Marseille is the prefecture of the department of Bouches-du-Rhône and region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur in France. It is located on the Mediterranean coast near the mouth of the Rhône. Marseille is the second largest city in France, covering an area of 241 km2 (93 sq mi) and had a population of 870,018 in 2016.
Marseille has a complex history. It was founded by the Phoceans (from the Greek city of Phocea) in 600 B.C. and is one of the oldest cities in Europe. Marseille is the second largest city in France in terms of population. Its population is a real melting pot of different cultures.
From colourful markets (like Noailles market) that will make you feel like you are in Africa, to the Calanques (a natural area of big cliffs falling into the sea – Calanque means fjord), from the Panier area (the oldest place of the town to the Vieux-Port (old harbor) and the Corniche (a road along the sea) Marseille has a lot attractions.
Marseille is now France’s largest city on the Mediterranean coast and the largest port for commerce, freight and cruise ships. The city was European Capital of Culture in 2013 and European Capital of Sport in 2017; it hosted matches at the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2016. It is home to Aix-Marseille University.
Marseille is a city that has its own unique culture and is proud of its differences from the rest of France. Today it is a regional centre for culture and entertainment with an important opera house, historical and maritime museums, five art galleries and numerous cinemas, clubs, bars and restaurants.
Marseille has a large number of theatres, including La Criée, Le Gymnase and the Théâtre Toursky. There is also an extensive arts centre in La Friche, a former match factory behind the Saint-Charles station. The Alcazar, until the 1960s a well known music hall and variety theatre, has recently been completely remodelled behind its original façade and now houses the central municipal library. Other music venues in Marseille include Le Silo (also a theatre) and GRIM.
Marseille has also been important in the arts. It has been the birthplace and home of many French writers and poets, including Victor Gélu, Valère Bernard, Pierre Bertas, Edmond Rostand and André Roussin. The small port of l’Estaque on the far end of the Bay of Marseille became a favourite haunt for artists, including Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne (who frequently visited from his home in Aix), Georges Braque and Raoul Dufy.
Rich and poor neighborhoods exist side-by-side, Marseille has a larger degree of multicultural tolerance. Marseille served as the European Capital of Culture for 2013 along with Košice. It was chosen to give a ‘human face’ to the European Union to celebrate cultural diversity and to increase understanding between Europeans. One of the intentions of highlighting culture is to help reposition Marseille internationally, stimulate the economy, and help to build better interconnection between groups. Marseille-Provence 2013 (MP2013) featured more than 900 cultural events held throughout Marseille and the surrounding communities. These cultural events generated more than 11 million visits. The European Capital of Culture was also the occasion to unveil more than 600 million euros in new cultural infrastructure in Marseille and its environs, including the MuCEM designed by Rudy Ricciotti.
Early on, immigrants came to Marseille locally from the surrounding Provence region. By the 1890s immigrants came from other regions of France as well as Italy. Marseille became one of Europe’s busiest port by 1900. Marseille has served as a major port where immigrants from around the Mediterranean arrive. Marseille continued to be multicultural. Armenians from the Ottoman empire began arriving in 1913. In the 1930s, Italians settled in Marseille. After World War II, a wave of Jewish immigrants from North Africa arrived.
Multi-cultural Marseille can be observed by a visitor at the market at Noailles, also called Marché des Capucins, in old town near the Old Port. There, Lebanese bakeries, an African spice market, Chinese and Vietnamese groceries, fresh vegetables and fruit, shops selling couscous, shops selling Caribbean food are side by side with stalls selling shoes and clothing from around the Mediterranean. Nearby, people sell fresh fish and men from Tunisia drink tea.
Marseille is one of the cities in France where tourism and the programming of professional conferences have tended to increase sharply over the past ten years: around five million visitors went there in 2013, compared to 2.8 million in 1996. in particular thanks to the European Capital of Culture.
With its 26 centuries of existence, it combines tradition and modernity. The city is a real route that takes the visitor from its Greek and Roman origins to the great architectural achievements of the 21st century, passing through medieval religious foundations, 16th century fortifications, rich residences from the 17th and 18th centuries and the many prestigious buildings built in the 19th century.
The history of the city of Marseille is rich and its forts bear witness to it. True bastions intended to demonstrate the power of the order in place, the forts are today places steeped in history to the delight of tourists. These citadels, considered a heritage of the city, can be visited throughout the year and in a more unusual way during the heritage days. Find out more about these unique places in our article.
From the Old Port, the citadels stand guard over Marseille. On the left, Fort Saint-Nicolas stands out with its presence alongside the Palais du Pharo. Since 17 thcentury, its massive structure impresses. The upper part is called Fort Entrecasteaux and the lower part Fort Ganteaume. By visiting the upper building, you can enjoy the sublime view of the Old Port as well as the other major citadel of the city of Marseille, Fort Saint-Jean. Located on a limestone spur, Fort Saint-Jean enjoys a privileged position at the entrance to the port. Since antiquity, people have lived there but it was in the 13th century that this place became a real district, thanks to the presence of the hospitaliers of Saint-Jean. From this time on, constructions followed one another for several centuries until it became the building we know today… or almost. If your curiosity is insatiable, discover all the details of the Pharo garden.
Since 2013, Fort Saint-Jean has become a major place of culture in Marseille. Over the years, the various parts of the citadel have been rehabilitated over more than 45,000m2 to become a cultural place open to all. Restaurant, bar, panoramic terrace, promenade, exhibition venues, auditorium, bookstore, conservation and resource center, Mediterranean garden… This place brings together everyone’s interests. Allowing the meeting of culture and science, entertainment and sociology, all this around the plurality of civilizations. MuCEM is a reflection of our city of multiple influences. Throughout the year, the events follow one another.
The cathedrals of La Major
Along the quay of the port during your walk in Marseille, you will reach the Place de La Major. Although several buildings have emerged on this site since the 5th century, the first Cathedral of the Major has stood there for 800 years.
La Vieille Major
This place of worship was built in the standards of Romanesque art, with pink stones from the quarries of the Crown. It also has a bell tower which was added in the 14th century. The building will remain a cathedral until 1852, then will serve as a parish until 1950 before closing definitively. The construction of the new cathedral will deprive it of two spans, but will allow the renovation of its early Christian baptistery. La Vieille Major obtained the title of Historic Monuments in 1840.
The cathedrals of La Nouvelle Major
This cathedral is a gem of the city. Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte laid the foundation stone. Its construction dating from the 14th century was not without twists. Indeed, it took no less than 3 architects to complete the site. Léon Vaudoyer and Henry Espérandieu (known for having built Notre-Dame de la Garde) both died during the construction site while Henri Revoil completed the construction.
The New Major will be consecrated in 1896. With its Roman Byzantine style, it measures 146 meters long and 70 meters high. It was classified as Historical Monuments in 1906.
The cathedral now houses the remains of Monsignor de Mazenod, a saint canonized by John Paul II, his body resting in the chapel of the ambulatory.
At the end of the 70s, the commercial activities located in the vaults of the cathedral, ended. In 2014, the place was rehabilitated to give birth to the Voûtes de Marseille, an ideal place for a short stroll in Marseille.
The prefecture of Marseille, an emblematic place The prefecture of Marseille is an emblematic building. Also known as the Bouches du Rhône prefecture hotel, it is the prefect’s place of work and allows for routine administrative procedures. But if it is functional, it is nonetheless an essential building in the city as much for its architecture as for its history. Find out more with us.
