Type: City Break, Seaside
Best Date to Visit: April-August
Things to Do: Sightseeing, Cruises, Shopping, Dining
Points of Interest: Vieux Port, Notre Dam de la Garde, Palais Longchamp, Marseille Cathedral, Calanque National Park, Pointe Rouge ect
Provence is a region in south east of France, which includes cities such as Montpellier, Avignon and Cannes. The Romans made this region into their first settlement which they called ‘Provincia Romana’ which has since evolved through the years. The largest city in Provence is ‘Marseille’ a port city used for cruise, freight and commerce ships. Marseille is and has been the main port of trade throughout the years, being the main entry point of France from Africa. Today tourism has taken heights with Marseille being a huge layover for many cruise ships, here tourists have the chance to enjoy Marseille’s architecture, culture, natural beauty and history dating back to the ancient Greeks.
Marseille was a pleasure to visit, it was warm and sunny (beginning of july) with many friendly and lively people. Firstly Marseille is a relatively huge city and unlike many other places in the world where the attractions are close and a walk away from each other, Marseille has nearly all of their touristic areas far apart, which either means lots of walking or lots of transports. However there is many ways in order to make visiting all areas easier with minimal walking and using different of different transport and that is by using their hop on hop off bus tours which has 12 stops to all Marseille has to offer.
There are also many different points of interest to go and visit in Marseille, main one (in my opinion) being the Notre Dam de la Garde, which towers over Marseille just like ‘Christ the Redeemer’ in Rio de Janiero Brazil. However the Notre Dam de la Garde is more than a statue but a church/ basilica which was built for the virgin Mary said to watch over the sailors. Underneath the basilica is a crypt also available to be visited without any tickets. Another place to visit is Marseille Cathedral which like many cathedrals around the world have a special roman structures. About a 20minute walk away from the cathedral is the Museum of European and Mediterranean civilization, which is a very nice building but to be honest I have got no idea what it is inside. Connected to this with a newly built bridge is Fort St Jean which is a nicely preserved.
As Marseille is a port city, it is only right that there would be boat cruises to nearby attractions. There are many different companies offering tours to many different places, there are tours just across the beach to Chateu D’If , some cruises to other ports of Provence and some across the Calanques National Park. Many cruise tours stop over places for people to get off and have a swim and others are solemnly just a ride around.
Marseille has plenty different activities which visitors can do, and if you are adventurous, strolling and even biking around Calanques national park is a popular feature. Water Sports and activities are also huge in Marseille with scuba diving, snorkelling, kayaking , paddle boarding, are just some of the many activities done in Marseille waters. Adrenaline seekers will also find Marseille pleasing as there are now many companies offering canyoning or an orienteering race.
If a stroll is more like your holiday Marseille has plenty of places to do so, Vieux Port which every morning has a fisherman’s market selling the daily catch is a brilliant area to have a walk. Another place I heard was a nice place to have a walkathon is the ‘National Park’ just 30 minutes outside of Marseille.
Overall I fully enjoyed Marseille and all it had to offer, it is a city full of tourists whether a stopover on their cruise ships, or purposely visiting the city. There are many different hotels and restaurants at different budgets for everybody and many of their attractions are free.
Getting to Marseille from the airport is a bit more difficult than other cities. There is no subway system and the nearest train station is a 15minute walk. The best way to travel is by the airport-city coach which takes you straight from the airport and into St Charles train station which is central to the city.
Once in Marseille there are various modes of transport you can take buses, metro subway, tram and even by boat.
The metro (subway) in Marseille consists of only 2 lines identified a simple metro ‘1’and ‘2’. Metro 2 journeys north to south, whilst Metro 1 is a U shaped starting from ‘La Rose’ which goes inwards to ‘Vieux Port’ the outwards to ‘La Fourragere. Both lines interlinks at St Charles which is the main train station of Marseille and Castellene.
I was very impressed with the tram system in Marseille, it was new, modern, very easy to use and spacious. You can see that Marseille has put a lot of thought to their trams and the carriages were designed with a futuristic modern appearance, inside the tram was air-conditioned and had lots of space, very comfortable. There is 3 lines to the Marseille tram system, T1,T2 and T3.
There were many different bus journeys available in Marseille, however their intervals can be far apart, which means longer waits and fuller buses. I took 3 buses on my time in Marseille and they were all alike. The buses were very comfortable, air-conditioned and had fast journeys, I didn’t have any problem with them apart from the long waits and packed buses.
As Marseille is mainly a port city, it was just right that boat transport would be available. Between many of the different boat ports such as ‘Port Rouge’ were I scuba dived, and ‘Vieux Port’ there are now boat journeys. I didn’t try them so I cant really write about it.
Transport in Marseille is very easy and straight forward, so even the most amateur of travellers shouldn’t get lost.