Marseille is a wonderfully diverse place composed of 16 arrondissements or districts and a total of 111 different quartiers or neighborhoods. Each one is self-contained and has its own distinct features.
The old port is one of the best-known parts of Marseille and its streets are lined with restaurants and cafés. In the mornings, fishmongers ply their trade in the fish market opposite the boats. This is where Louis XIV moored his fleet. You will also find galleries here. Next to Cours Estienne d'Orves you will find Place Thiars, the liveliest part of this district. Good quality restaurants stand side by side with tourist traps. The
This is the most famous road in town. Along it you will see shopping streets such as Rue St Ferréol, and the Musée de la Mode, the
A walk through this popular district, close to the old port, takes you around the Provençal pedestrian streets lined with multi-colored buildings. The
The Joliette docks are the long red brick buildings along the motorway footbridge. The four blocks of buildings were built in the 19th century and the interiors have been completely renovated. The
In Marseille, Place Jean Jaures is also known as La Plaine. This huge square has a market on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and a busy shopping area at other times. The adjacent streets provide a wide assortment of restaurants, bars, and pubs frequented by the locals such as l'Intermédiaire or the Bar de la Plaine.
Le Cours Julien
Just along from La Plaine, le Cours Julien is a popular spot for younger crowds due to its variety of cafés, cabarets and theaters such as Chocolat-Théâtre. For concerts
Bars and cinemas such as
People come to the Prado to see the bourgeois buildings that line the main road, the Boulevard Périer and the Rue Paradis. The
The locals are partial to this district which is dominated by
The Corniche (coastal road) winds along the Mediterranean coast and all the fanciest villas are located in this district, as is
The coastline between Cap Croisette and Cap Canaille is like nothing else on earth.
Illustrious writers such as Simone de Beauvoir, Lamartine and Dumas have written about these creeks or Calanques in great detail, and of the feeling you get when you round a bend and see Morgiou or Sormiou ahead of you. If you only have one day to visit Marseille, forget everything else and head for the road that will lead you to these marvelous wonders of nature. To get to Sormiou, you can go by car but you will have to leave it in the car park at the fire barrier for the day, or take the bus from the rond point de Bonneveine (a 10-minute ride). The path winds on for about three kilometres. These creeks have been protected since 1975, so you must respect the environment and not stray from the path.
To get to Morgiou Creek, come back via the Sormiou Road as far as Traverse Colgate, go past Baumettes Prison and stop at another rustic fire barrier. A four kilometre walk will take you to a beach lined with beach huts that have been passed on from father to son for generations. This is a paradise by the sea although the peace is sometimes broken by people walking along the eastern edge to Sugiton Creek on the other side. Allow yourself time to wander along the sparkling hillsides high above the calm sea. At the tip of the last creek there is an area of flat stones that has become a favorite meeting place for local hikers. The Tourist Office at 4, La Canebière has a very informative free brochure.
After such a lovely day, once you're back in Marseille, treat yourself to an upscale dinner. Make a reservation at La Ferme. La Ferme serves delicious and innovative dishes such as the tourte de courge au foie gras and the brouillade à la crème d'oursin.
2. Abbaye Saint-Victor
Ever since Marseille was founded, life here has revolved around the sea. The town became a gateway to the Orient, a place to which people throughout the Mediterranean came to trade goods and share cultures. The Vieux-Port at the end of the Canebière, represents this tradition perfectly. On the north bank is the oldest district, the Panier, which climbs up the Butte des Moulins. Place de Lenche is the heart of this typical old area with sloping streets called Accoules and old façades of bourgeois residences. Standing a little ways back is the Vieille Charité, a hospice built in the 17th century. In the 1960s the famous architect Le Corbusier transformed the building into a marvelous museum with a varied collection of ethnic art.
Return downhill via the north bank towards the port and the Hôtel de Ville. Here you will see Fort Saint Jean, built at the end of the 12th century and Fort Saint Nicolas, from which Louis XIV had canons fired at the rebellious town in the 17th century to make sure its citizens remained within his power. These two forts are important landmarks to navigators at sea.
Take the ferry to get to the south bank of the port. Here, overlooking the dry dock, stands the Abbaye Saint-Victor. It was built from the 5th century onwards on top of the remains of an ancient necropolis. After this religious visit, take a break at the Four des Navettes, the old bakery of a Benedictine convent, which is famous for its 'navettes,' cakes flavored with orange blossom. Go via the Corderie neighborhood and return to the famous Place aux Huilles behind the Théâtre de la Criée (which used to be the fish market). There are a lot of very good restaurants that serve fresh seafood dishes along with late night bars (including the legendary Bar de la Marine), as well as bookshops and art galleries.
Wrap up your day with dinner at Les Trois-Forts. Here you will taste the various flavors of the Provence region, and you'll enjoy a magnificent view of the Vieux-Port.
ART & CULTURE:
Marseille is loaded with a large number of museums dealing with the history of the city and the multitude of galleries, which exhibit contemporary art. The flourishing culture of Marseille is on fine display throughout the city.
Museums & Galleries
The town boasts about 15 museums and more than 70 galleries. If you want to get to know the city better, start with the Musée d'Histoire de Marseille and its garden filled with relics. Following that, you may wish to find out about Provençal tradition at the Musée du Vieux Marseille or alternatively at the Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires. Paintings and sculptures are housed at the Musée Grobet-Labadie and at the Musée des Beaux-Arts. In the sphere of economics, there is the Musées des Docks Romains and the Musée de la Marine, which chart the history of Phocaen commerce.
