Marseille – a port city with a rich history of development

Marseille

Marseille is a major port city, the second most populous in France. It is located in the south of the country, on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Marseille is the capital of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region and is second only to Paris in size of 240.62 km². And the age of the settlement is respectable: it was founded over 25 centuries ago. The narrow streets, yachts in the old port, old forts, azure bays – such a proud Marseille appears before the guests.

The city is divided into 15 districts, which diverge in a spiral from the center – the old port. The main axis is the vast La Canebière Boulevard. But when it comes to the historic center, one must remember Le Pannier. This is an area just north of the “heart” of the city, where the history of Marseille began. This is where the permanent Greek settlement of Massalia appeared.

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Marseille’s prosperity.

The history of this corner of France began about 600 years BC. It is believed that the land was given to the Greek Protis and his beloved as a wedding gift. According to another version, the place was graced by colonists from Phokea, now the town of Phoca in Turkey. They named the settlement Massalia. A strong alliance with the Romans gave protection to the area for a long time.

Thanks to the Greek traders, life boiled up here, and by the 15th century the town had become a famous industrial center. Marseille united with Provence and joined the French kingdom. The local residents enthusiastically reacted to the revolution – it is not by chance that the famous “Marseillaise” became the anthem of the country. Since the 19th century, the maritime trade, which has always been the basis of the city’s well-being and prosperity, flourished.

Museum treasures

The history of Marseille can be explored through the local museums. There are many of them, more only in the capital. The most curious and the only one in the world is the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations. The collection of exhibits tells about the history of the Mediterranean, the different stages of development and its inhabitants. Other museums – of Mediterranean archeology, urban history and the region – will be a “living textbook”.

There are also highly specialized exhibitions. Boreli Museum, for example, is dedicated to three areas: fashion, contemporary art and faience. No less breathtaking is the Museum of Roman Docks, which is located on the site of the former pier for ships. The Grobe-Labadier Museum is a fully preserved 19th century house. Inside is the furnishings of bygone times. Its most valuable part is a collection of antique instruments.

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Another local feature is the museum-parks. Borely and Lonshan are the most famous. These are complexes where you can spend the whole day. Such an unusual park can be reached by metro – get off at the station Cinq Avenues Longchamp. The visitor first enters the green area of the complex. On the territory of the classic French park is located Observatory, fountains and a sculptural composition, a triumphal arch, colonnades. Then the palace, built in honor of the opening of the canal, opens to the public view. Today it houses the museums – Fine Arts and Natural History.

Borely is in no way inferior to Lonshan. This park appeared in the eighteenth century, and the hand of its creator, architect Embry, is still felt today. Borely consists of several zones: French, Japanese, Mediterranean and English gardens. The park is open daily, from 6 am to 9 pm. Admission is free.

Marseille Old Port Marseille Old Port

Exploring the city

The main attractions of Marseille can be divided into three areas: the Old City, the Archipelago of Friulles and the Castle of If, and the National Park of Calanques. As “helpers” it is worth to take a free map of the city, which is issued to travelers in the national tourist center on the street La Canebier. Here one learns about activities, buys a general streetcar pass and arranges for a guide.

The old port is the main magnet for tourists. The central street Le Canabiere leads to it. Wide embankment, moored yachts, the music of street singers – all this disposes to an unhurried stroll. Surrounded by rolling hills and old neighborhoods. On the north side of the harbor you can take a seat in one of the cafes.

And don’t miss the fish market. The seafood on offer here ranges from lobsters to ruffs. After getting to know the seafood, you can go for a boat ride. Tickets are sold at the ticket offices, located in the central part of the old harbor.

The most famous sea route is to the famous Chateau d’If. It was described by Alexandre Dumas in his novel “The Count of Monte Cristo”. The castle is situated on a small island. It was built in the XV century. It was supposed to be a defense against attacks from the sea. Instead the castle became a gloomy prison. Every day it is open to the public from 9:30 to 18:00. Admission is about 5 euros.

The pride of the Old Port – the cathedral of Notre Dame de la Garde. This is the highest point of the city and the best viewing platform. In the summer, there are guided tours that last 1.5 hours. For an additional fee you can climb to the roof of the basilica to admire the surrounding area. The cathedral is considered a calling card of Marseille. Locals call the basilica La Bonne Mère – “The Good Mother”, considering her the protector of the city.

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The Old Port of Marseille also houses the City Hall, which was created in the Baroque style. Pink stone, carvings and ornaments, decorated columns – the old building was built in the 17th century and still looks attractive. The town hall has a curious peculiarity – there is no communication between the floors. The entrance to the second floor goes through the neighboring building, across the bridge.

Another attraction of the area is the Faro Palace. The building was built by order of Napoleon III. Unlike other buildings of that time, the palace was built of brick. Today it houses the city services.

The “crescent” of Marseille

Tired of walking you can relax on one of the city’s beaches. The coast of Marseille on the map resembles a crescent. It holds equipped beaches, bays and charming grottoes. The coastal area is dotted with calanques – rocky coves. Bathing season begins in late May and lasts until September.

In summer, the passage of cars to small bays is prohibited. And it’s not just a convention – there is a strict monitoring. But access is open to shuttle buses. You can also go on your own, along the way admiring the scenic views.

In the vicinity of Marseille there are both landscaped and wild beaches. On equipped beaches there are showers, changing rooms, playgrounds and medical centers. On some beaches in the summer, a sports area opens where competitions are held. Near some areas there are landscaped gardens with walking paths.

The most famous are the beaches near the Prado Seaside Park. The green area covers 40 hectares and stretches for 2 km along the coast. There are tracks for skateboarding, opportunities for surfing and windsurfing, play area. The Prado beaches are divided into three parts, each with a separate lifeguard station and station. They are Borély, l’Huveaune, Prado Sud et Nord. The beaches are artificially created from the finest pebbles. There are many hotels and apartments nearby.

There are no waves here – the beaches are fenced off from the raging open sea with breakwaters. The depth increases gradually, so it is worth coming here with small children. At a special stand you can see the temperature of the water and air – it is measured twice a day. Be guided by the flags – they show whether it is allowed to swim or not.

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Another famous beach is Plage des Catalans. It is small and sandy, but located in the center of the city – the southern part of the coast. Here you can relax on a sun lounger or book spa treatments. De Catalan is the place of beach volleyball club, where international competitions are held during the summer. It is similar to Prophète, which is also famous for its white sand.

On the north coast is the municipal beach of Corbière. It’s said to offer some of the most scenic views. Right in the rock is made of stone stairs, which you can descend into the bay. There are cafes and bars for guests of the beach, equipped with playgrounds for sports.

A natural masterpiece: the calanques

The calanques, rocky coves, are considered a wonder of Marseille. This area so amazed people that a National Park was created. Turquoise sea, wild beaches, narrow coves, mountains and gorges – the views of the surrounding area are picturesque. Calanques occupies the coast from Marseille to the neighboring town of Cassis.

The park is divided into three sections: the “simple” calanques are in the southwestern part, the “rocky” in the southeastern part and the “touristy” in the west of Cassis. Large bays are up to 20 km long and 4 km wide. The largest is Calanque de Sormiou (Calanque de Sormiou).

The best period to visit the park is from March to May, because the heat during this time is not too debilitating. Buses go to Calanque de Sormiou from Castellane Square. Passengers are dropped off at the stop a few kilometers from the natural masterpiece. To help tourists conveniently paved roads – the routes are marked. A separate trail leads to each group of calanques.

You can also see the pride of Marseille from the sightseeing boat. Water transport departs daily from the Old Port. For three hours tour participants explore the rocky coves. But tourists are not disembarked from the ships. If the itinerary includes swimming, then in the open sea.

Picturesque islands

Another natural treasure of the town is considered the archipelago Friul. These are four islands that are located in the Gulf of Marseille, 3 km from the coast. Boats go to them every day. The road from the Old Port takes only 20 minutes.

The islands fascinate with their pristine nature: rocks, sandy streams, the play of light and water, wide beaches. The Friuli Islands are home to rare plant species. The archipelago is also home to various birds, including the Caspian Gull. The largest islands of the archipelago are Ratonne (in the north) and Pomegu (in the south). Part of the natural complex is considered and If, where there is a castle of the same name. The smallest island – Tibulen.

