A recent weekend in Marseille turned my perception of the city inside out. Now I can’t wait to return.
I’ll admit, a weekend in Marseille was not at the top of my travel list. Even though it’s less than two hours away from Uzés. It’s surely because I’ve watched too many movies and TV shows about seaports and gangsters.The trips I made to Marseille to the warehouse district and to the airport didn’t help either. The warehouse district is definitely not a place for tourists. The airport is sprawling, uninviting and confusing.
Thank goodness, I was invited to Marseille to celebrate the birthday of a friend from Uzés. That, plus the promise of a great bowl of bouillabaisse, was enough to weaken my resistance.
Marseille: A stormy past
For any who visit Marseille, start your trip at the History Museum. The totally modern museum that’s within easy walking distance to Le Vieux Port represents the history of Marseille in 13 sequences.
At the History Museum you have a glimpse of the ancient town, formerly known as “Massalia.” As you wander through the sprawling museum, generations of life and events in and around the seaport town unfold. Exhibits tell of of times from the Phocean*** Greeks of Asia Minor who founded the colony, to the 21st century when Marseille was named “European Capital of Culture.”
Through its history of fortune and misfortune, Marseille has maintained a unique character that thrives on its diversity.
Your Weekend in Marseille
What’s to do in Marseille over a 3-day weekend? Plenty. Even in the rain.
Hop-on-Hop-Off Bus – Take your initial tour of the city on a bus with multi-language narration. Hop on/off as you please.
History Museum of Marseille – A look back in time
Notre Dame de la Garde – Climb the steep hill to the Cathedral and enjoy the neighborhood and gardens along the way.
Maison Empereur – The oldest hardware store in France (since 1827) A HUGE store to ramble through and purchase tools, kitchenware, toys, and more.
Vieux Port – The old seaport of Marseille, now a center of tourist activity with shops, cafes, fishing boats, sea vessels and the site of the Norman Foster “Umbrella”.
Gare Saint Charles – The train station in the center of town, also a historical monument site, with its magnificent stairway that leads to the city.
La Canebrière – Shop along the lively street for a the taste, look and sounds of Marseille and its diversity.
La Panier – The oldest district of the city, now an arty, funky tourists’ favorite.
Hôtel de Ville – Just a walk by is fine, but don’t miss seeing the bust of Louis XIV above the door.
Les Goudes – Just out of town from the city of Marseilles, this small village is packed over the weekend, but the coves and views of the calanques are worth the drive.
For more about Marseille:
Video soundtrack by George Brassens. Among his visits to Marseille was this signing event at the bookstore “La Boîte à bouquins” at 1, rue de la Bibliothèque
***”Phocean” or “Phoenician”? It’s confusing stuff like this that keeps me writing. It seems that many resources I checked say Marseille was founded by “Phoenicians.” Not so, according to this source: “There was a lot of competition in the west in the early period of Greek and Phoenician colonization, a lot of sites had rival trading posts and colonies planed very close together by both Phoenicians and Greeks. But there is no doubt that Massilia was Greek colony. It was founded circa 600 BC by the Phocaeans (Ionian Greeks from Phoaea). I wonder if the name similarity to Phoenician did not cause the confusion.” (Conon394)