The cosmopolitan city of Marseille is France's oldest and the second largest after Paris, however, it is often ignored by foreign tourists. Travellers looking for a more authentic corner of France find Marseille’s rich history and cultural diversity stunning coastal setting exciting.
The Old Port (Vieux Port) is the heart of Marseille. Founded as a Greek port in 600 BC, the vibrant harbour is a great place to spend a few hours wondering around and sample the excellent bouillabaisse fish stew, a local specialty in one of the port’s restaurants. Check out the old fish market on the east side of the harbour that is open every morning. From the port you can take a ferry to the majestic Château d'If and the dramatic Calanques cliffs.
Marseille has several splendid churches that are worth a visit. The 19th century Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde with a gilded Madonna on the top of the belfry is famous for its opulent décor with marble arches, colourful mosaic magnificent views over the city. The Basilique Saint-Victor’s foundation dates back to early Christianity and is one of the oldest buildings in Marseille.
|Notre-Dame de la Garde|
Often called the Champs-Élysées of Marseille, the city’s main avenue La Canebière reminds of Marseille’s great colonial trading past when local merchants built spacious Haussmannian town houses showing off their wealth. Here you will find many shops and inexpensive restaurants that are always full with locals.
Le Panier city district is believed to be the oldest urban quartier in France. Explore charming narrow streets, tiny artisan shops and picturesque little squares with atmospheric cafes. Here you can pop in to the splendid arcaded 17th-century La Vieille Charité that once was the city’s poorhouse. Today it houses an excellent museum of African, Oceanic and Amerindian Arts.
To soak up the city’s multi-cultural heritage head to the Capucin district where you will find North African style souks and open-fronted shops selling ethnic food, clothes and other colourful paraphernalia.
Photos via Flickr by: Thibault Houspic, Selden Vestrit, Jopa Elleul.