Marseille is a bustling port city located on the Mediterranean coast in southeastern France. The city boasts a rich cultural heritage, with stunning architecture, a vibrant arts scene, and delicious local cuisine. It is also known for its beautiful beaches, picturesque harbor, and panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea. Today, Marseille is a dynamic and multicultural city that offers visitors a unique blend of ancient history and modern culture. So let’s discover now together the best of Marseille!
History of Marseille
Marseille is on the Mediterranean coast in southeastern France. It is one of the oldest cities in Europe, with a history dating back over 2,600 years. The city was founded in 600 BC by Greek sailors from Phocaea, who named it Massalia. For centuries, it was a thriving port and center of trade, attracting merchants and traders from all over the Mediterranean. In the 3rd century BC, it became an ally of Rome and played an important role in the Roman Empire. Serving as a major commercial and military port.
During the Middle Ages, Marseille was ruled by various powers, including the Visigoths, the Franks, and the Moors. In the 13th century, it became an independent republic and enjoyed a period of economic prosperity. In the 16th century, Marseille became a center of the French Renaissance. With the construction of grand public buildings, churches, and private mansions. The city also played a key role in the development of the French navy. With King Francis I establishing a naval arsenal in Marseille.
In the 18th century, Marseille became a major hub for trade with the French colonies in Africa and the Caribbean. Which led to the city’s rapid expansion and the construction of grand boulevards, public squares, and public parks. In the 20th century, Marseille underwent significant urbanization and industrialization. With the development of new neighborhoods and the expansion of the port.
Things to do in Marseille
Explore the Old Port – “Vieux-Port”
The Old Port of Marseille, or “Vieux-Port” in French, is the historic harbor of the city. It has been a trading center since ancient times and is now a popular tourist destination. It has been the heart of Marseille for over 2,600 years. And it was once a major port for the Roman Empire. Today, it is home to many boats and yachts and is a popular place for visitors to stroll around.
The port is surrounded by historic buildings, including the City Hall, the Marseille Opera House, and the Fort Saint-Nicolas. The area also features several markets and shops selling local goods. Such as fresh fish, herbs, spices, and traditional soap made from olive oil. The Old Port of Marseille is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting. It offers a glimpse into the city’s rich history and vibrant culture.
Visit Notre-Dame de la Garde
Notre-Dame de la Garde is a Catholic basilica located on a hill in Marseille, France. It is one of the most famous landmarks in the city. And it is famous for its stunning architecture and panoramic views of Marseille and the Mediterranean Sea.
This basilica was built in the mid-19th century and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, who is believed to have saved the city from a cholera epidemic in 1832. It is also known locally as “La Bonne Mère” (The Good Mother) and is a symbol of Marseille’s maritime history and its devotion to the Virgin Mary.
The basilica features a stunning Neo-Byzantine style architecture with colorful mosaics and intricate sculptures. The interior is also adorned with rich marble and gold accents, creating a truly awe-inspiring atmosphere. Visitors to Notre-Dame de la Garde can climb to the top of the hill to see the basilica up close and enjoy the panoramic views of Marseille and the sea from the terrace. The basilica is also a popular spot for pilgrimage and offers a peaceful and spiritual experience for visitors.
Walk through the historic district of Le Panier
The historic district of Le Panier is located in the heart of Marseille, France, and is known for its charming narrow streets, colorful buildings, and lively atmosphere. It is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Marseille and has a rich history dating back to the Greek and Roman eras. Le Panier was once a working-class neighborhood with a reputation for being rough and rowdy. However, in recent years, it has undergone a significant transformation and is now a vibrant and trendy area, filled with art galleries, boutiques, cafes, and restaurants.
Visitors to Le Panier can explore its winding streets and alleys and admire its colorful buildings, many of which have been restored to their original 18th-century architecture. The district is also home to several landmarks, including the Vieille Charité, a former almshouse turned museum, and the Cathédrale de la Major, a stunning 19th-century cathedral.
Tour the Marseille Cathedral
The Marseille Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of Saint Mary Major, is a Roman Catholic cathedral located in the heart of Marseille, France. It is the largest cathedral in Marseille and is a stunning example of 19th-century Neo-Gothic architecture.
Construction of the cathedral began in the mid-19th century and was completed in 1896. It was built on the site of a former 12th-century cathedral and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The cathedral’s most notable features include its towering twin bell towers, its ornate stained glass windows, and its intricate carvings and sculptures.
The interior of the cathedral is equally impressive, with high vaulted ceilings and richly decorated altars and chapels. The cathedral also features a large organ, which is considered one of the best in France. The Marseille Cathedral is a popular attraction for visitors to Marseille and is known for its serene and peaceful atmosphere. It is a place of worship and also serves as an important cultural landmark for the city. Visitors are welcome to attend Mass and admire the cathedral’s stunning architecture and artwork.
