Marseille: explore the amazing heritage of a melting-pot city

The largest city in southern France with 855,000 inhabitants, Marseille is a short flight from UK airports with Air France.
Including a change in either Paris
or Amsterdam, the journey generally takes around 3 to 4 hours from London airports.

Marseille's climate is a major attraction in itself. Temperatures are regularly in the 20s from May through to October and the summers are both sunny and dry.

On arrival at Marseille Provence Airport , you've plenty of options for onward travel into the city itself - train, shuttle bus, taxi and hire car.

The city's heritage is all around you. The earliest visible remains of the original Greek colony are to be found in the Jardin des Vestiges. This is the site of the old port, which was abandoned after silting up. A third century AD boat found on the site now occupies pride of place in the Marseille History Museum. The Musée des docks Romains, meanwhile, displays artefacts from one of the very few examples of a Roman-era warehouse.

Medieval gems of Marseille include the abbey of Saint Victor with its massive fortifications, the fort St Jean, which is part of the MuCEM complex (the Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean). More recent architectural sights include:

  • the Hôtel de Ville (the Baroque-style city hall)
  • La Vieille Charité, an old almhouse, now a museum, also in the Baroque style
  • the Cathedral of Sainte Marie Majeure, an amazing late 19th century Neo-Byzantine design and one of the largest cathedrals in France
Of all the varied buildings in Marseille, few are as closely-associated with the city as the basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde. The locals refer to this hill-top church as 'la bonne mère', the good mother. Built on the site of an old fort, it can be seen for miles around, and offers amazing views over the city and the sea. Its bell-tower, topped by an 11.2 metre high gilt statue of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, is particularly impressive.

Marseille: the old port and bouillabaisse, the essence of Marseille!

The Vieux Port (the old port) is the heart of Marseille, even though it's now mainly used for pleasure cruises, with ferries and container vessels operating out of newer facilities. It's from the Vieux Port that you can catch a day trip to the beautiful Frioul islands and the Château d'If, of Count of Monte Cristo fame. Enjoy the hustle and bustle, sit and people-watch at one of the cafés, or stroll through the stalls of the local fish market.
Fish, of course, is the principal ingredient of the world-famous Bouillabaisse, a delicious local stew. Its key ingredients are red rascasse, conger and sea robin, although it may include other types of fish and seafood like crabs, sea urchins and octopus. Vegetables and herbs are also integral to this tasty broth.
There are many other culinary specialities worth trying out during your stay here. The adventurous could opt for
'pieds et paquets' (sheep's feet and stuffed sheep's tripe in a white wine and tomato sauce), while tapenade, a kind of sauce/dip made from olives, capers, garlic and anchovies, may be enjoyed on toast or with raw vegetable sticks. Marseille is also known for its superb pizza! If you have a sweet tooth, why not sample Navettes de Marseille, (boat-shaped pastries) or Marseillotes (nougat with almonds, aniseed, honey, orange and cocoa.)
If this has whetted your appetite for a trip to Marseille, take a look at the Air France 'tourism' page for some more ideas…

Hassle-free holidays in Marseille: plan ahead with these internet sites.