Historical Landmarks Walking Tour (Self Guided), Marseille

As Marseilles is the oldest city in France, it has a lot to offer visitors interested in history. It has many ancient buildings and churches of historical interest. All of these ancient buildings are very popular among tourists and have a rich history. Don't miss the chance to visit some of its most interesting constructions.
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Historical Landmarks Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Historical Landmarks Walking Tour
Guide Location: France » Marseille (See other walking tours in Marseille)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.6 Km or 2.9 Miles
Author: kane
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Palais du Pharo
  • Fort St. Nicholas
  • Abbaye Saint-Victor
  • Opéra Municipal
  • Hôtel de Cabre
  • Maison Diamantée
  • Fort Saint-Jean
  • La Vieille Charité
Palais du Pharo

1) Palais du Pharo (must see)

One of the most impressive buildings in Marseille, Palais du Pharo was built in the 19th century as Napoleon III's waterfront residence. It stands on a hill overlooking the Château d’If and the entrance to Vieux-Port. Today this high-class architecture, one of the most beautiful in Europe, serves as a conference center that receives up to 60,000 people every year.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Fort St. Nicholas

2) Fort St. Nicholas

This star-shaped fort was built in 1680. At that time Marseille's independence was finally lost and Louis XIV needed to keep an eye on the rebellious citizens. Today this grand building is home to the Foreign Legion.
Abbaye Saint-Victor

3) Abbaye Saint-Victor (must see)

The Abbey of St. Victor is a late Roman former monastic foundation in Marseille named after the local soldier saint and martyr, Victor of Marseilles.

Tradition holds that in about 415, John Cassian founded two monasteries of St. Victor at Marseille, one for men (the later Abbey of St. Victor), the other for women. While Cassian certainly started monastic life in Marseille, he is probably not the founder of the abbey, as the archaeological evidence of Saint Victor only goes back to the end of the 5th century. Tradition also has it that it contains the relics of the eponymous martyr of Marseille from the 4th century. In reality, the crypts preserve highly valuable archaeological evidence proving the presence of a quarry exploited in Greek times.

The abbey is an imposing monument with an almost military architecture that evokes the medieval past of the city. The building is obviously classified as a historical monument, and it would be a shame to go to Marseille without coming to make a turn. On the one hand, because the monument itself is interesting, and partly because you have, from the forecourt, a stunning view of the Old Port!

Why You Should Visit:
The structure is wonderfully preserved, with plenty of good (English-translated) information and explanation of the various areas and artifacts inside.

Do pay the small fee to go downstairs and visit the wonderful crypt – it is pretty much like entering another world!

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 9am-7:30pm; Sun: 9am-6pm
To visit the crypt, plan your visit from 4 to 6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Opéra Municipal

4) Opéra Municipal

L’Opéra de Marseille, or Opéra Municipal, dates from its opening on 4 December 1924. It features a classic urn-shaped auditorium, three rings of boxes, two balconies and a gallery. A large sculpted frieze by sculptor Antoine Bourdelle frames the stage. In 1685, the city was the second in France after Bordeaux to have an opera house which was erected on a tennis court.

However, the first real theater, the Grand-Théâtre was constructed in 1787. During its period of great opulence following the Revolution, it was the site of many major opera presentations, including Verdi’s Rigoletto and Il Trovatore in 1860. Also, French premieres of major operatic works were given in the theater: these include Aida (1877), La Fanciulla del West (1912), and an historic performance by Dame Nellie Melba in Ambroise Thomas’ Hamlet in 1890. Some years following the installation of electricity, in November 1919 a fire destroyed the eighteenth century theater, leaving only its shell and an exterior stone colonnade.