Visit the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MUCEM)
The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MUCEM) is a national museum located in Marseille, France. It is dedicated to the art, history, and culture of Europe and the Mediterranean region. The museum was established in 2013 and is housed in a modern building designed by the French architect Rudy Ricciotti. The building is located on the waterfront and is connected to Fort Saint-Jean, a historic military fort that has been converted into a cultural center.
The MUCEM features a collection of over 1.6 million objects, including art, artifacts, and documents that showcase the rich history and diverse cultural heritage of the Mediterranean region. The collection includes objects from ancient times to the present day, with a particular focus on the cultural exchange and influence between Europe and the Mediterranean. In addition to its permanent collection, the MUCEM also hosts temporary exhibitions, film screenings, concerts, and other cultural events throughout the year.
Don’t miss the Longchamp Palace
The Palais Longchamp is a historic monument located in Marseille, France. It was built in the 19th century to commemorate the construction of the Canal de Marseille, which brought water from the Durance River to Marseille. The palace was designed by the architect Henry Espérandieu and features a grand staircase, ornate fountains, and a large park. The central fountain is particularly impressive, with cascading waterfalls and sculptures representing the Durance and Rhône rivers.
Today, the Palais Longchamp houses two museums: the Museum of Fine Arts and the Natural History Museum. The Museum of Fine Arts features an impressive collection of European art from the 16th to the 19th century, including works by Rubens, Delacroix, and Van Gogh. The Natural History Museum features exhibits on the flora and fauna of the Mediterranean region, as well as geology and mineralogy collections. Visitors can explore the palace and its grounds, take a guided tour of the museums, and enjoy the beautiful views of Marseille from the park. The Palais Longchamp is an important cultural landmark in Marseille and is a must-visit attraction for anyone interested in art, history, or architecture.
Enjoy the beaches
Marseille has several beaches to choose from, including the popular Plage des Catalans and the secluded Calanque de Sugiton. Spend a day lounging on the sand, swimming in the Mediterranean, and soaking up the sun.
Marseille has several beaches that are popular with locals and visitors alike. Here are some of the best beaches to visit in Marseille:
- Plage du Prado: This is the largest and most popular beach in Marseille. It stretches for several kilometers along the city’s southern coast and is full of restaurants, cafes, and bars.
- Plage des Catalans: This is a smaller, more secluded beach located in the heart of Marseille. It has a diving platform, making it a popular spot for swimming and sunbathing.
- Plages du Roucas Blanc: These two small coves are located on the western edge of Marseille and are popular with locals. They offer calm waters and stunning views of the city’s coastline.
- Plage de la Pointe Rouge: This is a long, sandy beach located on Marseille’s southeastern coast. It is popular for water sports, such as windsurfing and kayaking, and has several beach clubs and restaurants.
Try the local cuisine
Marseille is famous for its delicious seafood, bouillabaisse (a traditional fish soup), and pastis (an anise-flavored aperitif). Head to one of the many restaurants or food markets to sample the local fare.
The cuisine of Marseille is a unique blend of French and Mediterranean flavors, reflecting the city’s rich history and diverse cultural influences. Here are some of the local dishes and specialties you can try in Marseille:
- Bouillabaisse: This fish stew is perhaps the most famous dish from Marseille. It is out of a variety of fish, shellfish, and vegetables, and seasoned with garlic, saffron, and other herbs and spices.
- Aioli: This traditional Provencal sauce is out of garlic, olive oil, and egg yolks.
- Panisse: These savory chickpea fries are a popular snack in Marseille. They are with chickpea flour and are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
- Pieds et paquets: This dish of lamb feet and tripe is a specialty of Marseille.
- Navettes: These small, boat-shaped cookies with orange blossom water are a traditional Marseille specialty.
Take a boat tour to Chateau d’If
See Marseille from a different perspective by taking a boat tour of the harbor and coastline. You’ll get to see some of the city’s most iconic landmarks from the water, including the Château d’If (featured in the novel “The Count of Monte Cristo”). The Chateau d’If is a fortress located on a small island in the Bay of Marseille, about 3.5 kilometers from the Vieux Port (Old Port). It dates back to the 16th century as a defensive structure to protect Marseille from naval attacks.
The Chateau d’If is famous as the setting for Alexandre Dumas’ novel “The Count of Monte Cristo.” The novel tells the story of a young man, Edmond Dantès who is imprisoned in the Chateau d’If for 14 years before escaping and seeking revenge on those who wronged him.
Today, the Chateau d’If is a popular tourist attraction and is open to visitors year-round. Visitors can take a ferry from the Vieux Port to the island and explore the fortress, which includes a museum, a chapel, and the cells olf old prisoners.
Marseille has a variety of shopping options, from high-end boutiques to local markets. Check out the trendy Cours Julien neighborhood for unique shops and street art, or head to the colorful Noailles Market for fresh produce, spices, and more.
Marseille is a vibrant city with a variety of shopping options, from local markets to high-end boutiques. Here are some of the best places to shop in the city:
- Les Terrasses du Port: This modern shopping center is located on the waterfront and features more than 190 stores, including fashion, home decor, and beauty brands. It also has several restaurants and cafes with stunning views of the sea.
- Rue Saint-Ferréol: This pedestrian street in the heart of the city is full of shops, department stores, and luxury brands. It’s a great place to find high-end fashion, accessories, and beauty products.
- La Canebière: This historic street has many shops, cafes, and restaurants. It’s a great place to find local souvenirs, such as Provencal fabrics, soaps, and olive oil.
Attend a cultural event
Marseille has a rich cultural scene, with festivals, concerts, and exhibitions happening throughout the year. Check out the Jazz Festival, the Festival of Mediterranean Cinema, or the Marseille International Fair for a taste of the city’s vibrant cultural offerings.
Cheer for Olympique de Marseille
Besides that Marseille has a well-known football team called Olympique de Marseille (OM). The team dates back to 1899 and is one of the oldest and most successful football clubs in France. Olympique de Marseille has won 9 French Ligue 1 titles, 10 Coupe de France trophies, and 3 League Cup titles. The team plays its home games at the Stade Vélodrome, a 67,000-seat stadium located in the southern suburbs of the city. The team has a large and passionate fan base, and attending an OM match can be a memorable experience for football fans visiting Marseille.
How to get to Marseille
Marseille is located on the Mediterranean coast in southeastern France. It is the second-largest city in France after Paris and is the capital of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. The city is approximately 775 kilometers (480 miles) south of Paris and 330 kilometers (205 miles) southeast of Lyon. It is easily accessible by plane, train, and car, with the Provence Airport located about 25 kilometers (15 miles) northwest of the city center and the Saint-Charles train station located in the heart of the city.
Marseille is easily accessible by car, with several major highways connecting the city to other parts of France and Europe. If you are coming from the north of France, take the A7 highway (also known as the “Autoroute du Soleil“) towards Marseille. Shall you are coming from the west, take the A55 or A50 highways. If you are coming from the east, take the A50 highway.
It’s important to note that Marseille is a large city with a busy and sometimes congested road network, especially during peak traffic hours. It’s also important to be aware of Marseille’s low-emission zone, which restricts access to certain vehicles in the city center. If you plan to drive in Marseille, it’s a good idea to research the city’s traffic regulations and parking options ahead of time.
The Marseille Saint-Charles train station is in the city center and it has several high-speed train lines, including the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse), which connects Marseille to Paris in just over three hours.
If you are traveling from within France, you can book your train tickets directly on the SNCF (French National Railways) website or at any SNCF train station. If you are traveling from outside France, you can book your train tickets on the website of the national railway company of your country or through a travel agency.
It’s important to note that Marseille Saint-Charles is a busy train station, especially during peak travel times. It’s a good idea to book your tickets in advance to secure a seat and to arrive at the station with plenty of time before your train’s departure.
Enjoy our discounts in Marseille
Useful information about Marseille
Where to find Marseille?
Marseille is located on the Mediterranean coast in southeastern France. It is the second-largest city in France after Paris and is the capital of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.
Is Marseille safe?
Like any large city, Marseille has some areas that can be less safe than others. However, overall, Marseille is generally a safe city to visit. As with any travel destination, it’s important to take certain precautions to ensure your safety while in Marseille. Be aware of your surroundings and avoid walking alone in deserted or poorly lit areas, especially at night. And always keep an eye on your personal belongings.
When is the best time to visit Marseille?
The best time to visit Marseille is from May to September when the weather is warm and sunny, and the city comes alive with festivals and outdoor events. During this time, temperatures average around 25°C, and the city’s beaches and outdoor attractions are in full swing.
Does Marseille have a football team?
Yes, Marseille has a well-known football team called Olympique de Marseille (OM). The team was founded in 1899 and is one of the oldest and most successful football clubs in France. Olympique de Marseille has won 9 French Ligue 1 titles, 10 Coupe de France trophies, and 3 League Cup titles. The team plays its home games at the Stade Vélodrome, a 67,000-seat stadium located in the southern suburbs of Marseille. The team has a large and passionate fan base, and attending an OM match can be a memorable experience for football fans visiting Marseille.
Best experiences in Marseille
Marseille has everything a visitor needs to have a great experience. Its natural beauty draws visitors from around the world- along with its numerous important sites and cultural heritage. As far as things to do in Marseille, there are plenty of activities available for visitors.
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