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Overview

Lively, boisterous Marseille is France’s oldest city and biggest commercial port. Excavations in the central city show the remains of Neolithic dwellings from 8,000 years ago, but the present city was founded in 600 BC by the Greeks as a trading port. Its shipping has always given it an international feel, which increased in the 1960s with the influx from newly independent Algeria. Despite its reputation as a somewhat rowdy port, Marseille is a city steeped in culture – so much so that it has been named European Capital of Culture for 2013. It has a major opera house and several other performance venues, as well as outstanding art and ...

Lively, boisterous Marseille is France’s oldest city and biggest commercial port. Excavations in the central city show the remains of Neolithic dwellings from 8,000 years ago, but the present city was founded in 600 BC by the Greeks as a trading port. Its shipping has always given it an international feel, which increased in the 1960s with the influx from newly independent Algeria. Despite its reputation as a somewhat rowdy port, Marseille is a city steeped in culture – so much so that it has been named European Capital of Culture for 2013. It has a major opera house and several other performance venues, as well as outstanding art and historical museums. The Vieux-Port, guarded by the huge Fort Saint Jean and Fort St Nicolas, is a center of social life, as it has been for centuries. The harbor area was badly damaged in World War II and rebuilt to a design by architect Fernand Pouillon, and is now filled with cafes and restaurants. The extensive 19th-century Palais Longchamp, in the Parc Longchamp, houses the outstanding Musée des Beaux-Arts and the Natural History Museum. High in the hills to the southwest, the basilica of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde offers views over the city. One of Europe’s oldest Christian religious sites, the Abbey of Saint-Victor has a 5th-century crypt and catacombs where Christian martyrs were buried.

Juliette Rogers
About the Expert

Juliette Rogers is coauthor of the guidebooks Eating New England: A Food Lovers Guide to Eating Locally, Secret Providence and Newport, and two Thomas Cook guides on France.

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Juliette Rogers for Triporati

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Now Happening in Marseille

Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Provence region, south-eastern coast of France, on the Mediterranean.
  • Language: French
  • Currency: Euro
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall
  • Current Time:

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    December for the Santon Fair, where the region's famous creche figures are displayed and sold. Winters, although usually above freezing, are windy and humid. Spring and fall weather is mild and pleasant.