Founded by the Greeks more than 2600 years ago, Marseille is the oldest city in France. Bustling and brash, it is the country’s second city and the largest port in Europe after Rotterdam.
Large and industrial, it nevertheless boasts a unique heritage and enjoys a spectacular setting along the Mediterranean. Its majestic island-studded bay and its Calanques – rocky inlets and lagoons – are world-famous.
The city’s main thoroughfare is called La Canabiere and stretches eastwards from the Vieux Port (Old Port).
Make sure to stroll around the old port where ships have docked for more than 26 centuries and where the atmosphere, spirit, and charm of the city is at its most tangible.
Climb up to the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde, a huge Romano-Byzantine basilica 1km south of the old port. Erected between 1853 and 1864, it stands on a hilltop and provides breathtaking views over the city.
Two museums well worth visiting are the Centre de la Vieille Charite where exhibits are housed in a workhouse and hospice dating back to the 17th century and the Musee d’Histoire de Marseille which gives a history of the city.
Take a ferry out to the mysterious Chateau d’If which lies on an island 3.5 kilometres west of the entrance to the old port.
The 16th-century fortress-turned-prison featured in Alexandre Dumas’ classic work of fiction The Count of Monte Cristo.
Take a break from sightseeing and head for Cours Julien, just south of La Canabiere. A large pedestrianised square complete with a water garden, fountains and palm trees, it is lined with some of Marseille’s trendiest cafes, restaurants and theatres.
Other cafes and late-night restaurants can be found in the lively Place Thiars and the Cours Honore d’Estienne d’Orves on the south side of the old port.
No trip to Marseille would be complete without tasting its most renowned dish – bouillabaisse. This is a hearty soup with three kinds of fish served in a broth with onions, tomatoes, saffron, sage and thyme.
Work up an appetite by strolling in the unspoilt countryside just outside the city and swimming or scuba diving in the warm, turquoise Mediterranean.