City Guide: Marseille

As I was visiting a friend of mine studying in Aix-en-Provence after my exams, Moritz and I decided to do a little trip around the south of France starting in Marseille. It is the second biggest city in France after Paris.

Due to its location in the Mediterranean Sea it remains an important commercial port.

Marseille Vieux Port

Marseille Vieux Port

Marseille has a rich history and many sites can still be seen today. During the past, first the Greek and later on the Romans settled here. We spent two days in the city, so in this city guide I will give you a brief overview of the sights we got to see in Marseille.

Marseille Harbour and Surroundings

As we stayed in the Grand Hotel Beauvau for the first night, we were ideally located to explore the harbour of Marseille and its surroundings. These include the following sights:

  • Marseille Cathedral
  • Fort Saint-Jean
  • City Hall
  • Villa Méditerranée
  • Musée des civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée

As we arrived on Sunday, the area around the harbour was quite lively. There was a little street market nearby with people selling handmade crafts as well as a couple of dancing groups entertaining the tourists with their skills. Alongside the ‘promenade’ there are tons of restaurants and lots of people sat outside and enjoyed the sun there. We walked along there and first passed the City Hall. From there we continued along a little square with cafés and some narrow streets to reach the Cathedral of Marseille.

This Roman Catholic Cathedral is among the largest in France. It contains a old, small part from the 12th century as well as a much bigger part from the end of the 19th century.

Behind the Cathedral you will find two museums located in two interesting, modern buildings. They are located on a plateau above the water. The Musée des civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée is also connected to the Fort Saint-Jean via a bridge and offers lots of benches and seats for relaxing comfortably while observing boats entering and leaving the harbour.

The Fort Saint-Jean in Marseille is one of two forts in Marseille. This fortification was built by Louis the 14th protecting the entrance of the old port. From there you can also overlook the Fort Saint-Nicolas as well as the Palais du Pharo. Entrance to the fort is free, you just need to follow through a quick security check.

Marseille Notre-Dame de la Garde

The basilica, located on the highest point of Marseille, is probably the most popular sight in Marseille. Due to its location it was once an important lookout as well as a landmark for shipping.

Inside you can still find little boats and maritime interior. The basilica can be reached by walking, by bus or one of the touristic ‘trams’.

Palais de Longchamp

This palace is located in the 4th arrondissement of Marseille and hosts the Musée des Beaux-Arts as well as the natural history museum. Behind, there is a large park which is used by the public to hang out or for festivals.

The palace was designed by Henry Esperandieu and was meant to celebrate the successful construction of the Canal de Marseille. As such it was designed to resemble a water castle.

Our overall impressions of Marseille

Marseille was a really pleasant surprise. I loved the livelihood, the little streets and cafés and the historic sites a lot. In late May we were also lucky enough to still enjoy Marseille without the masses of tourists finding their way here during summer holidays. Marseille is definitely a city to come back to and explore even further.

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