was originally aimed at, and is also used by, local commuters. It has proved a huge success and long queues are to be expected in fine weather.
If you are planning to rent a car, please consider our comparison search engine for all grades of hire car from Smarts to 4x4s and limousines.
Powered by our affiliate partner, it will instantly compare the current rates on offer from all the major suppliers at your chosen location to ensure you get the best deal.
The sea can be turquoise-blue and marvellously clear, given the proximity of the beaches to a major city. It can also be filthy, depending on the wind direction.
Marseille has constantly struggled to keep standards acceptable and in 2012 introduced Gen-Spot testing technology to monitor water pollution - only the second city in France to do so.
Reports logging water cleanliness (or pollution)can be consulted online during the main season and are also posted at each lifeguard station. Beaches are closed when levels become unacceptable and this will probably happen several times over the summer.
Note that, as the beaches of Marseille are north and west facing, they are particularly exposed to the Mistral, the fierce wind from the north-west that can blow up at any time of the year.
The bathing season in Marseille opens officially at the beginning of June and continues until the school term resumes in late August / early September. That doesn't mean that people can't bathe before then, of course (some madmen and -women go swimming on Christmas Day).
But from June onwards, lifeguards will be on duty at certain beaches. These are: Corbière, Catalans, Prophète, Prado Nord, Prado Sud, Huveaune, Borély, Bonneveine, Vieille Chapelle, Pointe Rouge and Sormiou. There are no lifeguards in most of the calanques.
These posts are equipped with first aid facilities and defibrilators, walkie-talkies and (apart from Sormiou) toilet facilities.
So it is perfectly safe to go swimming on the supervised beaches of Marseille and the city's lifeguards pride themselves on an unblemished record.
However, you should exercise extreme caution if bathing on a remote and / or unsupervised beach. The stretch of coast between Pointe Rouge and the calanque of Saména is particularly dangerous and in 2015 two young men drowned bathing here.
First check the water temperature, which can sometimes be quite low, even on hot days. It will always be a few degrees cooler in the calanques, where the sea is deeper than elsewhere along the coast.
Also take into account the speed of the wind, which can cause dangerous undercurrents. You can check the current weather conditions at sea on this website.
The first beach you'll come across on leaving the Old Port, the Plage des Catalans is down a flight of steps. It's sandy and equipped with volleyball areas, a lifeguard station and snack bar and has a good view across the bay to the Château d'If.
In summer there are organised activities for children and a free "underwater trail" which can be explored by snorkellers. But the main attraction is its proximity to the centre and you'll have to arrive early on sunny days to be sure of a spot.
The Plage des Catalans can get extremely crowded (and littered) in summer. In 2013 the city of Marseille passed a decree limiting the number of bathers at any one time to 1,000.
Police are stationed at the only entrance to the beach to keep check on the numbers, but there have been several unfortunate incidents in the past. Because of its location, the Plage des Catalans is also especially subject to pollution.
The beach has been recently enlarged by removing some unauthorised bars and adding sand. More improvements are planned. There's also now a paid-for private area run by the Hotel Le Richelieu, which overlooks the beach. This part of the Catalans beach has sunbeds and serves drinks and light meals.
Dogs not allowed. About ten minutes' walk from the Old Port or bus 83.
The next long strip of the Corniche JF Kennedy (the coastal road) has no beaches proper but instead consists of a series of small creeks accessed down steps from the main road.
Essentially, these are rocky inlets from which it's possible to go swimming and include the Vallon des Auffes, the Vallon de Malmousque, the Vallon de la Fausse Monnaie and the Vallon de l'Oriel. Some have restaurants. Click here to read more about them.
Plage du Prophète
After the Vallons is the Plage du Prophète (pictured), another sandy beach down steep steps with volleyball areas, showers and a snack bar.
Protected by a breakwater and lifeguards during the day, it's a good spot for children and a very popular venue for picnics, apéritifs and barbecues on summer evenings. Bus 83 from the Old Port.
This large (26 hectare / 64 acre) park was landscaped in the 1970s using earthworks from the excavations for the then-new metro. It runs along the coast for about a kilometre / 0.6 miles, around the point where the Corniche reaches the David roundabout. You can't miss this: it's graced by the surreal sight of a huge replica of Michelangelo's famous sculpture, which was erected in Marseille in 1952.
In September, these beaches are also the backdrop to the Fête du Vent, or Festival of Wind. Most of the year the Marseillais curse the infamous Mistral wind (except, of course, when it chases the clouds away to make way for blue skies and sun).
But for a couple of days in autumn they celebrate it with hundreds of colourful kites soaring above the Mediterranean.
The event is also likely to include demonstrations of kite art, children's workshops, kite battles and more. It attracts up to 100,000 kite-flyers and visitors and artists from around the world.
Pictured right and top left, the strip of Prado beaches is split into a series of separate areas.
Bus 83 will take you from the Old Port to the beginning of the park. Bus 19, which you'll need to pick up at Castellane (metro line 1 or 2), runs all along it.