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There is a harbor between Ratonne and Pomegu (on the headland). This is where the harbor is located, as well as the mooring of ships and residential buildings. The settlement is tiny – about a hundred people. The territory of the islands is considered protected. Having succumbed to the charm of rocky bays, the archipelago Friul decided to include in the National Park Kalanok.

There is a landscaped beach on the island of Ratonne. Entrance to it is free. A road leads from the harbor to the coast, on which the tourist train runs. Any other transport on the territory is prohibited. Not even bicycles can be used. But you can stroll along the winding paths. The length of one island is about 2.5 km. Taking into account the winding turns and obstacles, the walk one way takes an hour.

Markets of the city

It is hard to imagine Marseille without fairs and markets, they reflect the flavor of a Mediterranean port town. Shopping can be combined with a walk through the historic part of town. The fish market has been buzzing in the Old Port since early morning, with vendors praising their catch. Here you should buy seafood, which are sold at crazy prices in restaurants. The market is open from 7 a.m. to noon.

There is also a bustling life at Capucins. This is a food market where you can buy fresh vegetables, fruits, cheeses and meat. But it’s also a lively market up on the Place du Cours Julien. There are two markets – a flower market and a textile market. Or maybe you want to hunt for vintage pieces with a fascinating history? Then Les Puces de Marseille flea market awaits you.

“Hunting for souvenirs

You can bring ceramic crickets as a souvenir of Marseille – they are considered a symbol of the city. Another popular souvenir is products made from the violets that grow in the surrounding area. These include perfumes, fragrant sachets and candied petals. Add to these purchases and Provencal herbs.

French town is famous for the art of soapmaking. This art has been gaining popularity since the 13th century. Local craftsmen create soap from olive oil. Authentic product is not sold everywhere and is distinguished by the inscription “savon de Marseille”. If you want to take home a delicacy, buy Navette de Marseille, boat-shaped biscuits with orange filling.

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Provençal cuisine

Local food is part of the atmosphere of Marseille. In the restaurants located in the Old Port area, guests are sure to be offered to taste the signature dish, bouillabaisse. This is the name of the soup made from different types of fish. Local cuisine includes mussels in onion broth with aromatic spices, navettes, bread and tomatoes in Provençal style.

No problem finding a cafe or restaurant – there are plenty of them, especially in the center of town. But lunch and dinner hours are limited. You can get a good meal from 12 to 14 and then after 18:00. And the rest of the time they offer sandwiches, baguettes and pastries.

Transportation

You can get around the city by subway, bus or streetcar. Tourists usually buy a single ticket for 1.5 euros. It is valid for one hour, giving the opportunity to transfer to different types of transport. To activate the ticket, a contactless punch is used.

The hours of Marseille transport are limited: streetcars and subways from 5:00 to 00:30, buses until 21:00. Late night walkers can take the evening buses, which run at 45-minute intervals until half past midnight.

Some visitors to Marseille prefer to rent a car. This can be done at Marseille Airport, where European rental offices are concentrated. But at night they are closed. Travelers can also use the tourist pass – City Pass. It is valid not only for transportation, but also allows you to see the sights.

Accommodation

Another important task is to find a good hotel. Marseille is considered one of the most inexpensive places to stay on the Cote d’Azur. Rooms in hotels by the sea are slightly more expensive, but in the city you can find inexpensive options. Most hotels are located between the Old Port and the railway station.

With nutrition the question is solved simply. Some tourists shop in supermarkets, while others prefer fast food. There are many restaurants around the Old Port, but most are geared for tourists. There are inexpensive establishments in less popular areas, such as Notre-Dame-du-Mont. Not far from the sea there are restaurants, which many take for diners. Visitors here choose seafood from which the chefs prepare meals.

How to get there

Marseille is well located, so you can get to the city in several ways: by plane, by ship, by train. The distance from Paris is 830 km. If you travel by train from the capital it will take you 4-5 hours. High-speed will drive faster – 3 hours.

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