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Marseille is France's second biggest city; however it frequently goes neglected by vacationers that like to invest time in France in both Paris or across the sunny beaches of St. Tropez, Cannes, and Nice. They're certainly passing up on one of France's most diverse metropolitan areas, both when it comes to people and activities. It is charming in its one quite charming way, and makes for a distinctive and full of character vacation destination.
Marseille includes a fascinating history. Founded through the Phoenicians within the sixth century BC, Marseille has lengthy been one of the most important port metropolitan areas on the planet. Throughout the Dark Ages, the town was a focus from the Crusades, as use of Marseille's port was an essential stop in order to the Holy Land. Throughout the reign from the French monarchy, its proper importance was reemphasized like a military stronghold. To this day, Marseille's port may be the second most popular in most of Europe, trailing only Rotterdam.
A famous local legend involves L'ensemble des Trois Maries, or even the Three Marys. St. Lazarus awoke the 3 saints, including Mary Magdalene, and introduced them ashore in Marseille, to be able to Christianize the region. More lately, a military of French volunteers from Marseille marched to Paris. Their fight song, La Marseillaise, grew to become the nation's national anthem.
Today, Marseille faces exactly the same problems just like any growing city. Crime is definitely a problem, out of the box racial tension between your native French population and also the coming North African immigrants. 25% of people in Marseille is of North African descent, which number keeps growing. However the city originates to embrace its newly found diversity, and it wants to put its best feet toward attract a bit of the ever-growing tourism industry.
Docking & Local Transportation
Cruise ships dock in two main areas of commercial piers in Marseille, both north of the Vieux Port area.
Metro subway lines run underneath Marseille, supplying a good way to obtain round the city. Buses also perform a fairly good job of having you around. However, taxis are relatively affordable, and much of your sightseeing is going to be completed in a concentrated area. Contact Marseille Taxi for any cab.
Getting Around By Taxi: A cab or shuttle is required to reach the main part of town and the major tourist sites. The taxi ride may cost 8 - 18 euros, depending on where in the harbor your ship has docked; most lines offer a shuttle into the Vieux Port for 5 euros each way.
On Foot: Once in the Vieux Port area, most of the major sights are within walking distance, although some (Basilique Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde for instance) require an uphill hike. For more distant venues, the Marseille subway system is a simple, two-train affair, with a station in the Vieux Port. It is safe and easy to navigate.
By Rail: For visitors who prefer a less strenuous introduction to Marseille, the "Little Train" offers covered open-sided cars pulled behind a motorized miniature engine. The more popular of the lines departs every 30 minutes from the Quai des Belges at the port's eastern edge. It offers a comprehensive drive-by that lasts slightly over one hour and includes a stop at the Basilique Notre-Dame. Cost is 5 euros.
By Car: Hertz, Avis and National all have rental locations in Marseille. Reservations are a must, and remember, the norm in Europe is the stick shift. Renters must ask -- and prepare to pay a significant premium -- for automatic
Things to do
Marseille's tourist office (4 La Canebière) will enable you to get going, with detailed maps and pamphlets, together with recommended itineraries. Marseille loves to promote its beautiful museums and ornate cathedrals, putting its most cultured feet forward. The Musee d'Historie p Marseille (Center Bourse) reminds site visitors that Marseille is definitely an old and historic town, with exhibits and items remembering its days because the Greek town of Massalia. The Musee des Beaux-Arts (Place Bernex) includes a diverse assortment of works of art, mostly by French artists. David and Rubens are a couple of artists whose work warrants mention here. The Musee p la Marine (7 La Canebière) highlights Marseille's days like a primary shipping hub, a distinction still it holds today. Only Rotterdam can feature a more busy port than Marseille in most of Europe. The Musee du Vieux Marseille (Rue p la Prison) focuses on the city's newer past and it is link with the nearby area.
A trip to Marseille's cathedrals starts using the Basilique Notre-Dame-p-la-Garde, (Rue Fort-du-Sanctuaire,). A thirty-feet statue from the Virgin Mary increases above you. The vista in the chapel is among the popular features of Marseille, using the city and also the ocean distributing out below. The 1700s Cathedrale de la Major (Place de la Major,) is really a major landmark, calculating over 450 ft lengthy. Alexandre Dumas fans will remember the Chateau d'If. It had been here that Dumas' Edmond Dantes was jailed, before his daring escape and triumphant revenge because the Count of Monte Christo.
Marseille may sometimes be given a wide berth by travelers in search of a Provençal idyll, but it's their loss. Miss it, and you miss one of the most vibrant, exciting cities in France. With its cubist jumbles of white stone rising up over a picture-book seaport, bathed in light of blinding clarity and crowned by larger-than-life neo-Byzantine churches, the city's neighborhoods teem with multiethnic life. Its souk-like African markets reek deliciously of spices and coffees, and its labyrinthine Vieille Ville is painted in broad strokes of saffron, cinnamon, and robin's-egg blue. Feisty and fond of broad gestures, Marseille is a dynamic city, as cosmopolitan now as when the Phoenicians first founded it, and with all the exoticism of the international shipping port it has been for 2,600 years. Vital to the Crusades in the Middle Ages and crucial to Louis XIV as a military port, Marseille flourished as France's market to the world-and still does today. In 2013 Marseille will be the European Capital of Culture and will host all manner of special events throughout the year.
