Marseille, pure French Provedance
Dreaming of a holiday that mixes fun, culture and relaxation? Marseille, in the south of France, is for you. Its benign climate, situation and special light have been inspiration for celebrated artists, including Braque, Cézanne, Derain and Marquet. Founded by the Greeks, it is one of the oldest cities in Europe and the second oldest in France. (It is also the second most populated French city). Its rich history and great number of monuments, beauty spots and museums have put Marseille on the international tourism map.
Marseille is the third largest port in Europe (after Rotterdam and Antwerp). This constant flow of ships and passengers from across the world has lent it a cultural mix that is palpable in its people, neighbourhoods and architecture, making an all-together cosmopolitan city.
Five days is about the right amount of time to spend here. The best bet is to divide your itinerary into different areas. Public transport is very good; you can get around in the metro, by bus and by ferry. The best way to do this is with a Citty Pass; it's cheap and will also get you into museums and out to the islands.
Booking a well-situated hotel is key to navigating your way around this marvellous city. The Beauvau Marsella Viejo Puerto is perfect. It has stellar service and is located a few steps from the Vieux Port metro station – a major hub. You'll find masses of stalls selling oysters and whatever else you can think lining the streets that lead down to the port – at really great prices.
In the same area there are dozens of restaurants where you can eat exquisite fresh fish or a superb bouillabaisse. Here are two that are recommended:
Une Table au Sud: This restaurant has fantastic views over the port and offers modern, creative, mouth-watering cuisine. Standout dishes include a chestnut and sea urchin soup.
Le Miramar: They say it’s the best restaurant in the city to try bouillabaisse. Take that onboard and find out for yourself.
An easy stroll through the port leads you to the Fort Saint-Jean. Constructed during the reign of Louis XIV, it is also the location of the MuCEM; the first major museum dedicated to Mediterranean civilisations. Its wide focus spans anthropology, history, archaeology, art history and contemporary art. The museum is housed over three sites in different parts of Fort Saint- Jean, connected via a pleasant walkway through a Mediterranean garden.
Another pathway, starting from the Royal Gate, takes you to the neighbourhood of La Panier and the Saint-Laurent church. Despite its shady past, this neighbourhood is today a mix of traditional streets and squares with new design boutiques, restaurants and museums – all in all lending it a decidedly bohemian air. A must see.
Cours Julien is another interesting neighbourhood. A garden has taken over the centre of its main square that also hosts fashion boutiques, theatres and terrace cafes. Rues Bussy l'Indien, Pastoret and Vian stand out for their alternative vibe, with various clubs, cafes and more shops. Take note of the street art!
Marseilles geographical situation makes it a perfect base for outings in a boat. From Vieux Port you can take one of the urban ferries. One excursion you shouldn't let slip by is to Chateau d'If, where you can still see the hole that one of one of the prisoners dug in the cell wall. He was the inspiration for 'The Count of Montecristo', the classic novel by Alexander Dumas.
From here you can continue on to visit the Frioul Islands where you can spend the afternoon visiting various inlets, beaches and sandy creeks – the perfect way to end the day. It's a place of freedom and total relaxation.
Two must-sees are the Basilque Notre-Dame de la Garde and the Chateau Longchamp. The first is the city's architectonic emblem. Situated up on the hill, it affords marvellous 360º views, watching over sailors, fishermen and all the people of Marseille. Its Roman-Byzantine style is a perfect example of the large-scale buildings Napoleon III imposed in Marseille. To get there, take the bus from Vieux Port. The palace, dating from 1869, commemorates the canalization of the Durance River to Marseille. It also houses the Museum of Fine Arts and the Natural History Museum as well as a botanical garden. Ad hoc street markets are all over the city, selling fruit, fish, and clothing and brick a brac. Dive in and rub shoulders with the locals – you are bound to find something unique to take back home!
Don't leave without discovering the famous Marsella soap. It history goes back to the 16th century. Find out more in one of the company's seven factories.
The city's tourist office is situated very close to Vieux Port. Pick up a City Pass here as well as plenty more info on what to do in Marseille.
So, what are you waiting for? Reserve a Vueling flight to this magnificent city here!
