Marseille is a real bad boy from the South of France. It’s the largest port in the country situated on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It gained the unsavory reputation of a dangerous, dirty city with dozens of cultures and nationalities. But don’t you even think of canceling your flight! The slightly unbrushed Marseille will take the fancy of everyone fond of maritime romance. He will drive you crazy with the mind-blowing odors of the freshly-cooked seafood dishes and salty breeze. Its narrow streets of the historical center and the wide avenues of the Second Empire; the snow-white yachts and magnificent cathedrals; the roaring tribunes of the “Orange Vélodrome” stadium and the Medieval castles — this diverse Marseille will become the front gate to your lavender adventures in Provence.
Districts of Marseille
Central districts are considered to be the most interesting areas for tourists. Districts I and II have the highest concentration of the attractions. The picturesque streets of Le Panier resemble Paris in a way, noisy sailors gather by the berth of the Old Port, and the restaurants serve the most delicious bouillabaisse and coffee. Marseille Cathedral had been leading services for more than 2 centuries, Le Cours Julien speckles with vivid graffiti, and La Canebière is filled with crowds of carefree tourists. I and II are perfect for those people who want to dive into the Marseilles bohemian life right after getting out of bed. However, be ready that the nights in these districts might be quite noisy.
The VII district of Marseille also offers plenty of attractions. Small ships take tourists to the wall of the mysterious Château d'If. The fort of Saint Nicolas guards the entrance to the city, the Abbey of Saint-Victor gathers people for masses on Saturdays, and Notre-Dame de la Garde looks down the city from the hill. The VII district is a nice variant if you stay in the city for a couple of days. There are plenty of supermarkets and cafes here. This area is quite safe and the landscapes of the streets will delight you with their special aesthetics.
If you are looking for a beach getaway, consider booking hotels and apartments in the VIII district. The best beaches in the city are concentrated in this area. The most popular destinations are located along the coastline of the Prado Seaside Park. It offers everything for a safe and high-quality recreation: first-aid posts, playgrounds, bars, SPA, a stadium, showers, and changing cabins. Comfort is the characteristic feature not only of the beaches but of the whole district VIII in general. No wonder wealthy Frenchmen choose it for dwelling.
Districts X-XII are located quite far from the center. There are almost no significant historical attractions here. However, you can easily get to the center of the city in 15 minutes with the help of the developed public transport system. Safety, affordable prices for apartments and hotels, and quiet nights are the main advantages of these districts, especially when the tourists can’t decide where to stay in Marseille.
Unfortunately, districts XIII, XIV and XV can’t boast of the same advantages. They are considered to be dangerous for tourists as there are Marseilles ghettos here. Therefore, we highly recommend you to refuse to stay in the apartments located in the northern districts.
There is absolutely no need to apply for city tours to discover Marseille. Grab a map or a navigator, mark the attractions that we have picked up for your trip with care, create a route and head to explore the capital of Provence.
Today, the population of Marseille is almost 1 million people. The main phenomenon of the city is that there are not more than 50% of the native Frenchmen here. Immigrants from countries of North Africa form around 30% of the population. Besides, around 80 000 Armenians and the same number of Jews live here. Don’t forget to add a considerable diaspora of Greeks, Poles, Italians, and you will get a real cocktail of cultures and nationalities called Marseille.
The post-war period determined the modern history of Marseille. It was harsh, shabby, permeated with the smell of dirt and fish. The city stood in contrast with its glamorous neighbors along the French Riviera. Its streets gathered the degraded and outcast immigrants from other European countries and former colonies. The henchmen of the gangster Paul Carbone produced heroin in the sea docks and shipped it to Europe and overseas. The dealers’ activities were shut only in the 90s.
When the flow of immigrants and the level of unemployment reached their peak, the city was absorbed into the atmosphere of total despair. It was decided at the country level to save Marseille. In the 2000s, the city received considerable financial injections. As a result, many art spaces, nightclubs, restaurants, cultural objects, and modern residential complexes were opened. The tourist industry began to develop and grow: museums opened their doors, and festivals invited guests. By 2013, Marseille was proclaimed to be the European capital of culture. However, many people are still scared of the city’s shady past. There are still legends about gangsterism on the streets of the capital of Provence. Believe us, Marseille as it is won’t disappoint experienced travelers.
Before the trip, you should calculate the approximate budget that you will require for the travel:
|from 66 €/night||from 81 €/night||Start - 6.01 €, 1km - 1.51 €||1.45 €/liter||50 € for 2 person|
The Best Time to Visit Marseille
Don’t sit inside the four walls of your hotel room! Participate in the annual events in Marseille. For example, “The Music and Culture of Diasporas” and “The Saint Music” festivals fill the city with an atmosphere of celebration in August and October accordingly. In October, Marseille is absorbed into the “Southern Fiesta”. In November, the connoisseurs of Modern Art gather at “Bazaar”. In March, the international exhibition of motorboats and yachts “Les Nautica” opens the holiday season in the Mediterranean.
Despite its progress in cultural development, Marseille still remains to be a problem city. Some districts are filled with underprovided people. Locals try not to stroll around the street after 7 PM. The small shops are closed at 6 PM. Just make sure you are attentive and follow the simple rules of personal safety. Keep away from the port district and northern quarters after the sunset.
If you have no desire to look into the local public transport rates and grow old in lines to museums, consider buying a City Pass card in Marseille. Moreover, it will help you to save money. The price for one is €17, for two days — €20, for three — €41. The City Pass costs less for children aged 7-15.
Before heading to any destination, make sure you know the working hours of the attraction. You can ask for this information at the tourist agency or reception at the hotel. The schedule may change depending on the season.
What you must do in Marseille?
- Ascend to the observation deck of Notre-Dame de la Garde. The view of the city is mind-blowing: the sea, mountains, and the red roofs of the ancient districts will be at your feet.
- Explore the Château d'If where the person in an iron mask lived. This fantastic castle described in the iconic novel “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas stands on a separate island located 2 kilometers from the coast. The castle used to be a high-security prison and hides lots of myths and legends.
- Visit the architectural legacy of Le Corbusier called “The Radiant City”. It’s not just a simple residential district as you might have thought. This place is a real masterpiece and the utopic idea of municipal engineering. Who knows, maybe in the nearest future, the ideas of Le Corbusier will be the fundamentals of town planning.
- Get acquainted with the traditional Marseilles cuisine. First of all, taste bouillabaisse. It’s a stew made of seafood. Marseille is the only place where they cook the most delicious bouillabaisse. Local sailors sell fish and mussels for the dish right at the local market.
- Admire the landscapes of the Calanques. These the Provencal fjords that cut the whole coastline. Grey rocks, a sky-blue sea, snow-white yachts on the horizon, the odor of salt and pine - you will definitely enjoy an unforgettable walk around the national park.
- Suddenly drop by the Arab Quarter and feel as if you were standing on the coast of Northern Africa. Its streets are hanged with colorful clothes, women wear turbans, they serve couscous in cafes, dark-skinned men sell hashish squatting by the ruins of the houses, and the Algerian kids play football (a T-shirt with the number of Zinedine Zidane is a must).