Marseille train station – Gare de Saint Charles – is the main railway hub in the city, and has been open to passengers since 1848.
Saint Charles, the most important railway station in Marseille, was build by Compagnie PLM, in 1848, on top of a small hill.
During its history, before the era of airplane travel, the station was one of the major European waypoints towards Africa and the Middle East.
Within that period, train travelers first came to Marseille train station Saint-Charles from all parts of Europe, before continuing with cruiseliners towards the African continent.
PHOTO: Gare de Saint-Charles main entrance. Marseille bus station, part of the Saint-Charles transportation hub, is located on the opposite side of the building (from the main entrance).
PHOTO: The train station has a total of 16 quays, and you can use the station to get to, for example, Paris with TGV bullet-trains (in 3 hours 15 minutes at the fastest).
PHOTO: In terms of architecture, the station building is best-known for its massive staircase, an addition from 1925. The staircase descents to Boulevard d’Athènes, which, in turn, leads towards the city’s main street, Canebière.
PHOTO: Because the train station has been built on top of a hill, you can see wonderful views from it over the rooftops of Marseille, all the way to the (pictured in the distance on top of a hill) Notre Dame de la Garde church.
PHOTO: The station is decorated with many magnificent statues. Pictured is one of the two ‘lion and boy’ sculptures, both by Ary Bitter. Each lion statue has a memorial carving, with texts “le soleil et la mer” (“the sun and the sea”) and “le monde est l’energie” (“the world is energy”).
PHOTO: Because construction work on the staircase was coincided with the 1922 French Colonial Exposition (which was held at the Chanot park in Marseille), there are sculptures within the staircase (by Louis Botinelly) referring to France’s colonial territories. Pictured is Botinelly’s “Colonies d’Asie”, allegorical to the French colonies in Asia. The artwork portrays a woman (resembling a Khmer princess), with a small girl and a boy next to her.
The Marseille train station building was constructed to resemble a letter”U”, under a massive roof that covers the quays.
Originally, there was no direct access from the station to the city center.
However, first plans to add a monumental staircase to the building were done by 1911…with the staircase being completed (towards Boulevard d’Athenes) in 1925.
Up to the 1990s, state-owned SNCF railway company had cargo depots here, but they were relocated, and the space modernized to house the current Marseille bus station.
From the Gare de Saint-Charles station, you’ll also have direct access to both subway lines in Marseille.
For example, you can get directly to the ‘Stade Velodrome’, where the city’s most famous sports club, football club ‘Olympique de Marseille’ plays its home games.
Usage of the station has been increasing ever since the 1990s rebuilding, when, in addition to the bus station, Gare de Saint-Charles also received a popular bullet-train connection, the “TGV Méditerranée”.
In addition to connections to Paris, popular train travel destinations from Marseille include Lyon (taking 1 hour and 40 minutes, one way) and Lille(4 hours 30 minutes).