Marseille, the pulsating heart of the med
The deafening Canebière, the blue harbor, the white boats, the lacy ropes and rigging..(Colette)
This cosmopolitan Mediterranean metropolis cultivates contrast; from the hyperactive city centre to the old-fashioned charm of the old quarters, the cheers rising from the Vélodrome stadium to the soft, warm beaches, from the futuristic Euromed site to the countrified Pastré area, and much, much more, it is a city that never ceases to astonish travellers!
France’s oldest city is famed for its old Port (Vieux Port), set right in the heart of Marseille. Fishermen still gather here every morning to peddle their day’s catch to the locals against a back- drop of colourful boats and sunshine!
The port is also a favourite meeting place for lovers of Pastis – the not-to-be-missed local aniseed drink – and punters jostle for shoulder room at the “Bar de la Marine” where Pagnol’s wonderful trilogy was shot. The little Ferryboat that runs from this part of the port takes you over the way to the town Hall and Panier quarter. With its narrow lanes, washing strung between buildings and colourful little squares, this ancient quarter is still filled with the popular atmosphere of the 19th century. Stop off at the Vieille Charité Museum while you’re here. A masterpiece of Baroque architecture topped with a curious dome…
You can relive the city’s history just by looking at its architecture while you stroll: the Greco-Roman port, medieval Saint-Victor’s Abbey, Town Hall built by Pierre Puget, rue de la République with its typically elegant Hausmannian style, the “Radiant City” created by Le Corbusier (locally nicknamed “the madman’s city”!), the CMA CGM tower designed by architect Zaha Hadid, and now the MuCEM (national Museum of European and Mediterranean civilisations), the new landmark by Rudy Ricciotti…
No traveller can leave Marseille without visiting its guardian angel – the “Virgin of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde” Basilica – which stands over the city at a height of 160 m. The magnificent 360° view from the terrace is definitely one of the best ways to admire the city, the Frioul islands, and distant Garlaban hills. This Romano- Byzantine construction is topped with a magnificent golden statue of the Virgin Mary, locally known as “la Bonne Mère” or “Good Mother”. The interior harbours numerous ex-votos and a beautiful mosaic. One meets people from all walks of life and all religions, come to ask for the saint’s protection – even for the Olympique de Marseille football team!
You will love touring the Corniche coast road, running from the city centre to the Prado beaches, Pointe-rouge and wild fjords with their turquoise waters, listed as a National Park in 2012, located a few kilometres further on. You can also take a boat to visit the chateau d’If: the fortress built under the reign of François I, brought to fame by Alexandre Dumas and his romantic count of Monte-Cristo.