Situated in Provence, Southern France, Marseilles is the capital of the region and the oldest city in l’Hexagon. ‘Marseilles’ in English, ‘Marseille’ in French, this port side town is the second most populated city in France after Paris. Third after Lyon if you count the urban areas surrounding the city. Here’s my postcard from Marseilles:
For years, many travelers have spurned the city, favouring a visit to nearby towns like Aix-en-Provence, and the charming fishing town of la Ciotat instead. In truth, with sometimes scary crime statistics, and a gritty exterior, the city has suffered a bad reputation for decades. It’s the opposite of Nice; there are no fancy boulevards. Instead, there’s a glittering turquoise sea and a whole blend of cultures and traditions to be discovered.
When I visited last summer for the first time, I couldn’t quite believe that it had taken so long to visit. I may have visited Provence before, but I had never made it as far as Marseilles. But it’s here in this big bustling city where over 1500 years of history converge. From the Ancient Greeks, right up until the present day, the city is awash with history.
From the Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica sitting at pride of place on top of a nearby mountain to the ancient prison on a nearby island, there is something to see everywhere you look. The Basilica is a perfect metaphor for the city; its architecture is Romanesque meets Byzantine. Quirky architecture lies side by side with the familiar Haussmann architecture you would expect to find anywhere in Paris.
More recently, in 2013, Marseilles was named European capital. And it’s true that the place is absolutely brimming with museums, galleries, and street arts. Finally, the city’s reputation has started to change and it’s becoming more of a must-visit location along the Provençal coastline.
Postcard from Marseilles: