Marseille is a French city with a very bad reputation, that actually is on its way to change especially since it was nominated “Capital of Culture 2013”. Nevertheless, Marseille attracts more and more tourists and I was really surprised how beautiful is the city and how many things you can do, see, eat, discover and admire there. I had no expectations and did not plan anything in advance as I was visiting a friend of mine who is so-called local and knows the best spots. So, how to enjoy Marseille and chase the summer mood in October?
So, Marseille, j’arrive….
The first day we did a Marseille Free Walking Tour and were embarked on a panoramic walk around to enjoy the main attractions of Marseille. The first stop was the Marseille History Museum (Musee d’Histoire de Marseille). Entering the building from the city centre, you can see “Jardin des vestiges”, an open-air pre-entrance conserving archaeological remains of classical ramparts, port buildings, even a necropolis.
Furthermore, we continued our walk and arrived at Le Panier – Bohemian Bourgeois (BoBo) neighbourhood of Marseille. Needless to say that the neighbourhood is very bohemian, very bourgeois, very Mediterranean, very colourful and eclectic. Thus, this is the perfect spot to feel the local atmosphere, architecture, and cultural traits. There are many little traditional shops where you can buy soap, petanque accessories or other traditional delights and souvenirs. One tour is not enough to taste Le Panier, so if you have more time, I would recommend to come back and enjoy the Marseille little colourful streets.
Cathedral of la Major
Next, we visited the Cathedral of la Major (Cathedrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille or Cathedrale de la Major) one of the main symbols of the city and a French national monument. The building is imposing and very beautiful and is a part of a smaller and older cathedral which remains can be seen alongside the new part. The “New Major”, was built in Byzantine-Roman style typical for Marseille and should not be confused with the basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde, watching Marseille from above the hill.
MuCEM or Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations
Likewise, step by step we were approaching the Old Port and stopped over the Fort Saint-Jean and MuCEM. MuCEM or Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (Musee des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Mediterranee) houses collections of European and Mediterranean civilizations. The building is situated at the entrance to the harbour, next to the Fort Saint-Jean. The two of them are connected by a high footbridge, 130 m long that you can see on the picture below.
The Count of Monte Cristo and the Cheteau d’If
In the early afternoon, we came back to the Vieux Port (Old Port) and headed to If Castle to discover all the mystery around Alexandre Dumas’ novel The Count of Monte Cristo. In fact, The Chateau d’If is a fortress (later a prison) located on the island of If, the smallest island in the Frioul archipelago. It became famous for being the place in which the action of Alexandre Dumas’ adventure novel The Count of Monte Crist takes place. Generally speaking, the castle and the island itself are small and you can easily do it in half a day.
How to enjoy festive Marseille – International Fanfare Competition
Besides, the evening was quite unusual. We went to an International Fanfare Competition. That was once in a lifetime show. The fish smell, funny costumes, dancing, and music, it was all about having fun the French way.
Calanque de Sugiton
The second day, we visited Calanque de Sugiton. The natural park is just breathtaking. We were walking, climbing, enjoying the great view and swimming in the crystal water. There is no real beach there, just stones and water. Pure natural delight!
Notre-Dame de la Garde in Marseille
The last day, we paid our respect to the most famous attraction in the city – the basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde. As it’s situated on a hill, the way to the basilica can be quite hard to climb. You can also take a bus, or the little funny touristic train and do the way back by walk. Regardless, the basilica itself is gorgeous. The panoramic view allows us to see the entire city from above and to realize how big it is actually.
What to bring as a souvenir from Marseille
Oh, I was writing about Marseille but did not mention anything about neither the food nor the typical souvenirs from Marseille. Here are the best places: 1. You should absolutely have a French breakfast at Noailles – old fashion typical French cafe. The coffee is mind-blowing, the croissants are delicious and you can buy typical regional sweets from there as Calissons. 2. Soaps: La Savonnerie Marseillaise here you’ll find real 72% olive oil soap. The shop offers perfumed soaps, but go for the smelly natural Savon de Marseille. 3. The oldest Hardware store (Quincaillerie) in France is actually based in Marseille. If you wonder what to buy as a present, just check-it-out Maison Empereur.
To sum up, I am sure you already put Marseille on your bucket travel list as you know how to enjoy the city and chase the summer mood out there! Share your Marseillaise experience with me! Because happiness is better when it’s shared!
Thanks for reading!