Marseille

Marseille is France's second city, and its oldest one. But, unlike Paris, its arch-rival, this is not primarily a place of big bombastic classical monuments. It has other assets: a beautiful location between rugged, limestone hills and a sweeping bay, a rich, long history extending back all the way back to 600 BC, a vibrant cosmopolitan community and an easy-going yet energising vibe.

That's not all. In 2013 Marseille experienced a dramatic regeneration for the European Capital of Culture programme, with many spectacular new buildings, museums and galleries. And then, of course, there are also its beaches and calanques.

Here is an armchair tour of Marseille's main attractions. Click on each image or scroll down the page to read more.

Marseille taxiMarseille is a relatively easy city to get around, either on the public transport system or on a wide range of fun alternatives aimed at tourists.

marseille-market-smallMarseille's climate and its exuberant character, combined with the sheer quality and variety of Mediterranean produce, make the city a brilliant backdrop for a wide range of street markets.

Aerial view of the Old Port, MarseilleDominated on one side by the Panier (Old Town) and on the other by Notre Dame de la Garde, the Old Port, or Vieux Port, has been the beating heart of Marseille for over 2000 years.

The Chateau d'If, MarseilleMarseille's answer to Alcatraz, this brooding island-fortress-prison has hosted victims of religious persecution, roués, anti-royalists, revolutionaries and Alexandre Dumas père's (fictional) hero, the Count of Monte Cristo.

72% Petanque shop, MarseilleThis is our guide to Marseille's best shops and where to buy the perfect gift or souvenir, haute couture and hot designers, arts and crafts, food and drink and antiques bargains.

amphorae history museum marseille smallMarseille's museum and gallery scene has gone through huge changes and it's now among the best in Europe. Here we list the main ones and report on the latest shows.

The Palais Longchamp, MarseilleDespite the name, this is not a palace. It's an extravagant monument to the glory of water and its crucial importance ever since Marseille was founded by the Greeks in 600 BC.

The Madonna of Notre Dame de la Garde, MarseillePart lighthouse, part fortress, part sacred place of pilgrimage, La Bonne Mère (the Good Mother), as Notre Dame de la Garde is universally and affectionately referred to, is the symbol of Marseille.

marseille-old-town-panierMarseille's Panier (Old Town) is full of history. It surges up from the north of the Old Port, its tall, narrow houses draped with washing and criss-crossed by steep cobbled steps.

LionelLevyOver the last few years, a wave of chefs has transformed Marseille's food scene and today it is one of the most vibrant, varied and inventive in France.

Saint Charles station, MarseilleAll the romance of the early days of rail still surrounds Marseille's main train station, perched high on a hill to the east of the city centre and linked to it by a magnificent staircase.

L'Estaque town signL'Estaque, a scruffy fishing port north-west of Marseille, has an extraordinary claim to fame: for over half a century, it was a magnet for a series of world-renowned artists.

Hotel La Residence du Vieux Port, MarseilleThis is our guide to the best parts of town and the best hotels and B&Bs in Marseille, a city which offers a wide choice of individualistic accommodation.

Gay Pride Marseille 2011Marseille has a rough-and-ready, even macho image. But the city's melting-pot population and cultural diversity create an easy-going vibe that makes it unusually gay- and lesbian-friendly.

The sun card from the Tarot de MarseilleMarseille has a typical Mediterranean climate: you are reliably assured of hot weather in summer, while in winter the temperature rarely falls below freezing.

Treetop adventure playground, MarseilleIf you're in Marseille with small children or with teenagers, you'll have no trouble finding plenty of terrific places in the city for a family day out.

Saint Victor Abbey, MarseilleIn its millennia of history Marseille has accumulated very many churches, of which three are outstanding examples.

Le Corbusier's The Radiant City, MarseilleLe Corbusier's pioneering urban housing experiment is known poetically as the Radiant City, prosaically as the Unité d'Habitation and irreverently by locals as La Maison du Fada (The Madman's House).

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