Top 5 attractions in Marseille

Notre Dame de la Garde, photo by http2007 on Flickr

Marseille, France’s premier port city, one of the oldest settlements in the country and the setting of various important historical events, is one of the brightest gems of the French riviera, and not just because it has great food and lovely weather. Travelers who like to get some sightseeing done will have their work cut out for them in Marseille, the city where tourist attractions small and large lurk behind every corner. Even if you don’t know the first thing about Marseille, just taking a walk around the city is a chance to find some interesting sight, cafe, or park. Here are the top 5 attractions in Marseille, to start you off on your sightseeing tour.

Notre Dame de la Garde

There are many interesting churches in Marseille, but Notre Dame de la Garde is the most intriguing basilica in the entire city. The beautiful Neo-Byzantine structure looms over the Marseille, perched on the highest point of the city, as if protecting it – the locals call it ‘la bonne mère”, the good mother. In the past, fishermen would come to the basilica to have their boats blessed, and even today there are dozens of model boats and boat paintings decorating the walls. Notre Dame de la Garde is the foremost of the top 5 attractions in Marseille, and popular with tourists and locals alike.

Corniche Président John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Chateau d'If, photo by karmel80 on Flickr

Corniche Président John Fitzgerald Kennedy is a wonderful coastal walk in Marseille, linking the beaches of Catalans and Prado, and offering some of the most beautiful vistas you will see in the area. The walk is lined with old fishing shacks, stylish 19th century Mediterranean villas and various restaurants, cafes and hotels. Take a walk along the boulevard and drink in the sights of the Chateau d’If, and the nearby islands.

Château d’If

Although technically part of the Frioul Archipelago and not Marseille proper, the magnificent Château d’If is one of the must-visit attractions while you are in the city. This old fortress is located about a mile from the shore, and it was built in the 16th century as protection against attacks from the sea. Literature fans might recognize the chateau from Alexandre Dumas’ novel, the Count of Monte-Cristo. The former prison is now a very popular tourist attraction, and it has been attracting crowds since the late 19th century.

Noailles Quarter

Corniche, photo by cudmore on Flickr

Noailles is one of the most interesting quarters of Marseille, where the mix of cultures of the city is the most obvious. Noailles is famous for its historic architecture, its markets and ethnic shops. There are lots of 17-18-19th century buildings, but the charm of Noailles resides in the people and the bustle. Rue Meolan, Rue du Marche des Capucins and Rue D’Aubagne have great street markets and shops.

Parc Borély

Parc Borély is one of the best parks in France, not only according to the locals (who might be somewhat biased), but also the French Ministry of Culture. The park has a French-style garden, and English landscape garden and even a miniature replica of the Notre Dame de la Garde. The park is a great place for a picnic when you want a breath of fresh air, and a walk on its manicured lawns is always relaxing.


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