Marseille is a treasure chest full of historical and cultural gems. It may not have the grandeur of Paris, but the city is immersed with an unmistakable cultural atmosphere that leaves tourists with the sense they have been transported back to another place and time entirely.
The city is immersed with a distinctive North African and southern Mediterranean flavour. The streets come alive with Algerian souk-like bazaars, fresh fruit and vegetable stalls and the sweet aroma of freshly caught fish wafting in from the old fishing ports. This makes Marseille a city full of life, full of colour and full of culture.
Rising high across the city the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde shines like a golden beacon to all who pass through. Constructed in the Byzantine period and further embellished between 1853 and 1864, the basilica is located on top of a hill and gives outstanding views of the city below. On top of the bell tower there is a 9.7 meter tall gilded statue of the Virgin Mary which has fortunately survived the ferocious fighting that took place in Marseille during the Battle of Liberation in August 1944. The bullet holes still visible are a stark reminder of this terrible time.
The Abbaye St-Victor is the final resting places of two forth century martyrs and a third century sarcophagus as well as countless sacred relics dating from several centuries. This Romanesque abbey was built during the 12th century and is located on a hill, making it not only a stunningly beautiful building but constructed in an equally stunning setting.
For avid Alexandre Dumas readers, the Château d'If will be a true highlight. Set on islands of Ratonneau and Pomègues, known as the Îles du Frioul, these 16th century fortresses were immortalized in The Count of Monte Cristo as a prison. It actually served as a prison for a long time and those found guilty of crimes would find themselves locked up here. Today, it is home to some wonderful rare plants and birds.
Museums are a great source of tourism and visitors are amazed as they tour around each one. One of the best attractions is the Musée d'Histoire de Marseille. It is home to an amazing merchant vessel found in the Vieux Port in 1974, dating back to the third century.
Another interesting thing to do is to pay a visit to the Centre de la Vieille Charité. It was originally built as a shelter for the homeless. It was designed by famous architect Pierre Puget and the elegant pink tinged courtyard is now the home of the Musée d'Archéologie Méditerranéenne and Musée d'Arts Africains, Océaniens et Amérindiens. Each are museums designed to capture the imagination and each do so superbly.
Restaurants are a true delight in Marseille. Restaurants, like the city itself, are infused with the hearty aromas of true French cuisine and the heavenly scent of spices from Africa and the Middle East. Even the deserts will send you off to the Pearly Gates with one single bite.
A wonderful city, Marseille’s hotels are equally as superb as are the prices. Marseille has many different options available to visitors, from charming little guesthouses to stylish modern boutique hotels to grand historic mansions. Either way, visitors are in for a real treat wherever they stay.
Marseille attracts the eye with its sea of terracotta tiled tiles, making it a charming city for tourists. There are many interesting places to see and things to do but its real strength lies in its amazing cultural atmosphere that leaves visitors with a huge smile on their faces and memories to last a lifetime.