Marseille, France

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We took a speed train from Lyon to Marseille and stayed two nights in this eclectic port city. Marseille is located on the Mediterranean coast and has played a central role in trade since its origination in 600 B.C. It is a lively multicultural city with north African and Islamic influences. We stayed in the Old Port (Vieux Port), which is bustling with cafes and pubs late into the night. Although there were some beautiful sights and good eats, we were not as impressed with Marseille. We found the city much busier, less friendly, and plenty dirtier than the more charming Lyon. That being said, we only had enough time to scratch the surface and did not have the opportunity to experience all that makes Marseille unique. We spent one day of sightseeing in Marseille and spent our second day exploring Cassis and the magnificent Calanques (next post) before heading back to Lyon for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Finals.

Vieux Port
Known as the heart of Marseille, the old harbour has been a central part of the city since its origination. The modern day harbour is filled with beautiful yachts and lined with bustling restaurants and pubs. Wander around and settle in for some local seafood, mediterranean specialties, or perhaps a bowl of traditional Bouillabaisse (fish soup).

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Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde
Located at the highest point in Marseille, the basilica offers spectacular 360 degree views of Marseille and the Mediterranean coast. The basilica was built on top of a historic fort and is a steep 1km walk or short bus ride up from Vieux Port. We opted for the bus, as we visited during a heat wave and wanted to save our climbing legs for the Calanques. The basilica itself is quite opulent, boasting golden ceilings, multi-colored marble, and ornate mosaics. The basilica is the most visited site in Marseille for a reason and definitely worth the trek.

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Le Panier
The oldest district in Marseille, Le Panier charms with narrow cobblestone streets, hidden little squares, and colorful street art. We didn’t wander too far into Le Panier district because of the heat, but did seek out the shaded refuge of the Cathédrale de la Major. This impressive basilica is stationed between the old and the new port right along the coast.

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MuCEM- Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations
A mix of historic and modern, we enjoyed our walk around Fort St Jean and MuCEM, which are connected by unique walkways and free to the public. A beautiful sight, directly overlooking the sea and perfect place to enjoy another glass of French wine.

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Marseille was a little rough around the edges, but definitely had the potential to grow on us with a longer stay. If we had additional time, I would have liked to explore the neighborhoods a little more, sample some Tunisian food, and take a day cruise in the Mediterranean. Marseille is a city rich in history and global influences, making for an interesting stop in the south of France.

Next up: Cassis and the Calanques