The prefecture of Marseille, a meeting between art and architecture. It was in the 19th century that the construction of the Marseille prefecture was undertaken.. Ambitious, imposing, spacious, according to its sponsor Napoleon III, the building must be like a large city. With a length of 90 meters and a depth of 80 meters, the prefecture impresses with its dimensions. Even today, its presence in front of Place Felix Baret does not leave you indifferent. Each facade is an open-air museum. On the main facade, you will discover the works of Eugène-Louis Lequesne, who created the famous Virgin of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde. Connoisseurs of the city prefer the facade overlooking the garden. It is Pierre Travaux who was commissioned for the decoration of this one, he represented there characters who made the History of Marseille. If the exterior is a history novel, the interior is a must see for its murals and its courtyard.
Exceptional opening during the European Heritage Days of Marseille. During the heritage days in Marseille, the prefecture is revealed in a new light. The functional building becomes for two days a huge exhibition space. If you want to discover this history which has been written for more than 2 centuries, find out about the program for the 2018 edition. To make you want to, know that in 2017, the prefecture exceptionally opened its salons of honor at audience and brought in dancers in period costume.
The Pharo Palace
Located on a cove that gave it its name, the Pharo Palace is a witness to the eventful history of Marseille. In September 1852, Napoleon III decided, during his visit to Marseille, to build his imperial residence there. He then entrusted the architect Lefuel with the project. The land of the Pharo is offered by the city, in order to build the residence of the emperor. The palace is built according to the standards of Marseille architecture, surrounded by the Emile Duclaux garden with a total area of 5.7 hectares. Despite the outcome of the project, Napoleon will never stay there. When he died, his widow, Empress Eugenie, bequeathed him to the city.
Offered to the city, it became the Faculty of Medicine in 1890, then the Institute of Tropical Medicine of the Army Health Service. From 1954 until 2013, it housed the University of Aix-Marseille II.
Today it is the nerve center of business tourism in Marseille. Following numerous works, this former Napoleonic residence constitutes the largest convention center in the city. With its 7000 square meters of surface and its 12 meeting rooms with sea view, it can accommodate up to 2500 people.
The Stock Exchange Palace
The Marseille Chamber of Commerce, oldest of France, was created in 1599 with the designation of four deputies responsible for defending the interests of commerce, and therefore the port. It is installed on the ground floor of the Communal Palace and later in the Town Hall.
Becoming more and more powerful, the Chamber of Commerce decided at the beginning of the 19th century to have a building constructed worthy of the city’s commercial power.
The Palais de la Bourse, built by architect Pascal Coste, was inaugurated in 1860 when Napoleon III came to Marseille. The Chamber of Commerce wanted an imposing palace without disrupting the habits of the traders who conducted their business in the open air: Coste proposed a plan which made it possible to organize all the services around a large trading room while the offices of the brokers were located outside.
The Chamber of Commerce also houses the Musée de la Marine, which illustrates the history of commerce in Marseille from the beginning and presents temporary exhibitions as well as a library open to the public.
The Stock Exchange districts have undergone numerous town planning operations and in 1977 a shopping center was built. The discovery of the remains of the port and the ancient ramparts gave birth to a museum devoted to the history of the city: the Musée d’Histoire de Marseille.
The Belsunce Course
A stroll in Marseille on the Cours Belsunce, going up the Canebière from the Old Port, you will be caught up in the effervescence of the Belsunce and Saint-Louis courtyards. Let yourself go for a stroll, and do not forget to take a tour of the Alcazar library. Take your time because visiting Marseille does not happen overnight.
In the 17th century, Marseille decided to open its Cours which was the favorite walk of the Marseillais. The course was baptized Belsunce in memory of the Phocaean bishop who distinguished himself during the Great Plague of 1720. It leads to the north on the Porte d’Aix which was built from 1825 by the architect Michel-Robert Penchaud. To the south, the Cours Saint-Louis overlooks the rue de Rome at the end of which rises the obelisk of Place Castellane. From one end to the other, the Porte d’Aix-Castellane axis offers one of the longest perspectives in Europe. During your walk in Marseille on the Cours Saint-Louis, you will notice a copy of one of the 18 cast-iron pavilions of the former flower girls. From 1847 to 1968, passers-by and artists who performed at the Alcazar did not fail to buy a lucky rose.
The Palais Longchamp
To enrich your culture during your stay in Marseille, take the path to the 4th arrondissement which will lead you to the foot of the Palais Longchamp. This water tower also acts as a cultural building, has two museums and a garden. The place played a decisive role in the attribution of the title of European Capital of Culture, offered in Marseille in 2013.
In 1835, a cholera epidemic struck the city of Marseille because of the lack of water purification. It was after this tragedy that the engineer of the bridges and roads Franz Mayor de Montricher realized a project dating from the XVIth century. It involved digging an 85-kilometer canal, which would bring water from the Durance to Marseille. After 10 years of work, 18 aqueducts will emerge to transport drinking water. The architect Henry Espérandieu, known for having designed the Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde, will build the water tower.
After the building was inaugurated in 1869, several artists came together to decorate the Palais Longchamp with their works. At the entrance, you can admire the lions and tigers by animal sculptor Antoine Louis Bayre while in the center stands a superb monumental fountain created by Jules Cavelier. Take advantage of your stay in Marseille to stroll in the palace’s botanical garden or stroll through its museums.
In the left wing of the building you will find the Museum of Fine Arts, which to this day preserves paintings and drawings dating from the 16th to the 19th century. It is currently considered the oldest museum in Marseille, due to its opening in 1801.
In the right wing of the palace, the natural history museum has been installed there since 1869. It brings together several collections of curiosity cabinets dating from the 18th century, coming either from the city or the state. Its exhibitions earned it the title of first category museum in 1967, like 9 other major French museums.
Considered to be the oldest scientific establishment in Marseille, the observatory was installed on the Longchamp plateau in 1864. It was equipped with the largest telescope in the world (80cm in diameter) for a century. The site has served as a major research laboratory for over 140 years. The researchers have now left the site for the Technopôle de Château-Gombert.
The Street of the Republic
This rectilinear road was created in 1860 on the Parisian Haussmann model, it was once famous for its merchant activity which never stopped growing. It connects the historic district of the city to the new port of Joliette. It was in 1862 that the major road works began. In fact, no less than 1,000 houses will have been demolished and 16,000 people have been evicted. The cost of the real estate transaction amounted to more than 100 million francs. The street reflects an eclectic style recalling the charm of the Renaissance, and the rigor of neoclassical. Despite its provision of water and gas, the marketing of the street was a total failure. Guided tours are regularly organized, especially during heritage days, to help tourists understand and admire this little Marseille gem. This main artery of the city, connecting the southern districts to the northern districts, is at the heart of the Euroméditerranée project.
Saint-Cannat church: A touch of culture near a shopping street. It was built in 1558, then consecrated in 1619 under the name of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin. It was in the 18th century that the Gérard brothers built the large facade of the building “à la romaine”. The pediment was removed in 1921 for safety reasons. The church convent was destroyed on the occasion of the opening of rue Colbert. Since 1903, the church has been a parish under the name of Saint-Cannat, former bishop of Marseille.
In the heart of a historic district dating from the beginning of the 19th century, the Marseille docks are a magnificent example of modern renovation. Located opposite the Terrasses du Port shopping center and witnesses of a rich economic and industrial past, the former Joliette docks form a coherent whole with the Silo (former grain tank) recently transformed into a performance hall.
A gigantic set of austere facades built in the mid-19th century, the main building is inspired by Saint Katharine’s Docks in London. It is the witness of an era marked by strong economic growth. With the arrival of the steamers, the water level of the Old Port reaches saturation point. It was in 1853 that the work related to the project to extend the port to Joliette was completed with the founding of the Compagnie des Docks et Entrepôts. Imagined by Gustave Desplaces, the Marseille docks were built between 1858 and 1863. They extend over more than 365 meters in length and are organized around 4 atriums and on 7 levels. A magnificent administration hotel in Louis XIII style completes the architectural ensemble.
