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One of Europe’s oldest cities and the second largest in France, Marseille is a popular seaside destination for students and expats seeking an affordable apartment in a Mediterranean climate with a beautiful landscape. Here, it is sunny for 300+ days of the year and warm enough to swim in the sea from April through October.
Apartments in Marseille, France are available for rent all year round and prices vary depending on budget and location. Students can find flatshares in Marseille for around 300-500 EUR a month. Those interested in a private living situation can rent furnished flats in Marseille for around 500-900 EUR a month. It is generally more expensive to live in the city centre by the seaside. Either way, from most neighborhoods, you can reach the beach by bus in just 15 minutes.
For students moving to Marseille who are interested in architecture and antiquity, there is plenty to discover. Named the European Capital of Culture in 2013, the city has a very old, rich cultural history. In recent years, the city has renovated and reconstructed many art galleries and world-famous museums. Being an international port city, Marseille is also quite a cultural melting pot. The ethnically diverse population creates a cosmopolitan feel for expats in Marseille and ensures for an excellent mix of international cuisines -- seafood, of course, being the most popular.
‘Le Quartier Panier’ is often referred to as the ‘Old Town’ or the ‘Old Panier’ of Marseille, as it is the oldest, most historic part of the city, settled by the Greeks in 600 BC. Le Panier was the site of the agora, or the marketplace of Greek antiquity, hence the name, which translates literally to ‘the basket’. Apartments in Panier, Marseille are some of the most popular. The neighborhood has recently been restored and is very residential; a lot of families live here, as evident by the laundry lines hanging from the pastel-colored, shuttered windows. It is thought to be a very quaint, charming sector of the city. Panier is also considered the restaurant district of Marseille. Some of the city’s most famous, high-end restaurants are located here.
The Panier district is also home to many museums and historical monuments. The centerpiece of the district is La Vieille Charité, a wonderful old monument built by the town in 1640 to provide residence for poor local inhabitants. Now, the building acts as a museum and hosts contemporary art exhibitions. Also, Cathédrale de Marseille Notre Dame de Major, a massive neo-Byzantine cathedral from the 1800s, sits atop a hill, at the highest point in the neighborhood, and provides fantastic panoramic views of the city.
Just a few minutes walk south of Panier, you’ll find the Vieux Port, or the ‘Old Harbour,’ a typically touristy area where you can check out the famous fish markets, eat a relaxing meal, or watch the sunset with a glass of pastis, a classic French apéritif.
Just west of Vieux Port is the district Noailles, an up-and-coming neighborhood which is widely considered to be the city’s multicultural center. Accessible via Marseille’s Noailles metro station (M2, T1), this area is known as the ‘hipster’ neighborhood and the epicenter of nightlife in the city. It’s also a very popular district for students and young people.
Here you will find tons of international speciality food shops -- Arabic, Indo-Chinese, Armenian, Spanish, Italian, and other Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines. This rich cultural diversity can sometimes make the neighborhood feel a bit like a North African bazaar! Every Wednesday morning there is the Marché des Capucins, Marseille’s famous market in Noailles along Cours Julien, a street that culminates in a square shaded with palm trees and surrounded by trendy bars and cafes. Various others markets are also held here, including flower markets, and one for stamps and antique books on Sundays.
Explore the graffiti-covered streets north of the square and discover a wealth of bookshops, galleries, and reasonably priced ethnic food restaurants -- there is no shortage of Italian pizzerias in Noailles, Marseille. If you’re searching for good Italian food in this district, visit La Cantinetta, a top-class trattoria with fresh pasta made in-house and ingredients sourced directly from Italy. You can eat outside in the garden on a warm summer night.
Flats in Belsunce are also popular, as the district is centrally located between Noailles and Panier and bordered on the south by Canebière, the city’s main drag. There are several Aix-Marseille Université college buildings in Belsunce, Marseille, making it a popular district for students. The Musée d’Histoire de Marseille is also in the neighborhood. This museum displays archaeological findings from the region and documents the history of the city through the 18th century. There are plenty of restaurants, markets, shops, and pharmacies in Belsunce, Marseille -- here you’ll find all the amenities you need.
A few other must-do things in Marseille: visit the Olympique de Marseille to see a soccer match (whether you like the sport or not, it’s a favorite pastime of many Marseille locals!); jog along the Corniche, the picturesque seaside roadway that flanks the Mediterranean coastline; take a day trip to the Calanques, a national park with coves that shelter some of the most spectacular beaches on the Mediterranean; and visit the MuCEM, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations.
Marseille is a popular destination for students who want to practice or learn French, as there are fewer English speaking natives and tourists here. Student apartments in Marseille, France are around 30% cheaper than in Paris and though it’s not as clean, the locals have a reputation for being relaxed and friendlier than the Parisians. There are over 70,000 students here and 10,000 of them are international. This is mostly due to the fact that the largest university in France is headquartered in Marseille, Aix-Marseille Université. The university has various campuses throughout the south of France, but three are located in Marseille. In addition, the city is home to a few other internationally recognized universities, including the Ecole Centrale de Marseille, the École pour l'informatique et les nouvelles technologies, and KEDGE Business School.
For those looking for student housing in Marseille, unfortunately, the French universities only accommodate around 13% of enrolled students. Most of these apartments are given to those with government scholarships. The KEDGE Business School also offers a housing facility specifically for exchange students called Alotra, but some have referred to it as “diverse, but dirty.” Because of this, many turn to the private sector to find student accommodation in Marseille. Housing is relatively easy to come by and flatshares can cost as little as 300 EUR a month.
The public transportation system is relatively affordable. A monthly pass costs about 45 EUR, a daily ticket, 5 EUR, and a one-way ride, 1.50 EUR, but the transportation network consists of only two subway lines, two trams, and a bus system. Every evening, service stops around 00:30 or earlier, (some services stop at 21:00). The city, strongly divided between the poorer northern districts and the wealthier, southern districts, can be crowded and difficult to travel through, especially on the roads during rush hour. If you are moving to Marseille, it’s recommended to find a place to live close to the university you will attend or the neighborhood you will work or spend time in.