BACKGROUND Chordoma and chondrosarcoma are locally invasive skull base tumors with similar clinical symptoms and anatomic imaging features as reported in the literature. PURPOSE To determine differentiation of chordoma and chondrosarcoma of the skull base with conventional magnetic resonance imaging (cMRI) and diffusion-weighted MR imaging (DWI) in comparison to histopathological diagnosis. MATERIAL AND METHODS This retrospective study comprised 96 (chordoma, n = 64; chondrosarcoma, n = 32) patients with skull base tumors referred to the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) for proton therapy. cMRI signal intensities of all tumors were investigated. In addition, median apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) values were measured in a subgroup of 19 patients (chordoma, n = 11; chondrosarcoma, n = 8). RESULTS The majority 81.2% (26/32) of chondrosarcomas displayed an off-midline growth pattern, 18.8% (6/32) showed clival invasion, 18.8% (6/32) were located more centrally. Only 4.7% (3/64) of chordomas revealed a lateral clival origin. Using cMRI no significant differences in MR signal intensities were observed in contrast to significantly different ADC values (subgroup of 19/96 patients examined by DWI), with the highest mean value of 2017.2 × 10(-6 )mm(2)/s (SD, 139.9( )mm(2)/s) for chondrosarcoma and significantly lower value of 1263.5 × 10(-6 )mm(2)/s (SD, 100.2 × 10(-6 )mm(2)/s) for chordoma (P = 0.001/median test). CONCLUSION An off-midline growth pattern can differentiate chondrosarcoma from chordoma on cMRI in a majority of patients. Additional DWI is a promising tool for the differentiation of these skull base tumors.