France Regions

Captivating Marseilles, France

Get to know the city of Marseilles, the Gateway to Provence

Marseilles is the second largest city in France, behind Paris, and has the varied population you’d expect in a port city which is one of the major European gateways to Africa. Cruise ships and freighters use the modern port, but all the charm is at the Vieux Port (Old Port), where smaller yachts, fishing boats and leisure touring boats jostle for slips. Overlooking the city is Notre Dame de La Garde, high atop a hill. 

Moored boats at the old port of Marseilles on a sunny day.
Moored boats at the old port of Marseilles on a sunny day.

How old is the Old Port? It was founded by the Greeks around 600 B.C. However, the city goes back even further as far as human habitation goes. You can visit recently discovered (only in 1985) Paleolithic cave drawings right near the Calanque of Morgiou.

A boating tour of the harbor will get you close to the famed Chateau d’If, a prison on one of the several small harbor islands off the coast, all of which can be visited for hiking, swimming and overnight camping. You can even rent out the Chateau d’If for events.

Marseilles is known for a local fish soup you might have heard of called bouillabaisse. Every harbor-side restaurant serves a version, but you don’t have to eat seafood in Marseilles. Local thin crust pizza is a favorite, as well as various tapenades on pita. The sunny days and wonderful light have inspired many artists, such as Cezanne, Braque, Dufy, Derain, and Marquet.

Marseilles – Places to See

Significant Works

Visit the Marseilles tourist office for more information or contact us to create a great trip to the south of France.