Welcome to Marseille

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Marseille, city of art and culture



Basilica tops the city at 160 meters above sea level and offers a magnificent panorama of the city, the seal and the surrounding mountains. Built in the middle of the 19th century (circa 1850), the "Good Lady" as the locals knick-named their beloved Basilica, it is crowned with a beautiful statue of the Virgin Mary. Its architecture is Roman-oriental, Byzantine, colourful. It contains a huge number of ex-votos or votive offerings, rather original, in the shape of boats created by sailors wives. Splendid mosaics can be seen in the nave and the dome of the choir. Over two million pilgrims visit the Basilica each year. 

The Vieux Port

This mythical area of Marseilles where the Phoceans landed in 600 B.C. and installed their first trading posts, was host of the Greek Port Lacydon whose limits extended far beyond the actual mooring area. From the Vieux Port via the famous Canebière, a long avenue created in the 17th Century between the Vieux Port and the Reform Church. It owes its name to the rope makers who weaved hemp, in Provence called “canèbe”. Because of its past luster, the memory of a famous era, was glorified in the no less famous musical “One from the Canebière” bu Vincent Scotto is still vivid.

The Pharo Palace

This Castle was built for Empress Eugenie on the hills above the Vieux Port, from where you can enjoy a splendid panorama of the marina and the ferries that go to Corsica and to North Africa. Napoleon III offered it to the City of Marseilles and it became a Hospital and an extension of the University of Medecine. Today it has become a Convention Center and its garden is open to the public.

Saint Victor Basilica

Founded early in the 5th Century by Saint Cassien, a recluse monk, in honour of Saint Victor, patron saint of the bakers and sailors. Archaeologists discovered remnants of the Greek necropolis dating back to the 11th century B.C. It was full of antic pagan and Christian sarcophagi. Destroyed by the Sarrasins, it was rebuilt and defence works were added around 1040 B.C. that make it look like a fortress. On February 2nd, the day of the Candlemas, long processions walk up from the Vieux Port (Ancient Port) to worship the Black Virgin, dressed in gold and green. On this occasion, her statue is blessed as well as the "navettes", a sort of orange flavoured biscuits in the shape of rowboats which commemorate the landing of Mary Madeleine and Mary Jacobé, sister of the Virgin Mary.

La Vieille Charité

Created in the 17th Century in the heart of the historical Panier district by the Marseilles sculptor Pierre Puget, it is a chef d'œuvre of baroque architecture. An ancient hospice, it is composed of a square area with arcades that surround a chapel with a beautiful dome. It includes two museums, the Museum of Mediterranean Archaeology that holds the second collection of Egyptian arts, after that of the Louvre Museum in Paris, and the Museum of African, South Seas and American Indian arts.

Saint-Jean and Saint-Nicolas Forts

At the entrance of the Vieux Port can be seen two massive defence works: Fort Saint-Jean at the North end and Fort Saint-Nicolas at the South end. The first was built by the Saint Jean-of-Jerusalem Hospitallers in the 13th Century. In the 15th Century was added a monumental square tower, and two centuries later a beacon and a watch tower. The more recent defence works date to Louis 14th, as does Fort Saint-Nicolas. Until 1944 a metallic transporter bridge was connecting both sides. Since then, a ferry boat joins the Port to the Place aux Huiles (Place of Oils) on the other bank.

Vallon des Auffes

With its flowery cliff chalets on its surrounding hills, and its traditional fishing boats lined up that the bottom, its terraced restaurants, this tiny fishing port offers a charming and typical environment.

The Frioul Islands and the Chateau d’If

The islands of the Frioul number four: Pomègues, Ratonneau, If and Tiboulen. Their "calanques" become wilder as one moves away from the landing port: Port Frioul.
The Chateau d'If is a fortress set on the If island. Created under François 1st and completed in 1531 it soon became a prison for mutiny galley slaves and later many protestants in the 17th Century, the 1848 insurgents and the "Communards" of 1871.
Alexandre Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo immortalized the Frioul.

The “Calanques”

The “Calanques” or deep narrow coves, like small fjords caused by erosion of bright white rocks offer a succession of lacy needles, breathtaking viewpoints, ragged capes or coves deep in creeks, some of them accessible only from the sea. The “calanques” go from Marseilles to Cassis on more than 20 kms. It is a true paradise that offers fabulous viewpoints over the cliffs, the turquoise water and the horizon. The main “calanques” are that of Callelongue, Marseilleveyre, Sormiou, Morgiou, Sugiton, En-Vau, Port-Pin and Port-Miou.