First up is the Plage du Roucas Blanc, set well back from the Corniche behind a high grassy ridge topped by Le Bateau ivre (The Drunken Boat), a 1989 sculpture by Jean Amado dedicated to the poet Arthur Rimbaud, who died in Marseille.
Also in this park is another large sculpture, Les Sept portes de Jérusalem (The Seven Doors of Jerusalem) by David Soussana (1985).
The leisure facilities here include a solarium, sailing and canoe centre, volleyball areas, a small playground, toilets and showers, a diving platform and a lifeguard post, The beach itself is short on bars, but there's a good line-up of watering holes on the other side of the main road.
Plage Planches à voile, also sometimes called the Plage des Véliplanchistes, is, as the name indicates, beloved by windsurfers and kitesurfers. Yet another name for it is the Plage de l'Huveaune, after a small river which reaches the sea here.
It's a wide, sandy strip - one of Marseille's few original natural beaches - and prone to pollution on days when the Mistral wind is blowing: hence its local nickname, the Plage des Epluchures (Peel Beach).
On a level with, and right by, the noisy main road, this is a spot to practise water sports, not really to snooze quietly in the sun. There are jetties and a first-aid point.
Launched in 1992 as a buzzing resort - Marseille's version of Ibiza, as it was described at the time - Borély's pebble beaches have become rather run-down in recent years. But a facelift is currently underway. It's now mainly family-oriented.
Sun-loungers are available to rent, and there's a children's playground and carousel, volleyball area, toilets and lockers, a lifeguard station and a little skateboarding park. You can go fishing on the rocks. There's also a paid-for private area.
Avoid the Red Lion, if you're looking for an English pub. Just across the road from the Plage Bonneveine, it serves no English beers and offers only French satellite television (Canal Plus) - though, to be fair, it is very popular with locals.
At the far end of the park, Plage de la Vieille Chapelle, a pebble beach, is screened from the sea by a low rock wall and has water that's cleaner and shallower than at some of the other beaches. It's much frequented by local fishermen. In 2012 a launch channel for kitesurfers was installed at the Plage de la Vieille Chapelle.
The sea-front restaurants lined up on this small, crescent-shaped, sandy beach are much less commercialised than the glossy tourist diners in the Borély and Bonneveine area and a delightful destination for a meal out.
Don't expect white linen tablecloths or gourmet dining: these places serve pizzas, grills and salads in a simple, idyllic setting.
However, as part of Marseille's current campaign to reclaim and clean up the coastline, many of these bars are under threat: the city intends to clear the beach terraces and tables by 2018. So make the most of them while they last. And watch this space for further developments.
Down a flight of steps, the beach boasts a swimming pool, showers, a lifeguard station and, next to it, a large marina with a Yachting Club. There is a launch ramp for jet skis and you can hire pedalos too.
Across the road is an arcade of banks and shops, including one selling fishing tackle. Pointe Rouge is prone to erosion which the city is constantly fighting by importing supplies of sand.
Metro line 1 or 2, stop Castellane, then bus 19. Until September, an hourly boat shuttle service - the "batobus" - runs between the Old Port and Pointe Rouge.
Right at the end of the 19 bus route, a few streets of shabby-pretty fishing cottages cluster around a minute sand and gravel beach, but the real reason to go here is to eat a bouillabaisse at Chez Aldo, a seaside restaurant favoured by locals. Bus 19.
Just after Montredon, Mont Rose - a rocky stretch of coast rather than a beach proper - is the closest nudist beach to Marseille and one of the oldest-established (male) gay beaches in this part of France. Click here to read more about Marseille's gay and lesbian scene. Bus 19, then walk.
At the very end of a narrow, winding road, Les Goudes, pictured, a scruffy, picturesque, isolated fishing port snuggled in a rocky creek has stunning views across to the islands and, inland, to craggy limestone rocks.
You'll also find a small gravel and sand beach and a marina with lots of bars. It has a homely, no-nonsense, authentically Marseillais ambiance that seems a million miles from the tourist traps nearer the city.
The detective hero of the novels by the popular thriller writer Jean-Claude Izzo had a summer cabin here and the name, apparently, is a corruption of "l'aïgo", or "water" in provençal.
Look out for the rusty remains of the pulleys for the téléscaphe, a bizarre underwater cable car that offered ten-minute rides along the sea-bed here for a year in the late 1960s.
Continue a little way along the coast and you're in Cap Croisette, a wild, remote, craggy bay. There's a minute, rocky beach and, opposite, the imposing mass of the Île de Maïre. This is an excellent starting point for hikes.
Or visit La Baie des Singes, a quirky fish restaurant that's another local haunt. Note that this involves a ten-minute walk up steps over the rocks to a promontory and is not suitable for people with limited mobility (though it's easily accessible by boat).
Metro line 1 or 2, stop Castellane, bus 19 to the end of the route (Montredon), then bus 20. Or by batobus from the Old Port to Pointe Rouge and then from Pointe Rouge to Goudes.