Second only to Paris in size and stature Marseille is a bustling, cosmopolitan port city where the very best of France is on offer, including international standard cuisine, outstanding shopping opportunities and an unmistakable style of French cool that runs throughout the historic city streets.
Thanks to a rich maritime history Marseille has an exciting multicultural atmosphere, with influences evident throughout the fine local cuisine and enviable selection of stores.
The sprawling southern French city of Marseille has a thick multicultural atmosphere, the product of centuries as an important maritime settlement. Its seafaring ambiance is best sampled around its handsome Vieux Port, which makes the 194-room InterContinental Marseille (1 place Daviel) – granting views over the port – an appealing option. Some 10 minutes’ walk away, the 13-room Music Hôtel (12 boulevard Salvator) is a three-star property with a contemporary feel, while the classy La Luna guest house (4 impasse de la Lune) draws plaudits for its infinity pool. On the city outskirts, Hôtel 96 (96 avenue de la Soude) is set in a 19th-century house.
Marseille is the second largest city in France – only Paris covers a greater area – so it offers all the variety that this fact would suggest. The daily fish market on the Vieux Port gives a photo-friendly chance to cast your eye over the morning’s fresh haul, while the city’s leading market, the enormous Marché aux Puces (Avenue du Cap Pinède), offers everything from Provençal artwork to traditional fisherman’s sweaters. There’s a large Galeries Lafayette (28 rue Bir Hakeim) in the heart of town, well stocked with designer clothing, while upcoming French fashion label Sessùn (6 rue Sainte) has its own boutique.
Marseille is synonymous with bouillabaisse, the fish stew traditionally made with the leftovers of the day’s catch. It’s become a much sought-after dish in its own right these days, with the gourmet version at Miramar (12 quai du Port) often named as the city’s best, although fans of the similarly lauded Chez Fonfon (140 rue du Vallon des Auffes) might beg to differ. The orange blossom-flavoured biscuits known as navettes – another Marseille speciality – are best sourced at the famous Four des Navettes bakery (136 rue Sainte), while for a drink with a view, head for the tiny portside balcony at La Caravelle (34 quai du Port).
Fête de la Musique
A nationwide event taking place in Marseille – as elsewhere – on 21 June each year, the Fête de la Musique sees a number of free concerts take place across the city. Timed to coincide with the summer solstice, it’s a great chance to enjoy open-air music.
Festival de Marseille
Throwing a spotlight onto the city’s cross-cultural roots, this festival gives a platform to various art forms, most notably dance and cinema. As well as a full roster of live performances, the event also incorporates workshops and meetings with the artists.
Marseille’s international film festival has been running for close to a quarter of a century, showcasing quality cinematic works from home and overseas. It takes place in various screening locations, all of them clustered around the city’s historic core.
Mondial la Marseillaise
The none-more-French sport of pétanque (otherwise known as boules) finds a focal point in Marseille each summer, when some 13,000 participants converge on the city for a mass international tournament. It’s free to watch and gathers large crowds.
Fiesta des Suds
A celebration of art and live music taking place each October, Fiesta des Suds draws on a mixture of local and international artists and performers. Genres range from reggae to electronica, and there’s also a separate programme with entertainment for children.