A Planning Guide for Your Next Visit to Marseille
Marseille has been working hard to get itself on the tourist ‘must-see’ list and the Tourist Office now offers many organised visits to different parts of this vibrant city. Apart from the obvious sites, visitors can opt for food-tasting tours, street art walks, lunch on a cruise ship, or behind the scenes at the Marseille opera which includes a fascinating visit to the atelier where costumes are made. The new tourism office catalogue and website describe services as trip organisers. Continue reading here for the original contributor blog post by Aixcentric.
A Visit to Marseille
In roughly 600 BC, the Greeks established a settlement they called Massalia. They chose a naturally sheltered harbour along the Mediterranean coastline to develop a base for maritime trade. The Vieux Port is where the Greeks followed by the Romans established their trade routes for spices, silks, cotton, wine, olive oil and much more. Today, Marseille ranks as the second biggest city in France, and the country’s largest seaport – le Grand port maritime de Marseille. The city also ranks among the top five cruise ports in the Mediterranean. Although, the maritime business activity has shifted the Old Port remains a busy epicentre for tourist cruises, personal watercraft and ferry shuttles. The Vieux Port is one of the must-see sights in Marseille.
On a slight rise, just north of the Vieux Port is Le Panier, the oldest district in Marseille. Le Panier was the original site of the Greek settlement of Massalia. The hilltop location has long been home to Marseille’s fishermen, dock workers, tradespeople and many new immigrants.
Although le Panier has mostly shed its gritty reputation, it’s entirely possible to get lost in the maze of streets and imagine the setting for a mystery novel. Take a stroll from the Vieux Port past the Hôtel Dieu (now a five-star InterContinental property) or cross the steel girder walkway from Fort Saint-Jean to le Panier.
Enter a world where laundry hangs from window ledges of ochre-coloured rowhouses, bright street art appears on vertical surfaces and the aromas of multi-cultural cuisine waft through the air. Don’t miss le Panier and its architectural gem La Vielle Charité.
Soap manufacturing featured heavily in the industrial and urban growth of Marseille. MuSaMa (le Musée du Savon de Marseille) is a museum-boutique workshop dedicated to safeguarding the reputation of Savon de Marseille is centrally located near the Vieux Port. The vision of the museum’s founders is to educate visitors about the vrai (real) Savon de Marseille, its eco-friendly ingredients, and artisanal production.
Discover some of the key historical sights in Marseille in a family-friendly way with ExitGame. PistezMarseille combines history, sightseeing and a problem-solving hunt. Suitable for anyone older than 10 years of age, and played while walking the streets of Marseille the scenario is an entertaining way to the city’s historical monuments in about 2h30.
Bouillabaisse and Beyond
The fish scraps and a few herbs were thrown into a pot of boiling salted water, this meagre meal marked the end of a long day for the fishermen of Marseille. Fast forward to the present day and this fish soup is no longer considered a humble meal. Read – From Humble Beginnings to la Charte de la Bouillabaisse.
Today you can find Bouillabaisse in many restaurants, but if you want to try an authentic version head to Chez FonFon in Vallon des Auffes or here.
Learn how to make bouillabaisse during a cooking class with Gilles at Provence Gourmet. When he describes this fish recipe, you enter the door of his grandmother’s kitchen where she created this fisherman’s soup from scratch.
Michelin three-star chef Gérald Passédat has recreated bouillabaisse in his own fashion (bouillabaisse terrine recipe here). Discover his luxurious hotel Le Petit Nice, which has celebrated a century of gastronomy in Marseille.
MuCEM and Fort St Jean
An oversized steel girder is a walkway that joins the contemporary architecture of MuCEM to one of the two fortified structures that defended the Vieux Port.
MUCEM – Musée des civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée
7 promenade Robert Laffont (esplanade du J4),
Hours: Opens at 11h and closes between 18h-20h (depending on the season).
Closed on Tuesdays.
Musée d’ Histoire de Marseille, one of the largest museums in Europe.
2 Rue Henri Barbusse, 13001 Marseille
Tel. +33 (0)4 91 55 36 63
Hours: Open Tuesday through Sunday 10h to 18h.
This small museum is located in what was once a private mansion built in 1694. Jules Cantini a marble importer and final owner of the home donated the building to the city in 1916.
19 rue Grignan, Marseille
Hours: Open Tuesday-Sunday 10-19h. Closed Mondays.
Tel: +33 (0)4 91 54 77 75
*With Pass MyProvence the second person will get in for free
Escape the city heat and head to les Îles de Frioul – the Frioul archipelago. There are four small islands in the group Pomègues, Ratonneau, If and l’îlot Tiboulen du Frioul. The island of If is known for its ancient prison part of the Château d’If and the inspiration for Alexandre Dumas’ novel “The Count of Monte Cristo.” The islands offer a chance to hike, sit at the beach, a few casual restaurants and a few historical military installations. For more details on navettes (shuttles) click here.
Maison Empereur is a unique hardware store in Marseille that first opened in 1827.
4, rue des Récolettes
Open Monday to Saturday from 9h to 19h (does not close for lunch)
Tel: +33 (0)4 91 54 02 29
Marseille’s markets are where to Find Exotic Spices in Provence.
The Opera district is sprinkled with high-end stores, one-off boutiques and the best fishmonger in town. Poissonnerie du Golfe at 22 Rue Dr Combalat, 13006 Marseille.
NOTE: Pass MyProvence – is a free pass available to residents of the Bouches du Rhône.