After a period of abandonment and under the leadership of architect Éric Castaldi, the docks were rehabilitated. Wooden footbridges over ponds, huge glass roofs, palm garden… do justice to the impressive and astonishing proportions of the building. A model of the site can be seen in atrium 10.3. The docks of Marseille today accommodate bars, restaurants, shops spread over a vast shopping arcade but also offices. In the center of the new Euroméditerranée business district, this real estate complex accommodates 220 companies: head offices, regional offices, local media, etc. which employ more than 3,500 people.
Euroméditerranée, which stretches from Mucem to Silo via the Joliette, is a huge economic revitalization project. Museums, shops and new urban spaces are trying to take over from declining maritime activity. In all, 3.5 billion of public and private investments stretching over 15 years and 2.7 km of seafront. The docks of Marseille as well as the Terraces of the port are the key points. With their shops, car parks, bars and restaurants, they attract more than 34,000 people per day.
The Marseille docks are located at the crossroads of 3 major Marseilles cultural facilities, each with its own unique character. Namely, the Théâtre de la Joliette, with a rather classic program, the Silo, for more contemporary shows and concerts and finally the Docks des Suds. In particular, the latter host La Fiesta des Suds every year in October. A world music festival that brings together nearly 50,000 people. Every week, the festivals, shows and concerts given in the Joliette district are an opportunity for the bars and restaurants of the docks to fill up with visitors.
Commercial and tourist areas
The Center Bourse, as well as the rue Saint-Ferréol, the rue de la République, the rue de Rome and the bottom of the rue Paradis constitute the commercial heart of Marseille with shops for clothing, shoes and fashion for the most part. Marseille has three major shopping centers at La Valentine, Grand Littoral, La Joliette; several others are under construction in La Capelette and the Prado for allowing the city to capture the consumer is done previously on the surrounding territories. Since 2012, downtown shops have been authorized to open on Sunday. This authorization did not result in systematic openings, the shops on rue Saint-Ferréol are closed on Sunday. The Old Port, the Cours Julien and the surroundings of the Prado beaches have many restaurants.
Marseille recently became one of the top ten cruise ports in the world, with 1.45 million cruise passengers welcomed in 2015, up 10.7%. The city has thus doubled its traffic in five years but still remains far from Barcelona (2.5 million passengers), Rome (2.27 million) and the ports of the Balearic Islands (1.99 million).
Marseille is a city full of art and culture and has many wonders to share with you. With its 26 centuries of history, it combines tradition and modernity. The city has a wealth of monuments, places of interest and museums to visit.
The city is deeply marked by its past and is constantly digging up the remains of all the cities that have been built on top of each other over the centuries. It takes the visitor on a journey that begins with its Greek and Roman origins and leads us past the medieval religious foundations, the 16th Century fortifications, the rich homes of the 17th and 18th Centuries and the many prestigious buildings erected in the 19th Century and right up to modern times and the great architectural achievements of the 21st Century.
Notre-Dame De La Garde
Marseille’s iconic figure, Notre-Dame de la Garde or “La Bonne Mère” watches over sailors, fishermen and the entire city. Visit Notre-Dame and enjoy the views from the top of the hill during your stay in Marseille. Garde Hill (154m) has always been an observation post. A ruling by Charles II d’Anjou listed Garde Hill as a post house in the 15th century. This surveillance system improved over the years and the hill retained this role until 1978. To protect Marseille from Charles V’s armies led by the Duke of Bourbon, King François I built a fort in 1524 which, alongside Château d’If, made up the naval defence which the city lacked. You can still see the fort acting as a foundation for the current basilica and the King’s emblem above the northern entrance: the Salamander.
There were several chapels here before it was built. Garde Hill thus has three roles: a surveillance post, a military structure and a cult and pilgrimage site. The sanctuary had become too small for the number of pilgrims visiting it by the mid-19th century so Monseigneur de Mazenod decided to build the great Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica. The first stone was laid on September 11th 1853, work was awarded to the architect Henry Espérandieu and it was consecrated on June 5th 1864. Its Roman-Byzantine style (domes, multi-coloured stones, gold, mosaic) perfectly matches the major building projects taken on in Marseille under Napoleon III. The building is in two parts; a vaulted low church with a crypt and a high church, the sanctuary devoted to the Virgin Mary (festival and pilgrimage on August 15th). The many votives displayed on the wall reflect the popular faith. There’s a large statue of the Virgin Mary on the bell tower. It was made by the sculptor Lequesne in bronze with gold leaf in the Christofle studios in Paris and put in place in September 1870.
La Canebière opened in 1666 following Louis XIV’s order to extend the city. Its name comes from the Provencal word “canebe”, or hemp, to keep the memory of the ropemakers based here until the Middle Ages alive. It wasn’t until the Grand Arsenal was removed at the end of the 18th century that La Canebière was extended up to the port and beautiful buildings were built here.
La Canebière’s moment of glory came under the Third Republic following intense intellectual and business activities in the cafés, major hotels and department stores.La Canebière earned an international reputation and soon became a symbol of Marseille and its port. It was only in 1928 that La Canebière officially covered the Old Port up to the Eglise des Réformés thus surrounding Rue Noailles and Allées de Meilhan.
One of the first major cafés on La Canebière, Café Turc became a must-visit for people travelling to the Middle East from 1850. In the middle of the main room there was a huge fountain topped by a clock which told the time in Turkey, China, Saudi Arabia and Europe. Café Turc disappeared after World War I.
The Beauvau street, opened in 1785 on the Arsenal des Galères’ land. It is one of the first streets in Marseille to have pavements. Hôtel Beauvau at number 4 lodged Lamartine in 1832 and George Sand and Frédéric Chopin in 1835.
The Opera House
The people of Marseille have always loved theatre and opera. Building work on the Grand Théâtre didn’t begin until the Arsenal des Galères’ land was sold in 1781. The entire area was then based around this vast plot whose streets were devoted to theatre and music (Corneille, Molière, Lully etc.) and the greatest representatives of Royalty in Provence. The neo-classical Grand Théâtre designed by architect Benard opened in 1787. A fire in 1919 destroyed the monument; the main walls, ionic column and main stone façade alone were saved. The architect Gaston Castel in association with Raymond Ebrard was commissioned to rebuild the opera in an Art Déco style.
On the upper cornice of the façade you can read: “L’Art reçoit la Beauté d’Aphrodite, le rythme d’Apollon, l’équilibre de Pallas, et doit à Dionysos le mouvement et la vie” (Art gathers the Beauty of Aphrodite, the rhythm of Apollo, the balance of Pallas and owes movement and life to Dionysus). What sets the building apart is the expert blend of 18th century neo-classicism and 20th century Art Déco.
One of the most impressive hotels is undoubtedly the former Hôtel du Louvre et de la Paix, 63 La Canebière, by the architect Pot. The vast entrance is framed by four caryatids depicting the four continents. The hotel was ranked as a first class establishment and had 250 rooms until 1941 when it was requisitioned and bought by the French Navy then occupied by the Kriegsmarine. The French Navy returned to the premises after the war and stayed until 1977. The interior had not changed since the Second Empire. The building was sold in 1980; the architects only retained the façades, staircase and two halls listed as Monuments Historiques. The C&A shop opened here in 1984. The Lumière brothers’ first film, “Entrée en gare de La Ciotat”, was screened at this hotel in Marseille in 1896.
L’hôtel de Noailles
62 La Canebière, was built by the architect Bérengier in 1865. The central protrusion of the building is topped by a sculpted triangular pediment. The façade features alternating triangular and curvilinear pediments. It was a highly luxurious hotel until 1979. It is now a police station.
