Marseille Top Reasons to Visit this City
Reasons to Visit Marseille
M for Museums:
When you go, plan to visit the museums in Marseille. There is something for every artistic taste and attention span with a range of curated artistic styles and artifacts.
History buffs head to Fort Saint-Jean, Musée d’ Histoire de Marseille (one of the largest in Europe), the Musée des Docks Romains (Roman Docks Museum), and musée d’Archéologie méditerranéenne (located inside Vieille Charité).
Art lovers discover Musée des Beaux-Arts with a collection of 16th to 19th-century artwork. Located in Palais Longchamp, it is the oldest museum in Marseille opening to the public in 1801.
A for Architecture:
The award of Cultural Capital of the Year for 2013 was just the kind of shot-in-the-arm impetus that the city of Marseille required to change its gritty image. The reality is no municipality would disagree with a cash infusion equaling € 660 million. Although that figure is only a portion of the total amount of infrastructure funding, the result is several legacy projects such as the Museum of Civilisations from Europe and the Mediterranean (MuCEM).
MuCEM is a stunning architectural creation by Rudy Ricciotti in collaboration with Roland Carta changed the face of J4, an old ferry dock. The museum is a sparkling five-story glass cube implausibly enveloped by concrete latticework. The purpose-built concrete panels provide defused lighting and a windbreak while adding immense architectural interest to the structure.
R for Radical:
Swiss architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, famously known as Le Corbusier, began designing a radical urban living concept in 1926. Marseille’s Unité d’Habitation was the first iteration of his idea. Le Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse (Radiant City) divides fans and detractors of Brutalist Architecture.
Construction of this vertical apartment-village complex occurred between 1947 and 1952. Designed for as high-density living the building has 337 apartments accommodating up to 1,600 residents. Resting on cement stilts, Unité d’Habitation is a concrete block with impressive dimensions at 165m in length, 24m wide and 56m high.
Radiant City incorporates many of the key concepts that Le Corbusier began sketching and detailing in the 1920s. The rooftop terrace was intended for community usage, a place to relax elevated from urban noises. The planning for each apartment unit (there were 23 different floor plans) maximized natural light and space utilization while minimizing heat load. The village concept included retail space, a hotel and a restaurant.
“Completed in 1952 in Marseille, the building took Le Corbusier’s most famous quote – that a house is “a machine for living in” – and applied it to an entire community. The result was a self-contained concrete vessel that is structured like an ocean liner.” ~ DeeZeen
Situated in a park setting the 18-storey Cité Radieuse is notable for its UNESCO World Heritage designation. Today, the occupants include residents, creative businesses, the 21-room Hôtel Le Corbusier, a gourmet restaurant called Le Ventre de L’Architecte (the Belly of the Architect) and MAMO modern art centre. Book a tour of this fascinating structure through the Marseille Tourism office. English tours are only available on Saturdays.
S is for Seafood:
No one should visit Marseille without tasting the soup/stew/broth made with local rockfish. Bouillabaisse is a seafood soup with pieces of fish and crustaceans. The soup is so special that in 1980, eleven of the top chefs in Marseille created the “Bouillabaisse Charter.” Enjoy this recipe for bouillabaisse.
E is for Estaque:
Once a quaint fishing village northwest of Marseille, l’Estaque gets its name from “estaco” which is the Provencal word for a mooring ring for boats. The town’s setting attracted Paul Cézanne and other Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists. During 60 years (1860-1920) the town’s colourful houses, brick and tile factory roofs, natural Mediterranean vegetation and the bay of Marseille provided a diverse backdrop for these artists. Today, l’Estaque remains a working-class district and is part of the city’s 16th Arrondissement. Read: New York Times Travel “Stepping into the Frame in the South of France.”
Why visit l’Estaque?
It’s an excellent place to catch the RTM maritime shuttle to the Vieux Port. This seasonal boat service runs daily from the end of April to late September. Sit back and enjoy the view of the city and the mountains from the water.
Discover the works of Marseille-born artist Adolphe Monticelli at Fondation Monticelli a private museum that opened in 2010. Monticelli’s paintings of l’Estaque inspired Paul Cézanne and others.
Try local fast food! Located near the entrance to the harbour several food kiosks propose their versions of savoury panisse and sweet chichis frégi. Made with chickpea flour the panisse batter is deep-fried and then sprinkled with fleur de sel before serving (click here for Tasha’s recipe for panisse). Chichi frégi is the local variation of a doughnut, with wheat flour and orange blossom water.
Head to the beach. Choose from one of three (3) waterfront strips that make up the Corbières beaches (Lave, Batterie and Fortin). Accessible from the city centre expect crowds at these family-friendly beaches on weekends and holidays.
I is for the Islands:
When it’s hot in the city, catch a ferry for a short ride to the Iles de Frioul archipelago with its four islands. Ferries run from the Vieux Port on a regular basis during the summer months. You can easily spend a day hiking the trails or lounging on the beaches of Ratonneau. Do not miss visiting If, the smallest island with the fortress-prison Château d’If (home of the fictional character Count of Monte Cristo).
L is for Le Panier:
Le Panier, the oldest residential district in Marseille, is a web of narrow, winding streets. The tightly packed row houses and alleyways angle up a hill away from the Vieux Port where the fishermen moored their boats. Le Panier (The Basket) remains a lively residential neighbourhood dotted with charming cafés, street art, and boutiques. Make sure to visit the 16th-century la Vielle Charité, once a refuge for the city’s poorest residents is now home to the Museums of Archaeology and Contemporary Art.
L is for La Bonne Mére:
Located at the crest of not only the tallest peak, but the highest tower in the city is a golden lady. Regardless of your religious beliefs, the 19th-century Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica is worth a visit for the panoramic views of the city from the terrace.
La Bonne Mère” (the Good Mother) is considered the religious protector of those who venture out on the water. Affixed to the church’s interior walls are tiles thanking Dieu (God) for bringing their crews back safely. Sunlight spills into the gilded heart of Notre Dame de la Garde. Light from vibrant stained glass windows highlights the model boats hanging from the rafters above the pews.
E is for Explore!
The Calanques, shopping, food, arts, markets, and cool bars are some of the many reasons to #ChooseMarseille. Here, is a planning guide for your next visit to Marseille.
For more information, visit www.marseille-tourisme.com.