Marseille? Colette described it to perfection: “The deafening Canebière, the blue harbour, the white boats, the lacy ropes and rigging.”
A fast-changing urban landscape
After winning the European Capital of Culture 2013 title, Marseille is still on the ball as they say in this football-crazy city. Set on the port’s former jetty, the Mucem (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations) has earned its standing as a world-class museum thanks to its vast collections and seductive architecture. The Joliette quarter is the city’s new shopping temple, home to les Docks Village, les Terrasses du Port and les Voûtes de la Major , set under the ancient arcades of Cathédrale de la Major. Down from the Panier quarter, – the Montmartre of Marseille – cultural venues have sprung up everywhere: don’t miss the Villa Méditerranée, Fondation Regards de Provence, and Kengo Kuma’s building designed for the FRAC (Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur Regional Contemporary Art Collection).
See Marseille sights on a city bus
Visiting Marseille for the first time? Climb aboard bus number 83, departing from the Vieux-Port, founded in 600 BC by Greek sailors. Old-fashioned pointu fishing boats and yachts sway on the water, framed by the Fort Saint-Jean, Fort Saint-Nicolas, and the Abbaye Saint-Victor. Above, Notre-Dame de la Garde (locally nicknamed “La Bonne Mère”) stands guard over the city. After the Palais du Pharo, built under the reign of Napoleon III, the Corniche Kennedy coast road links the city centre to the long beaches of Le Prado. With reputedly the world’s longest bench that measures 3 km, it runs past Plage des Catalans and Plage des Prophètes, over a viaduct above Vallon des Auffes and through the quarters of Malmousque and Endoume, where you are literally suspended over the sea. A second bus awaits at Pointe Rouge, whisking you off to Les Goudes and the Calanques at a pleasantly slow pace. What’s more, the city buses are environmentally-friendly!
Marseille: A city that dances with the sea
Set overlooking a bay dotted with archipelagos, Marseille rises up against a backdrop of limestones hills. Its 111 quarters each have their own unique identity, which you can discover by visiting their parks, beaches or pétanque courts. The cosmopolitan shops of the Noailles quarter, steep streets of Le Panier and chic houses of Saint-Giniez are all worth the trip. Sporty, friendly and creative, France’s second-largest city is asserting its forward-looking mindset with a series of recent iconic buildings signed by Rudy Riccioti and Zaha Hadid. The city is bordered by the world-famed Calanques fjords and charming little ports such as Cassis, La Ciotat, Carry-le-Rouet and Martigues, ideal for a dip. From sandy crescents to rocky coves, you can admire them from above from the Route des Crêtes running from Cassis to La Ciotat, or the Petit Train de la Côte Bleue coastal train.
A plethora of museums
The latest in a long line of city museums, the Musée des Arts Sacrés shelters the finest ex votos from Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde Basilica. Marseille is home to 11 Musées de France national museums, hosting over 20 exhibitions and welcoming over a million visitors every year. The collections, covering all aspects of history and art from Antiquity to current day, are showcased in remarkable buildings. Château Borely, a listed monument, houses the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, de la Mode et de la Faïence (Decorative Arts, Fashion & Earthenware Museum). The Musée d’Histoire de Marseille, set just next to the Vieux Port, invites you to roam 2,600 of history. The Musée des Beaux-Arts, Marseille’s oldest museum, is set inside the magnificent Palais Longchamp, while the Musée des Arts Africains, Océaniens et Amérindiens is found at Vieille Charité, at the top of the Panier quarter. If you’re a modern architecture fan, the prize for the best location goes to the MaMo: set on the flat roof of Le Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse housing complex, this design and contemporary arts centre was created by French designer Ora-Ito.
THE BEST SHOPPING IN MARSEILLE
After visiting the essentials of Marseille like the Mucem or the Vieux Port, head to the city centre. For a day that embraces the warmth of the Mediterranean, here are our favorite addresses for shopping in Marseille!