Marseille is the second largest city in France. The settlement of Marseille can be traced back to the Roman Empire when it was one of the most significant trading ports in France. Many of the influences of ancient Roman and Greek civilizations are found throughout the architectural and cultural foundations in modern Marseille. Adversaries and allies of the Romans and Greeks also left their mark on this port city that continues to be a mecca, mixing old and new into a cohesive city.
Notre Dame de la Garde at night
Vieux Port of Marseille
Calanques National Park
A calanque, is a narrow, steep valley like inlets formed from limestone and dolomite. The outlets to the Mediterranean Sea from Marseille are a series of calanques that may have influenced the settling of the Port. These calanques form natural harbors beneficial to seafaring people and traders. The high cliffs enable distant observation and are a natural defensive advantage. Stretching between Marseille and Cassis is the Calanques National Park, a well preserved 200 square mile natural attraction that offers hiking, boating, biking in the environment that the first settlers of Marseille encountered. We took a great tour by Croisieres Marseille Calanques from the Marseille port to the Calanques National Park. For the adventurous, you can hike to the tops of mountains and see the views that were key to defensive observation during the earliest days of Marseille.
Notre Dame de la Garde
As a major port city, defensive positions were important. Garde Hill is a key observation and defensive position that overlooks the port and was the site of a fort built by King Francois I in 1524. The fort contained several chapels which by the 1800’s had become a popular site for pilgrimages. Monseigneur de Mazenod decided that the chapels would be replaced by the great Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica with construction beginning in 1853 and ending in 1864. Built in a majestic Roman-Byzantine style with multi-colored stones, gold, domes and blending with the major building projects by Napoleon III, the Church is an iconic symbol of the faith and the City of Marseille.
One way to visit Notre-Dame de la Garde is to take the Train Touristique de Marseille (Little Marseille Train). The brightly colored blue and white Little Marseille Train is a tram that offers different tours to the major attractions of Marseille.
The Little Marseille Train features open air cars for panoramic views This guided tour is an excellent way to see the local streets and sights as a guide tells you the history and local lore on your route.
Cathedrale de la Major
Another tour on the Little Marseille Train is a close look at the old port which includes important buildings on route as well as everyday life of the residents of this century’s’ old seafaring city. This tour takes you around the Panier district – the oldest district in Marseille and includes the Cathedrale de la Major. This Neo-Byzantine style cathedral is one of the oldest in France.
MuCEM – a national museum which tells the story of the great civilizations of the Mediterranean http://www.mucem.org/en
The Palais Longchamp – A monument built in 1869 to celebrate the arrival of water from the Durance canal to Marseille. http://www.marseille-tourisme.com/en/discover-marseille/heritage/the-palais-longchamp/
Marseille History Museum is a beautiful museum and one of the largest history museums in France and Europe. http://www.marseille-tourisme.com/en/what-to-do/visit-marseille/museums/marseille-history-museum/
The deliciously famous Bouillabaisse part one - the broth.
Bouillabaisse part two - the delicious assortment of seafood.
Thank you Chef Christian Buffa for a fabulous lunch!
No matter how you spend your day in Marseille, ending it at the Miramar is a climatic way to ease into the night. With a relaxing view of the sea and surrounding buildings, Miramar is ideally located in Vieux-Port of Marseille. Mixing local provincial dishes with classically inspired Mediterranean and fresh catches from the Vieux Port, the chefs at Miramar will delight your culinary tastes in this five star restaurant.
Local cheeses and wines compliment the tradition of Mediterranean cuisine as interpreted in Marseilles throughout the ages. One of the oldest dishes and considered a signature dish of the city is Bouillabaisse, with roots that stretch back for hundreds of years. Miramar is noted for one the best Bouillabaisse in Marseille.
Founded in 1965 by the Minguella brothers, Miramar quickly developed a reputation for seafood centric dining, along with a Bouillabaisse that even the locals craved. In 2003 the Buffa family bought this iconic restaurant and enhanced its kitchen, its terrace and dining room. Chef Christian Buffa maintained the famed Bouillabaisse while enhancing the menu with his own culinary flair for Avant Garde dishes using local fish and produce. Miramar now has a wine cellar that includes over 300 varieties of locally sourced French wines and champagnes.
A special thank you to Marion Fabre from the Office de Tourisme et des Congres de Marseille.
The City Pass provides free transportation and access to many Marseille attractions. Get your pass from the Marseille Office of Tourism http://www.marseille-tourisme.com/en/travel-trade/tourist-offers/city-pass-marseille/
Story by Daniel Dachille and Laine Page