Marseille Introduction Walk I (Self Guided), Marseille

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 the top attractions of Marseille.
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Marseille Introduction Walk I Map

Guide Name: Marseille Introduction Walk I
Guide Location: France » Marseille (See other walking tours in Marseille)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.1 Km or 2.5 Miles
Author: dana
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Cathédrale de la Major
  • Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM)
  • Fort Saint-Jean
  • Hotel de Ville (City Hall)
  • Le Panier (Old Town)
  • La Vieille Charité
  • Musée d'Archéologie Méditerranéenne
  • Porte d'Aix
  • Jardin des Vestiges
  • La Canebiere
Cathédrale de la Major

1) Cathédrale de la Major (must see)

Marseille Cathedral, or Cathédrale de la Major, is a Roman Catholic cathedral and a national monument of France. It was built on an enormous scale in Byzantine-Roman style from 1852 to 1896 on the site used for the cathedrals of Marseille since the fifth century, principally by the architects Léon Vaudoyer and Henri-Jacques Espérendieu (1829-1874). Some modest structures remaining from the largely demolished earlier cathedral, the "Vieille Major", still stand alongside, dwarfed by the huge scale of the later construction.

Why You Should Visit:
Spectacular from the outside and well located right by the sea so that you can really get an impression of the grandeur.
The whole structure is impressive and every time you take a look, you see something different.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-6:30pm (Apr-Sep); 10am-5:30pm (Oct-Mar)
Free admission
Sight description based on wikipedia
Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM)

2) Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM) (must see)

With a permanent collection charting historical and cultural cross-fertilization in the Mediterranean basin, the MuCEM (French: Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée) takes an interdisciplinary approach to society through the ages up to modern times.

A cube of 15,000 sqm (160,000 sq ft) surrounded by a latticework shell of fibre-reinforced concrete, it houses exhibits on two levels, with an underground auditorium seating 400. The permanent collection and bookshop are situated on the ground floor. There is a restaurant on the terrace at the top of the building with panoramic views of the bay of Marseille, the Corniche and the Prado.

A channel separates the new building and the Fort Saint-Jean, which has been restructured as part of the project. The two sites are linked by a high footbridge, 130 m (430 ft) long. Another footbridge links the Fort Saint-Jean to the Esplanade de la Tourette, near the church of St Laurent in the Panier quarter.

Why You Should Visit:
Beautiful architecture, beautiful views. You don't have to pay an entry fee just to walk around the place and it's worth every minute you spend for the great views of the port and sea. If you do go inside, however, you will see the lovely architecture of the fort and get more amazing views.

Try to take the walk around the main building – from level 0 or 1 to the café level – its a nice and beautiful walk.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Mon: 11am-6pm
Closed on Tuesdays
Sight description based on wikipedia
Fort Saint-Jean

3) 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
Hotel de Ville (City Hall)

4) Hotel de Ville (City Hall)

Located along the riverside, the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) is a baroque building dating from the 17th century. It stands as the only buildingon the harbor that survived after World War 2. The center of Marseille has several pedestrianized zones, most notably rue St Ferréol, Cours Julien near the Music Conservatory, the Cours Honoré-d'Estienne-d'Orves off the Old Port and the area around the Hôtel de Ville.
Le Panier (Old Town)

5) Le Panier (Old Town) (must see)

Marseille's old town Le Panier sits on a hill to the right of the Vieux Port. If you ever wish to experience first-hand the "real" Mediterranean feel of Marseille – winding narrow streets, quirky shops, abundance of eateries with delicious al fresco food and, often, live music – this old neighborhood is ideal. It gets particularly interesting in spring/summer when most of the places are open. In recent years the area underwent renovation and is now growing more popular year by year. Some of the key points of interest here include La Vieille Charité, Cathédrale de la Major, Fort Saint-Jean, and the new Galerie de la Méditerranée.

Why You Should Visit:
To discover another face of Marseille that is different from Le Plain or the Old Port.
Great to stroll here and get lost – but small enough that you will find your way soon enough.
The buildings are colorful and packed in close to each other, with winding, narrow, hilly streets.

The bakers around this area have some awesome desserts worth a try.
La Vieille Charité

6) 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
Musée d'Archéologie Méditerranéenne

7) Musée d'Archéologie Méditerranéenne (must see)

One of France's first rank museums owing to the variety of its collections and its acquisition policy, the Museum of Mediterranean Archeology offers a vast overview of ancient Mediterranean civilizations. It has a notable Egyptian department and pottery, bronzes and glass dating from Etruscan, Greek and Roman times, as well as a collection of regional archeology. Established in 1863, the museum is one of the oldest in Marseille and the second oldest in France. The objects originate from various Celto-Ligurian sites spanning a radius of 30 kilometers around the city; they are exhibited in chronological and geographical order as well as according to specific themes. Today, this invaluable collection can be seen in the Vieille Charité building.

Nice toilets and a charming courtyard café!

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-6pm
Closed: Mondays, 1/1, 1/5, 1/11, 25/12
Sight description based on wikipedia
Porte d'Aix

8) Porte d'Aix (must see)

Porte d'Aix, or Porte Royal, is a triumphal arch marking the old entry point to the city on the road from Aix-en-Provence. The classical design by Michel-Robert Penchaud was inspired by the triumphal arches of the Roman Empire. The main facades depict the battles of Fleurus, Héliopolis, Marengo and Austerlitz.

The Porte d’Aix was initially conceived in 1784 to honor Louis XIV and to commemorate the Peace of Paris that ended the American war of independence. Following the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy, the project was resumed in 1823 by the mayor of Marseille, the Marquis de Montgrand, under royal charter from Louis XVIII; this time it was intended to commemorate the victory of Louis-Antoine, at the Battle of Trocadero that resulted in the restoration of Ferdinand VII as king of Spain.

The first stone was laid in 1825 by the Marquis de Montgrand with a dedication to the royal family. The aqueduct was demolished three years later to clear the place d'Aix. The project, however, was to suffer yet again from changes in regime in France. The main construction work was only completed under Louis-Philippe in 1839; and, with the intervening political changes in France, the monument could no longer just celebrate the campaign of the Duke of Angoulême, but instead the more general theme of French victories.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Jardin des Vestiges

9) Jardin des Vestiges (must see)

Located just behind Centre Bourse shopping mall and just a few kilometers from the Old Port, this archaeological site loaded with history and symbolic plants is a very pleasant place for a break in the Marseille. It contains Greek and Roman relics, as well as sections of Marseille's old city walls and monuments that date from the 2nd-3rd century BC and were discovered in the 1960s. Well laid out, the site is beautifully highlighted and it is always nice for a walk or lunch-time picnic; however, it is only accessible if you have paid for entry into the History Museum, which houses the objects found during the excavations.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 12-7pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
La Canebiere

10) La Canebiere

Close to the Vieux Port and Le Panier, La Canèbiere is another of Marseille’s most important areas. It is the city’s biggest avenue, and it represents the wealth that Marseille once possessed and gladly displayed. The huge, ornate buildings and elegant hotels that once stood on each side of the street have now mostly been converted into restaurants, shops or offices, but they still conserve some of their previous grandeur. The avenue stretches almost one kilometer from the Vieux Port, and leads to the fun Capucin neighborhood, among others.

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