This port city in southern France has something of a rough-around-the-edges reputation. And while (like many cities) there are indeed some areas that are best to avoid, the city’s food scene, cultural offerings and warm climate mean it’s definitely still worth travelling to.
The centre of life in Marseille is in Vieux Port, the heart of the city, which dates back to 600 BC. Back then it was a busy port, and these days it’s no less bustling. Here you’ll be surrounded by travellers and locals alike, who flock to the port’s many restaurants, cafes and newly renovated museums.
A highlight not to be missed is the Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée, located on the north side of the port. This modern cultural institution explores the history of Mediterranean civilisations with a rotating agenda of fascinating exhibitions and films.
If that doesn’t quench your thirst for historical knowledge, walk a bit further north to the Le Panier neighbourhood. Here, narrow streets are flanked by artisan shops, small galleries and shabby-chic restaurants. You can hire a guide and do a walking tour, or simply go out on your own and take an hour or two to get lost in Le Panier’s bohemian charm.
Another reason to visit Marseille is to catch a glimpse of two distinctive landmarks: the neo-Byzantine Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, and the famous striped Cathedrale de la Major. The latter, a striking structure with impressive domed towers located between the old and new ports of the city, is the seat of the Archdiocese of Marseille.
And before you leave Marseille, don’t forget to sample some of the city’s cultural delights, like bouillabaisse (fish stew), moules mariniere, and Pissaladière (a pizza-like tart topped with onions and anchovies).