Point of Interest: Vieux-Port de Marseille

Vieux-Port

Marseille’s Old Port (Vieux-Port in French) is– well, old. How old? Located right in the heart of Marseille’s old town, this port has been active since the 6th century B.C. Today, it remains as one of the central gathering spots in Marseille, featuring a wealth of restaurants, cafes, and terraces all along the port.

Vieux-Port

Vieux-Port view

The Vieux-Port, as seen from Notre-Dame de la Garde

Aside from being a place for docked boats, the port’s main attraction today is its abundance of restaurants and cafes. This is a popular tourist area, but also a popular gathering area for Marseillais. Any given day, loads of locals can be seen eating, drinking, smoking, and chatting away at the various cafe terraces, in typical French fashion.

Vieux-Port terracesfood

beer

Even in France, I'm an Amsterdammer at heart

Of course, this isn’t the only place to eat in Marseille. Being a city of significant maritime activity, Marseille is a great place to grab fresh seafood, which is often sold in stands throughout busy streets.

marseille seafoodmarseille seafood

The surrounding areas near Vieux-Port also make for great sightseeing, featuring quiet, narrow, explorable old streets and a number of historical forts and buildings, old opera theaters, typical French shops, and other popular areas. On that note, Vieux-Port and Old Marseille are the quintessential spots to get the authentic Marseille experience.

old town marseille

sweet shopfrench flag

Going Coastal

Marseille Coast

“Wow.”

That is the first thought that comes to one’s mind upon first setting eyes on Marseille’s beautiful Mediterranean coastline. Whether viewed from the beach or the limestone calanques, the Mediterranean Sea shows its true-and-blue colors, and, quite frankly, it’s a stunning sight.

boats in marseille

walkwayMarseille coastMarseille coast

Mediterranean Sea

The Mediterranean is characterized by its palette of deep blue colors, and this certainly holds true in Marseille. The beautiful sea can be observed from designated walking paths along the coast, but I recommend climbing down a rocky calanque to get a more intimate experience. You might even see some French people lounging, fishing, or picnicking on the limestone.

Marseille Coast

There is also a sandy beach section of the coast, where people play beach volleyball or football (soccer), while large groups of windsurfers cruise the sea behind them.

Marseille beach

Windsurfers in Marseille

Marseille Beach

When all is said and done, there is absolutely no better time to visit the coast than at sunset. Watching the sun set over the Mediterranean is an absolute must for any Marseille visitor and a frequent favorite activity of locals as well. Words don’t do it justice; take a look:

Marseille sunsetMarseille sunsetMarseille sunsetMarseille sunset

Point of Interest: Notre-Dame de la Garde

notre-dame de la garde

notre-dame de la garde

You might want to make this your first major stop in Marseille. This 19th-century basilica isn’t exactly one of Marseille’s older buildings, but it did replace a 13th-century church of the same name. Regardless, perched atop a tall limestone bedrock, Notre-Dame de la Garde sits at the highest point in Marseille at more than 160 meters, making it an iconic local landmark that can be seen from all around the city.

notre-dame de la gardenotre-dame de la garde

The hike to the top is a breeze, and it simply must be done. Once at Notre-Dame, visitors are treated to a complete 360° panoramic view of the city (and the coast, of course), which is stunning, to say the least. But don’t take my word for it; see for yourself:

View from Notre-Dame de la Garde

view of marseilleview of marseilleview of marseilleview of marseille

Of course, there’s more than just the view that makes the trip here worth it. The site itself has a long, rich history and plenty of impressive architecture and features. Now… Go actually see for yourself!

statue

Statue depicting Passion of Christ in front of Notre-Dame de la Garde

City of the Week: Marseille, France

marseille

France’s second-largest city is also its oldest, and it also acts as its largest commercial port. This literally-ancient city by the sea is home to a fine cuisine, magnificent old architecture, and a unique French culture with a love for opera and theatre. Baguette-wielding Marseillais (the locals) roam the streets of beautiful Marseille on any day of the year due to its warm Mediterranean climate. The city has a bustling urban area and an absolutely stunning coastline, but even certain spots in the urban area offer truly breathtaking sites and views. Marseille is one-of-a-kind, and it’s well worth your time.