Bordeaux vs. Marseille

Choosing between Bordeaux and Marseille for your next adventure? It's not an easy choice. Bordeaux, often called the "City of Art and History," beckons with its breathtaking architecture and charming vineyards. Marseille, France's oldest city, tempts with its vibrant port, laid-back Mediterranean vibes, and unique cultural blend. Ready to dive into the intricacies of these two captivating cities?
Bordeaux vs. Marseille

Table of Contents

Now, are you curious about the distinct personalities of Bordeaux and Marseille? Perhaps you’re wondering which city would suit your travel style better? Dive in with us as we explore these two French gems in depth. By the end, you’ll have a clearer picture and might just find your next dream destination. So, shall we begin?

History & Culture

Let’s embark on a time travel journey. Bordeaux and Marseille, each hold centuries of rich history and unique culture in their hearts.

Bordeaux, the so-called “City of Art and History,” has a past that is as rich as the wines it’s famous for. This city was once a bustling port during the Roman Empire, and today, remnants of that golden era still stand proud. You’ll find yourself immersed in an atmosphere that’s truly timeless, as the city’s past and present seamlessly intertwine.

On the other hand, Marseille holds the title of France’s oldest city with pride. Established by the ancient Greeks, this city has been a vibrant melting pot of cultures for over 2,600 years. The diverse influences from its past continue to shape its unique character today, creating a cultural blend that’s distinctly Marseille.

Comparing their cultures, Bordeaux’s is rooted in tradition, with an emphasis on the fine arts and a deep appreciation for the good life. The city’s famed vineyards have played a large role in shaping its cultural landscape, and the spirit of wine-making permeates every aspect of life here.

Marseille’s culture, in contrast, is a lively fusion of Mediterranean influences. This is reflected in the city’s music, arts, and festivals. Its history as a port city has led to a culture that’s open, vibrant, and wonderfully diverse.

In summary, both Bordeaux and Marseille offer rich historical experiences and distinctive cultures. Bordeaux might appeal to you if you appreciate classical beauty and a slower, more refined lifestyle. Marseille, with its melting pot of cultures and lively Mediterranean spirit, might be more up your alley if you love vibrant city life.

Attractions & Activities

Let’s explore the variety of attractions and activities you can discover in Bordeaux and Marseille.

Bordeaux is a delight for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts alike. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, full of grandiose 18th-century buildings, impressive plazas, and quaint old streets. A leisurely walk around the city is like stepping back in time.

The famed vineyards around Bordeaux offer wine-tasting tours, which can be a fascinating experience even if you’re not a wine connoisseur.

As for Marseille, its vibrant port is the heart of the city, teeming with boats and buzzing with life. The old town, Le Panier, invites you to wander its narrow lanes and discover its charming boutiques and galleries. For a touch of nature, the Calanques National Park, with its stunning rocky cliffs and turquoise waters, offers numerous hiking trails.

When it comes to activities, Bordeaux has a lot to offer for those interested in arts and culture. You can visit the numerous art galleries and museums, or attend a performance at the Grand Théâtre. For outdoor enthusiasts, cycling along the Garonne River or through the vineyards can be a delightful experience.

In Marseille, you can engage in a variety of water sports, thanks to its location on the Mediterranean coast. Sailing, kayaking, and fishing are popular activities among locals and tourists alike. The city’s rich history and diverse culture also provide a plethora of opportunities for cultural exploration and learning.

In conclusion, whether it’s the architectural grandeur and vineyard tours of Bordeaux, or the port-side charm and adventurous activities of Marseille, both cities offer a wealth of attractions and activities. Your choice depends on what kind of experiences you’re seeking from your trip.


Imagine dipping your toes in the sand, the salty breeze in your hair, and the sound of waves in your ears. Yes, you’re at the beach! But how do the beach experiences in Bordeaux and Marseille compare?