There is a stunning collection of masks and statues at the huge Vieille Charité. The Musée d'Arts Africains, Océaniens, Amérindiens is an interesting stop and the Galerie Caroline Serero also exhibits African art.
For those who like contemporary art, the MAC hosts several permanent and temporary collections. Major artists from Marseille are represented here.
Classic Provençal painting is very popular with the people of Marseille and there are numerous galleries: one of the oldest, the Galerie Jouvène, displays the work of Briata, Monticelli and Ambriogiani. The Galerie Jean-Pierre Sylvestre is a little more upmarket but in the same vein.
There are many different cinemas in Marseille. Your choice will depend on the type of film you want to watch and your budget. One art house cinema that is very popualr is the César. This shows art house films and shorts, always in the original language—admission is always fairly inexpensive. If you prefer to see films in French or like multi-screen cinemas, the UGC Capitole is one of the cheapest.
Theater & Dance
The Theatre National de la Criée is the main theater in Marseille, but there are many others. Whether you go to the Quai du Rire or to the Antidote (L'), laughter is always the best medicine. At the Theatre Axel Toursky, debut work is the name of the game. For dance, there is always the Ballet de Marseille.
ENTERTAINMENT & MUSIC
The Odéon regularly stages classical concerts. Abbaye Saint-Victor is also a place that music lovers are particularly fond of.
Many of the cafés around town offer jazz music. The Caravelle is a local favorite.
House, Disco, Rap, Rock, Fusion
For house music, one of the best places to go is the Trolley Bus in the Vieux Port. The Intermédiaire is a popular alternative rock venue. The Poste à Galène showcases a mixture of rap, rock and reggae. Concerts are held in the Espace Julien, the Theatre du Moulin and the Dôme—the zenith of entertainment in Marseille. The Docks des Suds offers many different types of Mediterranean music.
GARDENS & PARKS
The gardens and parks of Marseille are fairly new. The Parc du Palais Longchamp and Borély are the best: both for walkers and those who like to play football. The Parc Valmer offers a fantastic view of the sea. The Parc Pastré can be found near the château of the same name. The Parc des Bruyères is a great place to take a relaxing nature walk.
It is impossible to ignore the fact that Marseille is a football city. The Marseille team can be seen scoring goals at the Stade Vélodrome. If you prefer running, the Corniche (coastal road) and the Parc Borély are where joggers tend to congregate. Some are training for the Marseille-Cassis half marathon which takes place in autumn. Horse riding is organized at the Hippodrome de Pont de Vivaux and Hippodrome Borély. The Open 13 tennis tournament takes place each year in February at the Palais des Sports.
In over 2,600 years, Marseille has influenced and transformed the culinary traditions of the Mediterranean basin. Oriental influences, which came to Marseille as a result of successive invasions throughout its history, have created a melting pot of culinary styles. Many dishes make up the cosmopolitan mosaic of Marseille cuisine including couscous, spices, pesto soup (flavored with basil which was originally imported to Genoa from India), pasta, polenta, casserole with wine (for which a long preparation time is required) and of course the ubiquitous Bouillabaisse.
Allow yourself to be guided by both your curiosity and your instincts and head towards the quays of the Vieux-Port, where restaurants abound. Some of the best Bouillabaisse (this was originally a soup made by poor fishermen, but was later to find its way into the soup bowls of royalty) can be found at Restaurant Miramar—one of the restaurants which adheres to the 'Bouillabaisse Charter'. Locals flock to Les Mets de Provence on the Quai des Belges. From here, you can watch the boats as they leave, and see their sails go up as they pass the Fort Saint-Jean at the entrance to the port.
Not far from La Vieille Charité, in the Panier district, Le Panier des Arts offers simple, yet tasty food. At the famous Chez Etienne pizzeria, you will be welcomed like an old friend. On the opposite bank, the symbolic Les Arcenaulx and La Côte de Boeuf are two typical Marseille restaurants. The nearby Rue Sainte is home to a Marseille gastronomic institution: Patalain.
The coastal road is bathed in good seafood and romantic light as the waves murmur and lap at your feet. There is a restaurant hidden away in the Malmousque cove. There is also the Châteaux de Marseille, Le Petit Nice and the Chez Michel (on the Plage des Catalans beach), which attracts seafood lovers from all over Marseille. Further out, in the Goudes district (on the eastern edge of the city), where the deep blue of the sea meets the brilliant white of the rocks, is Chez Aldo.
Le Vallon des Auffes
Back towards the center of the city, you will find the small fishing port of Vallon des Auffes. Here, you will get an insight into the region's culinary diversity. You can try seafood at L'Epuisette and Chez Fonfon or pizzas and mixed grills at Chez Jeannot.
In the city center, La Canebière (a thoroughfare which divides the city in two), will lead you to the Cours Julien with its innumerable restaurants, all offering fine, Southern cuisine. These include: Le Sud du Haut, La Garbure and also Dar Djerba.
The lively shopping streets of Marseille are home to a number of hidden gastronomic treasures. Spend some time in the city's dining scene and you will find that the citizens of Marseille are proud of their city, and happy to share its wonders with you.