The bustling port city of Marseille is France's second largest city, with a vibrant mix of ancient architecture and modern urban spaces. First settled by the Greeks in 600 BC, Marseille has become a mecca for scores of immigrants from other parts of the world.
Often overshadowed by better-known spots in southern France like Cannes and Provence, Marseille is actually the economic hub of the Provence-Alpes-Cte dAzur region. And with 57 kilometers of coastline and 14 ports, the city has bragging rights as the largest yachting center in France.
Marseille's expansive coastline has also earned it quite a reputation with watersports enthusiasts everything from sailing to diving and windsurfing are common activities along the scenic shores.
Cruise ships are taking advantage of Marseille's ports, encouraging additional tourism to the region where you can easily spend more than a week and still not experience everything.
Visitors to Marseille should explore le Vieux Port, the Old Harbor, where you can stroll the scenic paths and shop, eat or take in some of the ports historical aspects. Two notable forts flank Vieux Port, Fort St. Nicolas and Fort Saint Jean. Le Panier is the oldest section of town with some of Marseille's best museums.
Notre Dame de la Garde is the big church that overlooks Marseille. It is an important spot for fishermen who used to have their boats blessed in the church.
Hop on a ferry to the nearby prison island of Chateau d'If, the inspiration for Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. Nearby are the islands of Ratonneau and Pomegues, sites of a former garrison and quarantine hospital.
If you are looking for traditional Marseille cuisine, seek out bouillabaisse, but watch for many inferior products served along the Vieux Port. La Bouillabaisse de Marseille is a fish-based soup that actually is served in two courses: first the soup with a garlic saffron sauce and then the fish itself. This labor-intensive dish doesn't come cheap and many suggest you should expect a real bouillabaisse to run 60 euros. You can find it for around 20 euros but locals will tell you that is made with frozen fish and is not representative of a true bouillabaisse of Marseille.
Marseille is also considered one of the European capitals of culture with its prominent arts scene. From a wealth of museums, theatrical arts, gastronomic events and more, there are many reasons to visit Marseille. If you are a soccer fan, you might want to mark your calendar for 2016 as Marseille is hosting Euro 2016 the European Football Championship.
Getting to Marseille is quite easy, whether you are arriving via boat, rail or air. Many cruise lines now include Marseille on their list of Mediterranean ports and ferries offer services from other parts of Europe. If you are looking to fly in, Marseille is served by Marseille Provence International Airport, one of the busiest airports in France. Gare de Marseille Saint-Charles is the main railway station that services Marseille and has direct regional services to places like Nice, Montpellier, Bordeaux, Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, and more. The TGV high-speed train also makes a stop in Marseille, allowing an easy three hour ride from Paris or only 1 hour from Lyon.
Have you been to Marseilles? What did you think?