In Bordeaux, you might need to travel a little, but your effort will be rewarded. The Arcachon Bay, about 60 kilometers (37.3 miles) from Bordeaux, is home to a picturesque coastline with sandy beaches and a serene atmosphere.

The Dune du Pilat, the tallest sand dune in Europe, is a must-visit. From the top, you’ll get a breathtaking view of the bay, the Atlantic Ocean, and the surrounding pine forest.

Marseille, being a coastal city, offers a multitude of beaches right at its doorstep. The city boasts sandy beaches like Prado Beach, as well as numerous pebbled coves, known as ‘calanques’. You’ll be amazed by the strikingly clear turquoise waters of these Mediterranean beaches.

If water sports are your thing, both destinations won’t disappoint. Near Bordeaux, you’ll find great spots for surfing, while in Marseille, the calm Mediterranean waters are perfect for sailing and diving.

In summary, whether it’s the serene bay of Arcachon near Bordeaux or the vibrant Mediterranean beaches of Marseille, both offer unique beach experiences. Your choice would depend on whether you prefer the calm and tranquil Atlantic coast or the lively and sunny Mediterranean Sea.

Eating, Drinking & Nightlife

Now, let’s dive into the culinary delights and vibrant nightlife that Bordeaux and Marseille have to offer.

Bordeaux is a gastronomic delight. With an abundance of fresh produce from the surrounding countryside, you’ll find a variety of dishes that highlight local ingredients. As for drinks, Bordeaux is world-renowned for its wines. A visit to one of the local wine bars is a must to sample the region’s diverse wine offerings.

In contrast, Marseille’s cuisine reflects its Mediterranean influences. Seafood is a staple here, with bouillabaisse, a hearty fish stew, being the city’s signature dish. As for drinks, pastis, an anise-flavored spirit, is a local favorite, best enjoyed at a seafront cafe.

When the sun goes down, both cities come alive. Bordeaux’s nightlife is elegant and laid-back. You can enjoy an evening at a wine bar or a jazz club, or take a moonlit walk along the Garonne River.

Marseille, on the other hand, offers a more eclectic nightlife. From lively bars and nightclubs in the Vieux Port area to concerts at the dockside, there’s something for everyone.

In conclusion, whether it’s the gastronomic delights and refined nightlife of Bordeaux or the Mediterranean flavors and lively night scene of Marseille, both cities offer a unique experience. Your choice would hinge on your culinary preferences and your style of enjoying the night.


Let’s talk about shopping, shall we? It’s a part of any travel experience, whether you’re looking for unique souvenirs or just want to browse local goods. So, how do Bordeaux and Marseille stack up?

In Bordeaux, shopping is a delight. Rue Sainte-Catherine is the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe, and it’s chock-full of both well-known chains and independent boutiques. If you’re after something more high-end, check out the Triangle d’Or (Golden Triangle) area, where you’ll find luxury brands and chic boutiques.

Marseille, on the other hand, offers a more eclectic shopping experience. The city is known for its markets. For example, the daily fish market at the Old Port is a sight to behold. For traditional crafts and regional products, Le Panier, the oldest part of the city, is your go-to spot.

Both cities also offer unique local products. Bordeaux is known for its wine, so don’t miss out on visiting a local wine shop. In Marseille, you’d want to look for Savon de Marseille, the traditional local soap, or perhaps a bottle of pastis.

In summary, shopping in Bordeaux is all about the mix of high street and luxury, while Marseille offers traditional markets and local crafts. Depending on your shopping preferences, either city could be your retail paradise.


A good night’s sleep is an essential part of any trip, so let’s compare the accommodation options in Bordeaux and Marseille.

Bordeaux offers a wide range of accommodations to suit all budgets. From luxury hotels in historic buildings to chic boutique hotels and budget-friendly hostels, you’ll find something to suit your style and wallet. Many accommodations are located in the city center, making it easy to explore on foot.

Marseille, being a larger city, offers even more diversity in accommodations. You can choose from luxury hotels with stunning views of the Old Port, charming guesthouses in Le Panier, or budget hostels. The city’s public transport makes it easy to get around, no matter where you stay.

If you’re looking for a unique accommodation experience, both cities deliver. Bordeaux has charming vineyard stays, while Marseille offers beachfront accommodations and even options to stay in a “calanque”, a rocky inlet with a secluded beach.

To wrap up, both Bordeaux and Marseille offer a wide range of accommodations. Your choice would depend on whether you prefer the elegance of Bordeaux’s city center or the diversity and sea views offered by Marseille.

Family-Friendliness & Children’s Activities

Let’s dive into how family-friendly Bordeaux and Marseille are, and what activities they offer for kids.

Bordeaux is a hit with families. The city is home to several parks and gardens where you can enjoy a picnic or let your kids run around. The Bordeaux Science Museum is a fun and educational outing, with hands-on exhibits that kids love.

Bordeaux also has a kid-friendly wine experience – the Cité du Vin, which, apart from wine tastings, has exhibitions and workshops for children.

Marseille is equally welcoming to families. Its beautiful beaches are perfect for building sandcastles and frolicking in the waves. If your children are older, they might enjoy a boat trip to the Frioul Islands or the Calanques National Park.

The city also has several museums with children’s activities, such as the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations.

In terms of family-friendly dining, both cities excel. Bordeaux has a wide range of kid-friendly restaurants and cafés, while Marseille offers family-friendly dining options, especially seafood restaurants along the Old Port.

To summarize, both Bordeaux and Marseille are great for families, each with its unique offerings. Bordeaux leans towards educational activities and parks, while Marseille is a hit with beach-loving families and those looking for outdoor adventures.

Getting There & Getting Around

Traveling to a new city and navigating around it can be quite an adventure. Here’s how Bordeaux and Marseille compare in terms of accessibility and transportation.

Getting to Bordeaux is straightforward. The city has an international airport about 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) from the city center. The high-speed train from Paris takes around two hours. Once in Bordeaux, you can easily explore the compact city center on foot, or use the efficient tram and bus network.

Marseille, on the other hand, has a larger international airport, located about 15 miles (24 kilometers) from the city center. The high-speed train from Paris takes about three hours. To get around Marseille, you can use the metro, buses, or trams. There are also many bike rental services if you prefer to pedal around.

Both cities offer tourist passes that provide unlimited travel on public transport and discounts at attractions. This can be a good value if you plan to visit many sites.

In conclusion, getting to and around both Bordeaux and Marseille is relatively easy, with excellent public transport networks in both cities. Your choice will depend on your preferred mode of transport and the pace of your travel.


It’s time to explore the weather in Bordeaux and Marseille. After all, the climate can make or break your holiday experience.

Bordeaux, located near the Atlantic coast, has a maritime influence on its climate. This means mild winters and warm summers. The average temperature in summer ranges from 70°F to 80°F (21°C to 27°C), while in winter, it’s typically between 40°F and 50°F (4°C to 10°C). It’s also worth noting that Bordeaux is one of the rainiest cities in France, so don’t forget to pack an umbrella.

Marseille, on the other hand, enjoys a Mediterranean climate. This means hot, dry summers and mild, slightly wet winters. The summer temperature often rises above 86°F (30°C), while winter temperatures hover around 40°F to 55°F (4°C to 13°C). Marseille is one of the sunniest cities in France, boasting over 2,800 hours of sunshine per year!

When it comes to the best time to visit, it depends on your weather preference. Bordeaux’s best months are usually from June to September when it’s warm, and the vineyards are in full bloom. For Marseille, if you love the sun and aren’t bothered by the heat, the summer months are perfect.

In conclusion, Bordeaux offers milder temperatures and more rainfall, while Marseille offers hotter temperatures and a lot of sunshine.


Next, let’s discuss the safety aspects of Bordeaux and Marseille.

