Most tourists leave Marseille off their itinerary — it doesn't fit their idea of the French Riviera or of Provence (and they're right). France's oldest and second-biggest city (and Europe's third-largest port) is an untouristy, semi-seedy-but-vibrant city with a history that goes back to ancient Greek times — and challenges you to find its charm. It's a world apart from France's other leading cities, and has only one essential sight to visit (Notre-Dame de la Garde). Here the city is the museum, the streets are its paintings, and the happy-go-lucky residents provide its ambience.
At a Glance
▲▲▲ The Calanques Exotic Mediterranean fjords — with their translucent blue water, tiny intimate beaches, and stark cliffs plunging into the sea. The most famous stretch runs between Marseille and Cassis.
▲▲ Notre-Dame de la Garde Marseille's landmark sight: a huge Romanesque-Byzantine basilica, towering above everything, with panoramic views.
▲▲ Panier District Marseille's answer to Paris' Montmartre, this charming tangle of lanes in the oldest part of town draws photographers and poets.
▲▲North African Market Taste of North Africa in downtown Marseille.
▲ Old Port (Vieux Port) Economic heart of town, featuring lots of boats and a fish market, protected by two impressive fortresses.
▲ La Charité Museum Housed in a beautiful building with Celtic, Greek, Roman, and Egyptian artifacts.
Chamber of Commerce Building and Marine Museum Grandiose building with small exhibit on the city's maritime history.
Cathédrale de la Nouvelle Major Massive striped cathedral with floor and wall mosaics.
Euroméditerranée (Euromed) Culture District The trio of modern cultural centers — Musée Regards de Provence, Villa Méditerranée, and the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations — have impressive architecture but are otherwise of little interest.
Château d'If Island with fortress-turned-prison, featured in Alexandre Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo.