City description

Marseille, the sun-drenched city of Marcel Pagnol, lavender and cicadas, is a poetic destination. And a puzzling one. Because although its untamed landscapes surround the city, France’s oldest city is also an urban jungle. A southern city, bustling, undisciplined and proud of its singsong accent. It is this ambivalence that makes it so charming.

On the one hand, there is the famous Calanque de Sormiou, popular with fans of fishing, walking and climbing. Welcome to the real Marseille, the one that is imbued with all the good things in life! Like in the Old Port, overlooked by the Fort Saint-Jean. A symbol of ancient Massilia, which owes its rise to the Mediterranean, the Old Port is home to a small traditional Provençal market. Wander around the pretty streets of Le Panier, one of the oldest parts of the city, then visit the Cours Honoré Estienne d'Orves, the perfect place for an aperitif, Marseille style, which of course means a pastis. It's now time for a trip up to Notre-Dame de la Garde, for a breathtaking view of the city suspended between the sky and the sea. Only La Corniche separates it from the shimmering water of the Mediterranean.

Despite the proximity of well-preserved natural landscapes, the city hasn’t forgotten to include a few green spaces within its walls as well. At the Parc Borely, popular with the locals, you can relax, watch people playing pétanque, runners training for the Marseille Marathon, or amateur footballers. Here the little round ball is a religion, celebrated at every match that OM plays at the Vélodrome Stadium. The Parc Longchamp and its Palais, which houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts and the Natural History Museum and the Jardin de la Magalone are some other lush green havens where you’re guaranteed to find some peace and quiet. Before you meet the other side of the city…

Marseille has all the life and buzz of other big ports. It’s a cosmopolitan city that has always nurtured relationships with southern Europe, the Near East, Northern Africa and Asia. The MuCEM and the History Museum explore these multicultural aspects over the centuries. They are still relevant today. So the Fiesta des Suds, Marseille’s legendary music festival, focuses on the blend of different genres and sounds, as does Babel Med Music, the festival of world music. The 2013 European Capital of Culture has a very modern feel to it. Since Le Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse, great architects like Norman Foster, Rudy Ricciotti and Kengo Kuma have continued to redesign the face of this great metropolis that is proudly of its time and not afraid of anything.

This character is summed up by local labels like Sessùn, American Vintage and Le Temps des Cerises. Marseille’s fashion is straightforward and uncomplicated, popular far beyond the confines of La Canebière. It’s hardly surprising then that Marseille is the perfect destination for shopaholics. As well as the iconic Rue Paradis, The Terrasses du Port is a must, while foodies will be in their element in Les Halles de la Major, a fantastic venue dedicated to fine food.

Marseille makes the most of its seaside location, especially when it comes to cuisine. It would be a travesty to leave town before trying the iconic bouillabaisse, prepared as it should be. There are lots of great restaurants that find the balance between local ingredients and daring combinations, without ever betraying the city’s identity. Last but not least, Marseille is not afraid to stay ahead of the times, at the trendy Mama Shelter Bar for example. And it’s always tireless, especially when the sun goes down. Marseille is a rebellious, buzzing city, that’s constantly reinventing itself.
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