Marseille is the oldest city in France and is full of monuments, museums and other cultural sites. Elected European Capital of Culture in 2013, the city is now a cultural reference in the south of France. Follow the guide !
Notre-Dame de la Garde
No need for a GPS nor a compass. From here you can get the lay of the land: the Vieux-Port, the Vélodrome stadium, the Cité Radieuse and even the Pointe Rouge and the Frioul Islands. From the 154-meter-high hill on which Notre-Dame de la Garde sits, one gets a breathtaking 360° view of Marseille.
Notre Dame de la Garde © OT Marseille
All Marseillais – from lifelong citizens to newcomers – refer to the basilica as the “Bonne Mère” (the “Good Mother”) who watches over the city day and night. Since the Middle Ages, this captivating religious edifice, considered as the guardian of sailors and fishermen, lures more than 2 million visitors each year.
Le Panier - The oldest district in Marseille
On the north banks of the Vieux-Port, in Le Panier, the Phocaeans first settled and founded Massalia, choosing this “Lacydon” for its high position near the sea. With its narrow streets, its cultural spaces, its artisan boutiques, its mythical restaurants, and its infinite works of street art, the neighbourhood now charms both locals and tourists.
Le Panier in Marseille © Fotolia
Old, but not old-school, today Le Panier is considered THE benchmark for both fans of street art and urban culture.
The Château d’If and Îles du Frioul
Marseille has preserved superb examples of military architecture like the Château d’If, constructed under the order of King François 1st between 1527 and 1529.
Out at sea, off the shores of Marseille, this medieval fortress primarily served as a state prison over its 400 years of official use. Made famous by Alexandre Dumas’ celebrated novel, the Count of Monte-Cristo, the château, a registered historic monument, is a notto-miss site.
Still in Marseille’s harbour, the Frioul Islands captivate, thanks to their endemic flora and fauna that has earned them the Zone Natura 2000 label.
La Grotte Cosquer
It is THE big opening that completes the already important cultural offer of Marseille: since June 4, 2022, the Villa Méditerranée, a stone's throw from the Mucem, welcomes the Cosquer cave, a 100% faithful replica of the original located underwater, in the calanques. The cave was discovered in the 1990s by diver Henri Cosquer, and shows on its walls ornaments that were made more than 20,000 years ago.
The museum space will also include a reproduction of life-size animals drawn and the landscape of the Calanques 20,000 years ago, a film on the discovery of the cave by Henri Cosquer, and a focus on climate change and its impact on rising sea levels.
This majestic work, built by Rudy Riciotti in 2013 to celebrate Marseille as the Capital of Culture, has since won over millions of visitors! The first thing that attracts you is the singular architecture, the walkways and the gardens, which offer unique views of Marseille and its harbor with free access. Inside the walls, the permanent and temporary exhibitions will delight all lovers of cultural escapism.
Museum MUCEM in Marseille © OT Marseille
La Cité Radieuse – Le Corbusier
The avant-garde genius Le Corbusier built the “Cité Radieuse” between 1947 and 1951. This “Unité d’Habitation”, as Le Corbusier called it, is a vertical city made of expose, made of exposed concrete, perched on concrete pilings, and featuring multi-coloured loggias.
La Cité Radieuse – Le Corbusier in Marseille © OT Marseille
The cruise-ship like building houses 337 magnificent apartments, a hotel, a restaurant, a school, shops, a bookshop, galleries, a tea room, an art and design centre, as well as a rooftop that is open to the public. Derided for decades, the space is today a reference point for artists and art and design lovers across the globe. Since 2016, the Cité Radieuse has been a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site.