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Marseille City Info

Marseille Hotels

Marseille is one of the oldest cities in France. Bustling and brash, it is the country's second city and the largest port in Europe after Rotterdam. Large and industrial, it however boasts a unique heritage and enjoys a spectacular setting along the Mediterranean. Its majestic island-studded bay and its Calanques - rocky inlets and lagoons - are world famous.

The city's main thoroughfare is called La Canabiere and stretches eastwards from the Vieux Port ( Old Port ). Make sure to stroll around the old port where ships have docked for more than 26 centuries and where the atmosphere, spirit, and charm of the city is at its most tangible. Climb up to the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde, a huge Romano-Byzantine basilica 1km south of the old port. Erected between 1853 and 1864, it stands on a hilltop and provides breathtaking views over the city. Two museums well worth visiting are the Centre de la Vieille Charite where exhibits are housed in a workhouse and hospice dating back to the 17th century and the Musee d'Histoire de Marseille which gives a history of the city. Take a ferry out to the mysterious Chateau d'If which lies on an island 3.5 kilometres west of the entrance to the old port. The 16th century fortress-turned-prison featured in Alexandre Dumas' classic work of fiction The Count of Monte Cristo.

No trip to Marseille would be complete without tasting its most renowned dish - bouillabaisse. This is a hearty soup with three kinds of fish served in a broth with onions, tomatoes, saffron, sage and thyme. Work up an appetite by strolling in the unspoilt countryside just outside the city and swimming or scuba diving in the warm, turquoise Mediterranean.

Marseille Tourist Attractions

Basilica St. Victor

On the site where St. Victor was martyred in the third century, St. Jean Cassian founded an abbey in the fifth century.

Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde

The first chapel, built on the site in 1214, was replaced with the existing Romano-Byzantine basilica in 1864. The 36-ft-/11-m-high statue of the Virgin Mary on the bell tower watches over the Vieux Port to protect sailors and fishermen. The basilica, which has the best view of the city and port, is covered with spectacular mosaics inside.

Centre de la Vieille Charite

This former hospice, built in the 17th and 18th centuries, was completely renovated and opened in 1986 as a cultural center housing an art gallery and two excellent museums: the Museum of African, Oceanic and Native American Art and the Museum of Mediterranean Archaeology.

Chateau d'If

An island fortress built by Francois I in 1524 to protect Marseille from attack, the Chateau d'If was used as a prison from the 17th century. It became famous as the castle setting of Alexander Dumas' 1844 novel, The Count of Monte Cristo. April-September, daily 9 am-6:30 pm; October-March, Tuesday-Sunday 9 am - 5:30 pm. Closed on windy days.

Le Panier

The last vestige of old Marseille, le Panier is a hillside maze of narrow streets, steep staircases and colorful Mediterranean facades that stretch from the Vieux Port up to the Vieille Charite. The Montee des Accoules is the lively main artery of this multiethnic residential neighborhood, but if you want to really appreciate its character and its architecture, venture into the tiny side streets.

Musee Cantini

This 17th-century private mansion-museum is celebrated for its collection of 20th-century art, including works by Picasso, Matisse, Dufy, Ernst, Leger, Miro and Bacon.

Musee des Beaux-Arts

Marseille's first museum and one of the oldest in France, the Musee des Beaux arts was established in 1802, in the aftermath of the French Revolution. In 1868, it was moved into the left wing of the Palais de Longchamp, a majestic Second-Empire building with stunning fountains. Its collections include European paintings and sculpture, as well as galleries devoted to Provencal art.

Musee Grobet-Labadie

This elegant 19th-century town house and its eclectic collection were donated to the city of Marseille by a wealthy merchant family in 1919. The collection includes 16th-century Flemish and French tapestries, 15th-century religious icons, 18th-century faience from Marseille and baroque musical instruments. It also has paintings by Flemish, French, German and Italian masters.

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