Marseilles Tourist Attractions

Palais LongchampPalais Longchamp

Marseilles (Marseille in French), the oldest and second largest city, after Paris, and the most important port of France, is situated on the Mediterranean east of the Rhône delta. Marseilles is the chief place in the Département of Bouches-du-Rhône, a university town and the seat of an archbishop.

Marseilles has a charming situation on a broad bay which is enclosed on the north by the Chaîne de l'Estaque towards the Etang de Berre and rises on bare limestone hills. It is dominated by the Church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, the landmark of the city and the port. Although the oldest city in France there are few remains of ancient or medieval buildings.

La Canebière

The principal traffic artery of the extremely busy inner city of Marseilles is the Canebière (Provençal Canebiero), a broad highway which begins at the harbor. This street, about 1km/0.5mi long, carries a great deal of traffic and is lined with shops and offices. The name is derived from Cannabis (hemp) and means "ropewalk". Fields of hemp could once be seen near the Old Harbor to which the raw material was delivered to the rope-makers.
The former boulevard - it was once compared to the Champs-Elysées - now forms a social and cultural boundary, separating the poor Belsunce quarter in the north from the more affluent southern part of the city. Various redevelopment programs are attempting to ameliorate the situation.
Not far to the east of the Stock Exchange the Canebière crosses the broad cours St Louis (on the right) which leads into the rue de Rome and on the left the cours de Belsunce which is continued by the rue d'Aix. This crossing is the intersection of the main roads leading east to west and north to south and is also the southwestern corner of the Arab quarter which extends to the north as far as the Porte d'Aix and the Gare St Charles. About 250m/275yd farther on is the intersection with the Bbulevard Dugommier (to the left) and the boulevard Garibaldi (to the right). At the end of the Canebière stands the neo-Gothic Church of St Vincent-de-Paul.

Marseilles Bourse

Coming from the harbor, on the left of the Canebière stands the Bourse (Stock Exchange), an impressive building of 1852-60, with the Musée de la Marine de Marseille (marine museum; collection of pictures and other artistic exhibits of the Marseilles Chamber of Trade; many drawings and plans of 17th C ships).

Marseille - Musée d'Histoire de Marseille

The redesigned Center de la Bourse in Marseilles (Stock Exchange Center; department store, etc.) gives access to the excavation site where remains of the Greek fortifications of the port of Massalia (third-second century B.C.) were uncovered, and which has been laid out as a park (Jardin des Vestiges) and open-air museum. On the ground floor of the Stock Exchange Center can be seen a collection of the finds, including the hull of a third century Roman ship.
Address: Square Belsunce - Centre Bourse, F-13001 Marseille, France

Musée Cantini

South of the Canebière, at rue de Grignan 19, which is reached by way of rue Paradis, is the Musée Cantini. As well as old porcelain the museum has an important collection of 20th century applied art (there are also temporary exhibitions).
Address: 19 rue Grignan, F-13006 Marseille, France

Boulevard Longchamp Area

In the Boulevard Longchamp area of Marseilles are the Palais Longchamp and the Musée Grobet-Labadie.

Palais Longchamp

At the eastern end of the boulevard Longchamp in Marseilles, which runs parallel to the boulevard de la Libération, the continuation of the Canebière, stands the Palais Longchamp with stately museum buildings on either side of a pillared hall (fountains). It was built by Espérandieu in 1862-69 at the end of the canal from the Durance to Marseilles. On the right is the Musée d'Histoire Naturelle (Natural History Museum). Behind the Palais lies the large Zoological Garden.

Musée des Beaux Arts

On the left is the Musée des Beaux Arts with 16th and 17th C paintings (Perugino, Rubens), works by Provençal masters (Puget, Serre, Mignard), modern sculptures and works by the caricaturist Honoré Daumier, born in 1808 in Marseilles.
Address: Palais Longchamp, Place Henri Dunan, F-13004 Marseille, France

Musée Grobet-Labadié

The Boulevard Longchamp in Marseilles terminates in a circular open space, where stands the Musée Grobet-Labadié, a mansion with beautiful furniture, given to the town by Madame Grobet. On display are musical instruments, medieval sculpture and tapestries, 18th C furniture and ceramics.
Address: Boulevard Longchamp, F-13001 Marseille, France

Old Harbor

In the west of Marseilles, where the Canebière begins, lies the picturesque Vieux Port (Old Harbor; 25ha/62 acres, 4-7m/13-23ft deep), which is now used only by fishing boats and sports craft. From here boats leave for the Château d'If and Calanques, near Cassis. The lively waterfront, especially the Quai des Belges on the east side (fish market every morning), is a focal point for tourists. At the harbor entrance two forts stand sentinel, on the left the Fort St-Jean and on the right the Fort St-Nicolas (17th C.; viewpoint).

Abbey Saint Victor

To the east of Fort St-Nicolas is the fortress-like Basilique St-Victor, which once belonged to an abbey founded in the fifth century. In its present form, with its turreted towers, it is of 11th and 14th century date; the foundations go back to Early Christian and Carolingian times. In the crypt can be seen the original catacomb chapel and the Grotto of St Victor, and in the basilica a 13th century Black Madonna.
Address: 3, rue de l'Abbaye, F-13007 Marseille, France


The 154m/505ft high limestone hill in the south of Marseilles was used in ancient times at least as an observation point or guard post. In the 15th C. it was the official relay station for the royal intelligence network (smoke and light signals). Today the Basilique Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde on its summit is the landmark of the city, visible from afar. It was built on the site of a medieval pilgrimage chapel in 1853-1864 by Espérandieu in neo-Byzantime style of light and dark natural stone. A gilded Madonna crowns the 46m/151ft high belfry.
The whole of the interior of the church is clad in white and dark marble. In the crypt can be seen many votive tablets and model aircraft given by aviators.

Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde View

From the terrace encircling the church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, there is a marvelous panorama of the surroundings of Marseilles including the offshore islands of Pomègues and Ratonneau and the Château d'If. At the northwest bastion is an orientation table.

Old Town

Cathedrale de la MajorCathedrale de la Major

The Northern Part of the City

Port Moderne

About 1km/.5mi from the Old Harbor of Marseilles, the Port Moderne (New Harbor; over 200ha/494acres; 25km/16mi of quais) was laid out from 1844. Most passenger ships (including ferries for Corsica) tie up in the Bassin de la Grande Joliette which is 20ha/49acres in extent. At the Quai de la Joliette, opposite the end of the boulevard des Dames, lies the Gare Maritime (Marine Railroad Station) immediately above the harbor basin. From the Jetée (mole) 5km/3mi long (access only at weekends) there is a good view of the New Harbor.

Marseilles Arc de Triomphe

In the Place Jules-Guesde stands the Arc de Triomphe (Triumphal Arch), erected in 1825-32 to commemorate the capture of Fort Trocadéro at Cadiz.

The Southern Part of the City

Avenue du Prado

The broad Avenue du Prado (called the "Prado" for short) in Marseilles, expansively laid out and shaded by plane trees, is the southern continuation of the Rue de Rome and leads to the Rond-Point du Prado. On the left are the Parc Amable Chanot and the exhibition grounds with the Palais des Congrès.

Parc Borély

From the Rond-Point the avenue du Prado continues in a southwesterly direction to the shore. On the left is the Parc Borély where the film of the tales of Marcel Pagnol (director Yves Robert, première 1991) was shot and the mansion which was built for a rich merchant called Borély in 1767-1778.
Wrought-iron gates lead in to the formal garden with its twin alleys of plane trees and circular pools.

Unité d'Habitation (Cité Radieuse)

About 1.3km/1mi south of the Rond-Point, on the right side of the Boulevard Michelet, extends the Unité d'Habitation, also called the Cité Radieuse, a residential complex in the Marseilles area designed by Le Corbusier and intended to "show the way ahead". The huge rectangular construction, 165m/180yds long and 56m/184ft high, comprises on eight double storys 337 flats of 23 different types. There are communal rooms, shops (also the "Le Corbusier" hotel), a kindergarten, a theater etc., and on some floors "rues intérieures" complete the internal facilities. The "House", which is supported by 17 pairs of concrete stilts - these also contain the supply services - represents a whole town for some 1,600 inhabitants. The basic idea behind this construction was to provide accommodation for many people in the smallest possible area and to leave room for green open spaces. Le Corbusier has nevertheless sought to realize harmonious proportions and forms. Today this experiment is criticized for not permitting the spontaneity and individuality of modern city life.


International Documentary Film Festival

The Marseilles International Documentary Film Festival, also known as "Vue Sur les Docs", takes place in June. The festival began in 1989 and screens approximately 80 films each year.
Address: 14 allee leon gambetta, F-13001 Marseille, France

Sunny Side of the Doc Film Festival

Marseille's "Sunny Side of the Doc" Film Festival takes place in June.
Address: Doc Services, 3 Square Stalingrad, F-13001 Marseille, France

Other Sights

Olympique de Marseille

Olympique de Marseille, also known as l'OM, is part of the French Football League, based in Marseille. The club is well supported by fans who regularly fill the stadium, Stade Vélodrome. The stadium seats just over 60,000 spectators and is the largest club football ground in France.
Address: 3, boul Michelet, F-13008 Marseilles, France

Museum of Contemporary Art

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Marseilles was opened in 1994. Located in a donated building, the museum features a sculpture garden as well as permanent and temporary exhibits. The permanent collection includes paintings, sculptures, photographs, videos and installations, with works by Caesar, Ben, Tinguely, Baquié, Basquiat, Orozco, Dieter Roth, Rodney Graham.
Address: 69, boulevard de Haïfa, F-13008 Marseilles, France

Parc du Pharo

In Marseilles, on a hill to the south of the harbor entrance, below which runs a road tunnel, the Tunnel St Laurent, lies the Parc du Pharo, with the former great castle of the Empress Eugénie (the wife of Napoleon III) and a naval memorial. In summer open-air plays are performed outside the castle. From the park there is an extensive view of the port installations and of the town.

Musee de la Faïence

Musee de la Faïence focuses on faience pottery from Marseille and Moustiers. The museum is housed in the Château Pastré, one of the few Provençal country house that remains intact today. Over 1,500 items are on display from the Neolithic period to present day.
Address: Château Pastré, 157, avenue de Montredon, F-13008 Marseilles, France

Marseilles Metro

The Societe du Metro de Marseille (SMM), a rubber tired full metro was opened in 1978 and is made up of two lines with 19.5km of track. There are 24 stations. The system has a flat fare structure in which tickets are integrated with bus tickets.
The system serves about 55 million people yearly with a rolling stock of 144 cars in 4 car sets. During peak hours trains run every 3 minutes, off-peak, every 5-10 minutes.


Chateau d'IfChateau d'If
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