Les allées de Meilhan
The 1666 expansion called for the creation of a public promenade beyond the ramparts. Work was only completed in 1775 thanks to the Intendant of Provence, Sénac de Meilhan. The streets were famous for their dance halls. The style of the buildings is very different to La Canebière and Rue Noailles and most of them date back to the end of the 18th century. The metal bandstand replaced the old wooden structure in 1911. A Wallace fountain, which you’ll find in Longchamp Park, was built here in the 1930s.
The monument aux Mobilisés
was built here in 1894 in memory of the Marseille soldiers who died during the 1870 war.
Saint Augustinian hermits moved to Eglise Saint-Ferréol les Augustins on the Old Port in the 14th century. The cult was reformed in the 16th century; Discalced Augustinians built another monastery beyond La Canebière. The monks fled during the Revolution. In 1803, a new parish was founded and the new Neo-Gothic church was built using the architect Reybaud’s plans. The church was consecrated in 1888.
The Old Port
Marseille’s history has been performed on the Old Port for 26 centuries. During Antiquity and the Middles Ages, the Greek (Massalia), Roman (Massilia) and Medieval (Masiho) city expanded on the northern bank and to the south in the 17th century. Entry to the port was henceforth guarded by two forts, Fort Saint-Nicolas and Fort Saint-Jean.
One of the iconic symbols of the Old Port was the transporter bridge, a metallic structure opened between both forts in 1905 which, unfortunately, was destroyed after the war. The Old Port was renovated in 2013 (easier access to the port, less traffic, the Ombrière created by Norman Foster). To this day, the Old Port is the beating heart of Marseille.
The Ferry Boat which was so dear to Marcel Pagnol sets off from the Town Hall several times a day across the Old Port. It launched in June 1880 and thus began the famous Mairie-Place aux Huiles journey. In 2010, a more eco-friendly Ferry Boat with an electric solar propeller took to the water. Now two ferry boats share the Old Port.
Saint- Ferréol les augustins
The Knights Templar commandery stood on the site of the church in the 12th century. After the suppression of the Order and the disappearance of its members, Augustinian monks bought the buildings in 1369. They began building the gothic church which was consecrated in 1542 but only completed in 1588. The Italian-style bell tower dates back to the 18th century. It was built as a parish in 1803 in the name of Saint Ferréol in memory of the collegiate of the same name which was destroyed in 1794 (where the administrative centre now stands). The building originally had 5 bays and 12 lateral chapels but urban planning destroyed two of the bays in 1804. After the opening of Rue Impériale (now Rue de la République), cement worker Désiré Michel created the new Neo-Baroque façade.
The Old Marseille
Behind the Town Hall lies the city’s old town, “Le Panier”. It is named after a hotel called “Le Logis du Panier” which was based here in the 17th century. The City of Marseille has been restoring the area to its former glory since 1983 with support from the European Commission.
The Maison Diamantée was built by wealthy Spanish and Italian commissioners then inhabited by Marseille’s wealthy families until it was divided up during the French Revolution. It is the perfect example of Mannerism in Provence with exceptional diamond embossing on its façade and an elaborate panelled staircase, unique in Marseille. It was listed as a Monument Historique in 1925, saved from destruction in 1943 and housed the Musée du Vieux Marseille from 1967 to 2009.
Marseille’s Palais de Justice (law courts) was built in the mid-18th century by Marseille architects, the Gérard brothers, on the foundations of a 16th century Maison de Justice. The building is made of pink stone from the Couronne quarries and has a relatively narrow yet appealing façade typical of Provencal houses of the period. The avant-corps is topped by an allegorical pediment whilst the piano nobile features a superb wrought iron balcony typical of 18th century Marseille craftsmanship. Revolutionary sentences were pronounced from this balcony and the guillotine stood on the square below. The Town Hall annex is currently housed in this building.
The Grand’Rue bears the outline of the first ancient road which is still visible in the Ancient Port and which you can follow up Place de Lenche, formerly Agora. The Greek road was 3 metres beneath the current road. It was already a busy road in 6BC as it was home to the main government buildings and hosted markets, business and trade.
The Hôtel de Cabre
This townhouse, one of the oldest in Marseille, was built in 1535 for trader and consul Louis Cabre with a unique blend of Gothic and Renaissance styles. It was saved for urban planning reasons when old districts were being destroyed in 1943. It was moved as a single unit on jacks and rotated 90° to align with contemporary streets. The façades were listed as Monuments Historiques in 1941.
The Hôtel Dieu
The 12th century Hôpital du Saint-Esprit expanded over the centuries and attached to the Hôpital Saint-Jacques de Galice in the 16th century. It became the Hôtel Dieu one century later. Its reconstruction was undertaken by a nephew of the famous architect Hardouin-Mansart but the major project was left incomplete and the Hôtel Dieu took on its current design under the Second Empire. As in all 18th century hospital buildings, the building was enclosed on 4 sides and divided into two main wings, one for women and one for men. The architect Blanchet decided to open the south hospital and completed the two wings with pavilions. The three floors were opened up by corridors which were also typical of hospital architecture. Joseph-Esprit Brun designed the staircases. It has been home to the 5* Intercontinental hotel since 2013.
The bronze bust is of Jacques Daviel who carried out the first crystalline cataract extraction at the Hôtel Dieu in 1745. He was then appointed King Louis XV’s eye doctor.
A little parish church was built here devoted to Notre-Dame des Accoules in the 6th century. The church was rebuilt in the 13th century as was the Tour Sauveterre bell tower which sounded the alarm and summoned the City Council. It was all partly demolished in 1794 and the church was rebuilt on the central foundations a little before the July Monarchy. There’s a stone golgotha on the site of the early church which reads “en expiation de tous les crimes commis pendant la Révolution” (in atonement for all the crimes committed during the Revolution). The spire was also reworked in the 19th century.
Le preau des accoules
At the beginning of the 17th century, the Jesuits founded the Eglise de Sainte-Croix and a large school where Marseille’s future business people were taught Oriental languages: the Collège des quatre langues. Following Louis XIV’s decision and in accordance with his goal to boost trade in Marseille, the school became the Observatoire Royal in 1701. The observatory had become too small and was moved to the Plateau de Longchamp in 1863. A school has since been established in the former observatory whilst the Académie des Belles Lettres, Sciences et Arts, designed by Joseph-Esprit Brun, now houses the Préau des Accoules a museum entirely devoted to children.
The Place de Lenche
Place de Lenche is on the ancient Greek agora from which locals could watch the port’s comings and goings. The square was originally closed on all four sides and in the 5th century Saint-Cassien founded a convent for Saint-Sauveur nuns on the south side opposite the Saint-Victor monastery on the other side of the port. Saint-Saveur cellars lie beneath the square. They were the Greek city’s cisterns from 3BC, listed as a Monument Historique in 1840 and now seen as an unreachable but intact ancient monument.The name Lenche comes from a Corsican family, Lincio, who made their mark on the square by founding a coral workshop, shops and building a fabulous mansion here in the 16th century.
The south side of the square was demolished in accordance with plans by the German authorities in the winter of 1943 and the buildings were rebuilt further down in the 50s.
Proculus, the Bishop of Marseille (380-430), welcomed Jean Cassien with open arms. Cassien was a hermit who introduced monastic life to Marseille. A cult was founded where the abbey now stands around a tomb which was worshipped and, legend has it, contained the relics of the 14th century Marseille martyr, Saint Victor. In reality, the crypts contain extremely valuable archaeological artefacts which point to the existence of a working quarry in the Greek period then a Hellenistic necropolis (2BC) which was used up until Christian times. There’s no mention of it between the 7th and 10th centuries. Like all Western Europe in the Dark Ages, Saint-Victor was subject to Viking and Saracen invasions. Isarn, a Catalan monk, began major building work in 1020 (construction of the first church with the current tower and main altar). From the end of the 12th to the 13th century, the abbey was entirely rebuilt in accordance with Roman construction. The monastery was then fortified and the whole became part of the port defence system.
