Marseille, the oldest city in France
The oldest city in France and second largest metropolis in the country, Marseille boasts a charming Mediterranean ambience. This major port with a lively feel and an emphasis on culture and sport was elected European Capital of Culture in 2013 and the 2017 European capital of sport.
© Atout France/A. Dupont
Founded in 600 BC by the Greeks from Phocaea, Marseille is the oldest city in France and the second largest after Paris. The city is home to almost 900,000 people living in its 16 districts, most of which have held onto their authentic village atmosphere.
Marseille has much to offer its locals and tourists: an incredible coastline, a harbour which turns foreign sailors green with envy and 300 days of sunshine every year!
Marseille has an impressive natural heritage with numerous lush parks in the heart of the city, offering refreshing havens when the sun is beating down. Just a few kilometres from the Vieux-Port lies the Calanques National Park, which is the perfect spot for year-round outdoor activities. The famous Calanques cover 20 kilometres with untamed creeks to explore and clear blue water to enjoy.
A dozen museums exhibit a wide variety of collections from antiquity to modern art, and several galleries display the work of famous artists and rising stars. Marseille will be the European Capital of Culture in 2013 and the schedule promises to have a variety of entertainment all year long. The city and region will host over 400 events, including performances, street art, exhibitions, theatre, literary debates, and Mediterranean cooking.
© Anne-Sophie Damiano
As you stroll around this Mediterranean city you will see its impressive heritage for yourself. Marseille is brimming with hidden gems from the old town of Panier to the Second Empire buildings and the Roman churches.
Marseille is now also known for its economic projects, particularly with the Euroméditerranée project, which has seen major architects such as Zaha Hadid, Kengo Kuma and Stefano Boeri redesign the city. The Vieux-Port has been fully reworked by the architects at Norman Foster. This fantastic location will be pedestrianised to restore it to its former glory in Marseille.
So, are you ready for a trip back in time?
- Admire the panoramic view from Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde
- Discover the small fishing ports, the creeks, the If Castle and the archipelago of Frioul
- Stroll by the markets of Marseille
- Sip a pastis at sunset on the Vieux-Port
- See an exhibition in the Vieille Charité Museum and have a walk in the « Panier » district
- Watch a game at the Velodrome Stadium
- Jog on the Corniche
- Try out the local gastronomic specialities such as the fish soup (bouillabaisse)
- February: Open 13 of tennis
- March: World Water Forum, Massilia Mono Cup and Massilia IRC Sailing Race, Marseille’s Marathon, Marseille’s Carnaval
- April: Mediterranean Sea International Nautical week, Jeanty Women’s Foil Fencing World Cup Grand Prix FIE Challenge
- May: Festival of sacred music
- June: La fête bleue, Les Voiles du Vieux Port Sailing Race, Open GDF Suez of Marseille, AudiMed Cup, Festival of Marseille
- July: Festival of Jazz from the five Continents, Biking Tour de France stopover (to be confirmed)
- September: September at Sea, Art-O-Rama international Contemporary Art exhibit, Juris’ Cup Sailing Race
- October: Fiesta des Suds, Marsatac Festival (Music), Antiques and Art galleries fair of Marseille, Marseille-Cassis Semi-Marathon
- November: World Festival of underwater pictures
- December: Christmas crib figures and Christmas markets
The friendly atmosphere is the main flavour of meals here in Marseille where the typical daily fare includes olive oil and garlic.
At the crossroads of the Mediterranean, Marseille is no stranger to foreign cuisine and has even adopted some recipes as its own.
The result? Spicy dishes with a sunny touch, not to mention fish, shellfish and other seafood delicacies that make up the local fare.
In Marseilles, the culinary traditions are numerous. First of all, there’s the famous bouillabaisse: the most reknown fish speciality in the world, which is closely linked to the image of Marseille.
Other local specialties include pasta with pisto, seafood, rice with favouilles, Provencal Stew, pied paquets, garlic mayonnaise, tapenade, anchovy paste, stuffed vegetables, stuffed squids, panisses, fuss freggi, rockfish soup, and of course lots of various fishes.
At Christmas time, you can enjoy ancestral culinary traditions, such as " the large supper and the 13 desserts," and later, in February, you can try the navettes biscuits in celebration of Candlemas.
Marseille City Pass
Visit Marseille with an all inclusive package. The City-Pass is valid for 1 or 2 consecutive days. The pass gives you access to many tourist and cultural services : on foot, by train or by boat, discover the oldest city of France.
- Free acces to 14 museums
- Guided Tours of the town (Panier, Saint-Victor, Longchamp…)
- Tour of the If-Castle
- Free access to the subway and buses
- Train to Notre-Dame de la Garde or The old Town : le Panier
- Boat to the If-Castle or the Frioul Islands
- Reduced rates and 10% discount at certified boutiques
- Free tasting
- Discounted price : sightseeing tour by open-deck coach, the Festival of Marseille in july (music, dance), original productions of the Carpe Diem theatre, The National Theatre La Criée, The theatre the Gymnase, The Opera of Marseille
- 10% discount for boat excursions with our partners: Croisière Marseille Calanques, Icard Maritime et Bleu Evasion( Boat with solar energy)
Available at the Tourist Office
Guided Tours of the Tourist Office
Departure time: 2:00 p.m.
Every month, the Tourist Office and Convention Bureau organises guided tours to enable visitors to discover Marseille from both traditional and more original angles. Discover, with our guides, its 2600 years of history, the Old Port, its old quarter of Le Panier, as well as its churches, including the most famous, the basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde, which keeps watch over the Old Port and the city’s inhabitants. Also visit its bustling quarters steeped in history, from L’Estaque to La Corniche, and the small fishing port of Malmousque while passing through La Canebière, Cours Julien and the Dock areas. See its industrial heritage, its unique celebrations for Candlemas and Christmas, and Le Corbusier’s Radiant City. Your guide will also unveil the new face of Marseille: the Euroméditerranée district, the renovation of Haussmann’s thoroughfare, Rue de la République, the Palais Omnisports in Marseille’s Greater East, the departmental archives and library of Gaston Deferre.
Visit Marseille differently with our guides who offer original, quirky tours, offering a unique perspective of the city.
Do you want the services of a guide-interpreter ?
If you are alone or in a group, the Marseille Tourist Office and Convention Bureau, organises individualized tours of the city.
- SNCF Train station (Gare Saint Charles): 3 hours from Paris (1 TGV every hour)
- Airport: Marseille-Provence (30 min from the city center, Air France shuttle every half hour, terminal MP2 low cost flights), Liaisons SNCF between Vitrolles Aéroport Marseille Provence Train Station and Marseille Saint-Charles (20 shuttles per day, 30 minutes fare)
- Autoroutes: A55, A7, A52 (765 km de Paris)
Source: Atout France (France.fr)