Marseille. The city of fiction and history
The second largest city in France, also known as The Gate to the Mediterranean, is a must-see place for tourists visiting the country of wine and cheese. In Marseille, fiction intertwines with a rich history, the most touching part of it being the romantic story of the sailor Edmund Dantès, the protagonist of the famous novel titled “The Count of Monte Cristo”.
The city was founded by Greek colonists from Phocaea around 600 BC, who named it Massalia. It was the first Greek polis in Western Europe. The history of Marseille is first and foremost a tale about conquests. It was conquered by Gaius Julius Caesar in 49 BC, and then in the common era by the Visigoths, the Burgundians and the Ostrogoths. In 879, it was incorporated into the Arelat, the Kingdom of Burgundy, whereas in the 10th century it became a part of Provence. In the Middle Ages, Marseille enjoyed the status of a free city, and finally in 1481 it fell into the hands of the French.
for being depicted in the brilliant novel by Alexander Dumas "The Count of Monte Cristo".
A breakthrough moment in history:
49 BC – the city was conquered by Roman legions led by Julius Caesar.
Famous historical monuments:
Notre-Dame de la Garde, the Fort Saint-Jean, the Palais Longchamp, the church cathedral of Santa María la Mayor, The Abbey of Saint Victor, The Château d'If.
Most interesting architecture styles:
One definitely needs to:
climb the La Garde hill to be astonished by a remarkable city panorama.
Something for gourmets:
Bouillabaisse, an exquisite soup based on five species of fish.
A place for a walk:
the city park behind the Palais Longchamp and streets of the Old Port.
Off the beaten track:
Cassis – a small port town considered by many to be more beautiful than the notorious and also better known Saint-Tropez. Aix-en-Provence – a city founded in 122 BC, made famous by Paul Cézanne, an outstanding painter.
Antonin Artaud – actor, dramatist, director, writer and theater theorist; Zinédine Zidane –football player and coach, winner of the Golden Ball in 1998, best player of the 2006 World Cup.
The port city
Famous throughout Europe, the Old Port was restored in 2013 for € 45 million and is now the perfect place to start an adventure with Marseille. Here tourists can start their trip of the city or sail to the nearby Frioul archipelago or Mediterranean fjords, as Calanques is sometimes called – a rocky coast connecting Marseille with Cassis.
The land surrounding the port from three directions also offers a variety of attractions – the Palais Longchamp, the Abbey of Saint Victor, the church cathedral of Santa María la Mayor or the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM).
The fourth direction is of course the Mediterranean Sea. There are ferries and passenger ships that sail from the port towards further attractions. The biggest one is undoubtedly the Château d’If built on a rocky island. The castle was built on the orders of King Francis I. Nevertheless, it has never fulfilled his defensive function due to being too remote from the mainland. It owes its fame to two events.
The first one is its transformation into a prison in the 18th century, where Marquis de Sade was imprisoned. The other one is Alexandre Dumas noting this fact in his book “The Count of Monte Cristo”. It was in the Château d’If that the title character, Edmund Dantès, was imprisoned. And although it is a literary fiction, tourists can visit not only the protagonist’s cell, but also the hole through which he was supposed to get to the cell of a deceased confidant.
It’s also possible to go on a trip to Calangues from the Old Port. The magnificent, azure, crystal clear water of the bay, wild beaches, and enthralling limestone rocks are among the most wild and romantic places in Marseille.
Not many people know that it is here, 37 meters under water, that a narrow tunnel leading to the Cosquera cave – the Upper Paleolithic sanctuary – is located. Its walls are decorated with over 200 animal paintings and 55 hand stencils that are about 20 thousand years old!
Pyjamas and waterworks
Both of these words are whimsical names given to two of the most beautiful monuments that must undoubtedly be visited in Marseille. The church cathedral of Santa María la Mayor was erected in the second half of the 19th century, in a place of the previous 12th century cathedral. The locals call this cathedral pyjamas due to the characteristic facade,which tourists in turn associate with a zebra due to the
alternating layers of marble and porphyry. Similar layers can be found in Notre-Dame de la Garde built on a hill from where the whole panorama of the city can be enjoyed. In turn, waterworks is a name used to describe the breath-taking Palais Longchamp that is full of fountains and cascades. The Palace was built to commemorate the launch of the canal supplying Marseille with drinking water from the Durance.
Parks, museums and excellent cuisine
Marseille also tempts wits umbrageous parks, magnificent museums and fine Mediterranean cuisine, which is characterized by absolute freshness.
The exquisite restaurants and cosy cafes add to the fun of strolling along the monuments or exploring the wilderness of the Mediterranean fjords.
THE GOOD MOTHER
11-meter high golden statue of Virgin Mary standing at the top of Notre Dame de la Garde.
The so-called Housing Unit – the first building of its type in the world, designed just after the Second World War by Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, that is Le Corbusier.
THE MIRROR ROOF
A modern building in the Old Port, which protects tourists from the strong sunlight and provides a unique visual experience.