Top 5 sights in Marseille

Le Panier, photo by phgaillard2001 on Flickr

Paris is touted as France’s cultural melting pot, but in truth the title of the oldest and most diverse city in France can easily go to Marseille. Ever since the city was founded by Greeks in 600 BC, Massalia, or present day Marseille has been a mix and match of nationalities and cultures from all over Europe. Today, Marseille is strongly Provençal Popularity, but with many North African and other influences, as befitting a bustling port city where ships dock from all over the world. And in addition to being a colorful and exciting patchwork, Marseille has quite a few gems that guarantee a steady flow of visitors to the city. Here are the top 5 sights in Marseille, for visitors who want to get lost in this beautiful French port city.

Le Panier

Le Panier, meaning ‘the basket’ in French, is the oldest part of the city, which is quite something considering the long history of Marseille. Le Panier is the site of the Greek colony Massalia, but today it is the very picture of the Mediterranean city with old narrow cobbled streets, colorful buildings fronts and many little shops, cafes and restaurants tucked away in the strangest corners. Although there are quite a few specific attractions in le Panier, a walk through the old quarter on the whole is mandatory.

Vieux-Port

Vieux-Port, photo by Nouhailler on Flickr

The Old Port of Marseille is quite possibly the most distinctive feature of the city, and often the first thing that the incoming yachts and cruise ships see of Marseille. The Vieux-Port has been the natural harbor of the city since ancient times, and one can only imagine how many ships dropped their anchor in these waters throughout the ages. The port is lined with scenic buildings and various monuments, and fortunately it was completely restored after being ravaged by bombs in WWII.

Jardin Pierre Puget

Pierre Puget was a famous artist from Marseille, and this lovely little park was named in the honor of this local hero. The park is seen as one of the best examples of cultured parks in France, and it is definitely in the top 5 sights in Marseille. Whenever you need a breather you can take a walk in this oasis of calm where the chaos of the streets seems like another world entirely.

Abbey of St Victor

St Victor Abbey, photo by epimetheus on Flickr

The Abbey of St Victor is thought to be the oldest place of Christian worship in Europe, which is not hard to believe, seeing as the monastery dates back to the 4th century. And while the Christian site is ‘only’ 15 centuries old, the abbey was built over a much older, Hellenic place of worship. An interesting tradition that takes place at the abbey every year is the Candlemas procession when a Black Madonna is carried from the crypts to the streets, followed by people carrying candles and a type of local biscuits, navettes.

Musée du Vieux Marseille

Marseille is replete with old time charm, but if you’re wondering what life in the city was like in the 18th century and onwards, visit the Musée du Vieux Marseille, a fascinating exhibition of everyday Provençal Popularity objects and tools, clothing and furniture.

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