Abbaye St-Victor. Founded in the fourth century by St. Cassien, who sailed into Marseille full of fresh ideas on monasticism that he acquired in Palestine and Egypt, this church grew to formidable proportions. With a Romanesque design, the structure would be as much at home in the Middle East as its founder was. The crypt, St. Cassien's original, is buried under the medieval church, and in the evocative nooks and crannies you can find the fifth-century sarcophagus that allegedly holds the martyr's remains. Upstairs, a reliquary contains what's left of St. Victor, who was ground to death between millstones, probably by Romans. There's also a passage into tiny catacombs where Early Christians worshipped St. Lazarus and Mary Magdalene, said to have washed ashore at Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer. The boat in which they landed is reproduced in canoe-shaped cookies called navettes, which are sold during the annual procession for Candelmas in February as well as year-round. 3 rue de l'Abbaye, Rive Neuve. Admission charged.
Cathédrale de la Nouvelle Major. This gargantuan, neo-Byzantine 19th-century fantasy was built under Napoléon III-but not before he'd ordered the partial destruction of the lovely 11th-century original, once a perfect example of the Provençal Romanesque style. You can view the flashy decor-marble and rich red porphyry inlay-in the newer of the two churches; the medieval one is being restored. Pl. de la Major, Le Panier.
Centre de la Vieille Charité (Center of the Old Charity). At the top of the Panier district you'll find this superb ensemble of 17th- and 18th-century architecture designed as a hospice for the homeless by Marseillais artist-architects Pierre and Jean Puget. Even if you don't enter the museums, walk around the inner court, studying the retreating perspective of triple arcades and admiring the baroque chapel with its novel egg-peaked dome. Of the complex's two museums, the larger is the Musée d'Archéologie Méditerranéenne (Museum of Mediterranean Archaeology), with a sizable collection of pottery and statuary from classical Mediterranean civilization, elementally labeled (for example, "pot"). There's also a display on the mysterious Celt-like Ligurians who first peopled the coast, cryptically presented with emphasis on the digs instead of the finds themselves. The best of the lot is the evocatively mounted Egyptian collection, the second largest in France after the Louvre's. There are mummies, hieroglyphs, and gorgeous sarcophagi in a tomblike setting. Upstairs, the Musée d'Arts Africains, Océaniens, et Amérindiens (Museum of African, Oceanic, and American Indian Art) creates a theatrical foil for the works' intrinsic drama: the spectacular masks and sculptures are mounted along a pure black wall, lighted indirectly, with labels across the aisle. 2 rue de la Charité, Le Panier. Admission charged.
Château d'If. François I, in the 16th century, recognized the strategic advantage of an island fortress surveying the mouth of Marseille's vast harbor and built this imposing edifice. Its effect as a deterrent was so successful that the fortress never saw combat, and was eventually converted into a prison. It was here that Alexandre Dumas locked up his most famous character, the Count of Monte Cristo. Though the count was fictional, the hole through which Dumas had him escape is real enough, on display in the cells. On the other hand, the real-life Man in the Iron Mask, whose cell is also erroneously on display, was not imprisoned here. The IF Frioul Express boat ride and the views from the broad terrace are worth the trip.. Admission charged.
Ferry Boat. This Marseille treasure departs from the Quai below the Hôtel de Ville. For a pittance (although technically free, it is appropriate to tip the crew) you can file onto this little wooden barge and chug across the Vieux Port. Pl. des Huiles on Quai de Rive Neuve side and Hôtel de Ville on Quai du Port, Vieux Port.
Fort St-Nicolas and Fort St-Jean. These twin forts guard the entrance to the Vieux Port. In order to keep the feisty, rebellious Marseillais under his thumb, Louis XIV had the fortresses built with the guns pointing toward the city. The Marseillais, whose identity has always been mixed with a healthy dose of irony, are quite proud of this display of the king's doubts about their allegiance. To view the guns, climb up to the Jardin du Pharo. In spring of 2013 Fort St-Jean will open under the banner of the Musée National des Civilisations de L'Europe et de la Mediterranée (National Museum of the Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean), housing in part the folk-art collection of the former Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires in Paris. Quai du Port, Vieux Port.
Le Panier. This is the old heart of Marseille, a maze of high-shuttered houses looming over narrow cobbled streets, montées (stone stairways), and tiny squares. Long decayed and neglected, the quarter is the principal focus of the city's efforts at urban renewal. Wander this neighborhood at will, making sure to stroll along Rue du Panier, the montée des Accoules, Rue du Petit-Puits, and Rue des Muettes.
