France’s oldest city, Marseille blends ancient charm with Provencal beauty. In the morning, head to the fish market Quai des Belges, where trade has been going on for more than 2,600 years — stroll along the promenades and 18th-century warehouses, and grab a cafe au lait and a melon tarte from one of the cafes on the ground floor. Cruise to Provence and check out the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde: Built in the 19th century in a neo-Byzantine style, its golden statue of the Virgin and Child dominates the Marseille skyline. Then, take in the modern architecture and Mediterranean cultural artifacts at the MuCEM art museum, or see the craggy limestone cliffs of Calanques National Park, a half-hour drive outside the city.
THINGS TO DO IN MARSEILLE
CLIMB TO THE HEAVENS
Climb the steps to 19th-century Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, rising 150 meters above the water. At its peak is a large golden statue of the Virgin Mary and Child, said to watch over Marseille’s maritime community. The basilica incorporates a renaissance-era fort that includes a serene chapel with ornate stained-glass windows.
At Calanques National Park, you’ll find rough, white limestone cliffs that rise sharply above the sea. You can take a relaxing boat tour or even kayak in the area. The park stretches from Marseille to La Ciotat, where you’ll encounter landscapes of lime rock and red conglomerate. The park is internationally known for its sublime landscapes, biodiversity and rich heritage.
Make your way on foot down Boulevard Longchamp, with its posh 19th-century houses, tree-lined promenade and stunning Palais Longchamp, where you’ll wander into a well-manicured park with a stately colonnade and fountain. It’s also home to two of the city’s finest museums, the Natural Museum and the Museum of Fine Art, both of which are well worth a stop.
The signature dish of Marseille is without a doubt the savory bouillabaisse. This savory fish stew is packed with an array of local seafood, including clams, white fish, mussels or lobster, and the broth is flavored with fennel and pastis, a local licorice-flavored liqueur — dive in with a crusty baguette for the full experience.
Le Panier, just north of the port, dates back to 600 BC. While its colored walls, narrow streets and sunny squares once made up one of the poorest districts of the city, today it’s filled with trendy independent boutiques, craft shops and galleries. Cruise to Provence and look for handmade savon de Marseille, the traditional green or white soap made with olive oil that has been exported from Marseille for centuries.
On the spectacular coastline of the French Riviera lies Marseille, a Mediterranean Cruises destination. This atmospheric port city is known for its unique mix of grit and glamour, seen in its labyrinth of streets and historical architecture. Only a few miles from Marseille’s charismatic cafes and bustling Vieux Port, stunning cities are to be found. Visit Aix-en-Provence, birthplace of Cézanne, or take in the ancient beauty of Avignon.
Cruises excursions offer plenty of exciting things to see including:
The Unmistakable Notre-Dame de la Garde
The seaport of Marseille remains a must-see destination for its culture, colour, and atmosphere. A Cruise excursion will transport you to a characterful world filled with art, architecture, and cuisine. Explore the port and its primary landmark: the Neo-Byzantine basilica Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, constructed between 1853 and 1864. From the summit, you can take in incredible views over the city and the deep blue Mediterranean. Don’t miss a stroll along Marseille’s waterfront, past the aristocratic Borély Castle and Garden. See Longchamp Palace in the town centre before spending time in the old port.
Visit the southern French town of Aix-en-Provence on a Cruise excursion. Explore the religious landmark of St. Saviour Cathedral, which was built over the remains of a Roman temple. Honouring the sun god Apollo, this richly decorated structure features Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque features. Next, enjoy a pleasant hike to the Four Dolphins Fountain and the Mazarin Quarter, home to honey-hued mansions from the 17th-century.
If you appreciate rich medieval history and sophisticated culture, visit ancient Avignon on a Cruise excursion. This amazing city is home to the Palais des Papes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site boasting medieval Gothic architecture. A former residency to Popes of history, you’ll marvel at the building’s tapestries and frescoes. Afterwards, wander the mesmerising streets and have a spot of lunch in a French brasserie-restaurant.
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