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Marseilles, France

Gateway to Provence

Marseilles is the second largest city in France, behind Paris, and has the varied population you’d expect in a port city which is one the major European gateways to Africa.    It’s an important stop for cruise ships and freighters at the modern port, but all the charm is at the Vieux Port (Old Port), where smaller yachts, fishing boats and leisure touring boats jostle for slips. Overlooking the city is Notre Dame de La Garde, high atop a hill. 

Moored boats at the old port of Marseilles on a sunny day.

How old is the Old Port? It was founded by the Greeks around 600 B.C. However, Marseilles goes back even further as far as human habitation goes. You can visit recently discovered (only in 1985) Paleolithic cave drawings right near the Calanque of Morgiou.

With its layers of history, there is a lot to see.

A harbor tour will get you close to the famed Chateau d’If, a prison on one of the several small harbor islands off the coast, all of which can be visited for hiking, swimming and overnight camping. You can even rent out the Chateau d’If for events.

Marseilles is very much about food, like most French cities, most notably for the local fish soup called bouillabaisse. Purveyors ring the harbor, but you don’t have to eat seafood in Marseilles. Local thin crust pizza is a favorite, as well as various tapenades on pita. The sunny days and wonderful light have inspired many artists, such as Cezanne, Braque, Dufy, Derain, and Marquet.

Marseilles - Places to See

Significant Works

  • The Old Port
  • Saint-Victor abbey
  • Palais Longchamp
  • The coriche and Vallon des Auffes
  • The Canebiere