Text: Tensi Sánchez de www.actitudesmgz.com
Photography: Fernando Sanz
Hip Hop in Marseille
Hip hop arrived in France in 1979 and was highly influenced by the hip hop scene in the States, especially the gangsta scene. Hip hop became very popular in France due to the sizeable African community living in the country. The political and social situation in French cities consolidated rap sung in French and, in 1982, numerous radio stations broadcasting hip hop emerged. This gave shape to a burgeoning urban movement.
France is the second-largest market in the world for hip hop and Marseille is home to a number of artists in the genre. MC Solaar has become one of the most successful stars of French hip hop. MC Solaararrived from Senegal in 1970 and settled in Villeneuve-Saint-Georges. Two movements emerged from there; the artists who work more closely with melodies and funk; and those that choose a more aggressive style, more hardcore.
Here is a podcast including some of the most representative artists from Marseille in the genre and a guide to the locations in the city that are most closely related to this music style.
Guide to hip hop locations in Marseille:
Hip Hop Shop: At 97 Rue de Rome, you will find this urban clothing shop where you can buy all kinds of clothes and accessories that are directly related to the world of hip hop. Some of the brands you can find at Hip Hop Shop include Pelle Pelle, Street Vision and TwoAngle.
Address: 97 Rue de Rome, Marseille
Tel.: 91 54 16 61
Galette Records: At 31 Rue des Trois Rois, since January 2010, you can find this music shop that, besides the most select hip hop, also sells a range of the latest hip hop from Marseille and the rest of France. You can also find soul, funk, jazz, Afro and Latino music.
Address: 31 Rue des Trois Rois, Marseille
Tel.: 09 77 76 05 07
Scotto Musique: 178 Rue de Rome is where you will find this prestigious instrument and equipment shop for DJs that is very closely related to the hip hop universe.
Address: 178 Rue de Rome, Marseille
Tel.: 91 37 58 65
Le Mille-Pattes: In the Noailles district is where all hip hop lovers in Marseille gather at this cultural association with Franco-African roots set up in 1996. Its goal is to support and promote any artistic expression in Marseille.
Address: 62-64 Rue d’Aubagne, 13001 Marseille.
Tel.: 91 55 70 60
Radio Grenouille: the radio station that plays all the latest hip hop. It is very popular among the people of Marseille and many others in the rest of France, who listen online at http://www.radiogrenouille.com/. This cultural radio station plays non-commercial music with a commitment to bring music and culture closer to young people. It is based at the Friche Belle de Mai Gallery in the Belle de Mai district.
Address: 41 Rue Jobin – 13003
Tel.: 95 04 95 15
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Four des Navettes
The Four des Navette bakery can be found opposite the abbey. This is the oldest bakery in the city (established in 1781) and where the Saint Victor navettes (the most typical sweet pastries from Marseille) are still made and sold to this day. These boat-shaped pastries are made using traditional methods and carefully selected flour from a recipe that dates back more than 200 years, and are baked in an oven that dating back to 1781 which follows the original Roman model, giving them a totally unique flavour.
Another of their specialities is the pompe à l’huile (olive oil bread); a dessert made from flour, olive oil, sugar and orange blossom.
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This Marseille’s quaint neighborhood is the oldest in the city and is located behind the old port, an area comprised between Castle of Sant Jean and Basilica of Sainte-Marie-Majeure . Its Provencal style streets and frontages have an maghreb atmosphere, due to the large Muslim settlement that has occurred in recent decades in this port enclave . Le Panier is characterized by a humble and even somewhat ramshackle appearance, because in ancient times had been a conflict zone, home of pirates and privateers.
Currently, this area has been converted and has nothing to do with what was once. Artisans and artists have reoccupied the streets and set up their workshops. A host of colorful houses, narrow streets with the most peculiar shops, upstairs and downstairs and typical food little bars and restaurants that gives so much charm to the district. The laundry hanging from the windows on the street gives this neighborhood an unusual authenticity. It is ideal for a walk, take pictures, go to lunch one delicious hot chocolate in one of the cafes or visit any of their famous Marseilles soap factories. Bakeries and pastries also charge a special role.
This traditional neighborhood contrasts with the rest of Marseille, more stately. There would still have one of the most emblematic points of the city attractions such as La Vielle Charité , museum and cultural center or Place des Moulins that is also noteworthy for it is on top of the old neighborhood, still retaining two former fifteen windmills, now rehabilitated as dwellings.
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