From the 11th to 18th century, Saint-Victor had complete supremacy over all Christianity in the Mediterranean area. Monastic fervour died down and after the Revolution the church was used as a hay warehouse, prison and barracks which helped it avoid demolition; it was returned to the cult and restored in the 19th century. Pope Pius XI made the church a minor basilica in 1934. A major pilgrimage takes place every year at Candlemas. In the morning on February 2nd a procession sets off from the Old Port to Abbaye Saint-Victor along Rue Sainte. The black Virgin stored in the crypts is dressed in a green cloak and presented to the crowd; the archbishop blesses her, takes mass and then goes to the Four des Navettes where he blesses Marseille’s famous boat-shaped biscuits.
MUCEM and J4
The first national museum devoted to Mediterranean civilisations for the 21st century, MuCEM (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations) is a government project commissioned by the Ministry for Culture and Communication which opened in 2013. MuCEM is a destination for everyone where anthropology, history, archaeology, art history and modern art unite.
This waterside building is a real architectural feat whose spectacular cantilever structure grabs your attention. Villa Méditerranée was designed by Stefano Boeri and is devoted to the Mediterranean area’s different forms of expression.
Musée Regards de Provence
This new museum is in a former health centre built by Fernand Pouillon. It showcases collections of paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs from the 17th century to the present day in the Regards de Provence private collection.
The City Hall
The Town Hall’s current site was occupied by the Maison de Ville where traders and consuls gathered from the 13th century then the Palais Commual in the 15th century. The Town Hall was only built in the 17th century. It was the symbol of the city’s new political status commissioned by Louis XIV who awarded the city’s management to county magistrates and changed the port regime. This beautiful baroque building built by Mathieu Portal and Gaspard Puget owes much to Marseille architect Pierre Puget. What made it unique was separating the traders on the ground floor and the county magistrates on the first floor. The Pavillon Puget was listed as a Monument Historique in 1948 and now houses the Mayor and Deputy Mayor’s offices.
The underground layout of the neighbouring square by the architect Franck Hammoutène saw the foundation of the Espace Villeneuve-Bargemon, awarded the French Equerre d’Argent prize for architecture in 2006. The new site houses the Council, offices and a large museum space.
The Vieille Charité
In accordance with the royal policy of “the great confinement of the poor”, in 1640 the City Council decided to “confine Marseille’s native poor to a clean and specific place.” In 1670, a charity within the Magistrate Council commissioned Pierre Puget, the Marseille-born king’s architect, to build a General Hospital to accommodate beggars and the poor. The first stone was laid in 1671 of what would be one of Pierre Puget’s most beautiful architectural designs. The hospital was completed in 1749 with four wings of buildings enclosed on the outside and opened by a 3 floor corridor on an internal rectangular courtyard to access the vast communal work and residential spaces separating men and women. The chapel built in the centre of the courtyard between 1679 and 1707 is a stunning architectural piece with an ovoid dome, the epitome of Italian baroque. The current façade wasn’t built until 1863 and echoes the Charité’s mission.
After the Revolution, the Charité became a hospice for the elderly and children until the end of the 19th century. In 1905, the building was occupied by the army and was then used to shelter the most destitute. Abandoned after the Second World War and destined to be demolished, the architect Le Corbusier persevered until it was listed as a Monument Historique in 1951. The renovated Vieille Charité has been a science and culture centre since 1986. It houses the Musée d’Archéologie Méditerranéenne, the Musée des Arts Africains, Océaniens, Amérindiens (M.A.A.O.A), the Centre International de la Poésie de Marseille (C.I.P.M), Le Miroir cinema and temporary exhibition halls.
The Place des Moulins
The highest part of the city (42m) played a defensive role and there were cannons to combat attacks from land and sea. There were windmills on the square for a long time and there were fifteen of them in 1596. Only three windmills remained in the 19th century, the foundations of which we can still see today. The city demolished the existing buildings to create a square. Cisterns beneath the square were founded in 1851 to supply water to this part of the city.
Eglise Saint-Laurent is a modest-sized Roman Provencal-style building with three naves separated by square columns. A parish for fishermen and sea people, it is the only parish church from the Middle Ages to still stand in Marseille. When the Fort Saint-Jean was built in the 17th century, the church lost a bay and its eastern façade. The 14th century bell tower was modified in the 17th century. During the Revolution the church was plundered and very badly damaged but saved from demolition by being used as a warehouse until the Concordat. It was a hub for spirituality in Marseille until 1943, the year which saw the destruction of old districts. It has been listed as a Monument Historique since 1950. Sainte-Catherine Chapel is annexed to the church and built by the White Penitents at the start of the 17th century. Its late-Gothic vault adorned with liernes and tiercerons is unique in Marseille.
La Friche Belle De Mai
In the 19th century, the tobacco factory at la Belle de Mai was the HQ of one of the biggest manufacturers in France. In 1860, the factory was situated on rue Sainte, near the Old Port in the town centre and was the biggest employer in the city and the second largest tobacco manufacturer in France, just behind Paris. Every year, around 100 million cigars were produced by hand on the site. Due to the squalor of the premises, the tobacco factory left the south side of the Old Port in 1868 and moved next to the Saint Charles sugar refinery in la Belle de Mai.
The factory, which ran along the railway, would go through several changes, growing ever larger in line with the ever-increasing consumption of cigarettes and developments in production methods (the gradual modernisation and electrification of the manufacturing machinery). In the 1950s, after years producing cigars and rolling tobacco, the tobacco factory at la Belle de Mai, owned by the SEITA, specialised solely in the manufacture of Gauloises and Gitanes cigarette brands, following orders from Paris for a new industrial strategy that reflected new trends. In the early 60s, the factory was producing about a fifth of all Gauloises smoked in France. However, lighter tobacco came into fashion and the staff went from 1000 in 1960, to 250 in 1968. The factory was finally closed in 1970.
Stadium Orange Vélodrome
The Stade Vélodrome originally hosted other sporting events (Tour de France cyclist arrivals, track cycling world championships from where it gets its name, athletics and gymnastics competitions and boxing and rugby matches). In the lead-up to the 1984 UEFA Championship, the stadium underwent modifications; the velodrome track gradually disappeared and was later completely destroyed to make way for stands.
In July 1992, FIFA’s executive committee (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) awarded the 16th World Cup to France. As some of the matches were to be held in Marseille, the decision was made to expand the stadium. An architect contest launched in May 1994 which the architect Jean-Pierre Buffi won. On September 4th 1997, the Stade Vélodrome welcomed the “World of Football” with the final stage draw for the World Cup. The stadium was completed on February 25th 1998 with the opening of the Northern stand (Allées Ray Grassi).
In preparation for Euro 2016, the stadium grew from 60,000 seats to 67,000 covered seats protected from the wind in 2014. The Stade Vélodrome is the second largest stadium in France after the Stade de France.
Architecture and monuments
Prehistory and Antiquity
Located to the south of the city, the Cosquer cave, discovered in 1992, is an ornate Paleolithic cave, frequented between 27,000 and 19,000 before the present, whose entrance located under the sea makes access difficult.
Few traces still exist of the Greek or Roman city. The most visible are those of the ancient port, located northeast of the current Old Port, in the Jardin des Vestiges in the heart of the Marseille History Museum. One can find there remains of the Greek fortifications, the defense tower, the Roman paved road, the freshwater basin or the funerary terraces. A specific development and enhancement in 2020 allows to better understand the functioning of the ancient port.
