MARSEILLE CITY GUIDE
First founded by Greek settlers in 600 BC, the port of Marseille is France’s oldest city. Over a rich and eventful history, it’s grown into the country’s second largest after Paris too, and is today a glittering gem on the gold and blue Mediterranean coastline of the French Riviera. With Nice, Cannes and the billionaire's playground of Monaco all nearby, this sun-soaked city oozes style and sophistication from its brilliant beaches to its numerous museums and cafés.
Having been named the European Capital of Culture in 2013, Marseille boasts a fascinating blend of heritage sights, natural vistas and a vibrant nightlife scene. You'll taste freshly caught seafood in gourmet restaurants, see boats gently bobbing on the water in Vieux-Port and hear music flowing through the narrow streets during the famous Fête de la Musique.
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Inner City Marseille
Whether you want to relax by the sea or drink in some culture, there are plenty of things to do in Marseille to satisfy every taste.
Start your explorations with a visit to Vieux-Port, the bustling heart of the city by the seafront. Visit in the morning to see the fishermen bring in their haul to sell at the daily seafood market, walk along the rows upon rows of beautiful yachts or simply linger in a café and people watch to your heart's content.
The narrow streets of Le Panier make up one of the most lively and atmospheric areas of the city too, and claims to be the oldest urban quarter in France. Also known as the Old Town, you can find brilliant boutique shops, colourful street art and fantastic museums here, as well as Napoleon Bonaparte's old house on Rue de la Caisserie.
The area really comes to life during the unique two-day street party Fête du Panier in June, which sees locals sell food from their doorways as live music from the squares sweeps through the alleyways.
Top sights in Marseille
In recent years, modern structures have sprung up across the city, providing a wonderful contrast with the buildings centuries old at its core. Many of the newer constructions are focused around the remarkable striped Cathédrale de la Major, including the latticework shell of the Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Mediterranée (MuCEM). This absorbing museum charts the history of Mediterranean civilisations and also connects to the 17th century Fort Saint-Jean via a bridge walkway.
For one of the best views of the city, climb up to the Neo-Byzantine church Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde, a brilliant basilica located at the highest point in Marseille and long considered as the guardian of the city.
Further out of the city centre, the striking Palais de Longchamp is one of the city's most elegant landmarks. The monument celebrates the arrival of water from the Durance canal, and its various wings boast a world class observatory, an art gallery, a history museum and a lavish botanical garden.
For movie buffs, make sure to visit the island fortress of Château d'If which inspired the setting to Alexandre Dumas' novel The Count of Monte Cristo.
Scenic spots around Marseille
With an enviable location in the south of the country, Marseille is the ideal place to base yourself to explore the enchantments of the French Riviera.
South of the city is the Parc National des Calanques, a stunning natural landscape that ends at a high precipice overlooking the hidden coves and turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
For a unique day out, take one of the area's boat tours to discover the remote islands dotted around the scenic bay while breathing in the fresh sea air. A road trip adventurefrom Marseille makes for a great day out too, so head down the picturesque seaside road Corniche to be rewarded with the peaceful fishing village of Callelongue and the sandy Prado beach.
To wind down closer to the city, try the small beaches of Plage du Prophete and Plage des Catalans, both favourites with the locals as secluded spots to kick back and relax.
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