Marseille-Provence 2013 European Capital of Culture is an exciting year-long programme of events all across the Bouches du Rhône département and there can surely be no better time to visit Southern Provence.
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The Marseille-Provence 2013 celebrations extend from Martigues to La Ciotat, including Arles and Aix en Provence as well as Aubagne and other communes in the area.
They go north as far as Saint Rémy de Provence and the Alpilles, stopping just short of Avignon, which had its own moment in the sun as the European Capital of Culture in 2000 (and, besides, is in the département of the Vaucluse).
It's the first time that the European Capital of Culture programme has been extended to cover a whole region rather than just a single city.
Click here to jump straight to our detailled diary of the January 2013 programme and the grand opening of Marseille-Provence's year as the European Capital of Culture, and here for our February 2013, March 2013, April 2013, May 2013, June 2013, July 2013, August 2013, September 2013, October 2013, November 2013 and December 2013 diaries.
The jam-packed agenda is divided into three "episodes". From January to May, Marseille-Provence accueille le monde (Marseille-Provence, Welcoming the World) focusses on the urban Mediterranean.
Some of the Marseille-Provence 2013 project involves prestigious brand-new venues, such as the Musée des civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations), or MuCEM for short, a dramatic building on the Marseille waterfront designed by Rudy Ricciotti.
Interpreting culture in its broadest sense, there are also initiatives such as the Grande Randonnée GR2013, an ambitious 360 km (224 mile) hiking trail created to take you through surprising parts of Provence.
These will become permanent, "legacy" features of the landscape and we'll be reviewing the pick of them in full as they come to fruition.
Finally, the Capital of Culture year is not just about the arts, strictly speaking. French gastronomy was famously declared an "intangible cultural heritage" by UNESCO in 2010 and so food too has its place in the celebrations. And fortunately you can not only touch it but eat it as well.
If you read French, you might be interested in Le Routard Marseille, Provence 2013, capitale européenne de la culture, a very comprehensive book-length guide to what's going on.
Visitors to Marseille should also head for the new temporary Pavillon M on the place Villeneuve-Bargemon just off the Old Port, which is a primary source of information.
This large meeting space has a whole range of multi-media displays and installations introducing you to the area, a cafeteria, a small conference area and an army of volunteers ready to help you.
The Pavillon M also organises regular special events throughout the year. It's open from 10.00am to 7.00pm daily. The main Tourist Office at 11 la Canebière will be open as usual too with a more conventional range of maps and brochures.
And, over and above the events in the "official" programme listed here, there is, as at the Avignon Festival, a large parallel fringe event, the Off, with activities too numerous to mention.
The Marseille-Provence European Capital of Culture programme kicks off with a bang in January 2013. We preview the very best of the events on offer this month.
The March line-up for MP2013 European Capital of Culture includes a prestigious new Easter festival of classical music, a water ballet, a rapper's tribute to Albert Camus and a long-distance footpath that reveals an unexpected side of Provence.
The Capital of Culture moves outdoors, with fire and water magic, street art, beach theatre and an amazing odyssey of thousands of riders across Provence. Indoors, Arles has an unusual show of art inspired by clouds.
The seriously big guns roll out this month for MP2013, with several key venues which weren't ready in time for the opening weekend finally being unveiled with major new shows. Watch out for the MuCEM and the flagship two-part exhibition Le Grand Atelier du Midi.
Summer is always an exciting time for culture in Provence. Several key July festivals have been absorbed into the Capital of Culture calendar and the 2013 edition of EuroPride will be held in Marseille.
The Capital of Culture programme takes a quick breather this month at the peak of the French school holidays. But many major shows launched continue well into the autumn, and the cultural tourist to Provence in August is really spoiled for choice.
The tourists are leaving town, but MP2013 moves into a new, high gear in September: Marseille-Provence aux mille visages (Land of a Thousand Faces) cooks up a rich mix of cuisine, maritime activities, hip-hip and more.
The Capital of Culture programme continues with a new ballet in Aix inspired by Albert Camus, autumn jazz in Marseille and a designers' salon in Arles.