Marseilles Tourist Attractions
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.
The economic situation of the town is primarily determined by the importance of the port. A third of French maritime trade is handled by the independent Port Autonome de Marseille. The annual turnover of goods amounts to about 100 million tons (almost 90% imports), of which the greatest part (over 90%) is handled by the new installations of Fos-sur-Mer and Lavéra which extend a long way to the west (transport of mineral oil, mineral oil products and ores). With some 1.2 million passengers annually Marseilles is the third passenger port of France; a great proportion of this traffic is attributable to the busy ferries across the harbor basins.
Raw materials and heavy industry characterize the area of Marseilles/Etang-de-Berre/Fos; four refineries produce 30% of national capacity, steel production amounts annually to 1.3 million tons. The traditional industries of Marseilles - shipping, the production of cooking oil and the manufacture of soap, have suffered from recession and both steel and petro-chemical production have declined, with the result that Marseilles has the highest unemployment in France. The position has been intensified by the significance of Marseilles as a "bridge" between Europe and North Africa, that is as the principal place at which emigrants from Africa arrive. Over 100,000 Arabs live in Marseilles ; the Belsunce quarter north of the Canebière is also known as the "Marseilles Beirut"; few European faces are to be seen in this part of the city.
Marignane, the airport of Marseilles, is the third largest in France, (after Paris and Nice) a symbol of the economic area.
The town was founded in the seventh century BC under the name of "Massalia" by Greeks from the town of Phocaea in Asia Minor. Until well into the time of the Roman Empire it was a center of Greek culture. The town experienced its first flowering in the middle of the sixth century BC after Phocaea had been destroyed by the Persians, and the population was soon increased by streams of refugees. Massalia expanded to the northeast towards the present day Butte des Moulins. Trade flourished, especially with the Ligurians who, it is generally believed, had their principal settlement in the nearby Oppidum of Entremont.
The intervention of the Romans after the Second Punic War in favor of the Greeks culminated in the destruction of the Saluvian tribe in 124, whereupon Aquae Sextiae Saluviorum (Aix), the first Roman town on Gallic soil was founded. The quarrel between Caesar and Pompey led to a fateful clash with the Romans, when the people of Massalia sided with Pompey. Caesar conquered the town, added to it the extensive territory of the Province of Arles and promoted the development of the Forum Julii (Fréjus).
Already in the first century AD an extension of the now Roman town of Massalia was carried out by draining the extensive marshes to the east. The wall which had been built in the Imperial Age enclosed the settlement until well in the the 11th century; at that time the town was composed of an Upper Town (temple, forum and other public buildings) and a Lower Town (port, dock installations, etc.).
After the fall of the Roman Empire the town came under the domination of the Western Goths, then of the Franks and finally passed to the Kingdom of Arles. After its destruction by the Saracens it was rebuilt in the tenth century and was subject to the Vicomtes de Marseille; in 1218 it became free until 1250 when Charles of Anjou conquered Marseilles which was united to France in 1481. The importance of the harbor increased enormously at the time of the Crusades. In the Middle Ages defenses were constructed as opportunity offered, for example the Tour St Jean on the north side of the harbor entrance, erected by the Knights of the Order of St John, a bastion near the present-day Pilgrimage Church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde by François I and extensions to the Château d'If. Under Mazarin the Forts of St Jean and St Nicolas were reinforced at the harbor entrance.
During the French Revolution which led to violent clashes between the Jacobins and the merchants, the most unruly elements withdrew to Paris where they made popular the "Marseillaise" which had been written and set to music by the army officer Rouget de Lisle, in Strasbourg.
In the 19th century there were large-scale extensions to the town as there were in Paris, where Baron Haussmann had laid out broad boulevards through whole quarters of the city. Notable among the improvements were the Rue de la République between the Old and New Harbors, numerous examples of prestigious architecture, including the Triumphal Arch in the Place d'Aix and the Palais Longchamps, all of which bear witness to the economic prosperity at the time of the Industrial Revolution.
The increase of French influence in North Africa from 1830 and the opening of the Suez Canal resulted in a great demand for accommodation, etc. (many new dwellings; "bidonvilles" = tin-can towns; extension of the harbor), a trend which has continued until the present day and which had led to a similar townscape to that of other European centers of population.