Best tourist attractions in Marseille include Vieux-Port harbor, Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica, Longchamp palace, Rue St Ferreol, and Frioul islands cruise.
Vieux-Port harbor was historically the main harbor in Marseille ever since the city was founded back in 600 BC.
The harbor has two massive fortresses, St Nicolas and Saint Jean, protecting the entrance to it.
These fortresses were added to the harbor by King Louis XIV, to increase the number of soldiers and weaponry within the city, in the aftermath of a local uprising.
PHOTO: The old harbor is one of the best places for dining out in Marseille, as it contains dozens of different types of restaurants and cafes, many providing menus with dishes typical to the region.
Adjacent to the entrance to the harbor, at Quai des Belges, there is also a daily fish market, a genuine Marseillaise experience in itself.
A good way to prepare yourself for a trip to Marseille is to read “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas.
PHOTO: Tourist attractions in Marseille include Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica (www.notredamedelagarde.com), located at the highest naturally occurring point in Marseille, on top of a 162 meter (531 ft) tall limestone hill, south of Vieux-Port harbor.
The Notre Dame de la Garde, which locals have nicknamed ‘la bonne mère‘ (‘the good mother’), is perhaps the most significant of all of the landmarks in Marseille, symbolizing the city similarly to, say, Big Ben symbolizes London.
Plans for the church came from famous French architect, Jacques Henri Esperandieu, who designed the basilica in a Byzantine Revival style.
Construction work on the church began in 1853, with the building completed in eleven years later, in 1864.
Highlight of the building is its 60 meter (196 ft) tall bell-tower, on top of which there is a statue of Virgin Mary and child Jesus (giving the church the nickname “good mother”).
The bell-tower and its statue are visible to most parts of Marseille, as well as several miles into the Mediterranean sea.
PHOTO: Longchamp palace is one of the most beautiful palaces in Marseille. The building houses three museums: Musée des Beaux-Arts (the city’s biggest art museum), Canal de Marseille Museum, and Natural History Museum.
The Longcham palace is surrounded by one of the best palatial gardens in France, Parc Longchamp, designed by Jacques Henri Esperandieu.
The garden is listed, in fact, among the most remarkable gardens in France by the French Culture Ministry’s “Jardins Remarquables” list (www.parcsetjardins.fr).
Originally, Longchamp palace was built to commemorate the completion of Canal de Marseille, a canal to reroute water from Durance river to Marseille.
The construction work for the palace took around 30 years and carried enormous costs, but it was completed thanks to many famous supporters, including the Duke of Orléans.
Of the palace museums, especially Musée des Beaux-Arts is worth a visit.
Its collections include:
- paintings from Italian and French masters,
- sculptures, and
…covering a period from 16th century up to the 19th century.
The pearl of the Musée des Beaux-Arts, however, is its unique collection of Provençal artists’ works from 17th century to the 19th century.
PHOTO: Tourist attractions in Marseille highlights include Rue St Ferreol and its district, which is central to shopping in Marseille. The street is also mostly reserved for pedestrian use, which makes shopping all the more pleasant.
Other central areas for shopping in Marseille include ‘la Valentine‘ and ‘le Grand Littoral‘, but they are not nearly as conveniently located as Rue St Ferreol.
Rue St Ferreol, which goes from Canebière to the district of ‘Préfecture‘, has many of the city’s best fashion boutiques and several department stores, including Galeries Lafayette.
If you are interested in fashion, you should also check out the nearby Musée de la Mode (www.espacemodemediterranee.com), which showcases historical fashion with over 2,000 designs from the latest 30 years.
PHOTO: Of the tourist attractions in Marseille, Frioul archipelago cruise is a visit to the four islands near Marseille, located about 4 km (2.4 miles) to the Mediterranean sea from the Marseille harbor.
Even though each of the islands in the archipelago are beautiful, providing breathtaking views to the seaside facade of Marseille and many beaches, most visitors tour only the island of If, the location of ‘Château d’If‘, famous from Alexandre Dumas’ “The Count of Monte Cristo“.
The three-story Château d’If was build from 1524–31 from a commission by King François I, to defend the city from attacks from the sea.
Château d’If fortress has been one of the most popular tourist attractions in Marseille since 1844, when Alexandre Dumas published his “The Count of Monte Cristo”.
Today, about 900,000 visitors tour the If island and its fortress every year.
You can get to the island(s) using a ferry transfer from the Vieux-Port harbor, from 1, Quai des Belges.