Hey Hey Marseille

Traveling abroad is never complete without at least one mishap (or two, or three). For me, Marseille was that mishap. At least my hopes were not high. When I had a layover in the French seaside city airport last June, I decided to take a quick trip to the centre ville. It was somewhat unplanned and of course, I didn’t know where I was going and kind of took a chance. This works very well in some cases, and goes horribly wrong in others… Needless to say, it was a disaster! I was dropped off at the train station at the top of the city and the surrounding neighborhoods were quite dirty and uninviting. I left disappointed, but at least I had tried.

The other week, I decided to give Marseille another shot. While I did have a better experience, I can’t help but leave with the conclusion that Marseille just isn’t a place worth visiting unless you have a local to show you around. All my research proved futile as most of the places I wanted to visit were either closed or no longer existed. The streets are dirty and covered in graffiti. It’s really hard to believe that you are actually in France at times!

That being said, Marseille isn’t totally disgusting – there are a few places worth visiting if you are in town. As they say, beauty is everywhere, you just have to look for it!

I started off the day by walking towards the Vieux Port marina. On my way, one of the first things I saw that caught my eye was a beautiful arch similar to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It was actually the Porte d’Aix, a Romanesque monument designed by Michel-Robert Penchaud which served as the main point of entry from Aix-en-Provence when it opened in 1839.

Marseille, Porte d'Aix

Quai du Port

Further along, I passed a market where vendors were selling crafts, bags and little souvenirs. I passed the town hall Hôtel de Ville Pavillon Daviel and finally made it to the water. Walking along the Quai du Port, a ton of restaurants were serving up fresh French seafood. The marina holds thousands of boats large and small so there were numerous fisherman and vacationers alike.

Marseille, France

Marseille, France
Marseille, Vieux Port

Marseille, Vieux Port

Marseille, Vieux Port

Fort Saint-Jean

At the end of my walk, I came across the the Fort Saint-Jean, a Louis XIV-era stone fortress at the bottom of the Vieux Port, dating back to 1660. Ironically, the fort was not built to protect the city itself, but rather protect the government from the citizens. Construction was a response to a local revolt against the governor at the time. The cannons of the fort are pointing inward, rather than outwards!

I climbed the fort and explored the beautifully landscaped roof, taking in the stunning views over the marina and the city!

Fort Saint-Jean, Marseille

Fort Saint-Jean, Marseille
Fort Saint-Jean, Marseille

Fort Saint-Jean, Marseille

View from Fort Saint-Jean, Marseille

You have to cross a very thin bridge to see the Église Saint-Laurent!

Marseille Bridge between Église Saint-Laurent and Fort Saint-Jean

Marseille Église Saint-Laurent

MUCEM

Next up was touring the architectural wonder, the MUCEM, which stands for: Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations). Truth be told: I only wanted to visit to see the cubic building itself, designed by Rudy Ricciotti, featuring thousands of small holes which comprise its outer walls forming a massive black mosaic. The rooftop features a seafood restaurant with great views of the city and nearby Fort Saint-Jean.

MUCEM, Marseille

MUCEM, Marseille

MUCEM, Marseille
MUCEM, Marseille

MUCEM, Marseille

Vieux Port

Back in town strolling the Vieux Port, I came across a giant white ferris wheel and the most adorable church with a stunning facade: Église Saint-Ferréol.

Ferris Wheel, Marseille

Ferris Wheel, Marseille

Église Saint-Ferréol

No French city would be complete without its carousel…

Carousel Marseille

Carousel Marseille

Rue Grignan

Finally, I took a stroll along the Rue Grignan where you can find Parisian-style buildings and luxury shops…

Rue Grignan, Marseille

Rue Grignan, Marseille
Rue Grignan, Marseille

Rue Grignan, Marseille

Rue Grignan, Marseille
Rue Grignan, Marseille

Rue Grignan, Marseille

On my way back to the train station, I crossed a building with a long French flag hanging down it, surely decorations from the football matches taking place in France!

Marseille
Marseille

Marseille Train Station

All in all, my second trip to Marseille was a lot more enjoyable than the first. I managed to capture some good shots here despite the fact that the city was crawling with football fans from Hungary! At one point, they even had a parade walking down one of the main boulevards… There was smoke and trash everywhere! Perhaps next time I’ll try to visit when there aren’t any football matches going on ;)

August 24, 2016

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I’m an American photographer and writer based in Paris after living in New York for 7 years and then and spending a year and a half traveling. My work has been featured by the Paris and Nice Tourism Offices, Art Basel, and Refinery 29. Culture Passport is a place to share my travels and experiences in new places, with a focus on cultural attractions.

3 Comments Leave Yours

I’ve been to Marseille and I really really liked it!
I am currently writing about my experience, as I met a lot of people and had conversations with them to know more about their city… Maybe the secret is to meet locals to enjoy a city :)

Reply

Hey Florence! I would love to read your article when it’s done! You’re right, meeting locals is definitely the way to go. I really want to give Marseille another chance, and hopefully next time things will work out better! :)

Reply

Marseille is one of my favourite places in the world. To me it’s raw an authentic. Having said that it scared me sideways the first few times I visited, actually it scarred me the very last time I visited too but there is something about it I find really charming. I hope you give it another chance. Would love to share some pointers on what to see an visit.

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