Marseille, the second largest city in France, is located along one of the most sumptuous bays in the world. Despite its unfavorable reputation since World War II, Marseille is really worth a visit.
The city has two constrasting facets, looking like a huge metropolis in some parts, and a small village in others. As the most ancient city in France, this seaport holds so much history of the Provence region.
The Greeks founded the town in 600 BC, followed by the Romans some centuries later, and there are still a few ruins within the city.
Born from the sea, the city has kept its maritime and commercial vocation for 2,600 years—a large part of why Marseille was considered the gateway of the French Colonial Empire to Africa, the Eastern world, and the Antilles and it exhaled a perfume of exoticism.
Marseille is one of the most significant commercial ports in the Mediterranean Sea and the fourth in all of Europe, due to its volume of traffic, the town still has a cosmopolitan nature.
Dominated by the church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde which watches over the people of Marseille, the old Port, where the commercial and maritime activities took place until the 19th century, has been the witness to this history and is one of the most picturesque places of the city.
On the South side of the Old Port, the Saint-Victor Abbey dates back to the early Middle Ages, the time of the first Christians. During this time period, the Abbey was one of the most important in the Western world.
The fabulous “Corniche Kennedy” holds sumptuous 19th century upper merchant class houses and mansions. It provides a marvellous view to admire the island of “Chateau d’If”, made famous by Alexandre Dumas in his novel “The Count of Monte Cristo”, and the other islands across the bay of Marseilles.
Nearby, the little fishing port of Cassis features colorful facades and amazing vineyards. It will be the ideal stop to end a perfect day in Provence, tasting the excellent white wine produced in the area on one of the terraces of the Port. Provencal writer Frederic Mistral wrote “Anyone who has seen Paris, but not Cassis, has not seen anything.”
No visit to Marseilles or Cassis is complete without seeing the Calanques National Park. The Calanques are rocky fjord-like inlets that offer a stunning view of the untouched countryside that is unique in the world. Limestone cliffs plunging into a deep blue sea, Sormiou, Morgiou, Sugiton, and En Vau are a paradise for hikers, rock climbers, divers, and swimmers alike.