Bordeaux is generally safe, with a low crime rate. It’s known for being peaceful and quiet, especially in the city center. However, like any city, there might be petty crime such as pickpocketing in tourist-heavy areas, so always keep an eye on your belongings.

Marseille, while generally safe, has a slightly higher crime rate than Bordeaux. Certain areas of the city have a reputation for being less safe, especially at night. As with Bordeaux, pickpocketing can occur in crowded tourist areas.

It’s important to note that both cities have excellent police presence and infrastructure in place to ensure the safety of residents and tourists.

Other safety considerations include traffic rules in both cities. Bordeaux is a pedestrian-friendly city with well-marked crosswalks and bike lanes. In contrast, Marseille’s traffic can be a bit chaotic, so extra caution is needed, especially when crossing the street.

In summary, while Bordeaux is considered a bit safer, both cities are generally safe for tourists. Always exercise common sense and stay aware of your surroundings to ensure a trouble-free trip.


Now, let’s dive into the cost aspect of your trip to Bordeaux and Marseille. It’s crucial to have an idea about the expenses you’ll likely encounter as you plan your trip.

Bordeaux, being a world-renowned wine region, can be a bit pricey, especially when it comes to wine tours and tastings. A typical wine tour might cost you around €100 (approximately $120). Accommodation in Bordeaux ranges from €50 to €200 ($60 to $240) per night, depending on the type and location. As for meals, expect to pay around €15 to €50 ($18 to $60) per person in a restaurant.

On the flip side, Marseille, with its coastal charm and historical sites, can also have varied costs. For instance, boat tours to the Calanques National Park can be around €40 ($48). Accommodation is quite varied, with options ranging from €40 to €150 ($48 to $180) per night. Dining out in Marseille, you’ll likely spend around €10 to €40 ($12 to $48) per person.

Transportation in both cities is quite affordable. In Bordeaux, a day pass for public transportation costs €5 ($6), while in Marseille, it’s €7 ($8).

In a nutshell, both Bordeaux and Marseille have a variety of options catering to different budgets. Bordeaux might be slightly more expensive due to its famed wine culture, while Marseille offers a range of affordable activities and dining options.

Which Is Better – Bordeaux or Marseille?

Having compared Bordeaux and Marseille across various aspects, it’s time to wrap things up.

In terms of history and culture, Bordeaux, with its rich wine heritage and elegant architecture, holds a unique appeal. Marseille, with its diverse cultural influences and ancient history, offers an equally enticing charm.

When it comes to attractions and activities, Bordeaux shines with its vineyard tours and riverfront promenades. Marseille, on the other hand, stands out with its vibrant harbor and the stunning Calanques National Park.

If you’re a beach lover, Marseille, with its Mediterranean coastline, might be the preferred choice. However, for those interested in culinary delights, both cities offer delectable cuisines, with Bordeaux standing out for its wine and Marseille for its seafood.

Shopping enthusiasts will find both cities rewarding, with Bordeaux’s luxury boutiques and Marseille’s quirky shops. In terms of accommodation, both cities offer a range of options to cater to different budgets and preferences.

For family-friendliness and children’s activities, both cities have plenty to offer. Bordeaux’s public gardens and interactive museums might be slightly more appealing to younger visitors, while Marseille’s beaches and boat tours provide plenty of fun for the whole family.

When considering how to get there and around, both cities have well-connected airports and robust public transportation systems. Marseille’s geography might make getting around a bit more challenging than in Bordeaux.

In terms of weather, your preference for a maritime or Mediterranean climate might influence your choice. Safety-wise, both cities are generally safe, with Bordeaux having a slightly lower crime rate.

Cost-wise, both cities cater to various budgets, with Bordeaux being slightly more expensive due to its renowned wine culture.

In conclusion, your choice between Bordeaux and Marseille would largely depend on your personal preferences. Whether it’s Bordeaux’s wine culture and elegant charm or Marseille’s coastal allure and historical richness, both cities promise an unforgettable French experience.