Musée d'Histoire de Marseille (Marseille Museum of History). A modern and open space, this museum illuminates Massalia's history with a treasure of archaeological finds and miniature models of the city as it appeared in various stages of history. Best by far is the presentation of Marseille's Classical halcyon days. There's a recovered wreck of a Roman cargo boat, its third-century wood amazingly preserved, and the hull of a Greek boat dating from the fourth century BC. The model of the Greek city should be authentic-it's based on the eyewitness description of Aristotle. Centre Bourse, entrance on Rue de Bir-Hakeim, Vieux Port. Admission charged.
Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde. Towering above the city and visible for miles around, this overscaled neo-Byzantine monument was erected in 1853 by Napoléon III. The interior is a Technicolor bonanza of red-and-beige stripes and glittering mosaics, and the gargantuan Madonna and Child on the steeple (almost 30 feet high) is covered in real gold leaf. While the panoply of naive ex-votos, mostly thanking the Virgin for deathbed interventions and shipwreck survivals, is a remarkable sight, most impressive are the views of the seaside city at your feet. Off bd. André Aune On foot, climb up Cours Pierre Puget, cross Jardin Pierre Puget, cross bridge to Rue Vauvenargues, and hike up to Pl. Edon. Or catch Bus 60 from Cours Jean-Ballard.
Shore Excursions
Best Overall Tour: Marseille City Tour. This excursion takes you through the harbor rich in maritime tradition to Notre-Dame de la Garde and Longchamp Palace, returning via "La Canebiere," the main avenue of the city. (3.5 hours)
Best for Second-Timers: Avignon & Wine Tasting at Palace of the Popes. Get out of the city to the Romanesque town of Avignon where the seat of the Popes was held from 1309 to 1376. The wine tasting of "Cotes du Rhone" (red, white and rose) will be served in a dedicated part of the Palace of the Popes filled with frescoes and Romanesque architecture. (8 hours)
Best for Families: Aix-en-Provence. Aix is particularly great for kids because it's small enough to explore by foot and vehicles are not allowed in the old town. Highlights include Cours Mirabeau, the shaded tree-lined avenue with cafes and shops, and the Mazarin quarter with its unique 17th-century chessboard pattern. After the tour, there's an hour of free time to enjoy the marionettes and costumes at the Musee du Vieil Aix. (4.5 hours)
Best for Art Lovers: Arles and Les Baux. Though the Provencal town of Arles was founded by Julius Caesar, it was Vincent Van Gogh who put this charming medieval town on the map. In just 14 months here, the troubled artist produced over 200 works. In addition to visiting Van Gogh's haunts, the tour features Les Arenes, a 20,000-seat Roman amphitheater. (8 hours)
Marseille's beaches are not near the paradise of their Riviera neighbors towards the east. St. Tropez, Cannes, and Nice have the ability to better beaches, but Marseille has some nice beach areas. The region around Parc Balneaire du Prado is the best choice for getting a tan. Obviously, like a lot of the Riviera, the sand here more carefully resembles gravel than actual sand, so bring a seaside pad if you wish to construct.
Aquatic Sports
Marseille's coast is ideal for exploration, using the water densely populated with marine existence, and a lot of natural miracles ocean going. Mix Marseille's lengthy history using the ocean using the rocky area and you will realise why there has been many shipwrecks through the years. You will find lots of dive clothes to select from in Marseille, and also the Association Plongez Marseille (31 Ave. p la Pointe Rouge,) would gladly point you within the right direction.
Vieux Port stands as the middle of Marseille in virtually every way, and shopping isn't any exception. Marseille's areas are just like other French regions, but you will find a variety of places to select from.
Antique predators can decide on some rare gems at Antiques Francois-Decamp. If you are searching for the most recent in French fashion, mind towards Cours Julien or even the sparkling new L'Escale Borely (Avenue Mendes-France). Regular souvenir consumers are going to be satisfied at any shop across the always crowded Rue St-Fereol.
Dining & Night life
Marseille's tremendous diversity enables for a variety of tastes not the same as every other French city. However when you boil everything lower, people still beg for bouillabaisse. And Le Miramar (12 Quai du Port) will it much better than the relaxation. L'ensemble des Arcenaulx (25 Cours d'Estienne d'Orves) is notable because of its seafood. Portuguese meals are around the menu at Le Return on investment du Poulet (18 Place Notre Dame du Mont).
As France's second biggest city, Marseille has ample choices for evening entertainment. The Opera Municipal (2 Rue Molière) includes a great schedule of performances all year long lengthy. Should you rather dance, visit the Trolley Bus (24 Quai p Rive-Neuve). The best choice of would be to simply stroll round the Vieux Port, in which you will not lack excitement. You will find lots of coffee shops, bookstores which make perfect people-watching places.

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