A vibrant port city with a history running back to the Ancient Greeks, Marseille is one of France’s most exciting centres. City breaks to Marseille are a great way to explore a destination that’s full to bursting with historical landmarks, bustling markets and chic cafés.
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A port has existed in one form or another in Marseille for over 26 centuries, from the Ancient Greek city of Massalia, through to the medieval city of Masiho and the modern city of Marseille. Head to Le Vieux Port and you’ll find the beating heart of the city, which also happens to be one of Marseille’s most attractive areas. Whether you sip a glass of wine in one of the many cafés or amble along the shore watching the fisherman at work, the Old Port area is a lovely place to spend a few hours. To the west of the port is Abbaye St-Victor, a late-Roman monastery built on a necropolis from the 3rd century BC. The Abbey is said to be the birthplace of Christianity in Marseille and is well worth exploring. If you get a ferry from the port you can be taken to the nearby 16th-century Château d'If, made famous by Alexander Dumas as an important location in his novel, The Count of Monte Cristo.
Towering over Marseille is the magnificent Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde, a lavish 19th century Neobyzantine basilica. The walk up the hilltop towards the church is rewarded with breathtaking views of the city, and the church itself is a wonder to behold. Go inside and you’ll find a number of spectacular religious statues and elaborate mosaics. Also worth seeing is the Cathédrale de Marseille Notre Dame de Major in the dynamic redeveloped area around La Joliette. Marseille is also home to a number of outstanding museums and art galleries. The Musée des Beaux Arts holds a staggering variety of artworks, and is based in one of the city’s most beautiful buildings. To learn more about Marseille’s history and its connection with the Mediterranean, both the Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée and the Villa Méditerranée are worth visiting.
Marseille is home to a number of excellent marketplaces. The Prado Market can be found near the Castellane metro station, and features a selection of stalls selling everything from clothing to flowers. The Garlic Market is a treat for the senses, where you’ll find thousands of garlic bulbs for sale. Tuck into some delicious local specialities at La Maison du Pastis, browse through fresh produce at the Marché des Capucins, see the catch of the day in the Old Port Fish Market and then unwind in Cours Julien with a glass of wine in a café terrace.