Marseille Travel Guide
Marseille is the hurly-burly of the Mediterranean coast and the premier melting pot of France, at once loud, chaotic and cosmopolitan. It tumbles in a tangled mass of terracotta-roofed houses and pale apartment buildings to the edge of the sea, backed by contoured hills and the white limestone cliffs of the calanques. It is both the oldest city and the largest port of France, which has been the crossroads of the world for centuries, its trade ravaged for at least two hundred years by the Barbary pirates from the North African coast. It has a lovely 2,600-year-old harbor and golden beaches besides, right around the corner from modern docks where gigantic ocean liners and cargo ships drop anchor. Inland rises Le Corbusier's utopian "Radiant City" – Ville Radieuse – juxtaposed with some of France's oldest churches and military buildings. The city itself is brimming with boisterous souk markets, ethnic eateries, and cafés and restaurants serving the locally-created, yet internationally-famous, bouillabaisse – a fish stew made from three to nine different types of fish. And like bouillabaisse, there are flavorful neighborhoods here as well, packed with an assortment of pied noirs and North African immigrants, primarily Algerians – Marseille, in fact, has the largest North African contingent of any city in France, with at least one in every four Marseillais claiming North African descent. It is a city, too, one might add, of theaters and cultural venues, museums and galleries, artists and poets, French film and animation, and high tech and other industry that has made it both a cultural and industrial hub of the region and, on an extended band, of France.
Marseille is located on the Mediterranean coast of France, southeast of Martigues and northwest of La Ciotat, roughly 25 miles (40 km) from either. From Aix-en-Provence, it is 20 miles (32 km) directly to the south. Montpellier lies to the west of Marseille, Avignon to the north, and Nice to the east.
There are direct flights to Marseille from Paris and destinations in the U.K., as well as regular high-speed rail service from London or Paris, making the city a convenient getaway in the south of France.
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