The city having always been rebuilt on itself, medieval Marseille is, according to Thierry Pécout’s expression, a “city of paper” that only historians and archaeologists can revive given the disappearance of many medieval buildings and the remodeling. of the city in modern and contemporary eras.
The abbey of St. Victor, whose oldest parts date from the xi th century, was built on what is perhaps the place of worship Christian oldest of France. The Notre-Dame-de-la-Galline chapel would have been built on a place of worship dating from 1042.
The Old Major, the former cathedral of the city, was built from the xii th century on the site of an earlier church dating from the end of antiquity.
The St. Lawrence Church, built in the xiii th century in a style Provençal Romanesque, is the parish of fishermen of Marseille.
Fort St. John is located on the site of the old foundation of the Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem and still has the remains of the chapel of the xii th to the xiii th century.
Renaissance and classical period
Of the three forts built at the entrance of the Old Port by Louis XIV to monitor the city in the xvii th century, only the strong Entrecasteaux and the Fort Saint-Nicolas is still property of the Ministry of Defense. The Fort Saint-Jean, whose square tower was built in the middle of the xv th century by René of Anjou, is integrated since 2013 at the site Museum of Civilizations in Europe and the Mediterranean. Protected as historical monuments, it has come under the Ministry of Culture since the 1960s, but has only recently been made accessible to the public. From the arsenal of galleys which occupied the south shore of the port, only the harbor master’s office remains today.
The bastides are a characteristic element of the Marseille region. Secondary fields of the countryside of the Marseilles bourgeoisie, there were more than 6,500 in 1773. This practice was so widespread that Stendhal considered that “this is why there is no show on Saturday: this day- there, as soon as the Stock Exchange is over, everyone flees to their Bastide “.
There are still 254 of them today, some like the Buzine have been renovated or converted, many are in decay and threatened with destruction.
Many monuments Marseille were built during the second half of the xix th century, when the city was experiencing rapid economic growth, particularly during the Second Empire. This is notably the case of the Pharo Palace (1858), the Stock Exchange Palace (1860), the Prefecture Hall (1866) or the Reformed Church (1886), later in neo-Gothic style.
Henri-Jacques Espérandieu is the author of several famous monuments of the city such as the Palais Longchamp (1862), the Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde (1864) and the Palais des arts (1864). Built between 1855 to 1864 with Henri Révoil, Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, also called the Good Mother, is famous for its Roman-Byzantine architecture and its gilded copper statue of the Virgin and Child which dominates the building, work of sculptor Eugène-Louis Lequesne.
Other Roman-Byzantine building, the Cathedral of the Major, in the district of La Joliette, was completed in 1893 on the site of the former Major of the xii th century which remain the choir and the span.
At this time, the rue de la République was also pierced, adorned with Haussmannian buildings and which linked the Old Port to the new port of Joliette.
Marseille retains many traces of its industrial history and many of these places are in the process of being converted. The tobacco factory, built in 1868 in the Belle de Mai district is, after having been an industrial wasteland for a long time, has been since the end of the 1990s, occupied by a cultural place, the Municipal Archives, the INA, the CICRP and a media center.
In the Joliette district, the Arenc grain silo has been converted into a performance hall and the huge docks have been completely renovated and converted into offices and a shopping center.
Of the soap industry, only three factories remain in operation in the Northern Quarters. Others, sometimes fallow, dot the north and east of the city.
The architect Fernand Pouillon constructed many buildings in the years following World War II. He was notably in charge of the reconstruction of the Old Port district destroyed during the roundup (the famous Pouillon buildings) or of the sanitary control since 2013 occupied by the Regards de Provence museum.
In 1952, Le Corbusier built his Cité radieuse in Marseille (locally called “Le Corbusier” or the “house of the fada”), an example of brutalist architecture and its principle of Housing Unit. The building can be visited and its panoramic roof terrace hosts a contemporary art museum, the MaMo.
As part of its urban renewal, the city today sees the construction of buildings of post-modern architecture such as the Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean, the CMA-CGM tower, the Villa Méditerranée and the La Marseillaise tower.
Most of the attractions of Marseille (including shopping areas) are located in the 1st, 2nd, 6th and 7th arrondissements. These include:
The Old Port or Vieux-Port, the main harbour and marina of the city. It is guarded by two massive forts (Fort Saint-Nicolas and Fort Saint-Jean) and is one of the main places to eat in the city. Dozens of cafés line the waterfront. The Quai des Belges at the end of the harbour is the site of the daily fish market. Much of the northern quayside area was rebuilt by the architect Fernand Pouillon after its destruction by the Nazis in 1943.
The Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), a baroque building dating from the 17th century.
The Centre Bourse and the adjacent Rue St Ferreol district (including Rue de Rome and Rue Paradis), the main shopping area in central Marseille.
The Porte d’Aix, a triumphal arch commemorating French victories in the Spanish Expedition.
The Hôtel-Dieu, a former hospital in Le Panier, transformed into an InterContinental hotel in 2013.
La Vieille Charité in Le Panier, an architecturally significant building designed by the Puget brothers. The central baroque chapel is situated in a courtyard lined with arcaded galleries. Originally built as an alms house, it is now home to an archeological museum and a gallery of African and Asian art, as well as bookshops and a café. It also houses the Marseille International Poetry Centre.
The Cathedral of Sainte-Marie-Majeure or La Major, founded in the 4th century, enlarged in the 11th century and completely rebuilt in the second half of the 19th century by the architects Léon Vaudoyer and Henri-Jacques Espérandieu. The present day cathedral is a gigantic edifice in Romano-Byzantine style. A romanesque transept, choir and altar survive from the older medieval cathedral, spared from complete destruction only as a result of public protests at the time.
The 12th-century parish church of Saint-Laurent and adjoining 17th-century chapel of Sainte-Catherine, on the quayside near the Cathedral.
The Abbey of Saint-Victor, one of the oldest places of Christian worship in Europe. Its 5th-century crypt and catacombs occupy the site of a Hellenic burial ground, later used for Christian martyrs and venerated ever since. Continuing a medieval tradition, every year at Candlemas a Black Madonna from the crypt is carried in procession along Rue Sainte for a blessing from the archbishop, followed by a mass and the distribution of “navettes” and green votive candles.
Marseille is sometimes nicknamed “the city of 111 districts”, which corresponds to the number of official districts, which are subdivisions of the city’s districts. Many are old hamlets built around the parish church. Many neighborhoods (official or not) have a particular identity.
Thus, in the city center, Le Panier constitutes what remains of the old town after the destruction of the Second World War: working-class district and historic place of settlement of many immigrants, Le Panier is known for its narrow streets inherited from the Middle Ages.. La Canebière, the emblematic artery of Marseille: it stretches from the Old Port to the Reformed Church. She became famous worldwide from the end of the xix th century, foreign sailors stopping in the many cafes and bars of the street as the Turkish Café (1850), the Café de France (1854), the German Coffee(1866), or the sumptuous Café Riche. Noailles, located just south of La Canebière, is known for its large market sometimes nicknamed “the belly of Marseille”.
Close to the city center, Cours Julien and La Plaine are known for their nightlife and street art. In the 3 th district, the Belle de Mai is a popular neighborhood that developed around the tobacco factory today Converted into a cultural center.
The Corniche, along the sea south of the Old Port, has been fitted to the xix th century and expanded 1954 to 1968. It is bordered to the east by 19th century villas – including that of the famous Marseille music-hall artist Gaby Deslys – and borders the picturesque Vallon des Auffes. It hosts the Marseille tide gauge, built in 1883. The southernmost district along the coast, Les Goudes, is made up of small fishermen’s huts untouched by the urbanization of the coast. To the north, L’Estaqueis a working-class district, a former location of factories, made famous by the paintings of Paul Cézanne and the films of Robert Guédiguian.
