Despite its long-standing reputation of being a hotbed for crime and seediness, there’s still a unique character to Marseille, France, that gives the place colorful and dynamic flare. Having been in use since 600 BC, France’s oldest city still inspires history fanatics to travel back in time with its sites today.
Let’s explore the five best things that you can do in Marseille, or at least five of my favorites.
The Vieux-Port is considered Marseille’s oldest port, and allows people to walk across its flanks, the Quai des Belges, as fishers bring in their latest catch. People can also take in the view of the beautiful blue waters that are the home of fishing boats and yachts, as well as the two forts framing the port entrance.
The port also has a local fish market, where you can visit from 8am to 1pm, and take a gander at the water-filled buckets of red mullet, bream, and grouper. And if you’re a foodie, try a fresh saltwater oyster, which doesn’t need to be rinsed, since it tastes great au natural.
Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde
It’s nearly impossible to not see the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde, since it sits on the highest point in Marseille. This Romano-Byzantine place was said to be the brainchild of an architect named Henri-Jacques Espérandieu. He had this place built between 1853 and 1864; and to this day, it has received positive reception among the locals, calling the monument ‘la bonne mere’ or ‘the good mother,’ because they see its 9.7 meter gold-leaf statue of the Virgin Mary on top of the bell tower as the guardian of the city.
Travel Through Calanques National Park
The Calanques is known for its awe-inspiring natural beauty. This park is illustrated by its white limestone cliffs and unique creeks that make a sharp descent into the sea.
Hiking is one option to fully experience this beauty up close; however, an easier option is taking a mini-cruise from the Old Port, to get to the Calanques. Or, the more fun option would be kayaking through its waters.
Once a Greek colony of Massalia, Le Panier has been around since 600 BC, and has greatly evolved into a bastion for Maghreb and Coriscan culture. Decorated with ochre-colored walls, stone stairways, and streets (shaped like long corridors) paved with squares that reflect the sunlight.
Despite being one of the poorest parts of Marseille, the district has evolved into an epicenter for imaginative street art. Collaborating with this unique, trendy art form are schools of independent boutiques, craft shops, and cafes. But the largest symbol of art in Le Panier comes from the La Vieille Charité, a baroque-style almshouse from the 17th-century built in three tiers and holds art galleries around a chapel.
Try the Food
When you’re in Marseille, try their specialty dish, the Bouillabaisse. Although, this fish-and-seafood Marseille dish is cooked all over the world, the most authentic version lives here. Some restaurants make this stew with lean fish; and other places incorporate ingredients like wine, olive oil, and saffron to add a little more flavor to it. Either way, it tastes better when cooked down, as you would with scorpionfish, conger and sea robins. The recipes vary from restaurant to restaurant; but let’s not forget the bread. Rustic bread goes well with the stew, as you have the bread smothered with rouille (although the remainder of the recipe varies from restaurant to restaurant. Part of the ritual is rustic bread smothered with rouille (a spicy type of mayonnaise), and add it to the soup.
A dish as this can also be paired with white wines from the Rhône Valley or Languedoc-Roussillon. And for dessert, try the navettes, which are small boat-shaped biscuits that come in many flavors, ranging from anis to chocolate.
Maybe Marseille isn’t the travel destination for you, or maybe it is. Still though, if you’re the adventurous type, and keep in mind how to react to the things that were mentioned in this article, then you may see Marseille in a different light – see it for the historic gem that it truly is.
Michael Dehoyos writes and edits content for PhD Kingdom and Academic Brits. As a marketer, he shows companies how to improve on their marketing strategies; and he also shares his expertise at Case Study Help Service, and other numerous sites and publications.