The Grand-Théâtre was designed by the three architects Ebrard, Castel, and Raymond. Many well-known contemporary singers made their French debuts in this opera house. Among them are Alfredo Kraus, Plácido Domingo, and Renata Scotto. Past music directors of the company have included János Fürst. After World War II the Marseille opera house staged Sigurd by Ernest Reyer in 1963 and 1995.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Hôtel de Cabre

5) Hôtel de Cabre

Hôtel de Cabre is considered the oldest house in Marseille. It was built in 1535. It was partially destroyed in 1943 due to fire, but was later extensively renovated.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Maison Diamantée

6) Maison Diamantée

The ‘Diamond House’ was built in 1570. It is named so because of the diamond-shaped reliefs that decorate its outer facade. The museum represents a testament to life in Marseille during the 18th and 19th centuries, and presents a comprehensive exhibit dedicated to the Plague of 1720.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Fort Saint-Jean

7) Fort Saint-Jean

Fort Saint-Jean is a fortification in Marseille, built in 1660 by Louis XIV at the entrance to the Old Port. Fort Saint-Nicolas was constructed at the same time on the opposite side of the harbor. Two earlier buildings were incorporated into the structure of the fort: the twelfth century Commandry of the Knights Hospitaller of St John of Jerusalem, which served as a monastic hospice during the crusades; and the fifteenth century tower of René I, King of Provence.

In April 1790 Fort Saint-Jean was seized by a revolutionary mob who decapitated the commander of the royal garrison. During the subsequent French Revolution the fort was used as a prison, holding Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, and two of his sons, Louis-Charles, Count of Beaujolais, and Antoine Philippe, Duke of Montpensier. Following the overthrow of Robespierre in 1794 about a hundred Jacobin prisoners held in the fort were massacred. Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries Fort Saint-Jean was in the possession of the French Army, who utilized it as a barracks and clearing station for the Army of Africa.

During World War II Fort Saint-Jean was occupied by the German military in November 1942. In August 1944 during the liberation of Marseilles, the explosion of a munitions depot within the fort destroyed much of its historic battlements and buildings. Classified as a historical monument in 1964, the damaged portions of the fort were reconstructed between 1967 and 1971. It now houses the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations.
Sight description based on wikipedia
La Vieille Charité

8) La Vieille Charité (must see)

A former almshouse, now functioning as a museum and cultural center, La Vieille Charité is situated in the heart of the old Panier quarter of Marseille. Constructed between 1671 and 1749 in the Baroque style to the designs of the architect Pierre Puget, it comprises four ranges of arcaded galleries in three storeys surrounding a space with a central chapel surmounted by an ovoid dome. The main body of the structure is a rectangle, 112m by 96m, composed of four walls in pink and yellow-tinted molasse stone from the ancient quarries at Cap Couronne, with no outward facing windows. On the inside are three arcaded galleries superposed on each other, opening onto an interior courtyard measuring 82m by 45m.

Spared during the French Revolution, the building was used as an asylum for vagrants and the dispossessed in the 19th century. It was transformed into a barracks for the French Foreign Legion until 1922 when it was used to lodge those displaced by the demolition of the district behind the Bourse and later those made homeless by the dynamiting of the Old Port during the Second World War. In 1962 all the residents were rehoused and the building shut down. It was only in 1968, thanks to the intervention of the Minister of Culture André Malraux, that funds became available to rescue the buildings. La Vieille Charité was restored between 1970 and 1986, restoration of the chapel being completed in 1981.

Why You Should Visit:
Beautiful and interesting exhibitions and rich, varied collections of great quality, all in a splendid setting.
The stone used, the general layout and tall ceilings of the corridors and rooms make this a unique attraction.

Don't miss the chapel/church nearby, and there's also a popular café and pleasant courtyard for lunch.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-6pm
Closed: 1/1, 1/5, 1/11, 11/11, 25/12, 26/12
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Marseille, France

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Create Your Own Walk in Marseille

Creating your own self-guided walk in Marseille is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
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Located on the Mediterranean coast of France, Marseille is the largest commercial port and the second most populous city in France. Being also the country's oldest, the city is known for its ancient heritage, distinctive culture, ethnic diversity and strong identity, all of which secures for Marseille the status of a major tourist destination. Follow this orientation walk to explore some of...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.1 Km or 2.5 Miles