France’s second-largest city, Marseille’s was named a European Capital of Culture in 2013, and has since undergone much development and rejuvenation. It is a fantastic city to explore.
The old port of Marseille has a history which spans back many decades. It was first settled in 600 BC by Greeks landing in an empty Mediterranean cove – now the old port of Marseille. What is now St. Victor’s Abbey was built between the third and ninth centuries to the south of the Old Port.
Until the 19th century, the Old Port remained the epicenter of all maritime activity in Marseille, but was left in crumbling ruins after WWII. The Nazis also destroyed the aerial ferry, or “transbordeur,” a feat of engineering which had become the iconic landmark representing Marseille. Work began on revitalizing the Old Port in 1948 and many additions and new features were added to it over the years. Today, the Old Port is used as a marina and center of activity for visitors. Local boat trips leave from here, and there is also an authentic fish market.
Whether you are a culture vulture, shopaholic or thrill-seeker, the city of Marseille has something with you in mind.
A visit to the Vieux Port – or Old Port – is a great start to any visit. It has been in use since 600 BC, and signs of Marseille’s rich maritime history are everywhere here, from the Phare de Sainte Marie lighthouse to St. Victor’s Abbey, one of the oldest Christian worship sites in France.
Next, head over to the neighborhood of Le Panier. It is an Old Quarter laced with military history. Rebuilt after the Second World War, today it is a spectacular mishmash of streets with hidden artisan shops and huddled houses. It is the perfect place to pick up a souvenir for loved ones back home.
There are also a number of important religious sites in Marseille, such as the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde – a beautiful, 19th century basilica and a fantastic example of Romano-Byzantine architecture. It also occupies Marseille’s highest point, La Garde, standing at 530 feet. If that is not enough history for you, head along to the Cathedrale de Marseille Notre Dame de Major, standing between the new and old ports.
On your Marseille cruise, there are also a number of museums to keep you entertained. The Museé des Beaux Arts is Marseille’s oldest museum and is brimming full of paintings and sculptures from the 17th century right up to the present day. When you have had a look around the museum, relax in the shaded gardens outside and enjoy watching the world go by in this fast-moving and dynamic city.
In Marseille, there are plenty of places to stop and enjoy the French lifestyle – ideally with a glass of red wine and mid-afternoon snack of bread, cheese and meats. You will also find some fantastic seafood in the area and many dishes are influenced by Spain, Italy and North Africa as well as traditional French cuisine.