The Ancient Harbour.
For 26 centuries, it has been the famous stage on which the history of Marseille has been played. Several landmarks scattered in the city environment: the acropolis of phocaean, Greek pioneers, the abbey of first Christians, the vast arsenal of royal galleys, the Hotel de Ville, the Imperial Palace and the forts to defend the entrance to the harbour.
On the west side, the fortresses of St. Jean and St. Nicolas ( 17 th century) stand at the entrance of the harbour- the terrace of the Palace du Pharo, former residence of the empress Eugénie, offers a beautiful perspective on the harbour and the Mediterranean.
Spendid army architectures and symbols of the Royal Power residence, the fortress of St. Jean and the citadel of St Nicolas represent strategic positions at the entrance of the oldest city in France.
It is the most famous thoroughfare of the city, its name comes from “Canoube”, a provencal word – which reminds of the ancient rope-makers.
The famous Canebière ends at the Vieux Port, on the Quai des Belges; boats depart from there to the isles. The ferry boat, chanted by Marcel Pagnol, (is a link between the Quays North and South) facing the City Hall, a good example of the 17 th century architecture (provencal baroque) to the Place des Huiles.
The City and its origins.
On the right side of the Vieux Port, the “Panier”, a tiny district on top of a hill, down to the City Hall. It is the memory of the city. The narrow lanes and dark steep alleys seem specially built to avoid the fierce sunshine.
The hill Saint Laurent to the Vieille Charité, offers a walk in the heart of the ancient and medieval city, a discovery of an old heritage and its fantastic history, while roaming in the quaint lanes of the Panier, still very lively even now.
On this hill overlooking the harbour, lanes with picturesque names as “Bon Jésus”
“Petites Ecuelles” (porringers) or squares such as “ Treize Coins” ( 13 corners), “Lenche” “Moulins” (Mills) lead the visitors to the most precious building in the “Panier” :
La vieille Charité. Built in 1640, this great hospital was intended for the lodging of patients and poor people away from the city population. Rehabilitated some years ago, the Charité is now a diversified cultural centre with various museums, a beautiful chapel by Puget; it proposes particular exhibitions and spectacles.
If you want to see the city, down at your feet, go up to Notre Dame de la Garde, a fabulous basilica, 19 th century Roman Byzantine architecture. The gilded statue of the Lady Virgin, 162 meters high over sea level, has always been the patron Saint of sea-farers and travellers. La “bonne Mère” (The Alma Mater’) offers a splendid panorama , is a rich sanctuary, it is also a symbol of Marseille, respected by either christians as well as pagans, forever and ever. The little train “La bonne Mère” or the little train “Vieux Marseille” are a good means, pleasant and original, to visit the Vieux Port, Notre Dame de la Garde, and the ancient lanes of the Panier.
If you want to visit Marseille, quit the city centre. Each district about one hundred of them, is a true provencal village with its church, its platans, its bowling alleys…You way visit “L’Estaque”. This village which attracted Cezanne and many other painters, is still a village of fishermen with folk traditions or the village “La Treille”, at the foot of hills celebrated by Marcel Pagnol (he is buried in its cemetery )the famous writer and film producer.
Endoume, a seaside village.
A few minutes from the Vieux Port, discover the pleasure of life in this genuine village of fishermen, while strolling along lanes leading you to the sea.
The Kennedy Bvd several kilometers long, is a drive along the seaside, with panoramic views on the isles and the coast line at the foot the Marseilleveyre mountain.
A stone bridge gives you a view on the Vallon des Auffes (a vale), small fishing harbour typical of Marseille area. The beach “promenade continues the Kennedy Bvd along the huge beach resort of the Prado.
At the end of Marseille, after the yacht port of Pointe Rouge and of the Madrague, the landscape becomes typical of the Mediterranean areas. The village of Goudes is the gateway to the Calanques (chalky creeks). Here bungalows, built on the steep slopes of the hills, seem to dive into the sea. At the far end, it’s the village of Callelonge.
You can discover Marseille from the sea. Nothing is alike a boat trip to the isles, Frioul harbour, the Chateau d’If (a fortress where – it is said – the comte of Monte Cristo was kept prisoner), Maïre, Pomègues Ratonneau,on which stands the hospital Caroline – built during the French restauration – to discover a panoramic view of Marseille, the capital of the Mediterranean.
The Chateau d’If.
A 20 minutes’ boat trip from the Vieux Port, on a chalky isle, stands the impressive fort of the Chateau d’If – Alexander Dumas’ heroes seem to haunt the place (The comte de Monte Cristo, l’abbé Féria)
The archipelago of the Frioul.
A ten minutes boat trip from the Chateau d’If, white rocks on a dark blue background; the archipelago is formed of several isles with sharp peaks; the largest isles are Pomègues and Ratonneau, linked by a jetty sheltering Port Frioul.
It’s a pleasure to stroll in this quiet oasis, a paradise for deep diving, to observe sailing boats, to swim in the various creeks, to taste seafood in the shade of terraced cafés.
The Hospital Caroline, ancient lazaret where navy crews were kept in quarantine, is reviving thanks to the renovation work of voluntary youths.
In July, the Festival des Iles, (theatre, music, the “fun boat trip” bring a full life to the chateau d’If and Frioul.
if you want to complete your visit, see:
City reservoir, in a Grand elegant architecture, to celebrate the supply of fresh water in to Marseille during the Second Empire. The building was started at the same time as the water canal of Marseille in 1839. The Palais Lonchamp shelters the museum of Beaux-Arts and of natural history, it was achieved in 1862, after the architect Espérandieu's projects. The Palais Lonchamp is a splendid background in a smart district.
St. Victor’s basilica.
Founded in the 5 th. century by Jean Cassien over the tomb of St Victor, roman martyr executed in the 3 rd. century. After several destructions, the abbey was fortified in the 14th. century by pope Urbanus V. A Candlemas pilgrimage takes place on February 2 nd.
The Cathedral “La Major”.
Impressive building from the 19th century in a roman-byzantine style, the interior is covered with marble and porphyry.
The church of Reformation.
St. Vincent de Paul’s church was built from 1855 to 1888 in the gothic style of the 13th century by the architect Reybaud according to the drafts of abbé Pougnet.
The velodrome Stadium.
A short historical memorandum.
The sports society of the Olympique de Marseille was created in 1898 by students who wanted to play football, rugby and other athletic sports. The first victory in the French Cup took place in 1924, and the Champion Cup in 1929.
Before the use of the Velodrome Stadium built in 1837 on boulevard Michelet, games were played in the Stadium of Huveaune, half way between the Park Borely and the statue of “David” (a copy of Michelangelo’s David) on the Prado beach.