•Bouches-du-Rhône (13000) • Population: 800,550 • Altitude: 12 m
Spelling. Marseille in French, Marseilles in English, but no change in the pronunciation (mar-say').
Marseilles is a Provencal city with vitality, centered around 26-century-old port, with a dynamic downtown, big parks, a medieval-village-style neighborhood, downtown shopping and wonderful seafood. If you have an "image" of Marseilles that isn't good, a visit here will be a wonderful surprise. The photo is of the L'Escolo de la Mar; this Marseillais folk-dance group was founded in 1854 by Frédéric Mistral and his friends, making it the oldest in France.
Marseilles is, first of all, ancient. Started by the Phoenician around 600-BC (ignoring of course the Ligurians who already lived here), taken over by the Greeks in 540 BC, and conquered by the Romans two thousand years ago, it is full of sites and artifacts of Antiquity. Marseilles is the second-largest city in France, with its metro and its Parisian-style division into "arrondissements".
The flavor of Marseilles is antiquity, seaport, seafood, museums, history and travel. On the darker side, the reputation of Marseilles included gangsters and plague, with the gangster reputation from the "old days" accented by many French films and the American film "The French Connection". The plague gained its entry into Provence in 1720 from a ship of silk and cotton unloaded at Marseilles.
The National hymn of France was born in Strasbourg and raised in Marseilles. In 1792, during the Revolution, Rouget de Lisle, a young officer from the Army Engineers, composed the war-song of the Army of the Rhine (Chant de guerre de l'Armée du Rhin).
In Marseilles, during a banquet to honour 500 volunteers being sent to Paris, someone sang the song, which had been published, and everyone joined in. Copies of the song were given to all of the volunteers, who sang it at every stop on their way to Paris, rousing support as they went. When they marched through the streets of Paris singing the song, 500-strong and now very good, with their Provençal accents, the crowds loved it. It became instantly popular, and was named La Marseillaise.
Marseilles must be the seafood capital of Provence, at least. The most famous seafood dish of Marseilles is bouillabaisse, world renowned and worth the reputation. The two main varieties offered in local restaurants are Bouillabaisse du Ravi and Bouillabaisse du Pêcheur. "Ravi", the most complete and including six different types of fish, is definitely a full meal. Bouillabaisse du Pêcher is smaller and lighter, with three types of fish. This is the recommended one for lunch, and even so, you'll need a good appetite to have something else with it.
Several seafood restaurants surround the Old Port, and there's a collection of them in the small walking streets beside the Quai de Rive Neuve.
The "Moules Marinière" (mussels) made here have a distinctive local flavour. They are made with a lot of onion and "herbes de Provence".
The "navette", a small Marseilles pastry baked in the shape of the boat (navette), commemorates the arrival of the Marys and Lazarus in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer about the year 40. The Four des Navettes, beside the Abbaye de Saint-Victor, has been baking the navette continuously since 1781. The peak of consumption occurs on the 2nd of February for the Fête de la Chandeleur (Candlemas procession).
The "Cassis" white wine is excellent with the seafood, and the Cassis blanc-de-blanc is the best. This well-known and well-respected wine is local, from the Cassis region just a few km to the east.
GELATO - Maitre Santonnier
26 Bvd Michel; 13013 Marseille
Tel: (33) 491 ; Fax: (33) 491
Tel (CDT): 04 9113 89 00; Fax: 04 91 13 89 20
Office du Tourisme - Gare St.Charles (1er)
Tel: (33) 491 50 59 18
Office du Tourisme - Le Panier
Place de la Charité
Market day: Daily
Brocante-Antiques; Cours Julien: 2nd Sun
Brocante, Ave Cap-Pinède: Every Sat
Brocante, Ave Cap-Pinède: Every Sun
Brocante, old books; Cours Julien: 2nd Sat
Feb (2nd) - Fête de la Chandeleur, procession begins at St Victor's Basilica, and the navettes> are bought to commemorate the >Saintes Maries
Aug (15th) - pilgrimage to Notre Dame de la Garde
Oct - Fiesta des Suds - music, dances, concerts, bodegas on the docks
Dec - Foire aux Santons de Marseille - Annual Santon Fair
• GPS: 43.297612, 5.381042
IGN (1/25,000) #3145 ET "Marseille, Les Calanques"
The Calanques. (Calanques are the steep, narrow inlets where creeks join the sea.) The GR 98 (Grande Randonnée) runs from La Madrague, on the peninsula 8 km south of the city center. Two loop-hikes circle the rocky Massif de Marseilleveyre on the peninsula. From the eastern end, the GR 98 follows the rocky coastline past the deep calanques to Cassis (about 25 km by trail from La Madrague). The GR 98 continues northeast to the Ste Baume.
Etoile. From the Château-Gombert on the north edge of the city (metro-1), there is a loop-hike onto the Chaine de l'Etoile hills. From this trail, other trails continue on and branch out through the hills to the northeast of the city.
Notre Dame Nature Hike (City). There is a 1118-m circuit around the top of the Garde Hill, marked with nature information and, of course, a great view. It's called the "Sentier de découverte botanique de la Colline de Notre Dame de la Garde".
City Walks. The Office de Tourisme has a set of 31 circuits to see different historical or artistic parts of the city. Some of the circuits are by bus, but most are for walking, and are about two hours each.
Marseille boat trips
Location: Depart from the Quai des Belges, 13001 Marseille
Tel: 0491 555 009
Chateau d'If, Frioul Islands, Calanques.
Marseille Transportation is listed on a separate page.