By Jo Le Borgne , Chris Millyard, Marietta Nettl and Anne Roumieu June 2008

Take le Grand Tour de Marseille

If time is at a premium, the best way to see this exciting city is to hop on and off of the open-topped bus with a choice of 16 stops. Perhaps stop for lunch at one of the many bars, cafes or restaurants around the Vieux Port or central areas of the city, or visit one of the numerous museums. You’ll be sure that your houseguests can stop for photo shoots and listen to the commentary (several languages) with the provided headset and a route map. The tour includes the Vieux Port, Notre Dame de la Garde, the Prado, the football stadium, the fortresses guarding the entrance to the harbour, and much more. A full day pass costs at the time of writing 17€, 2 days 20€, seniors and students pay 14€ and children 11€, advance booking is possible. Click on to the Union Jack for info. in English on or phone 04 91 91 05 82.

If time is not quite so tight, purchase a City Pass from the Tourist Office (4 La Canebière, Marseille, phone 04 9113 89 00, or or from Galeries Lafayette, at the time of writing costs 20€ for a day (27€ for 2 days ) and gives admission to 14 museums, as well free rides on the metro and buses and a discount on Le Grand Tour bus. Marseille on foot, follow the red line, taking in the famous Panier district, see the old and new cathedrals as well as some breathtaking views. The red line will safely guide you through a labyrinth of interesting narrow streets as well as along some of the well known avenues.

Another option for seeing the city is to use the mini Tourist Train. Departing at regular intervals from the Vieux port there’s a choice of 2 routes either to the Panier or up to Notre Dame de la Garde.

Boat Trips to the Isles of Frioul and If

Experience the awe inspiring view of the city of Marseille from the harbour. A visit to the Chateau d’If is a must for all visitors to Marseille –one could easily believe that the Count of Monté Cristo was a real person! For walkers and birdwatchers there’s Frioul with wonderful views of Marseille and the coast. All information can be found By special arrangement, enquire at the Marseille tourist office or check the website for visits to the organic fish farm on Frioul. Take a longer trip Marseille to Cassis and see the majestic rock formations of the Calanques and turquoise sea. During peak season it’s best to book in advance (tourist office) or be prepared to wait in long queues.

Other city transport options are to use either of the very efficient metro, bus and tramway systems. Tickets are valid for whichever option you choose.

La Cité Radieuse

La Corbusier building 280 Bd Michelet built between 1947 and 1951 bringing together Le Corbusier's vision for communal living with the needs and realities of post-war France. He made it possible for 1600 people to be housed in a single-slab 'vertical village', complete with an internal shopping street and on the roof a recreation ground and children's' nursery. To detract from the density of the accommodation the building is surrounded by parkland and gardens. Classified in 1986 as a historic building, it is the second most visited site in Marseille (the first being Notre Dame) For guided visits phone M Bisch 04 91 77 14 07. Relax over lunch and admire the panoramic view of the Mediterranean from the chic restaurant, Le Ventre de L’Architecte.

Adjacent to the Corbusier building is the Velodrome, home to Marseille’s own team of OM. France’s second largest stadium with seating for 60,000 spectators. The stadium no longer has any cycle tracks as they were demolished to add extra terraces in the 1980’s. Major international football and rugby matches are held here which are screened worldwide on television. There is a small fee paying museum and a rather good OM shop for souvenirs. Future plans include a cover for the roof area of the stadium. Also on the same site are the Palais de Congress and Parc Chanot. This is a centre for major events, trade shows, conferences and exhibitions.

The Panier

This is the site of the original town of Marseille, it wasn’t until the 17th century that the town expanded southwards. The name Panier comes from an inn called Le Logis du Panier which no longer exists and was destroyed along with other 17th and 18th century buildings either due to fires or reconstruction of the area after the second world war. Already mentioned is to follow the red trail painted on the ground. Look out for the enamelled lava plaques (in English and French) indicating sites to be noticed, this area of Marseille continues to be in the process of renovation. The trail take passes Pierre Puget’s Vieille Charité which was built between 1671 and 1749 to give shelter to the paupers of Marseille! This splendid building is one of Pierre Puget’s finest works. Restoration started in 1968 largely due to Le Corbusier’s interest. Since 1986, the Vieille Charité has housed a multi-disciplinary scientific and cultural centre, with research units, museums and a library. Close by there are several tourist shops in which to browse. Near the Mairie de Marseille is Hotel de Cabre, built in 1535 and turned 90° in 1945! Renovated in the early 1950’s it is one of the oldest building in Marseille.

Tested at midday on the first Wednesday of each month are the town sirens (hooters!) when Marseille compositors and other artists are invited to create a mini show around the siren on the square outside the Opera House.

The Bibliothèque Alcazar

This is the city library and is well worth a visit for an excellent range of books including a well stocked English section, a wonderful children’s section (again some in English), documents, a department for the blind, books can be transposed into brail and there’s a varied selection of audio tapes, internet is also accessible. Worth a visit, if only for the architecture!


Within the city there are numerous places of worship to cater for all denominations. Most being built between the 5th and 19th centuries, in Roman Provençal style, Byzantine, Byzantine Roman (original architectural combination), Gothic or Roman Baroque. These buildings are a catalogue of architectural heritage. The principle ones to visit are La basilique Notre Dame de la Garde (the basilica Notre Dame de la Garde), L'abbaye Saint Victor (the Abbey Holy Victor), La Vieille Charité (the old Charity) and La Cathedrale de la Major (Cathedral of Major) Others worth mentioning for their external architecture are L'Eglise Saint Laurent (the church Holy Laurent), L'Eglise du Calvaire (the church of the Calvary), L'Eglise des Augustins (the church of Augustins), L'Eglise de Notre Dame du Mont (Our Lady of the Mountain) and L'Eglise des Réormés (the church of Réformés). Enquire at the tourist office for details of the 2 hour conducted tour which takes in many of the churches mentioned above. Not far from the Vieux Port is the Anglican Church of All Saints’ at 4, rue de Belloi. More information can be found

The Municipal Opera House

2 rue Molière 133001 tel.0491550070 The home of opera in Marseille can be found just a short distance from the Vieux Port. The Marseillaise has always enjoyed live theatre, music and dance. The original Grand Theatre, designed by architect Bernard in a neo-classic style opened in 1787, which was unfortunately ravaged by fire in 1919. All that remained were the outside walls and the colonnaded facade. Incorporating the shell of the fire damaged building, three architects (Ebrard, Raymond and Castel) combined their skills to re-designed the theatre which re-opened in December 1924. The Municipal Opera House combines the 18th century neoclassic style facade with a pure art deco interior. There is seating for 1,800 in a classic urn-shaped auditorium. During the season, opera, ballet and concerts are staged, as well as recitals in the "Grand Foyer"on the first floor. Lectures about the forthcoming performances can be booked. Information about concerts, recitals and visits contact the tourist office. 04 91 13 89 20

Copyright © 2008 Anglo-American Group of Provence