|Marseille, France Guide
|France's second-largest city and major port is its window to the Mediterranean, filled with history and people from all of its shores.
Marseille is France's oldest city (founded 600 BCE), and today its second-largest city.
It has the mighty fortresses to prove it.
With direct TGV train service to Paris and other important cities, and regional TER trains to other points in Provence, Marseille is an important transport nexus, as well as a popular cruise ship port.
Commerce and trade have always been Marseille's reason for being, and the trade of the Mediterranean—and indeed the world—have brought the city a diverse multi-national, multi-lingual, multi-cultural population.
The heavy commercial port traffic is now handled by modern port fracilities facing the broad bay to the north of the historic Vieux Port, which now serves pleasure and harbor-cruise boats and ferries. In recent years the Vieux Port has undergone extensive renovation, with wider pedestrian walkways, sun shades and other improvements to make it an even more appealing place to stroll, sit, meet and dine.
The Vieux Port is home to two historic forts that guarded the harbor, adding to its dramatic setting. This is the heart of visitors' Marseille, with docks for the excursion boats, some good hotels, and lots of restaurants.
Bombed extensively during World War II because of its strategic importance, and rebuilt since, Marseille's architecture is mostly modern, but some stunning cultural and architectural monuments remain. Most prominent of these is the spectacular Basilique de Notre-Dame de la Garde, a marvelous neo-Byzantine church atop a pinnacle dominating the historic center and the Vieux Port.
The Panier District, spared most of the war's destruction, is the oldest, most historic part of Marseille and it's fun to wander its narrow streets. In doing so you may come upon the impressive Cathédrale de la Major.
Though you may choose a smaller Provençal city for your main base in your explorations of the south of France, Marseille's good and varied selection of hotels make it easy to stay a night or two in this interesting city, perhaps upon arrival or before your departure. More...