People go to Marseille on a holiday to experience a way of life in France that is certainly very French but not in the way that Paris is French. Marseille has a life and spirit that is entirely its own, unique from any other city in the whole of France.
What makes Marseille so different from other French cities?
Marseilles is very old. Historic evidence indicates that people have inhabited the area that Marseille occupies for as early as 30,000 years ago. Marseille has a very long history. Aside from its prehistoric inhabitants, the city was a colony of the Phoenicians, and then conquered by the Greeks, and then taken over by the Romans. When the Roman Empire fell, the city went back to Gaul. You will see the signs of Marseille’s antiquity all around you when you go on a holiday to the city.
Old as it is, Marseille is very much a cosmopolitan city. As the largest port on the south of France, Marseille remains to be one of France’s main gateways to the Mediterranean Sea. What is old rubs shoulders with what is new, and this interaction cloaks Marseille with an atmosphere that is warm and vibrant, yet deeply rooted and dignified.
When on a holiday in Marseille, what can you do? The first thing you do when you are in Marseille is to enjoy the fact that it is a city right beside the Mediterranean Sea. There are 23 beaches in Marseille; you can relax at the beach and let the sea wash away your worries. In the waters of Marseille, you can go swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving. You can also go jet skiing, sailing, wind sailing or parasailing.
Fishing is a way of life in Marseille. Many residents of this city make a living out of commercial fishing. You do not have to sign up with a fishing ship to experience the fisherman’s life in Marseille. You can simply get a fishing rod and spend time at the piers fishing.
And because Marseille is a seaside city, it is not surprising that the dishes for which it is famous are made of seafood. Bouillabaisse is a dish that is native to Marseille. There are actually two kinds of bouillabaisse. One is called bouillabaisse du Ravi, which contains six different kinds of fish. It is made for hearty eating. The other one is called bouillabaisse du Pecheur. Made from only three kinds of fish, it is much lighter than the du Ravi type and is typically eaten for lunch. There is also the world-famous moules mariniere, which is a dish of mussels cooked with plenty of onion and Provencal herbs. And then there is bourride, a fish dish with mayonnaise.
If you want to learn something about the history and culture of Marseille, you would not be disappointed. Marseille has around 21 museums, including Musée d’Histoire, which is the historical museum of Marseille; the Musée de la Mode, a museum dedicated to modern fashion; and the Musée Cantini, a museum of modern art. The Opera de Marseille is also an important house in the world of opera.
Interestingly, Marseille is also the home of hip-hop music in France. And if you are looking for some nightlife, you will not be disappointed with the large and exciting pickings that Marseille can offer you.
The churches are also great places to visit in Marseille. Legend has it that the city was evangelized by Mary Magdalene herself when she fled to France from Jerusalem after the death of Christ. The one church that you should not fail to visit before leaving Marseille is the Notre-Dame de la Garde, a large Neo-Byzantine basilica standing on the highest point of Marseille. Aside from being home to a multitude of mosaics, murals and other artworks, the Notre-Dame de la Garde also offers a magnificent panoramic view of the city and the surrounding landscape.
Marseille is a wonderful combination of what is old and what is new. It is a lovely city that seems to welcome change. Marseille is a unique pearl in France’s many treasures, and it shall remain so for a very long time.
More on France travel destinations