Visit Marseille - A Morning Wander
It’s time for me to talk a little bit about my dear homeland, the region where I was born and raised, and where I grew up. And more particularly its main city: Marseille.
Raw, sparkling, warm, welcoming, brutal, charming. Many contradictory adjectives can be found to qualify this incredible city that has dramatically evolved over the past years, with a huge focus on art and culture since it was designated as European Capital of Culture in 2013.
Come aboard for an enchanting morning wander and discover the pretty sides of Marseille.
As most cities, it’s better to visit in the morning, as it wakes up and life starts its day.
Get on a boat at l’Estaque
Driving a car in Marseille can be a nightmare. Not only because traffic jams get really bad in the city, but also because people of the region can have a very wild west way of driving :)
But why bother with cars while we can enter Marseille by the sea!
Park in L’Estaque, a village administratively belonging to the commune of Marseille and located just west of the city. That is where you will get on a water taxi for 5€ to join the Old Port of Marseille (“Le Vieux Port” in French). They run between May and September included (more infos here). No need to book in advance, but make sure to have some cash to get the tickets at the boat.
Catch an early ride! We got the one at 8.30AM.
And here we go for a 30-minute ride with wind in the hairs and the salty smell of the Mediterranean sea. Just enjoy it as the sun starts to get its central place in the day.
As you approach the Old Port of Marseille, you will see a shape appearing at the top of a mountain: Notre-Dame de la Garde. It literally means “Our Lady of the Guard”. This “Catholic basilica”, built between 1852 and 1873, is the symbol of Marseille.
The Old Port of Marseille
Welcome to the beating heart of Marseille! “Le Vieux Port” in French. In the morning, especially on weekends, you will find a market there with locals selling freshly caught fishes from the morning.
Let’s begin our walk from here.
But before we start, here is the path we’ll follow. Click here or directly on the image below to access your Wander Map and take it with you :)
Wander along the North side of the port. The market keeps going along these docks. Appreciate the life of this port where Marseillais park their boats and cherish them.
Fort Saint Jean and the MuCEM
Keep walking until you reach the Fort Saint Jean, built in 1660 by Louis XIV to protect the entrance to the Old Port.
Right after it, our next stop will be the MuCEM, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations. Open in 2013, while the city of Marseille was European Capital of Culture, it hosts temporary art and photography exhibitions, along with a a permanent collection around the Mediterranean basin culture and history.
Architecture fans will also appreciate the design of the building.
Cathedral of Saint Mary Major
Once you’re done with the MuCEM and exit the building, look up and you will see a gigantic shape in the sky of Marseille. That’s the Cathedral of the city, called “La Major” (full name: Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille).
Built in 1896, even if some remains of the old cathedral built in 12th century are still present, it’s an impressive monument of Marseille and definitely worth entering and admiring for its architecture.
We are now just a minute from our next stop, my favorite part of this morning wander: the Panier quarter
THE PANIER QUARTER
The Panier quarter is the most ancient part of the greek colony Massalia, 600 years b.c.
Its narrow streets and colored houses, one of the oldest of the city of Marseille, are very typical of Provence and simply enchanting. This part of the city used to not be that safe a while ago, but it’s now seeing lots of small cute shops opening and it became a must-do when visiting Marseille.
Our walk is bringing you to the Vieille Charité, a former almshouse, converted into a museum. You can visit it if you have time.
Starting from there, the plan is that there is no plan: simply get lost in the small streets of the Panier, and enjoy the vibe, colors, smells, and warmth of this wonderful place.
You can probably find a nice restaurant hidden in the streets of the Panier quarter to taste some good southern France specialties.
This is where our morning wander ends. You should have spent your whole morning (probably more if you visit the MuCEM and Vieille Charité museums) discovering the typical vibe or Marseille.
You can now walk back to the Old Port and take the water taxi back to your car waiting for you, far from the agitation of Marseille afternoons. Appreciate the ride as a great conclusion of your experience.