In the east, La Treille is an ancient village perched on top of a hill and famous for hosting the writer and filmmaker Marcel Pagnol.
The north of the city is made up of a disparate habitat, between large groups built from the 1960s such as Castellane, the Plan d’Aou or the city Kallisté, but also many old village centers such as L’Estaque located in seaside, Sainte-Marthe or Château-Gombert, districts where there is still agricultural activity. We also find in the north of the city the headquarters of many industries or companies (Ricard, Compagnie fruitière, Haribo…).
Marseille has 26 museums, the largest number in France after Paris, in particular the Marseille History Museum, the Cantini Museum, the Contemporary Art Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Fine Arts Museum.
The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (MuCEM), located on the J4 esplanade and in Fort Saint-Jean, opened in 2013. It is a national museum and the most visited from the city, with 2 million visitors in 2013.
The Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée (MuCEM) and the Villa Méditerranée were inaugurated in 2013. The MuCEM is devoted to the history and culture of European and Mediterranean civilisations. The adjacent Villa Méditerranée, an international centre for cultural and artistic interchange, is partially constructed underwater. The site is linked by footbridges to the Fort Saint-Jean and to the Panier.
The Musée Regards de Provence, opened in 2013, is located between the Cathedral of Notre Dame de la Majeur and the Fort Saint-Jean. It occupies a converted port building constructed in 1945 to monitor and control potential sea-borne health hazards, in particular epidemics. It now houses a permanent collection of historical artworks from Provence as well as temporary exhibitions.
The Musée du Vieux Marseille, housed in the 16th-century Maison Diamantée, describing everyday life in Marseille from the 18th century onwards.
The Musée des Docks Romains preserves in situ the remains of Roman commercial warehouses, and has a small collection of objects, dating from the Greek period to the Middle Ages, that were uncovered on the site or retrieved from shipwrecks.
The Marseille History Museum (Musée d’Histoire de Marseille), devoted to the history of the town, located in the Centre Bourse. It contains remains of the Greek, and Roman history of Marseille as well as the best preserved hull of a 6th-century boat in the world. Ancient remains from the Hellenic port are displayed in the adjacent archeological gardens, the Jardin des Vestiges.
The Musée Cantini, a museum of modern art near the Palais de Justice. It houses artworks associated with Marseille as well as several works by Picasso.
The Musée Grobet-Labadié, opposite the Palais Longchamp, houses an exceptional collection of European objets d’art and old musical instruments.
The 19th-century Palais Longchamp, designed by Esperandieu, is located in the Parc Longchamp. Built on a grand scale, this italianate colonnaded building rises up behind a vast monumental fountain with cascading waterfalls. The jeux d’eau marks and masks the entry point of the Canal de Provence into Marseille. Its two wings house the Musée des beaux-arts de Marseille (a fine arts museum), and the Natural History Museum (Muséum d’histoire naturelle de Marseille).
The Château Borély is located in the Parc Borély, a park off the Bay of Marseille with the Jardin botanique E.M. Heckel, a botanical garden. The Museum of the Decorative Arts, Fashion and Ceramics opened in the renovated château in June 2013.
The Musée d’Art Contemporain de Marseille (MAC), a museum of contemporary art, opened in 1994. It is devoted to American and European art from the 1960s to the present day.
The Musée du Terroir Marseillais in Château-Gombert, devoted to Provençal crafts and traditions.
Marseille’s main cultural attraction was, since its creation at the end of the 18th century and until the late 1970s, the Opéra. Located near the Old Port and the Canebière, at the very heart of the city, its architectural style was comparable to the classical trend found in other opera houses built at the same time in Lyon and Bordeaux. In 1919, a fire almost completely destroyed the house, leaving only the stone colonnade and peristyle from the original façade. The classical façade was restored and the opera house reconstructed in a predominantly Art Deco style, as the result of a major competition. Currently the Opéra de Marseille stages six or seven operas each year.
Since 1972, the Ballet national de Marseille has performed at the opera house; its director from its foundation to 1998 was Roland Petit.
Popular events and festivals
There are several popular festivals in different neighborhoods, with concerts, animations, and outdoor bars, like the Fête du Panier in June. On 21 June, there are dozens of free concerts in the city as part of France’s Fête de la Musique, featuring music from all over the world. Being free events, many Marseille residents attend.
Marseille hosts a Gay Pride event in early July. In 2013, Marseille hosted Europride, an international LGBT event, 10 July–20. At the beginning of July, there is the International Documentary Festival. At the end of September, the electronic music festival Marsatac takes place. In October, the Fiesta des Suds offers many concerts of world music.
Hip hop music
Marseille is also well known in France for its hip hop music. Bands like IAM originated from Marseille and initiated the rap phenomenon in France. Other known groups include Fonky Family, Psy 4 de la Rime (including rappers Soprano and Alonzo), and Keny Arkana. In a slightly different way, ragga music is represented by Massilia Sound System.
Marseille is surrounded by mountain ranges, drawing an arc around the city: to the north, the Estaque chain, or the Nerthe chain, then, from the north of the city to the east, the massif of the Star which joins the Garlaban located due east. To the south-east is the Saint-Cyr massif and finally, to the south, the Marseilleveyre massif.
Marseille also has several urban parks spread over the whole of its territory. In the city center is the Longchamp park, the 26 th Centenary park and the Pharo garden. To the south, we find the Borély park, built between 1860 and 1880 and within which is the Borély castle, the seaside park of the Prado beaches and the Valmer park, both located by the sea, the countryside park Pastré, or the White House park, built in 1840 and which houses a country house.
To the north of the city, the François Billoux park in Saint-Louis, the Grand Séminaire park located in Aygalades, the Athena Park in Château-Gombert and the Bastide Montgolfier park in Sainte-Marthe as well as the Font Obscure Park, in the middle of large sets of 14 th district of the city, are also remarkable. Finally, to the east of the city are among others the Saint-Cyr park, in the Saint-Loup district and the Buzine park, famous for being that of the Castle of my mother by Marcel Pagnol.
Between Callelongue and Port Pin, along a coast line of 20 kilometers, magnificent white cliffs rise vertically from the sea. Nobody can resist the fascination of such harmony, made of the infinity of the sea and the divine madness of the cliffs whose sharp peaks and colossal fortresses strive towards heaven.
The Calanques, thes emerals fingers between the rocks, were created 12 000 years ago when a gradual warming after the ice ages made the sea rise to flood the valleys. In this way, the islands of the Riou Archipel were also formed.
The natural conditions sunshine, wind and dryness have given birth to a plant lif which is rich in its diversity, with some rare and fragile species. For example, the “Gouffé” grass exists nowhere else in the world. These species must be preserved. Man, in the pas centuries, let herds of goats graze here and built pens and lime kilns, of which the ruins can still be seen. Of this human settlement, only the fishermen s huts of Sormiou and Morgiou remain a living example.
The Riou Island
The side of the island that faces the open sea is inaccessible due to the vertical rock faces and the crumbling ravines. The side that faces the Marseilleveyre range of hills has a gentler landscape and provides easier access. The Monasterio Creek, the most frequently visited creek. Tamarisk trees, the only ones on the island, grow near the beach.. The summit is 100 m high and provides a unique panoramic view of the calanques and the coast from the Camargue to la Ciotat. A number of footpaths can be taken to explore this wild island that is currently uninhabited but used to be home to Neolithic people who came here for shellfish. On the top of one of the hills are the ruins of a watchtower built in the 12th Century to warn Marseille of any possible attacks from the Barbarians. The watchtower communicated with the look-out post on the summit of Marseilleveyre. A stone’s throw away from Riou are two small islands that are well-known to underwater archaeology enthusiasts.
