Why Did Marseille, France Make My 2013 Bucket List?

Downtown, Marseille With 300 days of sunshine a year, Marseille is an example of the art of living. Palace and museum visits, inspiring seascapes, sun-kissed afternoons or moonlit evenings on the terrace, leisurely strolls through the cobblestone streets… the joys of exploring are found everywhere, everyday. In the streets of Marseille, 2,600 years of history meet bold new enterprise. Walled, old towns and historic sites are a testament to Marseille’s rich history deeply rooted in the past. Modernity, bursting with energy and growth, is resonated through transportation, culture, and tourism. Marseille is a hub for culture, making it an ideal fit as the European Capital of Culture. The title of European Capital of Culture is a coveted and sought-after distinction that attracts a large number of tourists and visitors. Each year, the title is conferred on two cities chosen through an international contest. For the winning cities, it provides the opportunity to showcase a high concentration of European cultural excellence for a full year. This year, Marseille Provence is sharing the spotlight with Kosice in Slovakia. I’d already ventured through the beaches of Normandy and Nice and the historical landmarks of Paris; now it was time to experience the culture of Marseille. Longchamp, MarseilleI roamed through the spectacular grounds filled with fountains, triumphal arches, staircases, and a shaded park and the artwork-filled halls of The Palais de Longchamp, an elaborate monument showcasing the importance of water to Marseille. The Palace houses the Museum of Fine Arts in the left wing and­­­­ the Natural History Museum in its right wing but with so much to view I only explored the Museum of Fine Arts. The Natural History Museum will have to wait until my next visit. MuCEM, Marseille MuCEM, MarseilleThe MuCEM is dedicated to the Mediterranean, to its history, culture, and heritage, from pre-history to the present day. The MuCEM is spread over three sites that occupy more than 40,000 m2: the Musee J4, the Fort Saint-Jean, and the Center for Conservation and Resources. They play host to a combined permanent collection of approximately one million works and objects. Taking in one permanent exhibit that deals with the important stages in the history of the civilizations of the Mediterranean took an entire morning. It’s easy to understand why the MuCEM was host to more than 800,000 visitors since June. Old Port, Marseille Marseille-by-Night Marseille soaps, ceramics, fabrics, crafts, and fish can all be purchased during the morning markets at The Old Port or if you’d like to just stroll along the boardwalk listening the the accents and watching French culture happen all around you, this is the place to be. Under the moonlight, I sat on my terrace at La Résidence Hotel and experienced the movement of the night in Marseille. It was elegant, graceful, peaceful. Even the sound of scooters passing by was a low humming lullaby. One couple expressed their love through hand-holding and kissing while another couple hung their feet over the pier and watched the yachts quietly sleeping in their slips. The tinging of their lines like a rhythmic snoring, they gently rocked back and forth in the calm waves. Château If, Marseille Immortalised in Alexandre Dumas’ classic 1844 novel The Count of Monte Cristo, a 16th-century fortress-turned-prison, Château d’If, sits on an island just a few km west of The Old Port. Political prisoners were incarcerated here, along with hundreds of Protestants, the Revolutionary hero Mirabeau, and the Communards of 1871. I got to the island via the Frioul If Express. As a The Count of Monte Cristo loverChâteau d’If was a must on my trip to Marseille. Dark, dank dungeons and under-lit halls added to the mystery of Château d’If. A place of exile, the island was the epitome of isolation yet I found beauty and solace during my visit. I wasn’t a prisoner or trapped and the boat waited for my return.
Old Man in Marseille, FranceMarseille’s streets, narrow and crooked, led me to a new world of discovery. The traces of the past guided the way, allowing me to reconstruct history throughout the centuries. Walking in the footsteps of the world’s most famous artists, I meandered along in search of something, I just wasn’t quite sure what it was. I found an elderly man who left me creating his story and a stack of suitcases that reminded me of art yet they were simply for sale.

Suitcases in Marseille

I felt refreshed in a city that is alive with culture. Every little nook offered centuries of experience and history. From the palaces to the shops, the pier to the streets, Marseille is a place where the joy of living is felt everywhere. It was a bucket list experience for all the senses.

43 thoughts on “Why Did Marseille, France Make My 2013 Bucket List?

  1. You’re so lucky you got to Chateau d’If! I lived for a month in Marseille and been on holidays there, but the sea has always been too rough. I love the streets of the Pannier and in June they have a festival there with live music in every little square and every house converts into a bar or a take-away with Caribbean food! It’s such a vibrant city!


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  4. Marseilles looks like a perfect place to park and simply absorb the culture for a while. Sounds like a wonderful place to come and rekindle a romance with a loved one or bring your family so children can absorb a new culture. Thank you for sharing and letting my imagination soar.


  5. Lesley – I’ve avidly followed your blog for over a year and I’m compelled to say that this is absolutely one of my favorite posts you’ve ever written. Great imagery – I felt like I was there.


  6. i am french originally – naturalized american. while we spoke french at home wherever we lived, we only lived in france for 2 years bc of my dad’s job. we had to move to a lot of different countries. i feel i know less about my own culture than many who visit france. i forget the details. i find it so admirable the interest ppl show about other cultures. i have a fascination for the japanese culture and lived 3 years in japan and keep trying to learn more and more kanji and conversational japanese.
    i remember we often would return from swiss-german border where my mom’s family resides and drive through marseille (if i recall correctly) and i was left with a sad taste of what little i saw of marseille. maybe we just drove on the outskirts and since we were headed somewhere i didn’t get to see the richness this city has to offer.
    later i saw a french arabic movie on TV5 (back when i had a tv lol, and cable) and i really enjoyed the movie. i may not remember the story line, but the life in marseilles from the movie,left me w a good feeling.
    i’ve seen and traveled the world, but failed to really breathe in the scenery and it’s flavors. i was younger, more absent-minded, not sure, but only have snippets of memories…my best are when i ran away from home to avoid doing homework and built a sort of tree house in the forêt de fontainebleau with this other 12 year old boy. many great childhood memories. just running off and playing outside without a care or worry in the world.
    i thank my father, may he RIP and bless his soul, for showing me the world- i only wish i had my eyes a little more open and absorbed more….


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  8. Can’t believe I missed this when you first published it. And, even more so, can’t believe I didn’t know you were going –had I only known!! We were very close to Marseille much of the summer!
    Could have shown you some very cool things. Next time!


  9. I heard a lot of negative comments about Marseilles lately..That it´s generally just a very dangerous city full of immigrants that create this not so safe atmosphere. Apparently there are quarters with no patrolling at all, because the police themselves could get into trouble going there..So it was quite refreshing to read about you being so enthusiastic about Marseilles and charmed by it. I think that it´s still got a lot to offer, too.


  10. Great post thank you! The photos are evocative and your writing too – we have toyed with a day trip to Marseille when we stay in Pezenas and Callas in late May – your post has convinced me we should go.


  11. Bonjour from Marseille! 🙂 Love your pictures 🙂 I just took the same one of Mucem but sadly the boats weren’t there yesterday 😛 Just did a post on Le Panier & bouillabaisse on hapinesswherever.wordpress.com – did you try both? They’re 2 of my fave things in Marseille 🙂 P.S. just publicises a post on my bucket list too! 🙂 Good luck with yours!


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