“Masalia”, “Massilia”, “The oldest city in France”, “The second largest city in France”
16th and 17th of November, 2013
So here we are on our last of the weekend trips for the year 2013. The next trip will already be the big one starting on the 29th of December, (but before I will get to enjoy my family during Christmas back in Madrid).
It was a long time since I wanted to go to Marseille. Family and friends always told me of how beautiful it was. But yet again, I have been really concentrating on destinations elsewhere not in France. Basically -and excluding Spain of course where I go very often- somewhere away from West and South Europe. Now it’s finally time for the well deserved France, specially next year when I already have many destinations booked.
Of course we were not disappoint at all. The city has so much to offer, that a weekend is definitely too short. We needed at least one more day to have the chance and visit the Calanques along the coast.
The city is based around the Vieux Port (Old Port). Most streets leads to here and 90% or more of the sights are in a walking distance radius from the port. The best views of the port and nearby neighbourhoods are at either of the forts, one on each side of the port, or from Notre Dame de la Garde Church, which offers birds eye view over the entire city.
The oldest neighbourhood in the city is Le Panier, right behind the Old Port, and covers many small and charming streets. Not long ago this was a degraded area but with so many rehabilitation projects finished and the ongoing one, its becoming a very trendy place with hundreds of local artists having their workshops filling all the streets. You will also notice the street art in the form of great paintings, graffiti or urban mobiliary.
With regards to food, well, you are in the country of mussels (together with Belgium). You can find mussels in all styles at any restaurant at very competitive prices. I give you the example that as of November 2013, a kilo of mussels in wine and cream sauce with fries is 12 Euros at most of the restaurants, euro up euro down, and they will serve you free filtered water and bread too. If you want to try the the most famous seafood dish of the city then it wont be complicated either. In every restaurant you will find Bouillabaisse (a fish stew containing at least three varieties of fish and vegetables).
What to see and do in Marseille:
- Vieux Port Old Harbour. One of the main sights in the city. There are nice views from the Palais du Pharo.
- Hotel de Ville It’s the City Hall, located in the Old Port.
- Fort Saint Nicolas and Fort Saint Jean Both flank the entrance to the Old Port, one on the north the other on the south side.
- Palais de la Bourse Right behind the Old Harbour.
- Abbey of St. Victor Near the Old Harbour. One of the oldest places for worship in Europe.
- Opera Located near the Old Port and the Canebière street.
- Notre Dame de la Garde The church in on top of the hill where to get the best panoramic view of the city and the Mediterranean.
- Cathedral Sainte-Marie-Majeure In Byzantine-Roman style, it was built between 1852 to 1896 on the site used for the cathedrals of Marseille since the fifth century.
- Corniche The road by the sea. Chateau d’If is located on the south on what is called Petit Nice, and Les Calanques to the east.
- Place Castellane One of the main roundabouts of the city with cinemas, cafes and restaurants.
- Boulevard Longchamp It is perhaps the most elegant avenue in the city with many beautiful upper class buildings. Walk from Réformé Church (up the Canebière) down to the Palace.
-Palais Longchamp Located at the end of the avenue. It is nowadays the beaux-arts and natural history museums.
- Le Panier Is the oldest area of the city where most historical buildings can be found.
-La Vieille Charite Now a museum is a former alms house. The interior courtyard is quite impressive.
-Hôtel-Dieu Former hospital, now the Intercontinental hotel.
- Unité d’Habitation Designed by Le Corbusier and considered one of his most famous works. From the roof you can enjoy great views of Marseille between the hills and the sea. Open from 10.00am to 18.00pm. Take the bus 21 from Rond-Point du Prado metro station or walk from the station.
The airport is located 30 km from Marseille city centre. Buses and trains connect in less than 30 minutes. Bus is 8.50€ and goes to Gare St Charles, while the train is more expensive and it does even take more more time than the bus. You can get for 80 Euro cents more a bus ticket including already a metro/tram/bus ride in the city.
Within the city there is a good choice of metro, tram and buses. Carte libertés cost 13€ for 10 trips. Transfers are unlimited within one hour limit. Single tickets costs 1.50€ also with transfer included. But the amount of times you might need the public transport are not many, therefore stick to single tickets as this will save you money. You can, instead of buying a single ticket each time, recharge the ticket you already got. Although they are paper tickets, they do have a small chip, so you can use the same ticket as you wish, just by adding more money on to it.
Like for most of European cities in low season, finding a great deal is very easy. The choice is the city is very good hence competitive. Having a look at the usual websites I use and there is was the most suitable I considered for this occasion. Hotel Edmond Rostand, in 31 rue Dragon. A simple, small 3 stars hotel but in a very quiet street next to Place Castellane and the main Avenue du Rome. Clean, friendly staff, comfortable bed, complimentary WiFi. It’s funny to see some reviews how people complaint about the lift, well yes, it’s true it is the smallest I have ever seen, but the most important, works fine. To be honest, I was fine to use the stairs for just a second floor, but unfortunately some people are really dumb enough to write a bad review just for a lift (a working lift)!