The Large and Small Conglué Islands
In 1952 Jacque Cousteau’s ship “Calypso” dropped anchor at the Large Conglué. Finally, after five excavation campaigns, the divers discovered the most famous Roman shipwreck in the world. 7,000 pieces of tableware were found as well as a cargo of wine amphorae. Other wrecks were later discovered and together they constitute an extraordinary sunken treasure. It is not therefore surprising that research into underwater archaeology began in Marseille and that the national headquarters for this field of research is based in the Saint Jean Tower in the Old Port.
The Jarre Island
The Jarre Island lies facing the Marseilleveyre range of hills. It has been one of the main places in the Mediterranean where trading ships drop anchor for over 20 centuries. It was here that in 1720 the “Grand Saint Antoine”, a ship carrying rich fabrics but also the plague from Smyrna to Marseille, was burnt and sunk. The island was the third quarantine stopover place along with Pomègues and Ratoneau, neighbouring islands in the Frioul Archipelago, for ships destined for Marseille.
The Maïre Island is located in the extreme south of the Bay of Marseille opposite Cap Croisette. The island has sharp limestone peaks that stand out against the sky. Despite being currently uninhabited archaeological excavations in 1903 showed the island was inhabited during the Neolithic Age. Until around 1920 army and marine officers still maintained the photo-electrical station there and in the Second World War the German army had the Italians build fortifications on this exceptional site. A turret may still be seen today. The top of the steep cliffs provides an outstanding view of the calanques, the coast and particularly of the twin “farillons”, rocks that have caused so many shipwrecks since ancient times. The splendour of the underwater world lies at the foot of the island.
Planier lighthouse island
The Planier Island lies at water level 15 km out to sea from the Old Port. Five successive lighthouses have been built on the small island since the first lighthouse was erected in the Middle Ages to guide sailors and to warn Marseille of the arrival of pirates and invaders from the Barbary Islands. The lighthouse has no easy task as it must light up the largest port in the Mediterranean. The present lighthouse dates from 1959. It is the tallest building on the Mediterranean coast and its lamp is almost 68 metres above sea level. On this 3-hectare island a magnificent column is built of stone from Cassis. Only a few prestigious buildings in Marseille, such as the Courthouse, the Prefecture and the Palais Longchamp, have been built using this stone. The stone dates back 115 million years and has the unusual property of capturing the rays of the sun and expelling any impurities at night. It is for this reason that the lighthouse has remained perfectly white.
In 1992 the lighthouse was automated and the last keepers left, leaving the building uninhabited. Fortunately the lighthouse has seen new life due to the hard work of two dedicated groups of people, “Sea and Sun” and “Tiboulen du Planier”.
The Marseille coastline stretches in a North-South crescent and alternates between rock, sand and shingle. To the south, the Calanques massif, with a few inlets and easy access to the water: Port Pin, En-Vau, Sugiton, Morgiou, Sormiou, the Phocéens Cove, and the Sablettes Cove near Les Goudes, Saména and the Mont Rose Cove near Montredon. N.B. Access to the Calanques in spring and summer is regulated by a prefectoral order prohibiting car traffic. Sormiou calanque is supervised in summer.
Then, as you approach the city, there are the Bain des Dames and Bonne Brise coves, small beaches of sand and pebbles with no supervision and no facilities, but with a superb view of Marseille harbour and a restaurant. Access: bus line 19 Then comes the Pointe Rouge beach, the largest sandy beach, which adjoins the port of the same name. Here there are restaurants, toilets and play areas. Supervised in summer, first aid post, showers, clothing store. Access: bus line 19.
The Prado seaside park
Before 1975, and despite its 42 km of coastline, Marseille did not have any facilities that allowed bathers easy access to the sea. With the creation of the Prado seaside park, 26 hectares of greenery now live in harmony with 10 hectares of sand-and-shingle beaches covering a length of nearly 2 km. The completion of such a facility on the 40 hectares reclaimed from the sea was a real challenge due to the many constraints encountered on the site (storms, sea spray, mistral, pollution…). every year, three and a half million visitors make full use of the lawns that are totally open to the public, the esplanades and the rest and play areas. The many facets of this friendly seafront park are a delight to visitors at any time of year. In addition, an internationally famous skateboard track is available to enthusiasts.
It includes: Bonneveine Cove and Vieille Chapelle (with the skateboard park nearby), Borély Beach, L’Huveaune Beach and the Prado South and North Beaches. Supervised in summer, first aid posts, clothing store, toilets, showers, play areas, refreshment stands, disabled access. In summer, a stadium is built on the beaches with stands open to everyone. This acts as a venue for high-level international sports competitions and sporting and cultural activities for children and adults supervised by certified instructors.
Then, between the Prado and the Vieux Port, heading north, there are two small sandy beaches, the Prophète and the Catalans, with supervision in summer, first aid post and toilets. They have their loyal clientele, mainly families in the morning. The Catalans beach is the home of the Catalans Beach Volleyball Club, which organises the international tournament of the same name every summer.
Finally, to the north, after L’Estaque, are the Corbière beaches, with their municipal water sports centre. They, too, have been reclaimed from the sea and are preceded by landscaped gardens. Pedestrian access is via a path cut into the rock and steps. They are not very deep, partially shaded, made of fine sand and pebbles, and are equipped with toilets, showers and a free clothing store. Nearby there is a refreshment stand and play area (volleyball…). From here there is one of the finest views along the Marseille coast. sporting and cultural activities for children and adults supervised by certified instructors.
Bouillabaisse is the most famous seafood dish of Marseille. It is a fish stew containing at least three varieties of very fresh local fish: typically red rascasse (Scorpaena scrofa); sea robin (fr: grondin); and European conger (fr: congre). It can include gilt-head bream (fr: dorade); turbot; monkfish (fr: lotte or baudroie); mullet; or silver hake (fr: merlan), and it usually includes shellfish and other seafood such as sea urchins (fr: oursins), mussels (fr: moules); velvet crabs (fr: étrilles); spider crab (fr: araignées de mer), plus potatoes and vegetables. In the traditional version, the fish is served on a platter separate from the broth. The broth is served with rouille, a mayonnaise made with egg yolk, olive oil, red bell pepper, saffron, and garlic, spread on pieces of toasted bread, or croûtons. In Marseille, bouillabaisse is rarely made for fewer than ten people; the more people who share the meal, and the more different fish that are included, the better the bouillabaisse.
Aïoli is a sauce made from raw garlic, lemon juice, eggs and olive oil, served with boiled fish, hard boiled eggs and cooked vegetables.
Anchoïade is a paste made from anchovies, garlic, and olive oil, spread on bread or served with raw vegetables.
Bourride is a soup made with white fish (monkfish, European sea bass, whiting, etc.) and aïoli.
Fougasse is a flat Provençal bread, similar to the Italian focaccia. It is traditionally baked in a wood oven and sometimes filled with olives, cheese or anchovies.
Navette de Marseille are, in the words of food writer M. F. K. Fisher, “little boat-shaped cookies, tough dough tasting vaguely of orange peel, smelling better than they are.”
Farinata#French variations is chickpea flour boiled into a thick mush, allowed to firm up, then cut into blocks and fried.
Pastis is an alcoholic beverage made with aniseed and spice. It is extremely popular in the region.
Pieds paquets is a dish prepared from sheep’s feet and offal.
Pistou is a combination of crushed fresh basil and garlic with olive oil, similar to the Italian pesto. The “soupe au pistou” combines pistou in a broth with pasta and vegetables.
Tapenade is a paste made from chopped olives, capers, and olive oil (sometimes anchovies may be added).